Simple Preemie Angel Gown: Free Pattern

How to make the easiest,  fastest “angel gowns” for newborns and preemies

In my previous post about sewing angel cocoons, I promised to write about sewing angel gowns.  If you sew for charities that provide angel gowns for  the tiniest of babies who won’t be coming home from the hospital, then I’m sure you are familiar with the classic infant kimono,  turned around so that the closure is in the back (this is necessary for all bereavement garments). Although this seems to be the simplest of patterns, it can be tricky and frustrating to sew, especially when using slippery fabrics (many sewing groups use donated wedding gowns for these projects). I’ve researched many tutorials and videos online, and seen the struggle of hemming tiny sleeves, and binding tiny necklines.

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(Pinterest link: https://www.pinterest.com/7pinedesign/free-sewing-patterns/)

 

I’ve figured out a faster, easier method for sewing this design:

  • no hand-sewing
  • no seam allowances to finish (no need for overlocker/serger)
  • no raw edges against delicate skin

Why hasn’t everybody been using this method? Because it is harder to explain.  Paper patterns for infant kimonos have been published  since the ’40’s,  with instructions that can be reduced to a few phrases and tiny line drawings.  So if you’re ready to try a new sewing method for this traditional style, here we go. I’ll show you how to do this, using 2 different printed cottons (outside fabric and lining)  for clarity, and then again in white wedding dress fabrics .

kimono1  ..kimono6kimono3

  • Open the pattern  (right click, open in new window):  AngelGownFourPage
  • You can then either download or print by clicking on this tab in the upper right corner:print download
  • Cut out the size you need and tape or glue the front top-to-bottom at the single star, and back top-to-bottom at the double-star

First I’ll show you how to make a Velcro-back style (the second one will be tie-back):

1. CUTTING OUT and MARKING:

  •  Layer the body fabric (blue print) and lining fabric (pink stripe) together on your cutting table so that you can cut both layers together, ensuring they will match in size and shape.
  • Cut out 2 fronts (1 of body fabric and 1 of lining fabric) on the fold
  • Cut out 2 mirrored-pairs of backs (1 of body fabric and 1 of lining fabric)
  •  Mark your notches on all fabric pieces, from the triangles on the paper pattern.  This will be very helpful when stitching, to avoid confusion. Either snip 1/8″ notches (seam allowances are 1/4″) or use a fabric marker or a plain pencil.

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2. EMBELLISH:

  • (Optional): Decorate front of gown on the body fabric. Often angel gowns are made of donated wedding dresses, and using decorative trim elements from the original gown can make each gown distinct and special.  (I’m skipping that part here, because I’m just showing construction).

3. SHOULDER-SEAMS:

  •  Pin left back and right back to front at shoulder-seams, with right sides of fabric together, matching SINGLE-notches.  Stitch, and press open.  Repeat for lining:

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4. STITCH BODY TO LINING:

  • Pin lining to body, right sides of fabric together.
  • Stitch center-back, leaving a 2″ opening for turning inside out later.
  • Stitch neckline
  • Stitch sleeve hems together, body fabric to lining:

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5. TURN INSIDE OUT:

  • Clip the inside curve of the neckline, and trim off the center-back neckline corners:

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  • Turn the garment inside out by pulling the back pieces through the shoulders into the front.

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  • Press. Your neckline and sleeve hems are already finished!

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Now it gets a bit tricky, but once you get it, it will make sense, I promise!

6. STITCH SIDE-SEAMS:

  • Pin  side-seams front to back, right sides of fabric together, matching the DOUBLE-notches. Start by “pinching” the sleeves together and pinning at the sleeve underarm seams. Then pin along the sides, down to the hems. Your fabrics should be pinned outer-fabric-to-outer-fabric, and lining-fabric-to-lining-fabric:

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  • Stitch side-seams, starting at the hem, going up around the underarm, and down to the other hem. Go slowly, since this step is not “flat” sewing….its very curved and 3-dimensional at this stage, so you’ll need to stop and adjust the fabric under your presser foot every half-inch or so.

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  •  When you are done sewing this seam, clip the under-arm curves so that the underarm will lay flat after turning inside-out:

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  • Press the side-seams open as far as your iron allows.You should now have sort of a mish-mosh thing that looks like this:

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This^^^ is the reason that traditional patterns don’t use this construction method!  It’s not difficult to DO, just difficult to EXPLAIN in tiny line drawings. Trust me, this is how apparel is constructed in factories, as they are always looking for the most efficient methods. Okay, almost done!

7. HEMMING:

  • Pin the hem front to back, right sides of fabric together, matching TRIPLE-notches.
  • Stitch across the hem, clip off the corners:

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  • Pull the garment inside out, using the opening you left in the center-back seam, and voila!  Totally clean-finished seams throughout:

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8. FINISHING:

  • Final press, then stitch the turn-about opening shut. You can edge-stitch the entire outside edge, closing the center-back opening as you go.

