There are a lot of weird things that parents-to-be get told are “essential” for life with their new one. Actually, very few things are essential for babies (something to wear to keep them warm enough, somewhere safe to sleep, such as a cardboard box, something to drink, and nappies, oh boy are nappies essential, whatever type you choose), however there are things that make your life easier. Of course, what those things will be depends upon you, on your parenting style and on your baby. For such small people, babies can have quite strong opinions about things.
Anyway, one of the things on our not-exactly-essential-but-really-made-life-a-little-easier list back in the day was an elasticated sleep gown. Sooo much easier for blurry eyed middle of the night nappy changes. No poppers to have to get lined up and snapped together, just pull it up, change that nappy, and pull it down again. Especially good if your new baby screams for the entire time whenever it is undressed. Or dressed. Or having it’s nappy changed. (Yes, I am thinking of a particular not-so-small-any-more person here).
So my go to new baby present of choice has since then been an elasticated sleep gown. Not so cute as some presents, but a helluva lot more practical in my humble opinion, and practical is what all sleep deprived new parents need. So when I found out that someone in my family was expecting, I went to buy one from my favourite suppliers, only to find that they had gone out of business. All I could find was a very lovely, extremely expensive, plain white organic cotton gown (seriously, I get that white is cute, and unisex, but boy does it stain, and you know, cute as they are, baby’s excel at making stains right from the getgo).
So, what’s a woman to do. Well, you probably guessed it by now, I found myself an elasticated gown pattern for a newborn nonetheless, with growing room included, generously provided for free. Only one problem, it didn’t have the fold over scratch mitts included, and I seem to remember they can be useful too. (Certainly more useful than the little mitts you can buy which Just Fall Off. And break your washing machine. I had a washing repair engineer once tell me that in his experience the major cause of washing machine failure was baby socks. Hmm, maybe one of those mesh wash bags needs to get added to the list).
Luckily my friend tipped me off about this envelope cuff tutorial. It’s in German, but I’m forever about to practice my (pretty basic) German and never quite get around to it so I had a stab at it. Much head scratching, dictionary consulting (both my old one from school and online ones), and badgering of anyone I know who might understand obscure German sewing terminolgy via social media later, staring at the photo’s later I finally decided to give it a go, and whatdya know, it worked!
First off a slinky yellow number covered in black flowers. I’m slightly worried about the flowers, not for gender reasons as the baby is predicted to be female, but black isn’t traditionally featured heavily on baby clothes. Still, it’s nightwear. It made up pretty quickly, I sewed the front over the back at the shoulders (rather than visa versa) due to my kids running off with the laptop so I didn’t have any instructions to hand, but I figure it’ll still work the same. As there isn’t a label in the back to tell which is the right way around, I sewed a small flower button on the front. Really well. Just in case. (Although newborns aren’t really up to grabbing things yet).
It made up really quickly and looked very cute, so I ran up another one in some of the leftovers from my leggings. This pattern doesn’t take a lot of fabric but you do need some quite long pieces, so I couldn’t use leftovers from The Girl’s dress (not without piecing them, and I couldn’t be bothered to fuss about with that).
So, if you want to make envelope cuffs / inbuilt scratch mitts yourself and you don’t speak enough German to easily read the tutorial above, here’s what I did…
First off, envelope cuffs are made in two pieces, unlike normal cuffs, which are usually one piece with one seam to make a continuous loop. So you need two pattern pieces, more on the size of them later once I’ve explained what you do with them, but for now, one will be longer than the other (so it can be folded over to make the envelope bit), see pic top left.
Then you cut your pattern pieces out with one of the short edges on the fold, one short piece and and one long for each cuff you want (so almost certainly 2 of each then).
Lie the pieces next to each other, right side of the fabric outermost (I’m using the grey reverse of my kitty fabric to be the outside of my cuffs here to avoid mutilated cats) and line them up so that the short side with the raw edges are level with each other, second pic.
Now fold the longer one over so that it’s now the same height as the shorter one (pic number 3). You need to be a bit careful doing this as the inermost part of the fabric might want to roll down as you fold it over, be firm with it! Once you’re happy with your double folded piece, put the shorter one on top of it (lining up those raw edges on the short edge). You now have a sandwich that is 4 pieces of fabric thick at the bottom and a whopping 6 pieces thick at the top. Pin and carefully sew up your side seams, taking care to match those folds up at one end of the line, I found it best to start my seam there otherwise one inevitably rolled off the other as I was sewing and they ended up mismatched.
Then trim your seam allowance to about 2-3mm. At this point your cuff is made, if inside out, you may want to turn in the right way out to check that you do indeed have an envelope cuff (pic 7) that folds over to make a scratch mitt (pic 8), but you will need to turn it wrong side out again in order to attach it to your cuff.
When attaching it to the sleeve, I made sure my envelope bits were at the back of the garment, as that made more sense to me, but they would work either way.
So, the $100 question, what size should your pattern pieces be? Well, that will obviously depend on the size of your sleeve, if you’re using jersey or ribbing and how thick your fabric is. The original tutorial suggested using the cuff pieces from your garment pattern as a guide and adding 1/2 – 1cm width to allow for the fact that it needs to be wide enough to cover the hand, not just the wrist (presumably you’d need too add on extra seam allowance too as your standard cuff will almost certainly only have one seam). She also suggests making the longer piece 1 1/2 times the length of the smaller one. Well, I didn’t have a pattern piece to start with as the gown pattern I was using has no cuffs. So I tried using her sample measurements (for an outfit for a 56cm baby, which I reckon is about newborn size) of an 8 x 8cm and a 8 x 12cm pattern piece. I found that in the jersey, the width seemed ok if I used the 1/4″ seam allowance form the gown pattern (more mixed measurements here), but I seem to have too much unenveloped cuff and not enough to fold over, so in the end I used an 8 x 8 cm pattern piece and an 8 x 13cm pattern piece (so the actual pieces will be twice that long as it’s cut on the fold) and that worked for me. Top tip, if you’re not sure, make one up (it doesn’t take much fabric) but sew it on to your sleeve with a standard straight stitch at first in case you want to unpick it!
Phew, that was a bit of a mouthful and I’m now acutely aware of how hard to read this might be to a non native English speaker! Cudos to all the sewers out their reading tutorials in foreign languages, you are amazing!