In some ways, this post might be entitled "Things not to do when making 18th century baby clothes." Because you see, I made quite a few not-quite authentic decisions in order to get something done in time.
For great info on infant linen (aka layette, aka clothes for baby to poop in), see Sharon Burnston's excellent website and do what she says instead of what I did.
To be fair, I started with research. And fabric I had on hand, and a couple of weeks with a newborn, which is not a lot of time for those of you who haven't had the experience of a newborn. So I ended somewhere rather far away from what I'd researched, at least for me. I'm picky like that.
First: Baby linen begins with an infant shirt, not a long shift or shirt like adult clothing. This is the one I made Baby E:
So, first lesson if you decide to use the excellent gridded patterns on Burston's website. They run a touch small. Now, yes, babies are small. But babies also grow--and what I imagine are newborn-sized grids ended up too small for even my one-month old.
That said, it was really fun to make--the pattern is really nifty in that it's cut all in one piece, and the shape is achieved by snipping a few spots and folding. So very 18th century, using fabric as economically as possible.
Sadly, the shirt was completely unusable--I couldn't even get it on Baby E. Lesson number two if you decide to make baby clothes--unlike modern clothing, linen clothing doesn't stretch. It really does have to be on the larger side to get your wriggly infant into it.
I went rogue and made this instead:
I had my reasons. First, though I could have sized up the pattern, I was, as mentioned, short on time. Second, and more importantly, I wanted something long enough to cover Baby E's little feet since I didn't have time to make the petticoat that should go with the infant shirt. It was going to be a touch chilly!
Shaped v-neck I made up to mimic the infant shirt neckline:
To go over the shirt (er, shift-esque thingy), I made an infant bedgown. Again, ingenious one-piece fold and sew pattern. Except that I wanted to make this out of wool. And the only wool I had on hand was a scrap of blue left over from my short cloak which was not large enough to lay out the whole pattern on.
So I pieced it. A lot:
Detail of side and back piecing with bottom triangular gore:
I added ties--because pinning this sounded like a nightmare for both of us:
And that's that! To make your own, check out www.sharonburnston.com/baby_linen/index.html