Wood-Grain Baby Gifts
By Susan Beal
Making a coordinating set of graphic-appliquéd gifts is a fun way to welcome a new baby. My go-to handmade presents are the ones we couldn’t live without when my daughter was small: a generously sized swaddling blanket, a handy burp cloth, and a mix-and-match shirt and pants set. I fell in love with this wood-grain fabric and bamboo-blend leaf print and designed these little embellishments around the fantastic patterns — thinking that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
For the elastic-waisted pants, I used my favorite baby pattern, Burda 9772. There are plenty of other great ones but that one ranges from 6 months to 3T (handy for a first birthday or big brother or sister gift, too). The smaller sizes in that range call for less than a yard of fabric, and you will have plenty left over for your appliqués and burp cloth panel.
I sized these apple and branch appliqués for general baby sizes from newborn up, and showed them here on 12m and 24m shirts, but you can adjust the size slightly bigger or smaller if you like. You can also use this same general technique to cover logos, stains, or rips in a shirt or onesie. And stitching around the edge of the appliqué is optional; in my projects, I fused the appliqués on each piece but only sewed down the blue ones (the pink pieces are left plain for contrast).
Prewash your fabrics before cutting and sewing them, if you can. You won’t have to worry about your pants shrinking or your colorful blanket’s color running, and your appliqués and panel will lie nice and flat instead of bubbling up after they’ve been through a few wears and washes!
I like to make a few of these pieces at a time in different colorways, perfect for setting aside for the next new baby. You can also cut, press, or stitch the same fabrics in a batch, getting more than one piece ready at a time, and saving yourself the trouble of changing thread colors every few minutes!
In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to make a wood-grain baby set featuring an embellished shirt, pants, burp cloths, and swaddling blanket.
Needle and thread
Paper-backed fusible appliqué material (like Steam-a-Seam 2 or Wonder Under)
Marker or pen
Download the wood-grain appliqué template PDF
Sewing pattern (I used Burda 9772)
Woodgrain, leaf, or other patterned fabric (amount specified by your pattern)
Elastic (the width and amount specified by your pattern)
Elastic guide or large safety pin
Plain T-shirt or onesie
Fabric scraps in 3 colors/patterns: one for a tree branch and apple stem, one for an apple, and one for leaves
Plain or colored cloth diaper
Contrast fabric remnant from the pants or shirt project, slightly bigger than the middle diaper panel (The diaper I used measured 20" long and 4" wide. I cut a piece of fabric 21" long and 5" wide for the panel.)
1 1/3 – 1 1/2 yards of 58" wide thin, gauzy muslin (use flannel for a warmer blanket)
Fabric scraps in 2 or 3 assorted colors/patterns: one for a tree branch and apple stem, one for an apple, and one for leaves
Prepare Your Appliqués:
Step 1: Choose your appliqué fabrics and base colors for your shirt, blanket, or other piece to embellish. I chose basic blue and pink to appliqué onto, but any colors that suit the baby or the parents is fantastic. For my apple, I found a red print; for the large leaves I used a bamboo-cotton blend; for the smaller ones I used a similar-colorway cotton print; and for the tree branch I used a brown wood-grain. If you find solid-colored muslin or shirts/onesies you like first, bring them along to the fabric store or compare them to fabric you already have to create a good pairing.
Step 2: Trace (or draw freehand) your apple and branch shapes onto the paper side of your fusible appliqué material. Remember, anything you draw now will show up backwards as a finished fabric piece, so for the branch, make sure it’s facing the opposite way. The apple is symmetrical so it doesn’t matter how it’s oriented.
Step 3: Following manufacturer’s directions, fuse your appliquéd paper shapes to the wrong side of your fabrics with an iron. (For the leaves, I just fused unmarked paper to the back of a leaf-patterned print and cut out shapes freehand.) Let them cool completely and cut them out, following the lines closely. For the apple stem, just cut out a thin 1 1/2" piece of extra fused wood-grain fabric and angle one end.
Step 4: Peel the paper backing off each appliqué. They’re now ready to position right onto your pieces.
Step 1: Press your shirt or onesie so the fabric is smooth and flat. Position your appliqués on the front as desired. I arranged mine (as shown) so that the branch was on the left side and the apple was below it on the right.
Step 2: If you’re planning to stitch around the edges of the appliqués, I’d suggest fusing down the apple stem, apple, and branch first, and adding the leaves over them later, as I did for the blue shirt. If you’re not stitching them, you can go ahead and press them all at once, as I did for the pink shirt. Follow the package directions to fuse the shapes to the shirt or onesie.
Step 3: If you’re stitching around your appliqués, set your sewing machine to a medium-length straight stitch (or tight zigzag if you prefer) and sew around the perimeter of each shape in a coordinating thread color. (To save time and thread-changing, if you are making a whole set you can fuse your appliqués for the blanket and shirt at the same time and then stitch down each branch, then each apple, and so on.)
Step 4: Once you’ve stitched down the first layers, fuse the leaves onto the branch at random intervals, and then stitch around each one the same way.
Step 1: Following your favorite baby pants pattern, cut out, pin, and sew a pair of pants in your chosen fabric. I’d suggest pinking or serging the inside edges, and adding a small ribbon or printed tag at the back as you sew the waistband — these can be hard to tell front from back on when you’re dressing a squirming baby!
Step 1: Take your large square or rectangle of muslin (mine measured 58" wide and 48" long) and press a ½" fold down along all 4 sides. If you have a finished selvedge edge, you can fold these sides down just once and pin them, or create a double-fold hem if you’d prefer to hide the edge.
Step 2: Now press the raw edged hems again to form a double fold, pinning as you go, and catch the selvedge edge inside the second fold at each of the corners (as shown).
Step 3: Set your sewing machine to a medium-length zigzag stitch and sew all around the hems as shown. I like using a contrast thread color for this project so that the zigzag shows, but you can also use matching thread or use a simple straight stitch if you prefer.
Step 4: Now choose one corner to add an appliqué. I decided to add a branch to one blanket and an apple to another, but you could put both designs on the same blanket if you prefer. Follow the directions for the shirt how-to to add your appliqué, whether you’re just fusing it or stitching it down as well.
Step 1: Measure the center panel of your cloth diaper and note the dimensions. To add a contrast panel, just add 1" to each number — mine measured 20" long and 4" wide, so I cut a piece of patterned fabric 21" long and 5" wide.
Step 2: Press the raw edge to the wrong side of the fabric ½" along each side.
Step 3: Turn the panel right side up and position it over the cloth diaper. Pin it down so that it neatly covers that center area, making any adjustments that you need to so that it meets each edge.
Step 4: Set your sewing machine to a medium-length straight stitch and sew all around the perimeter of the panel.
About the Author:
Susan Beal is a crafter and writer in Portland, Oregon, who loves to drink coffee, sew, and make things with buttons. Her new book, Button It Up, is out now!