My mother is now retired, but for most of my life she was the head designer and co-owner of a children’s wear company called Sweet Potatoes. Growing up I would occasionally find some of the very first clothes she made for me carefully tucked away in a trunk. I always marveled at how tiny the newborn sleep sacks, jackets, and dresses were. I couldn’t believe I had ever been that small!
Inspired by one such sleep sack, edged in bias tape and made for me thirty-three years ago, I designed this Newborn Kimono Shirt for my own little one who, as I write this, is due very soon (but who may have been born by the time you read it!). I realize that newborn clothing doesn’t fit fast-growing babies for very long, but I love the idea of showing her just how little she was!
For the body of the Kimono, I used natural Essex Linen which has a beautiful, timeless heirloom quality. And for the binding, I used Nani Iro’s adorable new Bias Tape. I love its subtle but playful polka dots, especially because I think they work equally well for a baby boy or girl. The Kimono’s construction is very simple but with attention to important details, so it doesn’t take long to sew, but it will last a lifetime! -Molly
P.S. In case you all are wondering, YES, Molly had her baby! Guadalupe Raquel was born on June 17, 2012. Both Mom and Baby are doing great! Congratulations Molly! -Purl Bee
To make one newborn sized kimono shirt:
- 1/2-yard of Essex Wide in Flax
- 2 yards of Nani Iro Bias Tape (This particular product is no longer available, but please check out all of our bias tape for some great alternatives!)
- Sew on Snaps in Size 1
- One ball of Valdani Pearl Cotton in color 4
- A Newborn Kimono Shirt Pattern, available for free download here, printed and cut out
You will also need:
- A water soluble fabric marker or a sharp pencil
Following the directions on the pattern (which is available for free download here) cut out one back panel and two front panels. If you are using a fabric that has a right side and a wrong side make sure to cut the front panels in different directions as instructed on the pattern. Press the pieces flat.
Sewing the Shoulders
Note: The shoulder seams of this piece are French seams which means that they are sewn right side out at first and then sewn again wrong sides out to completely encase the seam. It can be a bit confusing to start sewing with the right sides of the garment out but it will make sense shortly. Pin the two front panels to the back panels along the shoulder seams with the fabric’s right sides facing out. (The shirt is now right side out even if your fabric doesn’t have a clear right side and wrong side as in the example.) The front panels should be facing different directions and overlapping in the center of the shirt as shown above. Sew the pieces together along these pinned edges with a 1/4-inch seam allowance, backstitching at the beginning and end of each seam.
Open up the pieces along the sewn seams.
Then press the piece flat into a shirt shape, right sides together, so that the the piece is wrong side out. Press the shoulder seams flat and pin them together along the top.
Sew the pinned shoulder seams together again a 1/2-inch from the top fold thus encasing the previously sewn 1/4-inch seam.
Open up the piece again so that the back and front are separate keeping the wrong sides of the fabric facing up.
Press the shoulder seams towards the back panel and pin them down.
Edgestitch the seams down towards the back panel, backstitching at the beginning and end of the seam.
Sewing the Side Seams
Encase the raw edges of the sleeves with the bias tape. Leave an inch or so of overhang along each side.
Edgestitch the bias tape on and then trim the overhang.
Keeping the wrong side facing out, press front back together and pin the raw side edges together. The sewn down shoulder seam should be facing towards the back panel.
Sew these sides seams with a 1/4-inch seam allowance, backstitching at the beginning and end of the seams. Snip a notch into the seam at the underarm at each side.
Zig zag stitch along the raw edges of this seam in two sections, before and after the notch.
Turn the shirt right sides out and press it flat with the side seams pressed towards the back panel.
Attaching the Bias Tape
Open up the shirt from the front panels making sure to keep the side seams pressed towards the back panel.
With the right side of the shirt facing out and starting in the middle of the bottom of the back panel pin the bias tape over the bottom raw edge. Leave a 3-inch tail of bias tape at the beginning.
Keep pinning along the bottom until you reach the corner. To create a mitered corner open up the bias tape and fold the bottom of it into a 45-degree triangle as shown above.
Then fold the bias tape back on itself to create a neat corner as shown above.
Since this is bias tape it has some strech and give. When you get to the curve of the front panels pull it along the curve so that there are no folds or creases.
Stretch it again as you pin it along the curve of the neck. Use as many pins as you need to get it to go smoothly around the curves.
Pin the bias tape on in this fashion all the way around the raw edges until it meets back up with itself at the bottom of the back panel.
Leave a 3-inch gap unpinned at this bottom edge and trim the end of the bias tape to have a 3-inch tail. Edge stitch the bias tape onto the shirt. Make sure that you catch both sides of the tape and the fabric at every point paying special attention to the neck curve. Backstitch at the beginning and end of this seam.
Trim the tails to 2-inches. Lay one side of the tail down along the raw side. Finger press the end of the second side 1/4-inch toward the wrong side.
Then pin the folded side over the first side.
Edge stitch along this section of the tape.
Attaching the Snaps
So now the shirt should have no raw edges and look neat and finished along all the edges. Press it flat. You’ll need to decide which way the shirt will close. I liked the way the (wearer’s) left side of the bias tape looked so I had mine close with the left side on top. This is traditionally the boy direction to button a shirt. I’m making it for a girl but I didn’t think it really mattered. However, if you’d like to make a “girls” version you’ll want the wearer’s right side to lay on top.
Place the male halves of the snaps on top of the piece perpendicular to the curve of the front panel as shown above. Make sure they are straight.
Using your fabric marker mark the 4 open holes of the snaps as small points. Then remove the snaps (as shown above) and make sure the markings look straight.
Sew the male halves of the snaps to the top front panel with the embroidery thread and a tripled cross stitch. Use the markings as your guide.
Mark the opposite front panel at the points directly across from the male halves of the snaps. Sew the female halves on at these points using the embroidery thread. You don’t have to use a cross stitch for these halves since the sewing won’t be seen. Instead, sew them on according to the directions on the snap package. Snap the shirt closed and make sure it lies flat and you’re all done!