July 25, 2016

100-Year-Old Christening Gown


This christening gown is a family heirloom with a full pedigree.  The left photo is the front, right photo is the back, third photo is the matching slip.  Here's what the current caretaker knows about the gown:

"The 100 year old christening gown and slip belonged to my mother-in-law who was born in January, 1917.  It was handmade by her maternal grandmother and has stayed in the family.  My mother-in-law grew up on the north side of Chicago, married, and had nine children.  Now the fourth generation is thrilled to have their babies wear it for christenings.  Depending if it's a boy or a girl, a pink or blue ribbon is woven through the sleeve cuffs on each christening day.

"The generational countdown that used the gown is:
Mother-in-law 1
Her children 9
Grandchildren 17
Great grandchildren 10

"So 37 babies have been christened in this gown with 3 more on the way!"

What a wonderful story!

Both pieces have inset lace.  I really like the curved lace on the front of the gown.  The gown also has embroidered leaves and flowers, and a scalloped hem.

Both pieces have finely finished French seams.

Both have tiny shell buttons.

The gown has tiny faggoted trim on the shoulder and sleeve seams and the eyelets on the sleeve cuffs.

To repair the torn lace, I started by removing some older repair stitching.  I often like to keep old repairs because I think they add to the history of the item, especially one like this with family tradition.  But in this case, I felt that the lace would be better protected by adding a supporting fabric, and to do that, I needed to see where it was actually torn.

I backed the lace with crepeline silk.  I pinned a piece of silk (cut extra large for ease of handling) to the inside of the gown and attached it to the seam at the edge of the lace with a small running stitch.

I used a small herringbone stitch to attach the thicker (and therefore hopefully stronger) parts of the lace design to the crepeline.

Then I finished the edge of the crepeline with my favorite, the rolled hem.  I still get such a charge out of pulling the thread and watching the fabric magically roll up!

I followed the same steps to mend the tear at the front neckline of the gown, except that I used a cotton batiste instead of crepeline.

The patch does show, especially when photographed against the black background I've used for these pictures, but the gown will be worn over the slip and then the patch will not be nearly so visible.

I also put little batiste patches behind a few of the buttons where the fabric had torn.

I really enjoyed having the gown here for a while and being part of such a deep history.  I hope the gown and its slip will now be ready for quite a few new additions to the family!

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