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  • Next stitch on Velcro at center-back.  The nurses like Velcro because it is easier to dress the little angels.  I use Sew-On “Soft and Flexible”, and cut the strips lengthwise to half their width.  Be sure to sew the “fuzzy” side facing the body, and the “scratchy” side away from the body.

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Now I’ll show you again, this time with ribbon ties for the back, and fabric cut from a wedding dress. First step is to wash the dress. To make washing easier, separate the bodice from the skirt and the petticoat. Straight into the washer (gentle cycle) and then hang up to dry:

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1. CUTTING OUT and MARKING:

  • Cut out all angel gown pieces as before:
  •  Layer the body fabric and lining fabric together on your cutting table so that you can cut both layers together, ensuring they will match in size and shape.
  • Cut out 2 fronts (1 of body fabric and 1 of lining fabric) on the fold
  • Cut out 2 mirrored-pairs of backs (1 of body fabric and 1 of lining fabric)
  • Mark your notches on all fabric pieces, from the triangles on the paper pattern.

2. EMBELLISH:

  • Decorate the Front, using lace appliques or trim from the wedding dress:

IMG_8552

3. SHOULDER-SEAMS:

  •   Pin left back and right back to front at shoulder-seams, with right sides of fabric together, matching SINGLE-notches.  Stitch, and press open.  Repeat for lining:

..IMG_8570


(Optional Back Ties: if you want to close the garment back with ties, add the ribbons now.  If you prefer to use Velcro, that will be added as the last step after the garment is complete):

  • Cut six pieces of narrow ribbon, each 8″ long, and pin or tape to the right side of the center back edges; I use plain old  Scotch Tape to keep the ribbons out of the way, and take it off immediately after stitching. The top ribbon pair can be placed about 1/2″ from the neckline, the next pair 3″ down the center-back, and the last pair  another 3″ down:

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Continue construction same as the first sample:

4. STITCH BODY TO LINING:

  • Place lining on top of outer body, pin along center back, neckline, and sleeve hems.
  • Stitch center back, leaving a 2″ opening for turning inside-out later.
  • Stitch neckline and sleeve hems:

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5. TURN INSIDE OUT:

  • Clip inside curve of neckline seam allowance, being careful not to cut into stitching:

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  • Turn inside-out by pulling the backs through the shoulders towards the front:

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  • Press lightly…look how pretty with the neckline and sleeve hems already finished!:

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6. STITCH SIDE-SEAMS:

  • Pin  side-seams front to back, right sides of fabric together, matching the double-notches.  Start by “pinching” the sleeves together,  and pinning at the sleeve underarm seam.:

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  • Then pin  outside fabric front-to-back  all the way down to the hem, and pin lining fabric front-to-back  all the way down to the hem:. Your fabrics should be pinned outer-to-outer and lining-to-lining:

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If that sounds confusing, or you’re just not sure, look at the print fabric picture again; you should have outside-fabric-to-outside-fabric (front to back), lining-fabric-to-lining-fabric (front to back):

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  • Stitch the side-seams starting at the hem, going up and around the underarm, and down to the other hem. Slow and steady as you stitch the underarm area.
  • Clip under-arm curves:

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  • Press the side-seams open as far as your iron will allow:

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Now you should have your weird mish-mosh shaped thing:

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If you’re worried, you can lift up the skirt and flip it inside out to see what it’s going to look like:

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7. HEMMING:

  • Turn it back outside in again….time to finish the hem: pin all the way across, stitch, clip corners.

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  • Now go back to the center-back where you (hopefully) left a 2″ opening in the seam for turning.  If you forgot to do this (it happens) just get a seam ripper and carefully un-stitch the center-back seam for about 2″.  Pull the garment completely inside out, press:

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8. FINISHING:

  • You can  machine-edge-stitch (or hand-stitch if you prefer) the center-back opening, and you are done!

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Some notes about sewing for hospitals: every hospital has different needs, so be sure to check with the NICU department before making items to donate.  I have read so many stories about groups and individuals putting in time and energy sewing items that weren’t exactly what was  needed for their local hospital.  The nurses know best, so check first!

