Friday, February 17, 2017

For a baby girl - what to sew, buy or give as a gift

Just before my first baby was born, I had no idea about baby clothes. I bought whatever  I found cute, so I ended up with a lot of uncomfortable clothes and clothes that never got worn. I wish somebody told me. I would have probably bought the useless but cute clothes anyway...
From 2 -3 years up, or from the moment the child is fully mobile and potty trained, children clothes will differ only in size, not in function.  Also,  from that age children start having their own preferences. But before that, we are 100% in charge with choosing what they wear. Every step in a baby's development has its specific clothing needs.

0-6 month:
Baby clothing in size 50 is not a good idea, unless specified by the mother. Many babies never get to wear it because they are already born bigger. The "average" baby wears it for 3 weeks. You will think :"ok, but during that 3 weeks she still has to wear something". Well, no. First of all, she will get loads of size 50 clothing as a birth gift. Second, every mother has several friends who will be happy to unload all their cardboard boxes with almost never worn newborn clothes in the middle of her living room. No use to spend money or effort on that. If you want to make a gift, chose a bigger size, like 62 or 68. If you want to make a really useful gift, well, then  wait until the little girl is 3 or 4 and give her a gift certificate for a nice children clothes shop or go together with her in a fabric shop and let her choose some fabric and make her a nice dress with it. While they are babies they get tones of clothes from everywhere. So much that they don't get to wear everything. But from 2-4 years up, they don't get anything anymore. No-thing. And just then is when they start kindergarten and need it more.
The baby girl spends her time lying on her back or on her belly. Big knots like big waist bouws can be unconfortable.
At this age is better if all her clothes have a bit of stretch. Jersey is a better choice than woven fabric.
Natural fabrics are preferable, but the clothes should be easy to wash. Wool and silk need special washing programs and if you give this as a gift it is going to be an extra burden for the already very busy mother. Also, wool is very tricky because baby skin is more sensitive than ours. Put the item on your neck, under your jaw. If it has the smallest bit of prickyness it is for sure not good for the infant. If not, it might be good, it is not sure that it is. However, wool cardigans and other items that don't come in contact with the skin are ok from this point of view.
Counterintuitive, but white is not preferable. Actually colorful prints are best. White gets ugly after a few washes and a grayish or pinkish white garment looks sad.
Also, it is safe to stay away of pink and or branded clothing, like clothing with Disney figures, unless the mother expressed her preference for that kind of stuff. Many mothers are tired of the avalanche of pink and they would like to keep it in check, at least until the little girl is big enough to nag herself that she wants only pink or "Elsa blue". Many people want to be on the safe side and will go for pink because they think is kind of neutral, but it is not like that. Some mothers can't stand it anymore. You have more chances to be "neutral" with something blue, green and so on or multicolored.
For most babies, the cute baby shoes are as useless as they can be. Not only that a baby doesn't need them, if she needs something to keep her feet warm knee socks are better and pantyhose's are best, and most babies take their baby shoes off in less than 20 seconds. Including newborns. They are born experts at this. The only baby shoes that stay on are the ones with shoelaces, so if you insist to give some baby shoes as a gift, at least chose these.
At this age a little girl can wear dresses, no matter how long. She doesn't crawl yet, so the dress won't stay in her way. For the same reason, light colored leggings are also acceptable.
Jeans are uncomfortable both for baby and for the one who dresses her.  No zippers and buttons have their place on infant pants. If you are a fan of jeans,  leggings in jersey or jogging fabric with jeans print are excellent. Everybody will love them.
Infant clothes should be generally easy to put on and off.
Babies put everything in their reach in their mouth. You have to pay attention to the safety of decorations. I had once a baby t-shirt with very sharp little starts glued on with the glue gun. It went directly into the trash bin. It sounds horrible and it is, but when you are not used with babies it is easy to overlook such details.
An infant garment should be very easy to pull over the head. Press buttons  are better than "normal" sew-on tinny buttons. Especially for daddy's.  Envelope necklines are even better. Any kind of buttons on the upper back are difficult.
As babies spend their days and nights lying on their backs and sometimes bellies, and until 3-4 month, depending on the baby, they are not able to change their position or even to figure where the discomforts are coming from, infant clothes shouldn't  have any hard bulges on the back or even belly, like knots, bows and so on.
From my experience with jumpsuits, I must say that if it is not July or August, they should have feet.
Also, jumpsuits have different closing systems. The systems I encountered the most are the ones in this drawing:

