Tuesday, 9 August 2016

New Summer Outfits - Shorts and Tops: the Shorts!

Recently, I wrote about a beach cover-up I made for my 2-year-old grand-daughter Jane. I had started making this while we were on holiday, so she could wear it then, but it wasn't hemmed or finished. So that was my first job when I got home. Once home, I thought I'd also make some shorts and a top to match. When those were done, I started more shorts and a top for her cousin Fleur. Eventually, there was a third outfit for Fleur's baby sister Rose. Below, you can see their complete outfits.

You can read the details after the jump of how to make the shorts for these beach separates. You can find details of how to make the cover-up here. And the tops are on another post, here.

New Summer Outfits - Shorts and Tops - the Tops!

In my last post, I wrote about the shorts I made my three grand-daughters, you can find out about making shorts for toddlers here.

In this post, I'll tell you about the matching tops.

I do so like the top of Purl Soho's romper suit, by Corinne, that I used the top of her pattern to base all three of my tops on.  (You can see some of the romper suits I've already made using her pattern here.) It's such a good pattern, with such clear instructions, and I highly recommend it. 

The one above, Jane's version, was cut slightly longer than the pattern (to overlap the top of the shorts) and just has a hemmed bottom (1/4" plus 1/4").

Fleur's has two layers, with a flared frill attach to the underneath of the two layers.

And Rose's, which is a single layer, has a gathered frill attached.

You can find more about how I made these, adapting Corinne's pattern, after the jump.

Don't Make Tiny Baby Clothes for a Newborn Baby!

I'm hoping I might persuade you to make something - anything! - other than tiny size baby clothes. If I don't succeed, you'd better have a look at some of my other posts where I tell you my favourite baby clothes patterns. My mission is to offer you lots of suggestions for things you can make or sew that will be MORE APPRECIATED than yet another tiny knitted jacket or cute newborn dress. Look at my post on Baby shower presents for ALTERNATIVES. 

Oh, I know tiny clothes are adorable, and they are easy to make, but...... well, of course, I know that you probably won't listen to me. But bear with me for now.

Let's say, your best friend / daughter / favourite niece /has just announced she will have her first baby. Or perhaps you’ve just been invited to a baby shower! Or - congratulations - you are expecting your first baby. Wonderful news. You are handy with a needle and thread, and / or a sewing machine. So the obvious thing is to get stitching, while there is still time. If you are like me, you probably start all your projects with a search on the internet, and, in the circumstances, you look to see what free patterns exist for new born baby clothes. Well, I can tell you now, there are LOTS! In fact there are more patterns for newborns than for anything else, I think.

But just let’s stop for a moment. Is making cute newborn clothes the best thing to do? The first thing to say, is that new born babies do come in different sizes. So clothes that might fit one new born may be TOO SMALL ever to be worn by your little recipient. How sad if that happened. All your hard work could go straight to the charity shop. Even if you hit lucky on this, and the clothes fit from day one, newborns grow so fast that these clothes might only last for two or three weeks. Allow for them to be washed and dried between wearings. And bear in mind the new Mama will also have received new born garments from several (perhaps many) other well-meaning people. So your lovingly made newborn outfit might only be worn ONCE! Sorry, but it’s true.

This home-made outfit of a blue dress, and a white pinafore with a little blue butterfly on it looked so sweet. Luckily it was made in size 3-6 months. But it won't fit this two-month old baby very much longer! Most women who have already had a first child will know how quickly the first size clothes become redundant.

Or you may find that baby comes too soon, or for some reason may spend his/her first few days or weeks in an incubator. S/he may not be able to wear clothes at all to start with, as premature babies' skin is ultra-sensitive. It may even be necessary to use a blue light on as much skin area as possible, in which case, the baby will not be able to wear anything, but will be laid with just an unfastened nappy beneath. Later, specially designed clothes may be needed to allow for tubes and wires. This can also be a traumatic period for the new parents and family, a matter of getting through one day at a time. Nobody wants to think much about what the baby might wear after this is all over. And yes, I do speak from close family experience here. In our family, we asked people to hold off their kind attempts to offer clothing gifts until much later, when they could be really appreciated. Of course, a very tiny baby may well go through a period when normal newborn clothing, or even smaller, is just the right size. But again, it will only fit for such a small amount of time.

 Who am I to talk? I made a tiny premature baby garment for my grand-daughter that was worn once, possibly twice. She grew! Who knew? This little specially designed top looks pretty big in this picture, at least round the shoulders, five weeks after she was born. 

Two weeks later, it was much too small. I didn't have the heart to make another one in the next size up. She would probably grow out of it before it was finished.

And her auntie knitted a tiny hat, which was, of course, too big, six weeks after her birth - but too tight to wear by the time she left hospital 4 weeks later.  

Those garments have both been mementoed away, and now on each birthday, the miniature hat comes out to be perched on top of her head, so everyone can gasp at just how tiny she was.

