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.


On the left, using the sample measurements from the tutorial and a 1cm seam allowance, came out a bit narrow and not enough to turn over (luckily it was only basted in on a normal straight stitch). On the right, the new improved version, with added length and smaller seam allowances.

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!

Attack Kitties

They may look cute, but these kitties are on constant look out for the Mean Reds, ready to pounce on them in an instant.


Now my only problem is to rustle up something suitable to wear my new leggings with.

(BTW the waistband, unseen here, is cunningly constructed to omit bulky elastic overlap, thanks to the top tip in this Thread Theory Tutorial).


More Quick Wins

Sometimes I get the How Much Fabric Have I Got?  question right. Case in point, the leftover knit from a Hoodie for the Boy, enough to make a second pair of Cloth Nappy Trousers (now I know that the first pair fit) .

After it went in the post I realised that I didn’t take a full shot, so you’ll just have to make do with my “now it matches, now it doesn’t” shots of the front and back. This fabric is a nightmare for matching (those strong lines of pattern across the fabric, some of them wave up and down as they go) and I only just eeked these out, so I’m not too bothered. All together now “He won’t keep still long enough for anyone to notice”.

They have lined pockets, partly to neaten the edges, but also because this “woven sweater knit” frays and I didn’t want to risk just zig zagging the raw edges of the pockets straight onto the fronts as the pattern suggests.

For my newbie sewer friend who I recommended this pattern to, and anyone else who may be interested, here’s how I did it (follow the pictures from left to right).

  1. Retrace the pocket piece with an additional 1cm seam allowance along the three sides that get sewn down (extra seam allowance shown shaded).
  2. Use your new pattern piece to cut out 2 mirror image pockets, and 2 mirror image linings (only use jersey for the lining, two layers of sweatshirt fabric would be too thick). Also cut 2 pocket bindings using the standard pattern piece.
  3. Sew the pocket binding on as per usual but with a slightly smaller seam allowance.
  4. Pin the pocket linings to the pockets, right sides together, and sew along the three edges with the extra seam allowance, and also the bound edge, at the standard 1cm seam allowance for this pattern (so your initial stitching on that pocket binding will be inside the new stitching line and won’t show, yay)
  5. Trim your seam allowances.
  6. Turn the pockets right way out through one of the small unsewn edges and press.
  7. Sew on the pockets as usual. In theory you could just use a straight stitch, as now there are no raw edges, but as kids pockets take a pounding, I would suggest using a zig zag or your favourite flat lock style stitch anyway, for extra strength.
  8. Voila, you have lined pockets with no raw edges showing. Continue making up your Domi’s as normal.

In for a penny in for a pound, here’s how I did the waistband also for mainly for my same friend. There are several ways of sewing a waistband with elastic inside and many excellent tutorials out there. The main two ways are to either sew the waistband on first, leaving a gap, and then insert the elastic and finally sew up the hole or to sew the waistband on in one foul swoop with the elastic already inside it. Either way you need to anchor the elastic in some way inside your waistband to stop it getting twisted during wear. I’ve used the second method here.

  1. Make up your waistband piece and sew your elastic into a loop (the Domi pattern has a table of suggested lengths to cut your elastic if you don’t have your model handy to try it out on)
  2. Mark the quarter points on both (I’ve used pins here), I just fold them to do this.
  3. Open your waistband out. It’s hard to see in the photo but as I had pressed my waistband I could still see the fold line. I pinned the elastic to the waistband just below this fold line at the quarter points.
  4. Sew a vertical line at each of the quarter points through your elastic.
  5. Fold the waistband in half around the elastic. The wrong side is the one where you can see the lines of stitching holding the elastic in place.
  6. Pin the waistband to the main trousers, again matching quarter points, right sides together (so those stitching lines will be on the top side at the moment, sorry, this photo isn’t that clear).
  7. Sew the waistband on. I have put a pin to show you where the edge of my elastic is, so you can clearly see that I was only sewing through 2 layers of waistband and the trousers, not the elastic at this point.
  8. Press your seam, turn the waistband up, press again. You might then want to topstitch/flatlock in place. (I did if only to stop the main fabric fraying). And voila, you’re done.


There are a few reasons I make knickers, a main one is to cut down on waste (lets face it, home sewing can be pretty wasteful if you consider the amount of fabric left after cutting out) – especially of the lovely (pricey) scandanavian organic knits I’m addicted to so fond of, but also I like my undies bright and colourful (something that can be hard to find in the shops) and anyway I find making them pretty satisfying. So, when I discovered that my friend struggles to buy underwear for her daughter who likes all things bright and colourful and hates pastels, hearts and general cuteness, but most definitely wants to be wearing girls clothes, I quickly ascertained that my friend has a sewing machine and persuaded her that it would be the easiest thing in the world to make some herself. I also got her to join the stashbusting sewalong group on face book, where I spend a lot of time hanging out online. So, when she introduced herself there and said she was currently fighting with fold over elastic trying to make pants, several people questioned her sanity in starting off with such a difficult task. Whoops, mea culpa, hands up.