Type A is best.  Type F is a no-no.  The other types have their pro's and con's and it depends on what each person finds easier.
I forgot to add in the drawing the old way of closing with buttons only on the shoulders.  As you might have guessed, that's also a no, because if the diaper has to be changed the baby has to be completely undressed. Not fun when you have to change a diaper at 3 o'clock in the morning.
The best closing method for an infant jumpsuit is press buttons. Sew-on buttons are more difficult to handle and zipper's ends tend to escape and get scratchy.
Another problem that many baby t-shirts and pullovers have is the size of the neck opening. A baby t-shirt should be as easy as possible to pull over the head. 2-3 buttons, preferably on the shoulder, are a must. T-shirts that have to be forced a bit over the head don't have any place in the wardrobe of an infant who can't sit by herself. during the first weeks, newborns can't ever hold their heads. When the buttons of the t-shirt are closed, the neck opening should still be fairly big, because tiny babies, especially newborns or babies who just started sitting,  keep their necks short (shoulders up, chin down) and it is difficult to reach under their chins. 
If you want to make a baby blanket, you should better ask if it is needed because people like to give baby blankets and it is possible she already has 5 of them. Actually, whatever you want to make you should better ask first. Also, if you choose a baby blanket and you found something lovely and soft and fluffy, you have to know  that fluffy is not safe for infants. If they sleep with it they can suffocate. Also, fleece is not a good idea for baby blankets meant to be used inside, in their cribs. Fleece is fine but only for outside items, in the winter. Fleece is warm and soft but it doesn't breathe.
When you make something for a baby it is very important that you respect the mother's tastes and requests. If the mother says "I do not want anything black" or "synthetic" or "whatever"" for MY baby" you should really respect that otherwise your gift will have the opposite effect. She will perceive you as disrespectful and controlling. You are not going to make friends with that. Keep in mind that for a child who is not yet able to chose herself what she wants, it is only and only the parents who decide what she will wear. Even if the child is bigger and she asks for something herself, you should ask the parents first, but that's another story.
When you make a gift for an infant, the gift is actually for the mother. She is the one who will appreciate it and decide if the baby will use it or not. For the baby, the only important thing is that the gift is safe and comfortable. For the baby the looks don't mater. Only for the mother.
Some items which would, almost sure, not fail:
for winter:  envelope neck body's, jersey or baby velour jumpsuits , leggings in sweater fabric or French terry, cardigans, trim jersey dresses.
for summer: body's with short sleeves and cute prints, jersey leggings, jersey shorts, jersey jumpsuits, sun hats, comfortable summer dresses.
A pile of joyful, colorful bibs is also a great idea. The bibs should be the biggest size you can get. She will grow very fast and need that size. The mini-bibs babies get as presents are usually useless.

6 - 18 month
By this time the little girl is mobile, crawling or walking but not so good on her feet yet.
This is why at this age the trousers are preferred, or if you want skirts and dresses they should be very short and rather trim. The point is that if she is on her knees, she should never be able to put her knee on her skirt. If the seam touches the ground, the skirt is too long. After she starts walking also, because toddlers fall a lot and if the skirt is too long she will get stuck with her knee on her skirt when she tries to stand up.
For the same reasons (crawling and falling) the trousers shouldn't be white or in a very pale color. Dark colors and busy prints are best.  Knee patches are also an option. The pants should be either trim either not too long. If they are too long and wide, she will step with her toes on the brim when she tries to find her balance.
Babies around one year old are very difficult to dress and undress. They are little wrestlers. They keep crawling away while you try to dress them. That's why the clothes should be easy to put on. Stretch fabrics remain the favorite. Pants should never have buttons and zippers, only elastic. the buttons on other clothing items should be easy, preferable press buttons. The zippers on dresses and jackets should run smooth.
Shoes and socks keep flying off in 10 seconds. Shoelaces still help, but you have to make an extra knot on the lace.
Babies and toddlers will pull on all the knots, bows and ribbons they can touch. You have to keep this in mind when you want to use ribbons on their clothes.

2-3 years
This is when children start their potty training. The pants should always be very easy to pull on and off. Only elastic is acceptable. Jeans are a big no. Frilly skirts and bows at the back get easily into the toilet, so you should keep the skirts a bit trim if the little girl is allowed to use the potty without adult supervision.

For the rest, girls of this age can wear everything that a bigger girl would wear.

More undies!

This time I am going to show you how easy is to make your own cotton underware for kids. Actually, I am going to show you only the "difficult part": the crotch. Finishing the edges can be done in many different ways but I am not going to explain them here.

First you cut the pattern pieces. You should have one back, one front and 2 crotch pieces. In my example the inner crotch piece is less wide because I am going to finish the edge with a seam. If you use an elastic trim, the crotch pieces will be identical.

Baste the wider end of the outer crotch against the lower edge of the back:

Pin and sew the wider end of the inner crotch on the other side of the back. You have a sandwich: outer crotch, back of undies, inner crotch:

Sew the pieces together using a jersey stitch. Remove the basting thread. Trim the edge at 3 mm or overlock it flat in place. I trim for less bulk. Trim the corners.

 Baste the lower edge of the front of the undies against the thinner end of the outer crotch:

Now comes the trick. Lay the outer crotch on the table, good side up. Roll both the front and the back of the undies like in the foto:

Bring the inner crotch over the 2 rolls. Pin and sew together using the jersey stitch.

Trim the excess fabric and the corners. It should look like this:

 Simply turn it inside out:

This is the inside of your garment:

 Some people would just skip the basting and pin through 3 layers and stitch in one move, but experience teached me that basting is not a waste of time, by the contrary. Excepting if you are as handy and precise as a professional.

Stitch the sides together with a jersey stitch and overlock. Again, some people skip the stitching and would only overlock. Overlocking and stitching is old school, but it makes your garment much stronger.

Now you only have to finish the seam around the legs and to add a waist elastic:

As I said, these last 2 steps can be done in many ways and I will not detail them today.