Friday, April 13, 2012

Making a Basic Baby Gown Pattern and A Linen Dress for Anne

I took a little break from Civil War sewing this afternoon, in between making lemon bars, putting dinner in the crock pot, doing school with the boys, cleaning the henna out of the tub (the vision of a shower and tub after rinsing a headful of henna out of the hair is not a pretty sight) and refereeing many friendly wrestling matches that ended up too boy-energy-violent, to draw out a quick pattern for an A-line baby gown. There are several vintage gowns that have inspired me and they look easy enough to make, but it does help to have a plain, basic pattern to start with. So, I made a plain, basic pattern and tested it out today. I think it will work nicely, and now I can move on to more intricate styles when I have another few spare moments!

Back when the boys were little I made their Civil War gown pattern based off a onesie. It always worked really well, so that's what I did for this pattern. So easy to do! So, if you want to make a dress like this too, here's how to do it:  (or at least how I do it - no doubt there are other/better ways to do this!)

Get a big sheet of paper or cut apart a paper grocery sack (if you want to be cheap and stingy like me) ;) and draw a long vertical straight line on it. Then, select the onesie.

I always use a onesie that errs on the side of a bit large. Onesies stretch, and most gowns I make are of fabrics that are not meant to be stretchy. So you have the onesie. Okay. Fold the onesie in half and lay it on the paper so the fold is against the straight vertical line:

Trace around the neckline, shoulder and armscye. I had to fold the sleeve out of the way to trace the armscye. It probably isn't exact, but it's good enough. :) Here is what you should have after that:

To make the skirt portion, simply measured down how long you want the dress to be along the fold line (in this case, I wanted it to be about ankle length so I made it about 16" long) and draw an angled seam from the armpit down to the hem. Draw a curved seam for the bottom edge of the dress and there ya go. Easy peasey.

To make the finished pattern, take the pattern piece you just finished making and lay it on fresh paper. Trace around it, adding a 3/8" seam allowance all around (or whatever seam allowance you like using - I personally like using 3/8" for little things) and a 3" seam allowance at the bottom for a nice large hem. Mark the piece as "Back".

To make the front, trace around the back piece but omit the 3/8" seam allowance at the center line. This is so the dress can have a seam at the center back, to allow for an opening for the head to slip through. I also cut the front neckline down a little more than the back neckline:

Here are the finished front and back pattern pieces:

To make the pattern for basic little sleeves, trace around the onesie sleeve: (again, this is probably not exact but it is good enough!)

Then trace that piece on fresh paper, adding seam allowance and 1" for a hem.

To make the dress, I cut two backs and one front and two sleeves. The fabric is from a thrifted linen gown. I loved the fabric so was happy to find a use for it!

First I sewed the center back seam, leaving a few inches unsewn at the neckline. I finished the seam with a zig zag stitch and stitched down the seam allowance on the placket to finish off the edges:

I was tempted to leave the front completely plain, but I thought this lovely cotton lace, a beautiful gift from Natalie at A Frolic Through Time, looked so well with the linen that I just had to use it!

After sewing the shoulder seams, I pinned and sewed the sleeves into the armscyes while the dress was still flat. Now, I usually try to avoid this method of setting sleeves in but on a garment so small I think this is the only method that will work well when using a machine.

I pressed up the hem on the sleeves and then pinned the side seams of the dress:

After sewing the side seams it was just a simple matter of hand stitching the hems in place and finishing the neckline. I finished the neckline on this dress with a piece of bias binding. It would be easy to add a little ruffle or tiny collar to the neckline, too,  but this time I opted for what was simplest. Besides, the baby-fat double chins most infants have would hide any collar or neck decoration anyway. And who wants to be distracted from looking at chubby baby chin adorableness?

I whipped up a little baby cap to go with the gown out of the scraps of linen that were left over. There was just enough lace to lightly gather and attach to the cap, too!  

I so can't wait to make a few more gowns with some style variations, like a yoked gown with a little ruffle at the hem, a gown with tucks at the shoulders and maybe some with smocking. My poor wardrobe is going to be ransacked for blouses and dresses that I no longer wear often so I can cut them up and use them for baby clothes!



  1. I am in love. I love the fabric, the lace, the simple lines, the bonnet, everything. I am also inspired, once again!

  2. This looks fantastic. I love the vintage quality to it. AND...the photo tutorial makes it look so easy, that even I could attempt to make this ;) :)

    Oh, henna, I've thought about using that on my hair...too chicken to try it. Does it wash easily down the drain?

    Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :)

  3. It's gorgeous! Don't forget to post a photo of her wearing it when the time comes!

  4. That is so beautiful, Sarah.

    That's pretty much how I make my kids' patterns, too. It's so simple, I don't know why people buy them for stuff like that.

    I find that even if I love the outfit, I tend to put the collared baby outfits on my kids less than the ones without collars. The collar's always up in the baby's face or in the way when nursing.

  5. Very pretty! I look forward to seeing other creations you have in mind for the little darling!

  6. Is your little one going to be named "Anne"??? That's my little sister's name that I got to help choose for her when she was born! It's such a beautiful name.

  7. Mary, yes, her full name is Anne Victoria Charlotte. For the longest time we had planned on naming any daughter we may have Charlotte Marjorie Rose (all family names) but with this particular baby, it didn't seem quite "right" and David and I both really like Anne. It is plain, old fashioned, sensible, yet lovely and purely feminine at the same time. I agree, it IS a very beautiful name!


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!