Customized Gift Idea -- Tips for Sewing Baby Bibs

Karin and I are both avid sewers (like seamstresses...not like septic tanks), so expect to hear more-than-occasionally about fabric projects.  Maybe it has something to do with wanting to be able to create things that are completely unique and that match exactly what you see in your head, rather than just what you can find on the clearance rack.   Which is kind of the same premise as ink puddles portraits, so I suppose that makes sense.
clip art baby with bib
Our oldest boy sporting one of the bibs his aunt karin sent.  (My doodles aren't quite on par with "by karin" ones, but on a page dedicated to drawings you'll get to see a few "by melissa" ones too.  Don't worry -- any time you buy an ink puddles by karin picture, you really are getting a picture literally "by karin.")
Being able to sew is especially handy when it comes to gifts.  After all, who wouldn't want something handmade with love just for them?  When our fourth child (and first boy) was born, Karin sent me some cute new bibs she'd sewn (and embroidered) for him.  Honestly, I hadn't planned on buying any bibs that time around.  Sure, all of our existing ones were in varying shades of pink and embellished with stains in varying shades of puce, but I figured: meh, they're bibs.  Who cares?

Nearly three years later and my opinion on bibs has completely changed.  Someone else  also gave us new homemade bibs when our boy was born, and those two sets have become our absolute favorite.  The plastic-y ones from the store lose in every comparison: not as big, not as soft, not as laundry-friendly, not as easy to take on-and-off,  and definitely not as fun to look at.

Bibs have now become one of my favorite things to give other people.  They're easy to sew, inexpensive, and I know from personal experience just how appreciated they actually can be.  Here are some tips for making your own:

Fabric

If you think bibs have to be sewn out of something laminated to be effective, think again.  My favorite choice is cotton prints.  They're soft, come in a ton of different colors and patterns, and are slightly absorbent.  Sandwiching a layer of laminated fleece between a cotton front and back increases this absorbency and gives any top-stitching you do on the bib a quilt-like feel.  If you're really worried about dribbles leaking through, you can replace the back layer of cotton with polyurethan laminate (PUL)-- the same breathable-but-waterproof fabric used in modern cloth diapers.

How much fabric do you need?  Not much: you should easily be able to get two large-sized bibs (front-and-back) from a single fat-quarter cut of fabric.

Patterns

Pretty much any shape can be turned into a cute bib.  Keep it simple and classic with a large square or pick something whimsical and design your own.  Owl bib?  Sure!  Pineapple bib?  Why not!  Klingon bat'leth bib?  Well...maybe not any shape.   If you're looking for inspiration, a quick internet image search should provide ample ideas.  You can also check-out commercial patterns (like Simplicity 2273 that I've had a lot of fun making fruit-themed bibs from) or quilting books (nearly any quilt block could be converted to a bib).

homemade fabric bibs and baby presents
Garden-inspired bibs made recently for a friend.   I think they look yummier than the mushy stuff Baby actually gets to eat. :)

Construction

Sewing together a bib is delightfully simple:

1.  Create the bib front using whatever technique matches your mood, whether it's piecing, applique, embroidering a design, or just cutting out the entire bib shape from a single piece of charming fabric.

2.  With right sides together, use the completed front panel as a pattern for cutting out a back panel and fleece inner (if desired).   Fuse fleece to wrong-side of front panel.

3. With right sides together again (the fleece layer will be exposed at this point), sew around the outside edge of the bib, LEAVING THE TOP SIDE OPEN.  Trim off any excess fabric, especially around tight corners, and make small snips in the seam allowance around curves.

4.  Turn bib right-side-out and press with an iron, paying special attention to tight spaces that may need extra assistance fully turning.  Baste top edges together sewing very closely to edge.

Binding

While it's certainly possible to create a homemade bib that snaps closed, I've found that, given the choice, I'd rather use a tie-on bib most of time.   (Plus they're really easy to sew!)  All you need to finish the bib now is 34 inches of 1/2-inch double-fold bias tape.  Don't confuse this with single-fold bias tape that's used to finish things like armholes when you're sewing, otherwise you'll end up with bizarre little itsy-bitsy ties.  Both kinds of bias tape are sold in the same display and look nearly identical, so be sure to read the packaging.

Once you've cut your bias tape to length, find the center of it by folding it in half the long way.  Line this part of the tape up with the center front of your bib.  See where you basted the bib layers together across the top?  You're now going to hide that seam (along with all the raw edges) in the bias tape.  Open up the tape and fold it around the edge, with the slightly narrower fold of the tape on the top of the bib (that way when you top-stitch it all together your seam will definitely land on the bias tape on the back of the bib).  Pin in place.

Now all that's left is sewing the long length of the bias tape.  Turn about a half an inch of the tape inside itself on both ends before stitching to hide those raw edges, and then just do one big long seam.  And that's it!  Your bib is done!

Of course, once you see how cute it turned out you may decide you don't want to give it away after all.  Why risk smearing something so pretty with pureed carrots, right?  If that happens, don't worry, you can always just order the happy family an ink puddles portrait as a baby present instead.  A new addition is a perfect reason to update your family picture, and babies-in-arms are free.

Karin could probably even draw the baby wearing the exact bib you meant to give them.  :)






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