Saturday, June 27, 2015

Sewing Bonnets

Last month I used a store-bought bonnet we received as a gift when Eden was born as a pattern to make a bonnet for Genna.

A friend asked for instructions, so I thought it would be fun to write a blog post. The only problem is I don't really have time to make my pictures just perfect. I took them quickly with my cell phone. My writing will be a bit on the rough side too. :)

The bonnet tapers up in the back, and I like that. To achieve this shape, the main body of the bonnet is a trapezoid.

This was my original pattern. Genna has already outgrown it, so I needed to start by making a new one.

She was a very wiggly baby, so I did my best to measure her head. It was a challenge even without my phone/camera in the other hand! I went from the crown of her head where I wanted the ruffle to start to the back where the opening would be. I just went for a rough estimate.
Haha...hindsight is 20/20. I estimated 8", but now looking at this picture below, I can see that 7" is a better approximation. You will see why at the end. The bonnet I made last month was 6" wide.

Next I measured from side to side approximately what I wanted. I wasn't going for exact here. Last month the one I made was 15", I decided to increase this pattern to 16" even though she was measuring about 15" still.

I started by cutting a rectangle with the maximum length:16"x8".

Then to get the taper, I decreased the "back" side of the rectangle by an inch on each end.

Next, I cut two body pieces of fabric. I just cut both layers from the same fabric. But you could do a coordinating fabric for a reversible bonnet. Or you could do a lightweight lining fabric.

The ruffle needs to be longer than the body so you can gather it. My first bonnet was 15", and my ruffle was 22". This bonnet bodice was 16", so I cut the ruffle 3" x 24". I think 4" would have been nicer on this bigger bonnet. 

Ready to sew! First, fold the ruffle in half, wrong sides together, and press.
 Next, flip the ends right sides together, and stitch across. Then turn back out.
 Now stitch two rows of basting stitches down the long side of the ruffle. Be sure not to lock the stitches, and leave long threads to grasp on to when you cut at the end.

 To easily gather the ruffle, pull the bobbin stitches. But don't be like me...
 ...First match up the center of the ruffle to the center of the bonnet! You want to match the raw edge of the ruffle to the raw front edge of the bonnet.
 Then pull the bobbin stitches to fit the ruffle to the bonnet. Tie the threads on each end to prevent the gather from slipping out as you sew.
 Sandwich the bonnet pieces, right sides together, and pin. Sew. It's "just a bonnet" so I used a rough 1/4"-1/2" seam allowance. I wasn't too picky, I just aimed for a straight line.

Next it's time to gather the back opening of the bonnet. Sew two lines of basting stitches along the back raw edges, through both layers of the bonnet (which should still be right sides together).

Mark the center of the bonnet back opening and try to pull up about the same amount on either side of center. 
 Decide how big you want the back opening to be (this may take some trial and error--sorry). I decided on 7", so I pulled up each side of the center to about 3.5". Remember to tie those threads together after you have it gathered up as much as you want! After the threads are tied, you can evenly smooth out the gather. Sew across the gather to hold it in place permanently. Again, the seam allowance wasn't so important to me, but I tried to hit about the same as my basting stitch.
Ok now the front is sewn together, and the back is sewn together, it's time to sew the sides. The ruffle is at the front, and you don't really want to catch it when you sew up the sides. See:
 Fold the ruffle back out of the way of stitching as much as possible, then sew along the side seam on one end.
 When you sew the other end, leave an opening to turn the bonnet right side out.

After it's all turned, press the seams.
 Stitch your opening shut. You can do a blind stitch, or just a topstitch. You can topstitch all around the bonnet if you'd like.
 Sew a button or snap on the back. I made a simple thread loop to catch the button.
 It isn't safe to put strings on a bonnet and tie them around a baby's neck. The method that I use creates a slip knot that easily pulls out if the bonnet is tugged on. Instead of two strings, there is one string that goes from side to side. To make the "string", I used about 12" of bias tape.
 Fold in half and sew together.
 Sew each end to the sides of the bonnet.
 You can't really see it in this picture, but the string is one continuous piece. In order to "tie" it, I pinch up a loop in each hand, and tie them together as if tying shoes.
 When my little model was finally awake, I tried on the bonnet and discovered the finished bonnet was much bigger than I was expecting.

I used a seam ripper to take out my topstitches so I could turn it back inside out. I ended up cutting off my back gathering stitches, shortening the thickness of the bonnet by about 1". So my initial measurements were off, but this was an easy fix. I gathered the opening and sewed it all up a second time. It fits better, but maybe still a little big. On the positive side, this bonnet ought to last all summer!

 I thought the proportions looked a little "off" and the bonnet needed something. I didn't have any fabric that really coordinated like I wanted. Suddenly I remembered I have gobs of ribbon (Thanks, Bonnie, for the fabric AND the ribbon!!!). So I ran back to my sewing room again. That did the trick.
{What a honey!}

I'd say this project took under 2 hours from start to finish. I was supposed to be making my menu and grocery shopping list...hehe. I love that the possibilities for customization are limitless. All you need are some supplies and creativity!

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