Now this is FUN! And even more than that, it’s a meaningful challenge. For a family friend of more than 40 years, I am lovingly adapingt a 100+ years old family christening gown. Requiring many special considerations, this baptismal robe is for an especially precious baby boy.
His mother, whom I have known and loved since she was 4 years old, grew up a mile from our home. Her parents are two of our dearest friends. But now this young mother lives in New Zealand with her French husband. They were blessed with this beautiful son after many disappointments.
His parents want him to be surrounded by family and close friends at this milestone in his life. So in a few weeks they will be making the long trip from Down Under all the way to Florida, then on to France. Their son will be christened at one of these locations.
Here is the complication. The heirloom family gown, like most, was made for a 0-3 month old baby. But this baby will be 9 months old when he is baptized.
So….what to do about the family gown? There is no way to make it fit. Fortunately, a lovely fancyband runs along the hemline of the half slip that is part of the set. The slip skirt is gathered onto a simple waistband. My plan is to make a new bodice that will, in fact, be a shirt which hangs over the waist of the slip. It’s not quite the same as wearing the family gown, but the slip gives the ensemble some ancestral connection.
That sounds easy enough except that this one ginormous big boy has grown to 24 lbs at 7 months. Mother’s milk has made him strong! As his grandmother lovingly said, “He is like a beautiful Baby Shrek!”
The waist on the slip is 20″. Baby Shrek’s waist is 23″. Even if the waistband were extended, a gap in the skirt will be exposed where the placket opens. I have a few ideas about solving this challenge but haven’t quite worked them out yet. Do you have any suggestions?
PATTERN: Now, where to begin? First, I needed a full bodice, no-yoke pattern for an 18 month old, which size is closest to his measurements. Wendy Schoen’s gown in her Creating Heirlooms for Babies book fits the bill, except that the sleeve a very full puff. I wanted a straight boy-style sleeve for this big fella. Finally, after plundering through my gazillion patterns, I found a sleeve on a very old 18 month size commercial pattern. When compared to the armscye, the fit was close enough.
FABRIC: Just where could I find fabric to come close to the look of that in the 100 year old gown? AHA! I found a near perfect match in a set of 6 pillowcases, circa 1920, which I purchased at The Estate Sale of a Lifetime! The weave, texture and color is almost exactly like the slip. Fortunately, one had a small hole and another had a small stain. So those two were easily sacrificed.
TRIMS: With pattern and fabric in hand, I assembled all my Swiss trims, giving preference to antiques. At this stage of the design process, I always pull out anything that could be a possibility, no matter how remote. Then I bag them up and keep them together until I’ve finished the project. Too often I’ve changed my plan and remember a piece rejected earlier which is exactly what happened this time. Keeping them together saves time.
After taking this photo, I found in my stash a new piece which is used extensively down the bodice front and edging the sleeves. It is shown parallel to the cross below.
EMBROIDERY: Baby Shrek’s grandmother suggested that perhaps a small cross could be included. She also thought a touch of pale blue would be fine. I’ve used this tiny cross many times, from the old Brother miniatures card #20 and now available at iBroidery.com. Just .90 x 1.28″, the size is perfect and the design has enough detail to be charming. It was stitched at the center front of the bodice and anchored with a design from Nivia’s The Littles. Much of the appeal of Nivia’s design is the three circles, symbolic of the trinity.
I haven’t yet decided whether or not to cut away behind the Swiss embroideries on the bodice. There’s no time to make a slip so I’m considering just a knit undershirt for him. Or maybe I’ll just leave the foundation fabric in tact. Andthat’s another TBD-to be decided.
HAND EMBROIDERY–Finally, I was pleased with my feather stitching. Using advice from Jeannie B., I machine feather stitched the heavily starched fabric with a 100# needle and no thread. With #256 tapestry needle and DMC’s cotton a Broder, I was able to fill the holes as I followed the pattern. Great tip!
More details will be posted as progress is made. I expect this post is too tedious with too many details for most readers. However, for anyone facing a similar challenge (and this situation cannot be that unique), I hope my learning experience will be helpful.