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Friday, April 9, 2010

T-Shirt to Newborn Gown

I found this project online almost a year ago - how to turn an old t-shirt into a newborn sleeper gown. I printed it out, gathered several old t-shirts together, and then promptly waited a year to try it out. If you haven't already figured it out...that's how we roll around here.

Well my sister had herself a baby last week and so the day before she was scheduled to be induced, I decided to pull everything out and stitch up a welcome gift for the sweet new addition.

This was totally Sewing 101 - my skills do not go beyond that - and I finished it all in about an hour and a half. Someone who knows their way around a Singer could finish in 45 minutes easy.

Here's a little tutorial for any of you with more t-shirts than you know what to do with and lots of expecting friends!


1. Choose a well-loved, but no longer worn t-shirt that you cannot bear to send off to Goodwill.

2. Print out the pattern HERE (she has lots of GREAT variations!) - I had to scale my .pdf to 70% to get it to print out the right size.

3. Cut out your pattern and get ready to have fun. : )

4. Decide how to use the shirt you've chosen. I wanted my design front and center, but you could get sassy and have your design run up the side of the shirt or around the bottom - that would be neat too.


1a. FOR THE FRONT: Lay out the front piece so your design is where you want it - trace.

Once you've traced the pattern, extend the bottom line of the pattern 12 - 14.5 inches to add length to the gown (see pics). Using the pre-existing hem of your t-shirt will save you a bit of I adjusted the length of this gown to include it. You can also flare your line out about 3/4 inch from where the pattern piece ends to your hemline to give those little legs more room to squirm.
1b. Flip the front piece horizontally (line up with the other side), trace. Repeat the extension part of the instructions. Are you still with me?? It's seriously simple! Follow the pictures, not my words.
Alternatively you could print out two copies of the pattern, tape the front (and back) pieces together and skip the flip/repeat step. That seemed too complicated to me at the time...but I realize now it might have been easier!

2. Cut! I like to remind myself that sewing is a construction project with fabric - measure twice, cut once. : ) And once you've cut, go back and mark those little spots on each side that are marked on the pattern. Don't ask questions...just do it. Thanks.

3. FOR THE BACK: Repeat steps 1 and 2 with your back pieces - remembering to extend the length 12 to 14.5 inches. Mark the little marks again. Thank you again.

4. FOR THE SLEEVES: Line up your sleeve pattern piece with the area you'd like to use for your sleeves. The pattern was created for a long sleeved gown - but I wanted to save myself some work and use the existing sleeves (with their existing hem), so I had to adjust and make shorter sleeves. I like to think of it as a 3/4 sleeved sleeper. Phew! I just made myself sick typing SLEEVE. SLEEVE SLEEVE SLEEVE SLEEVE. It has lost all meaning for me now.

(Notice I cut the sleeves out of the shirt so I could lay the pattern down.)

5. Cut out your sleeve (twice!) Sleeve...what's a sleeve?

Ironing is crucial to a well-finished product. Don't skip it!

1. Iron down the hem of your front and back pieces ('bout a 1/4 of an inch):
I like to pin prior to ironing to try and achieve perfection. It has failed me every time, but I keep on doing it anyway.

2. Now would also be a good time to iron out any giant wrinkles in your material prior to sewing. Some of you probably did that before you started. Not me.


1. Stitch a zig-zag seam all around the edges of your front and back pieces. Try not to stretch the material as you go...which is difficult to say the least. As the original tutorial says, this is the trickiest step - so take your time. I found a glass of wine helped greatly.

2. Press your nicely zig-zagged neckline seams so they are flat and crisp.

3. Now, this is where those little marks on each side of your front and back pieces come into play - line the back piece over the front piece on each side so those marks are on top of each other.
4. Baste stitch the back piece on top of the front piece. If you're stopping to Google "baste stitch" as I did - let me save you a second. A baste stitch is a loose stitch for holding the pieces together until you add another piece (in our case, the sleeves). Put your machine on its longest straight stitch (5 in my case) and go. Don't backstitch, it's unnecessary.

5. Turn the whole shebang over and pin the sleeves on (right sides together!). My cut-out sleeve pieces were noticeably wider than the curved part they were supposed to line up with. I centered it anyway, pinned, sewed and then cut the excess off. No harm done!

P.S. If you are doing this project with a small child in the house, turn around from time to time just in case they are doing this:

Reprimand them and then continue. Accept the fact that now they are going to come and play with the pedal on your sewing machine.

6. Sew from the outside edge of the sleeve all the way into the armpit of your gown. Repeat for both sides (duh.) If you didn't use pre-existing sleeves with pre-existing hems, now would be a good time to hem your sleeve 1/2".

7. Sew down both sides of your gown. Turn it all right side out and TA DA! Look what you made!
8. Technically there is one little last step of adding elastic to the bottom of the gown (to hold those adorable little feet in.) I skipped it because I didn't have any elastic. But if you want to truly finish this piece off, insert a 14" piece of soft stretch elastic (from 1/8" to 3/8" wide) in your hem, sew ends of the elastic together and then close up your hem opening. TA DA!

Editor's Note: My newest niece Molly Ruth Hogan was born at 8:07 AM last Thursday morning! Isn't she lovely? 

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