Monday, 30 May 2016

Baby Shower Presents

You're a needlewoman. But I'd like to persuade you NOT to make the very smallest size baby clothes! If you want to know why, read my 'Don't make tiny baby clothes' rant, here. You'll probably ignore me, because let's face it, tiny clothes are SO cute. But bear with me. If you like to sew, there are so many things you can sew that will be more appreciated, and longer lasting.

First, here are some ideas for hand-made gifts that are not 'first size clothes'.

  • Larger size clothes! 
  • Bibs 
  • A baby towel or two 
  • Cot quilt or blanket 
  • A sleeping bag 
  • A nursing / changing bag or mat 
  • Playblocks 
  • A sounds bag 
  • A soft toy, or a ball with a bell in it 
  • A mobile
  • A playmat 
  • Toys to hang on a play gym 
  • A hanging contraption for storage of clothes or toys 
  • A soft play book 
  • A teepee 
  • A height chart or wall hanging
  • A dining room harness
I'll elaborate below with  more information and ideas for making some of these.

First and most obviously, clothes in larger sizes!
When I had my first baby, a neighbour gave me clothes in 18-24 months size. At the time, I thought this was a bit strange, but boy, did I appreciate it later. People had stopped giving me pretty things for the baby by the time she could wear that 18-24 month gift – and I was delighted by these clothes which actually lasted my daughter a few months, and not just weeks or even days. Toddlers grow out of sizes a lot less quickly between 18 and 24 months than babies between 0 and 6 months. There are numerous links to free patterns on my blog.  Patterns for older babies / toddlers ARE a bit harder to find than newborn patterns. But look for patterns for ideally at least 6 months and above. Avoid those so cute newborn patterns!

Over the next few months, I plan to review all the baby and toddler patterns I've found.


Here are links to some of my favourite free patterns for bibs and aprons. See also the link to dribble bibs.

A baby towel or two
My two-year-old grand-daughter is still using her hooded baby towel. Here are some links and some of my posts on baby towels and dribble bibs

Cot quilt or blanket
First of all, blankets. Ideally I suggest, again, that you consider making one for when baby is a bit older, i.e. when he or she moves out of the Moses basket into a full size cot. The dinky little blankets for the first crib or Moses' basket really only last for the first few weeks. 

You can find more ideas for baby blankets and quilts here, and in the links you will find on that page.

A sleeping bag
Again, maybe not the very first size, but for once the baby starts to wriggle around. As you'll see, this one also has a quilted front (this time on the diagonal).


But you could make one more simply by again using ready quilted fabric, or fleece, or soft flannel etc.

An earlier post tells you more about making this and other baby sleeping bags.

There's a nice free pattern that I refer to in that post, for a sleeping bag design by Small Dream Factory.

A changing bag / mat
Unlike towels and bibs, you probably could have too many of these. So you might want to check with Mama as to whether this would be appreciated. One extra is always useful. Eventually I'll get round to doing a post on the subject! 

I love the blocks shown in this post, and they'd be quite easy to make, especially if you used ready-cut quilted squares. Most teachers now say that lower case letters are better for children to help with their reading. Words in upper case all have a oblong profile, whereas words in lower case can have 'shape', because of the above and below the line parts of letters. However, it's unlikely that lettering on baby play blocks will be used to help the child read, so go ahead and put upper case letters, numbers, pictures, whatever you like. Baby won't be up to Rubrik's cubes for a while, either.

A sounds bag or little rucksack
You could, of course, leave this gift till the 1st birthday party, but I promised you ideas! I made one of these for one of my little granddaughters, and it kept her amused for hours, as you can ring the changes as to what's in it. Here is my post on what a sounds bag is and how to make one. It doesn't have to be a rucksack, if it's going to be a sounds bag. 

There are many free patterns for attractive bags which would work just as well, but mine was to be dual purpose. It can still be used now as a rucksack, now she's chattering away and no longer wants to spend her time 'taking things out' and 'putting them back', as she used to.

A soft toy, or a ball with a bell in it 

The best tip I picked up for putting a bell (or other noise maker) inside a soft toy was to put it inside a Kinder egg. The problem with putting it straight into the toy stuffing is that the stuffing will dampen the bell, perhaps stop it making any noise at all. You'll find plenty of free soft toy and soft play balls on the internet. I believe you can also buy rattles to insert.

A mobile
I'm afraid we bought all the mobiles for our grand-daughters, but you could sew, knit, crochet, or otherwise craft a nice mobile to hang over a cot /crib or pram.

A playmat
You can so easily make a playmat; just look at my post for a very simple and inexpensive washable version that can be rolled up when not in use.

Fabric for second playmat while I was weighing up which binding to use.

There are numerous other ideas for more elaborate (and beautiful) playmats, using patchwork or appliqué. Here's one for a circular mat. And another wonderful one with alphabet letters. But these will involve more work than my simple version, and to be honest, my grandchildren really enjoyed  playing on the one I made. All depends how much time you have to spare!