Now with added seam allowance

I’ve been meaning to try out different methods of elasticising  underwear for a while, so I decided the time was now and I’m documenting it here, for my friend and beginnerish sewer and anyone else who may be interested, not that I’m an expert mind. I managed to cut three sets of knickers out of scraps of the same fabric (that was frustratingly not big enough to make me some undies, the joy of kids smalls is that they are indeed small) and then I got testing. One pair I cut with a larger seam allowance on the leg holes, you’ll see why in a minute.


Half trimmed gusset (deliberately inserted so the inside will be the unprinted reverse of the fabric as it’s softer for this fabric)

I only have 2 pattern pieces in this self made pattern (that I have used before for The Girl)  as I use a rectangle for the gusset and then trim it to shape after it’s sewn on (it’s easier and prevents misaligned gussets).  (Learn how to draft your own pattern from Cal Patch here or download So Zo’s for free and buy her a coffee as a thank you).DSCF0808.JPG

For my experiment I sewed up the pair with extra seam allowance and one of the standard pairs, but I didn’t sew the side seams on the third pair.


Then I added fold over elastic to the side of that third pair. I used a triple (stretch) zig zag in a contrast colour. I find starting the FOE the hardest (I use a pin and try and get one stitch in without stretching it to get it started), after that I just line up the next section so that the edge of the fabric is along the fold, then tug the elastic a little to stretch it, fold that section over, hold in place and sew up to that spot, then repeat until I get to the end.


Then I made them up, pressing the side seams open (but I didn’t finish them, bad me) and then going over the stitching just around the side seams to hold everything in place and stop the raw edges peeping out. The top is then finished with some slightly wider FOE (only cos I had some), but before I sewed it down I added a little tab made from scrap fabric to the inside center back to help show which way around they go.  Helpfully you can’t see it in this shot, but it’s there, I promise, a little elephant.

Next up, the pair with the extra seam allowance on the leg holes. First the waistband, which I used some “proper” waistband elastic for. I really like how the rainbow goes with the cloud theme. I made an educated guess how much shorter to make the elastic, sewed it into a loop, marked the quarters on both elastic and pants, then pinned them, pinned inbetween the quarters, and then sewed it from the right side (it would’ve been easier to sew it from the wrong side, but I didn’t have a bobbin wound in purple thread and I was feeling lazy). Basically, this is how you sew on picot elastic (which the recipient has ruled out so isn’t included).

Next up, the leg holes. I used some standard flat elastic (albeit purple) for this and I tried to make my seam allowance twice the width of the elastic. First I sewed the elastic to the inside of the leghole using a straight stretch (lightening) stitch, so that the outside edge of the elastic matched the edge of the pants. This was quite tricky and I wondered if I’d’ve been better not to sew up the side seams on this pair either. Then when I turned them right side out, I discovered I hadn’t managed to catch both layers of fabric in places around the gusset, so I redid those bits from the right side. Maybe I should’ve basted the gusset and front together before adding the elastic or maybe sewing them flat, not in the round, would’ve helped here too. Finally I folded over the elastic and topstitched in a (triple) zig zag. This was quite tricky at the back gusset seam, as there were 6 layers of fabric there. The finish is ok, a bit scruffy on the outside. This particular elastic is fairly smooth and thin, if you had average flat elastic and/or someone who was sensitive to elastic, I guess you could add more seam allowance and turn under twice, but then you’d have 9 layers of fabric at that back gusset seam. Also, the finished result doesn’t seem very stretchy to me, not sure if that is the method, my accuracy or this elastic.

Anyway, pair number 2 complete (no tag this time, I’m hoping that the back seam in the elastic is enough to help get them the right way around).

Finally pair number 3, which I finished with bands like the Barrie brief pattern that I have (but it doesn’t however go this small).  To calculate what height to cut your band, chose the height you want the finished band to be, add your seam allowance and then double your answer. So, as I was using a 1cm seam allowance and I wanted the band to be 1cm tall, I cut it 2 x (1+1) = 2 x 2 = 4cm. For the width of your band, start by measuring the opening in question. Then I multiplied this by 0.85 for the jersey leg bands and 0.7 for the ribbing waistband (as ribbing is stretchier). Round to the nearest half a cm or 1/4″, and then add on twice your seam allowance. And voila, cut your band. Make sure the width goes accoss the stretchiest part of the fabric.


