Preemie Isolette Shirt


In an earlier post I wrote about a special baby soon to be adopted into our church family.   Due to the birth mother’s previous pregnancy complications, little Beatrice (adoptive parents have already named her) was scheduled to be delivered at 30 weeks the first week in July.  That would make her what is called a micro preemie.  Sooo early!

The good news is that the pregnancy is going well enough that this delivery date may be postponed until either mother or baby is in distress!  I read somewhere that every day Baby is in the womb translates to one less week in the NICU.   Since it seems very likely that Beatrice will spend some time in that unit, I felt the need to make something for her during intensive care.  As my sewing friend Catherine said, “This is probably the first garment you have ever made that you hope will never be worn.”  That was my almost constant prayer as I stitched this.


Ginger Snaps Preemie Isolette Shirts I (I hope she will design another pattern II) is lined and comes in 4 sizes. It’s a great pattern.


Using Nancy Coburn’s Ginger Snaps  Preemie Isolette Shirt I  pattern, I’ve made this one in the 4-5 lb. size as opposed to the smaller pattern sizes included. That’s my personal positive attitude at work,  knowing that a 4-5 lb. Baby Beatrice will be home sooner than if she needs a smaller size.  Truthfully, I hope she never wears this and comes home as a bouncing baby girl of average size.   But just in case……   And if she does not need it, the diaper shirt can be donated to the hospital for another NICU baby.

So much fiddling was done with this tiny lined shirt.  It has been said that you can make one in an hour, but I surely cannot.  By the time I selected the fashion and lining fabric and adding finishing touches it took me much longer.

Nurses of NICUs recommend that  all fabrics must be prewashed (with baby friendly detergent), be soft and preferably cotton, and have no protrusions like buttons that would snag or interfere with the wires and monitors.  Velcro was the preferred  closure for quick and easy access to the sensors.

After laboring over which fabric to use and washing a load of small scraps,  I finally decided on this sweet Eileen West domestic batiste and pima cotton lining.

Here are a few tips and suggestions for anyone making this.

  • TOPSTITCHING–After it was turned and pressed, a triple straight stitch was worked a few needle positions from the edge.  That should keep the lining in place and make it easier to iron, if they do such things in the NICU.
  • MACHINE EMBROIDERED “BUTTONS”–Before I stitched on the velcro closure, I thought it just looked very plain.  I wanted to add machine embroidered buttons down the front and at the shoulders.  I had no luck finding ME buttons that were small enough.  I spent a lonnnnng time scrolling through my design library to find something that could pass as a button.  Finally, I extracted a small flower from Brother’s Oriental  collection, reduced it by 15% and stitched it with 50 wt. cotton thread.  From PE-10 text menu I selected the period and tried to make thread holes, though they are not very convincing.  Next, a long — was added to simulate thread.  Frankly, the finished product did not justify the time spent, but I have some ideas to improve on this for my next diaper shirt.
  • VELCRO–This pattern and several of the others I ordered and downloaded (I like to see the whole field of options) recommended closing with velcro dots or small pieces down the front and at the shoulders.  Instead I just stitched a length of velcro, making it easier to close than trying to line up the dots.  Remember to put the scratchy velcro side on the outside of the garment so it won’t touch baby’s very delicate skin when dressing.  The soft side is sewn on the inside where it laps over.

All things considered, I would rank little diaper shirt as satisfactory.  Though the nurses are said to recommend bright prints, I just can’t go that route.  The adoptive mother prefers traditional baby clothes so it’s likely she will approve.

I highly recommend this project.  Not only can you do a real service for tiny babies and  their families, you can use up some precious, tiny scraps that have few other uses.

Now I’m off to make another one for baby Beatrice.  She will be a very lucky baby to have this wonderful Christian couple as her parents.   Happy sewing!






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