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Fit to a T baby romper tutorial part 1: the preamble

August 22, 2010

The Apologia

(Readers of my old blog will find this a little familiar. I began this tutorial oh, eons ago. It got lost somewhere between “disgusted with my bad pictures and writing” and “wouldn’t it be cool if I could add…xyz.” That ever happen to you? But enough excuses: this week at The Seamery I’ll be posting the redux version for the romper, reorganized, bigger, and this time complete. Then I hope to expand even further to add the full sleeper! Oh, and the warning about “unwarranted verbosity” still stands.)

DSC03976.JPG copy

The idiom “Necessity is the mother of invention” has taken on new meaning since becoming the mother of a rather, ahem, wholesome baby. Keeping her properly (and darling-ly) clothed has sent me running toward the sewing machine on more than one occasion, often without a pattern. (Oh, who are we kidding? Now I’m using my innocent baby girl to justify my sprints to the sewing machine!)

Example 1: I made her a dress and matching sweater for Easter. Then I found out it way going to be 80 degrees on Easter Sunday. I used the weather as an excuse to indulge my no-longer-secret love for bloomers, and made this to go under the dress:

DSC04582.JPG copy

Example 2: I like to put her in sleepers that snap all the way down, but have had a hard time finding them in her size (most sized 12 months and up zip instead of snap. And she’s been wearing 12 month sizes since she was about 4 months old).

Enter, stage left: Ye Old T-shirt.

Exit, stage right, after much commotion and frenzied sewing: Ye New Baby Sleeper

DSC03929.JPG(now you know where I went to high school)

Example 3: Meeting cutie pie nephew for the first time? Heard his mom bewail the difficulty finding clothes for him since he’s so long? Sounds like a romper recipe if I ever heard one!


Example 4: I don’t actually have a compelling reason for this one. We’ll say I wanted to check fit since Gracie is getting so tall.

The Explanation

This tutorial covers techniques, including making your own pattern, for two variations of a simple romper–one with a gusset (a little more fitted) and one without. Then I’ll use the romper with the gusset pattern as the basis for making a full sleeper. I won’t be discussing embellishments, so you’re own your own for rump ruffles, capiche? And as with all blog content, I feel compelled to here issue a disclaimer that you are welcome to link to this tutorial but contact me before you copy any images or text.

Remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books? That’s kind of how this tutorial is going to work, too. I will cover a few different methods of romper styles, opening the neck, and hem finishes. Also, even though I’m posting these steps in a sequential order, I don’t have a particularly compelling reason for said order, except that this works for me. I hope you feel free to tell me about what works for you, and offer your own suggestions!

(I’ll update links to all of the posts in this tutorial as I go along. Here’s how I see it stacking up right now)

I use the “trace clothes that already fit her” way of creating my pattern. If you want to see how it’s really done–that is, how to draft for realz, y’all–visit ikat bag’s amazing tutorial. Someday I’ll do it. Maybe we can have an ikat-bag-a-long!

You’ll need:

  • a shirt, romper, onesie that fits your baby (or some approximation of fitting your baby) to use as the basis for your pattern.
  • a T-shirt that is longer than your baby is tall, or some knit fabric.
  • snaps. Lots of snaps. A snap setter would be nice, but the ol’ hammer and spool work too.
  • thread, a sewing machine, and its accompanying accessories.

You won’t need:

a serger. I don’t have a serger (Yet. Someday I will and I will flaunt it), and I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how my machine handles knits. I don’t use my walking foot because it does not like uneven layers and most of these seams in this project end up being uneven. You may have better luck with yours. Here are a few tips for sewing knits without a serger (more tips here!):

  • Experiment a bit first so you know how your machine handles knits, especially in regards to beginning and ending a seam.
  • I use the Jalie method for sewing knits quite often: first, zigzag the edges without stretching. Then do a straight stitch 1/4″ from the edge while stretching slightly.
  • Always hold on to both threads when starting your seam. You can then use them to pull the fabric through the feed dogs so the needle doesn’t plunge them into your bobbin case and make that icky start to your seam.
  • Use your hand crank if you’ve got one, especially when you begin a seam.
  • Pin, pin, pin, pin (yes I am singing “Sing, sing, sing, sing” in my head as I type). Just makes life easier.
  • Use a ball point or jersey needle so you don’t puncture your fabric, esp. with cheaper knits.
  • Adjust your presser foot pressure. I tend to reduce the pressure a bit so as not to stretch the fabric as I sew. I also play with my tension as I’m getting started, especially with the zig zagging.

A few more notes:

  • I generally use a 1/4″ seam allowance, mostly because that’s what I like to sew but also because it makes it easy to trace the serged edges of your model garment and use the aforementioned Jalie method of sewing knits.
  • T-shirt quality varies a lot, and no sewing magic that I can give you will change the fact that dealing with a cheap knit will be less satisfactory. If it is too thin, too stiff, and doesn’t have a lot of return in the stretch, you’ll probably have a harder time with it and be less pleased with the result. Unless that’s what you were going for. Interlock (I’m a knitter, so to me it looks like stockinette stitch on both sides) can be more challenging, too, as it can stretch out of shape while you are sewing it.
  • Experiment with pressing as well, since your T-shirt material might flatten a bit too much and get that odd shine over seamed areas. Sometimes I still iron my seams because I want the crispness, but I probably should use a pressing cloth or something smart like that. Sometimes I don’t iron at all, because that would mean setting up the ironing board.
  • My pictures are from the makings of different rompers, and are snapped whenever I get the chance. I apologize in advance that they often aren’t too pretty.

Onward and upward, fellow travelers!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Eva permalink
    September 7, 2010 8:27 pm

    These rompers are just darling. I love the internet for sharing ideas, and I commend you for putting your tutorials up!! It inspires creativity in others. My children are grown, bul fortunately I have four grandchildren and a new grandbaby in a couple of weeks to sew for!

    This is just an awesome site with adorable and frugal ways to clothe little ones! Wish I could have had this info when my children were small.

    • sulafaye permalink*
      September 9, 2010 8:59 pm

      Thank you so much! That’s exactly why I’m doing this: because I have gained so much from people sharing online. When I was pregnant and even as a new mom I got so many good ideas from blogs and other sites about how to do things for my little girl. Just seeing other people making things for their children reinforced my desire to shower her with love in that way.

      I hope your new grandbaby’s entrance into the world is full of love, health…and lots of grandma’s handmades! 🙂

      Thanks again for stopping by and saying hello!


  1. Fit to a T baby romper and sleeper tutorial part 3: gusset and closures « Welcome to The Seamery

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