Family Christening Gown

I thought I would write about something a little different this week. I have had the privilege of having a close look at a handmade garment which has been passed down several generations babies in my husband’s family. I believe it was originally made for my father in law by his mother- it’s his christening gown.

As far as I can tell, the whole of the gown has been sewn by hand. It must have been a real labour of love, because the stitches involved are tiny and beautiful!

There are actually two parts to the gown, an outer of white broderie anglaise, and a pale blue lining. I guess the blue lining must have been a little prone to fraying because all the raw edges have been enclosed. The side seams are felled seams and there is a double turned hem.

The neckline and armhole edges have been enclosed in a narrow self fabric binding, which it is hard to tell, but I think is cut on the bias.

There are little metal snaps sewn into the shoulders for ease of getting it on over a babies head too.

On the outer dress, the side seams have been left raw, but most of the other seams have been enclosed in a white cotton bias binding. The two back bodice pieces have been carefully cut to use the selvedge edge to help stabilise the opening in the neckline.

The seams attaching the bodice to the gathered skirt have been carefully topstitched, I think to help the gathers and seam allowance to sit flat.

At the back there is a pair of tiny thread loops to close the back neckline. They are just so neat and dainty!

Having a close look at such a special garment has been a lot of fun. I can see the hours of careful sewing that must have gone into creating it and it is a real family heirloom as a result. It makes me consider my own sewing, and while I am improving my finishing and hand sewing all the time, I don’t think I have ever sewn something with quite the same level of care and attention as there is in this little gown. Definitely something to think about for the future. Which of my makes would I want to become family heirlooms to be handed down through the generations.


Alder Shirtdress

Before Christmas I made a bit of a special purchase for myself. I had always wanted to use Spoonflower to make a shirt for myself because it seemed like a great way to simplify the time consuming cutting out part of the process. With Spoonflower about to shut down the pre-printed pattern part of their business, it gave me the nudge that I needed to commit, and I went for the Alder Shirtdress by Grainline. I’ve already made their Archer Shirt about 5 times before, so I felt fairly confident that I could order the Alder in a size 4 and it would probably fit pretty well.

It did take me a long time to decide on the fabric print. In the end I went for these mountains. I really liked the muted colours, but I didn’t want anything too pale in case it was a bit see through in bright sunlight! Its printed cotton lawn, and while you can still get fabric printed with spoonflower in this pattern (called ‘call of the mountains’ by
), they don’t seem to use the cotton lawn as a substrate option anymore. It’s a nice weight for this dress though, it is crisp and pressed beautifully, but not so heavy that it doesn’t drape at all.

The season for wearing a sleeveless summer dress, even with a cardigan is pretty short in the UK, so I wanted to be able to wear this more like a tunic to extend it’s useful and wearable season. It was about perfect with a t-shirt and my Virginia leggings underneath on a slightly breezy April morning.

The completely loose silhouette is a slightly new one for me, though I actually quite liked it. It’s nice that I can change it up a bit with a belt too though if I want a bit more of a waist.

Construction wise, it went together very easily. I didn’t really need the instructions because it is much the same as the Archer. Like the Archer, I enclosed the yoke seams using the burrito method which has a video tutorial on the grainline website. I did have a bit of a battle getting the collar on without any little tucks, and its still not perfect, but after about 3 attempts I decided it was good enough!

Because the Alder is sleeveless, there is a bias facing to finish of the sleeve edge. I’m not the biggest fan of bias binding, so I opted to machine sew the first pass, and the under stitching, then hand stitched the binding to the inside. I like that it has given a really clean finish to the armhole, and my hand stitches are almost invisible which is satisfying!

The one disadvantage of using spoonflower is that the notches are already transferred and it is a bit trickier to make fitting alterations. I did pin out the darts and hold the front panels up to me, but the darts have actually ended up a little low. Next time I make an Alder I’m going to need to raise them slightly. The fit is still pretty good though, so it’s nothing that will stop me from wearing this version.