Simple Things to Make for Babies


Making things for babies is great. They're very small, so you don't invest too much time. They're not picky. They don't wear fitted clothes. And they can wear/use all sorts of frivolous things, since nobody is going to take them seriously anyway.  

Baby blankets

These end up being bigger than commercial receiving blankets, which are usually 30" square. They seemed gigantic when my daughter was born, but 2 months later, they already looked perfectly sensible. Buy a package of commercial ones for swaddling your newborn and wiping up spitup and use these for warmth when awake and as playmats. (Experts advise not putting blankets on sleeping babies -- if you choose to, these are as safe as any others.)

See also the tie-dying instructions below; we love the tie-dyed thermal cotton blanket I made, too, and get lots of compliments on it.

Simplest baby blanket in the world (requires only scissors, easy to get in any color and lots of prints)

Buy about a yard of polarfleece at any fabric store. Or, if you want something more square, a yard and a half or so. If it has funky edges, trim them off. You're done. I use these in solid colors for photo backdrops a lot.

Next simplest baby blanket (still requires only scissors and comes in any color and lots of prints)

Buy a yard or more of polarfleece. Trim off any funky edges. Cut fringes along the edges (keep them in the 3-4 inch range and about a half inch wide to avoid strangling hazards). We have one of these in a sushi print for occasions where plain solid green isn't dressy enough.

You can also make baby blankets by simply buying about a yard of cotton flannel, washing it, and hemming it, but I don't like these as well because the less decorative back shows.

Simplest elegant baby blanket (actually uses sewing, but very very easy sewing)

Buy about a yard of cotton flannel, and about a yard of all-cotton quilting fabric or flannel in a coordinating print. Wash them both. Cut them to the same size. Pin them right sides to right sides and sew around the edges, leaving an inch or so opening on one side (it'll show more if it touches a corner). Trim the corners to the seamline, and turn the blanket right-side out through the opening. Iron the blanket. Either slip-stitch the opening closed, or use a decorative stitch to topstitch around the entire blanket. You may want to run a line of topstitching around it an inch or so in to help keep it all flat.

Clothes

T-shirts turned into baby clothes

Good knit fabrics are hard to find, but T-shirts abound, all-cotton, pre-shrunk, in lots of colours, cheap at worst and often provided free by your employer or people trying to sell you things. You can use them in any pattern designed for knit fabric. I cheat and cut pieces crosswise, so that what was horizontal on the original becomes vertical in the baby garment. This is not advised, because it changes the direction of maximum stretch and they will tend to stretch out and become long and narrow. I have a long, narrow baby, so I don't care. Frankly, it doesn't seem to make much difference anyway, and babies are not wide enough to fit most logos the way they were intended to go.

When buying T-shirts to make into baby clothes, look for small logos. Buy the biggest size you can get for the same price -- the print is normally the same on all the sizes, and larger shirts give you more fabric to work with. Prefer shirts with ribbing on the sleeves, if you can get them. Use men's T-shirts by default (women's have less fabric and it's stretchier; they're harder to work with generally, but make good sources of ribbing). If possible, use pre-shrunk shirts, and sew them up without washing them first; the sizing will make the fabric easier to work with.

Patterns

Kwik-sew's "Sewing For Baby" has great patterns, and sensible advice about how to modify them to get lots of effects. You need to pay attention and read all instructions before cutting, as it will airily mention in passing that you need to add an inch onto the bottom of something for some reason and if you're not careful you will have done the wrong thing. The illustrations are terrible and will make you doubt my sanity for suggesting the book. But if you're at all adventurous, this book alone will let you sew most anything for your baby.

Sundress


This is McCall's 2213 view A, slightly modified to make it easier to sew and better suited to babies (McCall's seems to me to have missed the boat in several ways.) As I do it, it takes a yard each of two fabrics in size small, which is 3-6 months, but the dress and panties require 1 pattern piece each, and the dress in particular is remarkably easy to make.

Modified process for the dress:
  1. Overlap pattern pieces 1 and 2 where they would be sewn together, making one piece. Add a rounded top to the short shoulder strap on that piece. Cut that piece out of each fabric, on the fold. 
  2. Sew these two pieces together, right sides to right sides, leaving an inch or so unsewn on one of the back edges.
  3. Turn right-side-out through the unsewn bit, and press.
  4. Top stitch around the entire edge.
  5. Put buttonholes in the short shoulder straps. Try the dress on the baby, and put the buttons at the appropriate place on the long straps. McCall's does it the other way around, but if you put the buttons on the straps, you can move them as the baby grows. If you would like the dress to be reversible, use flat buttons and put them on both sides.
Modified process for the panties:
  1. Use only the piece for the back (if you make these as suggested, how do you tell front from back when dressing the baby? The difference is way too subtle for me.)
  2. You have three coloring choices: front one color, back the other; right side one color, left the other; alternating colors. For the first two choices, cut 2 from each fabric with the fabric folded normally (wrong side to wrong side). If you want alternating colors, you need to be more careful. Layer the fabric so that the right side is up on both pieces. Cut one fabric with the pattern piece right side up, and the other with the pattern piece face down. 
  3. Now you follow the instructions normally. For front one color, back the other, or alternating colors, use one piece of each color in step one. For right/left, use pieces that are the same color in step one.