Once the band is cut, fold in half (short edges together), stitch the short edges at your seam allowance (to make a loop), press them open, press the band in half (long edges together), mark the quarter points (I use a pin) and mark quarter points on your opening, pin , sew, turn and press. I like to then stitch my seam allowance down (I used a normal zig zag above) to stop the insides from getting all crinkly and messy. Oh, and I deliberately didn’t line up the seam in my loop with a side seam, to reduce bulk, rather I staggered them slightly.

So here they all are for comparison. I think the bands gave the neatest result and the best shape, and the ordinary elastic folded over twice looks the scruffiest. The fold over elastic was probably the fastest for me to make.

They have now made it to their destination (complete with the secret spider, can you find it?) and are waiting for the young woman in question to return from her hols and give her verdict on fit and comfyness.

Do you have a favourite way of finishing underwear or any top tips? I just noticed that Zoe has tips for a flat elastic option and  I have in the back of my mind that some people use shirring elastic….



Maids a milking

So, what do you do when you’ve finally dusted off that work in progress, had a burst of energy on it and nearly finished it bar buttons and buttonholes? Why you put it on one side and start something new of course.

spotty cordrouy

spotty cordrouy

I bought some lovely spotty needle cord in my tourist visit to Guthrie and Ghani – I had the girl in mind when I got a metre (I nearly bought the pink). I decided to make a skirt like a shop bought one she already had.

The shop bought skirt she got for Christmas last year

The shop bought skirt she got for Christmas last year, also spotty needle cord. I always felt this one was too full for the length though

Luckily the Milkmaid skirt tutorial was just what I needed and I liked the look of Justina Maria Louisa’s pleated version.

So, some lovely toning needle cord from my stash for a bit of added interest, some pocket linings (the side you don’t see) squeezed out of leftover green satin from the waistcoat and a purchase of some bias binding later (oh and a bit of sewing) and I’ve completed something from my Christmas makes wish list. (Yeah, I know it’s possible to make bias binding, I’ve even tried the continuous loop method. I can make a halfway decent bias strip that way, but when I try and turn it into binding it ends up looking like a dogs dinner, trust me).

front view

front view – the purple binding is brighter in real life and looks lovely and brings out the purple dots in the fabric. I almost wished I had more to sew some peaking out of the bottom of the waistband but adding extra fabric there would’ve been madness anyway.

back view

back view

If anyone is interested, for the pattern piece – I drafted straight onto the fabric (hurrah for symmetric prints that make straight lines easier). I loosely based the measurements on the skirt she already has, as fittings were out of the question for a surprise present. The skirt front and back panels both had a length of 15″, were 28.5″ wide at base and 22.5″ wide at top with 17.5″ between the pockets at the front. (I did them the same width as I was planning on putting pleats in the front, the tutorial has the back panel 2″ wider than the front). I put 4 pleats in, after which my front was 14.5″ wide at the top. I sewed the pleats down for the first 2.5″ to help hold the line. (I was winging it a bit, I don’t think I’ve ever done pleats before, so these may not be “right”, but hey, they look like pleats).

Waistband wise I made the front 14.5″ section wide like my skirt (so it would have a flat waistband at the front like Justina Maria Louisa’s) and the back 15.5″, so the back of the skirt was gathered into that. I sewed elastic into the back section, I tried to work out how long to make my elastic from the existing skirt, but I think it’s come out a little big. Still I’m not going to adjust it until she’s tried it on as it might be ok and I might make it too small. I’ve never made a half elasticated waistband before, I found a very complicated tutorial and in the end just cobbled something together.

Waistband, folds pressed in, attached to skirt

Waistband, folds pressed in, attached to skirt

The front of the waistband was sewn on first, right sides together, all the way around. Then for the back section I fixed the elastic to the wrong side of the portion of the waistband that would be the inside. I zig zagged the ends in place and sewed through the middle too. Then I folded my waistband down (with seam allowance tucked under) and top stitched from the outside. I hope that makes sense if you’re trying to figure it out, or maybe you know a better way? Anyway, it looked ok to me, just a little baggy.

Elastic in place, ready to fold over and stitch down

Elastic in place, ready to fold over and stitch down

I’m quite pleased with this make, it just remains to be seen what the Girl thinks. I like the contrast colours and the finish. The pocket bags could do with being lots deeper though, they’re only 2″ below the bottom of the pocket opening so much more than a tissue is going to fall out of them (not that they really need to hold much more than that). Now I look at the tutorial photo’s again it’s obvious they should’ve been deeper, oh the perils of not drawing out your pattern piece in advance.

Mini version

Mini version

Oh and I made a matching skirt for one of her dolls (confession time, it was meant to be for a bigger doll but I messed the measurements out), hopefully that will win me extra brownie points and she wont complain I didn’t make a doll sized pocket. So we will have a quarter of the quorate number of maids decked out for milking.