Continuing the theme of sewing for a little girl, this make has to be my cutest – and most time consuming – ever. I had a mad idea to make a christening gown for our friends’ little girl, who was born at the end of May. I knew I had some silk dupion in my stash, along with a length of beaded, embroidered silk. The silk box also contained silk velvet and haboutai, all in only slightly varying shades of off-white. A quick search of the pattern stash offered up a vintage 1940s infant’s layette pattern, but it wasn’t quite pretty enough for me. Etsy came up wth the goods, a dead cute McCalls pattern from 1960, McCalls 2395. A warning – this is going to be a picture heavy post!
In my role as Fairy Godmother, I chose the long christening gown rather than the little dress. I decided to use the plain silk dupion for the skirt of the gown and the beaded, embroidered silk for the yoke and sleeves. The bootees and bonnet were also to be made from the embroidered silk. As the christening is to take place in a South African winter, the decision was taken to line the bootees and bonnet with silk velvet. The haboutai would line the bodice of the dress. I needed to buy cotton lawn to make the underdress, apart from the lengths of lace and ribbon, this was the only purchase I made in order to make the whole outfit.
The underdress was the quickest item to make, the skirt pieces are sewn with French seams and the bodice piece self-lined. The armholes are bound with a narrow bias binding. There is a ruffle with lace edge forming the hem of the underdress, here I used some vintage lace I had in the stash. It isn’t the same as the lace used in the rest of the outfit. I would have loved to have used vintage lace throughout, but I just didn’t have the meterage. The back is fastened with two little buttons.
I started with the smallest pieces, rather than the quickest! I cut the upper part of the bootees from the beaded silk, the sole from the silk dupion. The bootees are lined with silk velvet to keep the little princess’s teeny toes nice and warm. The bootees are completely hand sewn. Starting with basting the layers of silk together, the next step was gathering lace to stitch to the top edge. Then both the sole and upper piece were bound with narrow bias binding, before the sole was stitched to the upper part. Then ribbon bows were added to the front and the ribbon ties sewn to the sides. I think they look like little winged slippers, like something Mercury or Hermes would wear!
Next to make was the bonnet. I chose the embroidered silk for the main part, the dupion for the ruffle and the piping, lining again with the silk velvet. Hand sewing was the order of the day again, starting with making the piping and attaching it to the centre back. The lace on the ruffle edge was machined on, as the ruffle was plain dupion, I saw no reason to hand stitch that part! All other lace and ribbon was gathered and stitched on by hand & the lining was also hand sewn. I love the ribbon rosettes on the lower edges above the ribbon ties, they’re a great finishing touch.
Between the bonnet and bootees, time was marching on! Each took about a weekend to make. But the results!! I just love the bonnet, it’s so small and so cute, you’d think it was meant for a doll!
The most important piece was the last to make. The skirt, from plain dupion, was French seamed, lace trim gathered and stitched on by machine, but the ribbon was hand stitched. I did try sewing the ribbon by machine, but I didn’t want to see the rows of stitching. The bodice/yoke was attached to the skirt by hand with the ribbon and lace edging also sewn by hand. I chose to line the bodice/yoke with haboutai to keep bulk down and keep it soft and comfortable.
The cute little puffball sleeves were gathered along the outer edge before the gathered lace was added. French seams were used on the sleeve seams. I handstitched the sleeves into the armholes, trimmed the seams down and bound them with a narrow bias binding. This part was so very fiddly! Everything was so small and tight, it made for a fair bit of choice words trying to get it all sewn neatly! The hem was finished off with more lace and fixed in place with more hand stitching. My poor fingers were full of holes by the time all these items were finished, but boy was it worth it!
I found the perfect box for the christening outfit to be stored in, I hadn’t intended anything but a pretty box, but when I saw this one in the shop it was meant to be. All the garments were individually wrapped in acid free tissue paper.
I can’t wait to hear from my friend when she gets her gift in the post, and I’m really looking forward to recieving photos of her little princess on her special day. Despite the holey fingers and the length of time the project has taken, I’m really glad I took my time and did things properly.
Costs, I’m only counting what I had to buy, were £10.00 for the pattern and postage and £27.00 on thread, ribbon, bias binding and lace. Hubby paid for the gorgeous box and posting it to a family member who took the precious cargo back to South Africa in their luggage. I’ve no idea how much it would have been had I needed to buy all the fabrics as well! I’m glad I was able to use some of the stash on this amazing project, and there’s still some left…. I think this was the perfect pattern for the job, now it’s going in my stash, ready to be used again, maybe for someone in my own family… But not for a few years yet, and hopefully after I get to make a wedding dress (or two!)