Thanks to the pandemic, our son never got baptized as an infant. I always knew I wanted to make his outfit since it is such a special occasion, and it is a great thing I can sew because traditional christening outfits for toddlers don’t really exist. When I was searching for inspiration, a google search kept leading me to white tuxedos and suits for toddlers or traditional baby’s gowns that aren’t functional for a walking boy. I knew I wanted a more formal christening outfit. Something that was made of the same materials as a christening gown, and I wanted my boy to look like a boy, not a miniature man wearing a tuxedo. I also wanted an outfit that looked timeless, like it could eventually become a family heirloom, but also be practical for a toddler to wear for the day.
I settled on a button-on suit style silhouette. Long ago and before elastic and stretch fabrics, boy’s pants and shorts buttoned to a (usually matching) shirt to hold up the pants. Classic Sewing magazine’s Holiday 2020 issue came with a more modern button-on suit pattern that includes elastic at the back (I think this more practical for diaper changes). This is the issue if you want to purchase the pattern. The boys outfit on the cover of the magazine features the pattern I used. The pattern photo and instructions show how to make a pleated shirt, but the pattern is actually for a plain shirt. The pattern instructions tell you how to form the pleats on a piece of fabric before the shirt front is cut. I loved that the pattern was drafted this way, because it is so easy to change up the embellishment method!! Pleat or pintuck your fabric as much as you like before cutting out your shirt front.
I used fabric from Fashion Fabrics, my local Bernina dealer in Mount Pleasant, SC. I purchased a 100% cotton, Swiss nelona batiste for the shirt. I think this is one of the most beautiful fabrics I have ever worked with. I behaved like cotton and was easy to sew, yet it had a fine, silky hand. You can see in some of my photos it has a luminous sheen like silk too. For the pants, I used cotton pique and lined with with some cotton lawn from my stash. Lace was from Farmhouse Fabrics, also in South Carolina, but I purchased from their website. They have a huge variety of beautiful imported heirloom laces at great prices. Heirloom lace is made of cotton and does not even compare to the scratchy nylon lace sold at places like hobby lobby. It is so soft against a baby’s skin (or your own).
First, before I cut out any pattern pieces, I machine embroidered this cross in the center of a large rectangle of fabric that would eventually become the shirt front. The cross uses the shadow embroidery technique. After the cross was finished, I decided on the distance between the cross, lace and pintucks and marked my fabric accordingly with a water soluble marking pen. I did use a pintuck foot on this project. It was so easy! Install the foot, use the corresponding double needle, sew a straight line, and the pintuck magically appears! The grooves in the bottom of the foot help you perfectly space adjacent pintucks too!
Heirloom lace is usually available in narrower widths so it is common to see lace pieced together. I chose three different laces for visual interest. I chose lace with a dot pattern, but I love this one and this one too! Piecing lace is easy. Lightly starch your lace so it is easier to work with. Set your machine to a zig zag stitch, butt the sides of the lace up against each other and make sure the zig zag is just wide enough to catch each lace header. An edge stitch foot works well for this because you can place each piece of lace on either side of the guide, but it is not necessary. After I pieced my lace, I sewed it to the shirt front with a blanket stitch with a jeans needle for a decorative effect. I tried a wing needle, but the larger holes it left looked out of proportion on baby’s clothing, but it might look great on a woman’s blouse.
After the lace was sewn in place and I had sewn the pintucks, I cut out the shirt front and the rest of the pattern pieces.
The sleeves and collar were trimmed with baby entredeux. It has two cotton strips on either side so you can you use it like lace insertion. I decided to use it as edging, so after it was sewed in place, I trimmed off the cotton strip on the other side.
I decided to add some additional embellishment to the entredeux to give it a finished look, so I did a blanket stitch with some white embroidery thread.
I did the same blanket stitch on the collar and the sleeves. It looked a little uneven at first, but looked more uniform after steaming. I added some additional lace at the sleeves, but left it off the collar. After I finished the embellishing, I assembeled the shirt using french seams. This nelona cotton was a dream to sew with and press. The french seams practically made themselves. To sew sleeves on such a tiny garment, I sewed them in flat instead of setting them in. If you aren’t famillar with this, you sew the shoulder seams, sew in the sleeves, THEN you sew the side seam/ underarm seam as one. It is so much easier, especially when finishing with french seams!
I did embroider his initials at the bottom of the shirt placket at the center back. You can’t see it when the shirt is tucked in.
The shorts were a breeze to sew, and I followed the instructions with no modifications. I love that the elastic is only in the back. It makes for a much cleaner and formal look.
I absolutely loved working on this project. It will be lovingly stored away for years to come. I cant wait to have another occasion to work with nelona. It could be another christening gown, or a the gibson girl blouse by Folkwear Patterns. Heather from Closet Core made one seen here. It was so nice to sew with, so I have got to find something to make with it!
Have you made any heirloom garments? Interested in working with nelona? Let me know in the comments!