Repurposing an Heirloom Garment


The original nightgown from Candy’s mother and baby Holland’s homecoming gown

Incorporating parts of a family heirloom into a new creation is a wonderful way to add sentiment to a project. When Candy Stephenson found out she was going to have a new granddaughter, she knew she wanted to make something special to celebrate the baby’s arrival. For years, she’d been saving a nightgown her mother wore on her wedding night, and she had the idea to use the heirloom garment to make a dress for the baby to wear home from the hospital. Candy enlisted the help of Patty Smith, and when baby Holland was born on Nov. 7, 2013, she was carried home in the sweet, sentimental fabric worn by her great-grandmother more than six decades ago. Read Patty’s account of the project as shared in issue #155 of Sew Beautiful:

“The first step of our project was to evaluate Candy’s mother’s nightgown. The silk satin gown – a “Heavenly Silk Lingerie” design by Fisher – featured gorgeous lace and was still in perfect condition. We decided to use the “Infant Daygown #101” pattern by Michié Mooney as the basis for the baby gown, making slight alterations to the pattern in order to transform it into a dropped-yoke design.


Baby dress hem

The original skirt of the nightgown was cut on the bias and featured lovely lace all around the bottom, so we opted to leave the bottom of the gown untouched and use it for the bottom of the baby dress. After determining what the finished length for the baby dress would be below the yoke, we started at the bottom skirt lace edge, measured up that length, added the bodice/skirt seam allowance, and cut the skirt for the gown.

The lace on the bodice was scalloped on both sides; we removed this lace from the top of the nightgown and used the extra fabric from the nightgown to cut the yokes and sleeves for the baby dress. The lace from bodice was wide enough to more than cover the yoke, so we used it as an overlay on the front yoke, basting it on the yoke piece before construction so the scalloped edge would lie flush with the seam when the skirt front was attached to the yoke.


Baby dress sleeves

To prepare the skirt before joining to the front and back yokes, we laid it out flat and designated a front and back, traced out and cut the armhole curves and worked a 4-inch-long placket in the skirt back. We first attached the skirt to the front yoke and placed the lace overlay on top. Once we had basted the lace in position around the front armholes, shoulder and neckline, we attached the skirt to the back yokes.

Our next step was to stitch and finish the shoulder seams, then the neck of the dress with gathered lace attached to entredeux. We did not have lace that matched, so we tea dyed some very light ecru lace edging and entredeux in an effort to get a closer match to the lace from the nightgown. We finished the bottom of the sleeves using the same technique as the neckline and set them in before finishing the back with buttonholes and the original buttons from the back of the nightgown.


Baby bonnet

To complete the ensemble, we made a matching bonnet with the leftover lace, selecting a T-bonnet design to show off the scalloped lace edge. For our pattern, we traced off measurements from a purchased newborn T-bonnet, but, because our lace was slightly wider than our pattern, we gathered it to make it the right width where necessary. Rather than tying the bonnet together, we gathered the pieces onto ribbon, then folded the ribbon over to encase the bottom of the bonnet and stitched it in place. To finish, we attached ribbon ties to the front.”

Find more heirloom inspiration in our Sew Beautiful archives.

Happy Sewing,