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DIY Handmade Vintage Baby Gown

Hi all! Chantelle here.

If you have followed us for a while, you know that NUGGLES began as a very small scale, hand sewn custom little girls clothing line. Sewing is one of my many loves. Today, in hopes of inspiring you, I am sharing one of the gowns I had the privilege to custom sew recently and the very special story behind this gown. 

Many of you know that a little over a year ago, we lost our beautiful 2.5 year old cousin Jaxon, to complications of Diamond Blackfan Anemia. We still mourn our loss. In fact, in writing this post, I thought I would be fine. But my eyes welled up at parts of the sharing. 

But even in our grief, God has blessed their family with another beautiful baby, Lennox Raegan. I wanted to celebrate her arrival late last year with a gown that would be beautiful but also pay tribute our beloved Jaxon.  

Jaxon, before his transplant 

This style is one of my favorites to sew for special events... dedications, blessings, newborn portraits. And the best part is that ANY ONE with a basic knowledge of sewing can make this too. These gowns become even more special when the recipient knows that it was made by you!

 

Jaxon's first church outfit 

I began by collecting items that were special. Great-grandmas lace and hankies, Grandma's lace, and the piece that made this so much more special, Jaxon's first church outfit. Use your imagination to incorporate as many special things as you want! 

Jaxon in his first church outfit

The base of the gown is a simple rectangle. Really, this rectangle can be any length. The wider the width, the longer the gown will be. The shorter the width, the shorter the gown will be. Also, the length of the rectangle is important. You need enough to be able to place ruffles but also not so much that it makes gathering and bodice attachment difficult.

For this dress, my rectangle was as approximate 40" by 20" cotton piece. I wish I would have taken more pictures to show you the process! But if you look close, you can see my base cotton rectangle under the sewn ruffles. 

I then cut strips of fabric (mostly knits and lace) in varying widths and lengths. The wider the strip, the less you will have to cut! They fill up the space faster. BUT... for some reason those smaller width ruffles look so much more beautiful. If my memory serves me right, I think most of my ruffles were between 2-4". 

If you use pre finished lace, you won't need to add a hem. And if you use knit, it more than likely won't need to be hemmed either. I have a serger, so I did run some of these ruffles through on a rolled hem setting to give them more of a finished look. Google "rolled hem on serger" if you want to add this but are unsure how to do it. 

Now you are ready to "ruffle" the strips of fabric! I have a ruffler attachment for my machine but prefer to use the old fashion method to ruffle these. Run the strips through your machine on a loose, wide stitch setting. Then pull the bobbin thread tight, being careful to not pull the thread completely out. Then pull and move the fabric until the ruffle looks even and correctly "ruffled". 

I repeat the above step until I have a huge pile of beautiful ruffles. 

Now is the fun part!!

I begin by pinning on and sewing the first two ruffles (the two red lines). It is important to begin with these two as they provide the guidelines for the rest of the ruffles.

By pinning first, you can help further shape and pull the ruffles. I then permanently attach these ruffles to the cotton rectangle by running it through my sewing machine on a straight stitch. It doesn't have to be perfect! The ruffles you sew on top will cover up the below stitches. 

Because the bodice was stretchy...
she was actually able to wear it
several months later as well!

After my first two ruffles, I pin ruffles above the top ruffle, being careful to follow the same shape and cover up the below ruffle attachment stitches. This is when you can get creative. Pin as many as you want before you sew them. Love it? Great, sew those ruffles down. Don't like the way they are arranged? Unpin them and move them around until you love the way it looks. There really is no wrong or right way!

Keep pinning and sewing ruffles on until you have the entire rectangle covered. Now just sit and stare at your handiwork. This is such a rewarding step!

Now, carefully take and pin your side ruffles back. This is hard to put into words. But look at the picture and see how the arrow shows you how to push the ruffle edge back and then pin in place. It will look "bunchy" at the bottom of the ruffle because you have it pushed back and pinned. If the ruffle hangs over a little, it will be ok. You can trim this after you sew the seam. 

Now carefully fold the rectangle in half with the ruffles on the inside. Start at the top and place a pin every few inches to hold the seam together. It should line up perfectly. Sew this with a straight stitch.

Then turn it right side out and look to see if you caught any of the ruffles in the seam that you should NOT have! Once you have checked and resewed the ruffles (if necessary), pull out the pins. The ruffles should fall over the seam and the seam should not be noticeable at all! The red line here shows you where my seam is! Crazy YOU CANT EVEN SEE IT! I went back and sergered my seam once I knew it was sewed right. This was done to keep the cotton from fraying! 

You can sew a bodice for your top. But I chose to use the top of Jaxon's outfit for the dress bodice. Because it was kind of boyish, I had to make a few modifications. This could be easier if you simply use the top of an outfit that is already girlie like you want! 

Last step is to gather the top of the skirt to attach it to the bodice. I ran a gather stitch around the top and gently pulled the bobbin thread to make the skirt opening fit the bodice opening. Pin in place with right sides together and run a straight stitch. Because there are so many ruffles you need to sew slowly. And you might have to go back and resew some of the seam if you catch ruffles in the seam on accident! 

Once you have the seam finished to your satisfaction, run it through your serger to make sure the cotton doesn't fray. 

And that's it... you are done! Don't forget to take a picture on the special day when your gown is worn! Excuse the squinty, cried out eyes.

Jaxon Kade. Gone. But forever in my heart.