Sunday, August 21, 2011

Mom made baby clothes

One month before giving birth I realised there were almost no children clothes that I liked. I must say I’m not a frantic shopping fan, but as I’d enter some specialized shops I’d immediately feel boredom. Maybe too much choice was making me yawn or was it too much of the same stuff? Anyway, as I can’t easily find clothes for myself, the same way I couldn’t find them for my kiddo. I did as I do for myself (a part from heading to H&M when I’m desperate): I made the little clothes myself. In Bali, where I’ve been living, the wet season was particularly hot at the time when I gave birth. I needed something thin and cool for my daughter. Thin, so it could dry fast even if she sweats or spits on her self. Cool, because cool mama gotta have cool kid, and because the heat rush is really annoying. I convinced my partner to drive me to our favourite fabrics retailer and bought bags full of cotton voile and 50s jersey. I had some stock at home as well. I purchased new threads and sew-on push buttons and started to make patterns.

First of all I needed special clothes for my newborn as we didn’t cut the umbilical chord (lotus birth). They had to be light and short with enough space for the chord to peek. I made a little sleeveless jersey hoodie with hand sewn push buttons. The hood to protect the head from masuk angin. The Indonesians are firmly convinced that the wind enters the body, especially through the infant’s head. Their children never leave the room without a hat, often made of wool, even on the 40° C. The little red hoodie made the deal.

The following necessity was an item that would protect the baby’s face from tiny but long nails on the uncontrollable mini hand finally wondering freely in the air. So I made a striped cotton jersey kimono with looong sleeves. I didn’t have the heart to put on my daughter’s hands those funny round gloves that make babies look like a looney boxer. I wasn’t convinced that all babies inevitably scratch themselves, but I couldn’t bet mine wouldn’t do so. I made this top just in case. In fact Koko had long well manicured nails when she was born, but she didn’t use them against her cheeks or nose, yet. I bite them out as soon as possible – following the instructions from my maternity manual. She wore the item for two months.

I also made a baby sling. When we were shopping for the newborn in Rome we were wondering about the price for simple jersey slings. They were around 50 and 75€, it sounded a little bit too much for the fashion industry insiders. After all it was a piece of fabrics cut and sewn on the edges, ok a very long piece. We new the price of fabrics, so we went and bought some that we liked. I chose the pink-grey combination and daddy chose the blue-grey one. We bought one kilo of the pink and got one sling long 5 and another 2,70m, plus the leftovers for many other items to make in the future. We got less of the blue one and made a short 2,70m wrap and also had reusable leftovers. It all cost us 15€. The long one was perfect for Rome and the short one, due to less fabric, to the hot weather in Bali.

I made some other sleeveless and hoodless tops and also had enough fabrics for six pillows. In Bali they sell pillows without the option to buy the cover of the same size. Again, I had to sew them myself, in three different shapes and sizes.

For more then a month, Koko had a severe heat rush and the heat outside and inside the house was exhausting. She lived and slept naked with only her cloth diaper on. I made her pure transparent cotton cover sheets to keep her cool and dry without irritating her skin. It was easier for me to make the sheets then to go around and buy them. I was respecting the holy 40 days post-partum rest, so didn’t move far from bed. I cut the fabrics and gave to the neighbour tailor to sew the edges. We tried to get rid of the rush in oh so many ways. No product would help until we discovered maizena – the corn starch - bough in the local street market. They don’t sell sophisticated European baby products in Bali. We got some later, but the maizena seemed to do the work, for our great joy.

This is my masterpiece. Searching for inspiration in the internet I discovered a hadagi, a kind of Japanese shirt worn under a kimono. It looked ideal for babies and there are some savvy brands making them (piccolo). It immediately hooked my sense of stylishness and I started cutting my cottons. I liked how it looked on my baby, so mystic and peaceful. It was like she was meditating all the time. It was like she was an angel not yet landed on Earth. Balinese hold their newborns in their arms all the time until they are three months old, then after a ceremony they are allowed to touch the ground. They consider them still floating between the two worlds until that time. We used this hadagi for three whole months.
Once I started with kimono style I kept on going that way exploring numerous variations. The sleeveless one is particularly handy. It fits for longer time, its fresh and it’s easy to put on and take off. Of course, we are talking about summer weather here, since we didn’t see the cold old Europe yet.

I tried to experiment with thin that can’t be thinner rayon jersey. This material is so soft and fresh on touch that it feels almost like water. I made a few variations with or without sleeves and daddy absolutely loved it. I wasn’t very happy about the results since this fabrics stretches in an uncontrollable way, so once you cut and sew you don’t know what’s going to happen when the top is worn. It goes loose in all directions contributing to create a very non-chalant who-cares look. But we use these pieces very much, even if our baby looks like a clochard in it, it’s smooth and chill, perfect for excessive heat.

At the age of three months, Koko started to discover her hands and her motoric skills highly improved. The kimono started to seem a little bit too open and the bows with loose ends started to look suspicious. I turned my head towards something more compact but still breathing. I had some transparent voile. I made a kaftan-body. One of the downside of kimonos is that they roll upward when the baby starts to move a lot. The kaftan body suit was a nice solution for all the new rising needs. The result was a perfect Bali expat shi shi look.

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