Toys to hang on a play gym

I have done a post on making a whole baby gym (i.e. the frame to attach toys to).The one below came apart, so we took it on holiday to Italy with us. But you don't need to go that far if you just want to make baby shower presents. You could just make the things to hang on it.

You can make soft toys, or toys with bells in, toys that rattle, shaky caterpillars, crinkly snakes, and just attach a ribbon. Then they can be hung from a baby gym, or can be suspended above a crib, or tied on to a car seat or buggy / stroller. In my baby gym post, I've described three simple ones that I made (pictured above). The best toys are multi-purpose. The baby will undoubtedly receive numerous soft toys, and perhaps one will become a favourite as he or she grows. But you can get so much use out of a toy which has the means of being attached to other things.

A hanging contraption for storage of clothes or toys, or other storage

I have in mind here something like the hanging nets that can be so useful as extra, easily accessible storage. Ikea do these very inexpensive nets, and they are so cheap that you may not think it worth it to make your own. But you could make something very attractive and personalised. I'll write about it soon.

Otherwise, storage boxes for toys could be a great idea. This collapsible version from Craftsy I particularly like. 

There are several other good ideas for storage for children's rooms  listed here. If you definitely want something you can sew (my personal craft method of choice), then the Bedside Organiser I think would make a wonderful baby shower present - or a birthday present when the child is moving into its first bed. There are a few other sewing projects in that link that might be worth considering. 

A soft play book / quiet book
I must have saved in favourites hundreds of ideas for pages for quiet books. I'll do a post on them one day! These are books made of fabric and / or felt, originally with the idea of keeping a baby or small child entertained in church, I think. However, there are great ideas and I think any child would love to have a Quiet Book to play with, whether or not he or she is taken to church. If you wanted to make one as a baby shower present, with the idea that it can be used for a very young baby, it's worth bearing in mind that it will be sucked and chewed, so felt is probably not the best material to use.

A teepee 
If you are thinking farther ahead, a teepee – I know it may sound ridiculous for a tiny baby, but the baby will be a crawler and toddler all too soon. And then s/he’ll love it. But maybe Mama and Papa will have views on this, as they'll have to store it!

A height chart 
I haven't made one yet, but I plan to. But a quilted height chart would make a very nice baby shower gift, or a 1st birthday gift.

Some ideas herehere and hereAnd one in French, for a lovely idea.

In principle, you can buy ready-printed panels to help make a height chart. I've had three disappointments with these. Firstly, very few designs seem to be available outside the United States - and postage from there is prohibitive. Secondly, of those that are available, they mostly seem to be in inches, which isn't much use to the generations of children now being brought up on centimetres. (I ordered one and had to send it back when I realised; I was very surprised they would sell these in Europe in inches.) And finally, my last attempt did arrive marked in centimetres,but very sadly, especially as it is pretty, I won't be able to use that one either, as the markings are not true to scale, but about 3% short. In other words, from the 50 cm marking to the 150 cm marking, it only actually measures 97 cm against the ruler. (And yes, my ruler IS correct!)

I know it may just be for a bit of decoration of fun rather than a serious measuring tool, but heavens, with children who may be going to compare their heights, it could be more accurate than that! So if you do want to buy one of these panels, be sure to check the measurement before you use it, if it matters to you.

A wall hanging
You can buy panels that could be made into very nice wall hangings for baby's bedroom. Or you can quilt one from scratch yourself. Years ago, I made two identical ones from the same pattern.  ......
The picture from the Butterick 4580 pattern

....... one for our 2 daughters, and one for their Australian cousins of the same age. It was a Dolls' House, about 90 cm wide ( about a yard) and 42-43 inches (108cm) long. It had several movable features (like a Christmas tree and decorations, that could be stored in the loft space, and the door on the oven opened to show a pie baking inside. When I look at the work that went into it - well, I'm using the past tense, but actually, I just found it, the other day, rolled up in the loft, nearly 35 years old. Bits are missing, like the cushions on the sofa, and one of the hanging Christmas stockings, but apart from that, it still looks pretty good. The only shame is that the glue used has leached in a couple of places leaving a yellow stain. More modern fabric glue is much better. However, it can probably be fixed up again for the next generation! How's that for a baby present with some longevity! Maybe I'll blog about that one day, too.  

I don't think that pattern is still in print, but there are other lovely patterns available. This is a similar design

It's not necessary to make a wall hanging that elaborate for it to be very effective. If you can work the child's name into it, it will be sure to be a hit.

Dining chair harness
You could make a dining chair harness or booster seat, there are several ideas on the internet. Soon, I'll get round the blogging about the dining chair harness (below) I made for my grand-daughters. The great thing compared with just buying one, is that you can make it very personal.

If none of my ideas grab you, I can recommend Jan Andrea's web site. She has lots of nice ideas for things to make. Or register with Craftsy (free) for more Baby Sewing Projects.

And, after all those ideas, you STILL want to make tiny little clothes, you'll just have to keep reading my blog!

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