But you surely want to make something that will be appreciated and used for months rather than days / weeks, don't you? If so, check out my Baby Shower Gifts post.. You may also find other useful thoughts in my Baby Accessories tab.

Baby Blankets

Baby blankets are so easy to make, and make great gifts. In this post, I'll tell you some very simple (and quick) ways to make them. Whatever you make, start by washing all the fabrics you use. 

First of all, fleece blankets. Ideally I suggest that for a baby shower gift, 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. If you want a more lasting gift, do think in terms of the larger cot the baby will move into by the age of six months or so. However, I must admit that I did make Moses' basket blankets for my grand-daughters. These also fitted nicely into bouncy cradles.

For the first size blankets, I bought full size cream fleece cot blankets. These were cheaper than the tiny Moses basket blankets! I cut each into 4, cutting them into 4 smaller pieces. Then I re-hemmed them or bound them  with some satin bias binding. Finally, I stitched a little appliqué to the  corner: teddy bears, rabbits, dogs etc. And that's it! (And you must stitch the appliqués on, don't try and use iron-on ones.)

I also have a couple of posts about making your own appliqués, here and here.  Using these would make the blankets even more inexpensive to make. However, some of my first blankets were made in a hurry, one of the grand-daughters arriving much too early. So the appliqués I used here were purchased ones. Sadly, the teddy bear blanket and cute dog blanket are now no more,  through being very well-used, but here's a rabbit, lion and elephant that survived.

Here are some other examples of the sort of thing you could buy as decoration.

If you can't find reasonably priced full size cot blankets to chop up, you could easily make baby blankets with fleece bought by the yard, or even a full-size adult fleece blanket, as long as it's nice and soft, and is suitable. The advantage of starting with a ready-made blanket is that it should meet all fire-retardant regulations etc. 

The great thing about home-made quilts and blankets is they can be as simple or complicated as you like, and they can be personalised. You can add an initial or name, or even an appliqué that reflects the baby's name, if known. We have one with middle name Rose. Or perhaps your hopes and aspirations for the little one. (Is the mother or father a great musician or footballer? That might provide a nice theme; though if as is more likely, they spend their days staring into a computer screen, or into other people's U-bends, I suggest you stick with bears and rabbits.)

Next, the cheat's quilt. I've given you one method for making cot blankets (or rather crib blankets) above. Here's another very easy one. You can buy ready-quilted two-sided fabrics like these:

Some have an interesting or contrasting backing, others are just plain. If you want a thin blanket, you could just make a nice edge to a single layer or pre-quilted fabric, using bias binding or satin ribbon, perhaps choosing one of the fabrics with a more interesting backing. Or you could use two layers of the same or different designs, to make a warmer and reversible blanket. If you did use two layers, I would run a few rows of stitching across at intervals in both directions, using the ready-made quilting lines as a guide. However, every few rows would be fine. The quilted squares already sewn are only about 1 1/2" apart. You just want to keep the layers more or less together. Then edge with bias tape. An in-between weight quilt could be made with one layer of quilting and one layer of a soft material such as wincyette, flannel or brushed cotton.

There are several tutorials on the internet for other variations on blankets, for example, this one (pretty!).

An finally, a real home-made quilt. If you want to provide more of an heirloom, you could make a patchwork quilt, by piecing the front side, and layering with batting and a backing. I've now made 6, three smaller ones for the cots, and now three larger ones for the transition from cot to toddler bed. There will be more to come, I'm sure.

I'm aware my quilt making is not of the highest level, I don't have a fancy machine, nor the necessary skill to manage more complicated templates. But the children love their quilts. You can read more about how to make baby quilts here, and here. You can also read my somewhat tongue in cheek 'Rules for Perfect Baby Quilts'.

Whichever you make, be assured that a blanket or quilt will make a much-appreciated gift, or if you are making it for your own baby, it will be something he or she will love.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Summer Cover-ups

A Beach Cover-up

We don't get much summer here in England, but we like to make the most of what there is. Once it hits 24 degrees, out come the shorts and sun-dresses. But - some of us can't take too much sun.

In July, we took toddler Jane,  now 2 and a bit, to Italy for a week, and there, the mercury was hitting 40 - pretty much too much for us pale-skinned weaklings. So it was either - stay inside in the air-conditioning, or - head for the water, whether the pool or the beach, and hope to find some shade.

When we did go to the beach, in the evening when it was cooler, I thought about a cover-up for little Jane and her very fair shoulders. I wanted something very simple that I could run up in a hurry, and designed the one you see below. I half-made it from material I'd taken away with us, without a sewing machine, and finished it when I got home (after she'd worn it!) 

I also made her a whole beach set including, as well as the cover-up, a top and a pair of shorts to match. More about those in another post.

Below, I'll tell you how to make a cover-up like this. This one was intended to protect fair skin. The same pattern and design, though, would work equally well for a towelling wrap for after a swim (or even after a shower or bath!), and I'll be making some of those soon as well.