My super nice friend (and reliable weekly running partner) just became a grandmother for the very first time! Knowing this happy event was coming, I had been on the lookout for vintage cotton flannel for several months in order to make some burp clothes, and yay, I found some 1950s-1970s fabric from an estate sale. It cost 11 dollars and change for one-and-a-half yards of fabric.
Now, I could have found cotton flannel much cheaper at the fabric store, but every flannel fabric available at our local store was made in China. I like Chinese folks and their lovely country, but they have labor practices I find unethical. (Here’s a link to such a story if you’re interested: http://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/2048231/clothing-factories-eastern-china-import-child-labour-migrant.) So I try not to buy textiles made in China even if I have to pay more to buy domestic material. The fabric I picked up was most likely made from cotton grown in the southern U.S. and manufactured maybe in Britain but probably in New York. As a plus, this flannel is thicker and more dense than the contemporary Chinese flannel at our fabric store.
As far as the process I used for sewing the burp cloths, I just kinda winged it. In fact, sewing burp cloths is a great project for a beginner because you don’t need a pattern, and it’s low stress—it has no button holes, no zippers, no sleeves, no collars, and none of those other pesky things that make you want to throw your sewing machine out the window and swear off sewing for good. If you are a beginner, just a few tips:
• Flannel and lightweight terrycloth are both good materials for this project because they absorb baby spitup, and they kind of stick to your shoulder instead of sliding off.
• If the fabric hasn’t been used before, even if it’s super clean, wash it first to help shrink it and remove any “sizing” (starch).
• Be sure to notch convex curves and clip concave curves before you turn the burp cloths right side out.
• And the best tip I ever got as a beginner: The iron is your friend. If your seams look bumpy and your project looks twisty, try ironing it before you give up.
Here are the steps I took to make the burp cloths:
1. The last time I got watercolor sheets, they were wrapped in brown mailing paper. I used that mailing paper to make a pattern for the burp cloths. I folded the paper in half and drew half of a kidney shape. The final “kidney” ended up being approximately 9 inches wide and 18 inches long. Using a kidney shape means the burp cloth will be narrower where it will be lying near my friend’s neck. Folding the paper in half and then cutting the pattern from a folded piece of paper means the pattern will be symmetrical.
2. I pinned the pattern to two layers of the same fabric, one layer right side up and one layer upside down. I was able to cut 12 pieces altogether from my one-and-a-half yards.
3. With right sides facing each other, I sewed two pieces of matching fabric together with a 3/8 inch margin, leaving a hole so I could turn it right side out. I notched the convex curves and clipped the concave curves so that when I turned it right side out the burp cloth would lie flat, and if it didn’t I could always attack it with an iron.
4. I hand sewed the hole shut where I had turned the burp cloth right side out. If you use just a single strand of thread rather than doubling your thread, and if you make very small stitches, they’ll hardly show.
5. I top stitched all around the edge so that the burp clothes wouldn’t get all twisted up when they are washed.
6. Now the burp cloths are complete and ready to give my friend!
Make this day even better. Consider:
• The piece of brown mailing paper I used for a pattern was still a good piece of paper after the burp cloths were finished. I used it to wrap a present for a family member’s birthday. Can you find one more use for that next scrap piece of paper before it goes to the recycle bin?