  • GARMENT TYPES:  Bereavement apparel usually must open completely in back; sometimes side access is required in final stages of life for access to tubes and wires, especially for infants in the cardiac unit.
  • CLOSURES: Some hospitals prefer Velcro for ease of dressing. Some hospitals prefer snaps (plastic such as Dritz Clear or KAM snaps; never metal as it gets too hot/cold).
  • BLANKETS and ACCESSORIES: hand-sewn blankets or hats to match angel-gowns are a thoughtful touch, as parents like to take them home as a remembrance
  • FABRICS: For bereavement items, soft and smooth fabrics such as those from donated wedding gowns are fine.  Some hospitals have a need for bereavement apparel in cotton, and some for bereavement apparel in colors, depending on regional ethnic groups.
  • APPAREL SIZES: depending on the size of the NICU, the hospital services offered,  and regional factors, some hospitals need more items for Micro-Preemies (under 2 lbs), others need regular Preemie sizes, or full-term.
  • GENDER:  There is a greater need for male than female infant bereavement apparel: “In the U.S. in 2013, the overall infant mortality rate for male infants was 6.51 per 1,000 births, 21% higher than the rate for female infants (5.39%)” (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr64/nvsr64_09.pdf)

If you are interested in joining a group dedicated to charity sewing for little angels, check these websites, or Google “angel gowns” and then the name of your state. Some groups that I know of include (please right-click link and open in new window):

In the U.S.:

  • https://newbornsinneed.org (throughout the United States)
  • http://angeloutfitters.blogspot.com/ (throughout the United States)
  • http://www.carewear.org/ (throughout the United States)
  • http://www.threadsoflove.org/ (throughout the United States)
  • http://www.angelgowns.chauglie.com/ (Washington State)
  • http://www.thepreemieproject.com/ (Iowa)
  • http://mikaylasgrace.com/ (Wisconsin)
  • http://www.nicuhelpinghands.org/(Texas)
  • http://www.marymadelineproject.org/ (Nebraska)
  • http://www.littleangelgowns.org/(Indiana)
  • http://www.touchinglittlelives.org/ (Ohio)

In Australia:

  • http://angelgownsaustralia.org.au/

In Canada:

  • http://angeldressescanada.com/

In the U.K:

  • http://needleshooksangelsandpreemies.com/

If you, or somebody you know, is facing an angel loss in late pregnancy or early delivery, a lovely and helpful booklet full of information is found here: http://angelbabiesinfo.com/docs/pamphlet.pdf

LinedAngelGown copy

 

 

 

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26 Responses to Simple Preemie Angel Gown: Free Pattern

  1. JustGail says:

    You’re right, it’s very hard to explain! I think I’ll have to sit down and actually do this. After pulling through the shoulder seams and pressing the first time, it looks like the gown is turned back inside out (?) or does it just look that way due to the way the pieces are flipped around to pin the side seams? Ack! I can’t even think how to word the question of what I’m trying to ask :-/ :-)

    Yup, gotta sit down and do this one for me to understand! Thank you for the pattern to do so.

  2. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    Hi Gail! After pulling through the shoulder seams and pressing the first time, it should look sort of like a finished garment (outside fabric out, lining inside) …except with unfinished side-seams and hem. It’s definitely a “hands on” procedure, and you will have the “Aha!” moment when it’s done. It took me MANY experiments with “sequence of stitching” to figure out how to do this with all machine stitching!

  3. Delia Gonzalez says:

    Hi Ms. Gail
    I was looking for a pattern like this and finally. Thank you for posting and explaining.
    Now what kind of items do you recommend to decorated them. Specially for boys.
    Again thank you and may God bless you.

  4. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    For boys I use light blue fabric and blue/white ribbons in stripes or checks. Sometimes the parents are okay with a simple white gown for a boy but no lace, and no shiny fabric, so I use cotton. The hospital volunteers enjoy making the girls’ gowns from wedding dresses with lots of trimmings, but sadly there is a greater need for boys’ Christening and baptism apparel.

  5. Delia says:

    Good Evening Ms. Gail

    I just made my first gown, I have a question regarding the sleeves are they supposed to look like 2. I know I did something wrong.

  6. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    Can you send me a photo? My email is: 7pinedesign@comcast.net

  7. Delia Gonzalez says:

    Ms. Gail.
    Sorry to be a pest. After 2 hours trying, I finally made it. I was able to figure out the instruction. Now I have my first gown. Can I make the boys one using light blue cotton fabric? I will send you a picture of the fabric I want to use for the girls. Please let me know if this is appropriated. You are awesome, thanks.

  8. Delia Gonzalez says:

    Good afternoon Ms. Gail
    I will like to know if you have a tutorial video on how to applied the decorations on the gowns. Thank you

  9. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    I don’t but that’a a good idea!

    Best regards, Janet

  10. Monica Marie Ellis says:

    This pattern is very easy once you finally figure it out. What confused me the most was the stitching the side seams and under arm holes. The picture you have is great but looking at all the white fabric is over whelming. If you would add the dots to the picture maybe that would help. I’m so thankful for this pattern. It so beautiful once its finished. Thanks

  11. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    That is a great idea! I will see what I can do. Thank you for the input, it’s very much appreciated. It IS quite difficult to visualize, and I’m convinced that is why the pattern companies avoid this type of construction: it’s almost impossible to do a line drawing that makes sense. At some point you think “no way is this going to work”..and then it DOES!

  12. Bel says:

    Ms. Gail,

    I must say. What lovely work you do.
    Thank you for sharing and God bless you.

  13. Judy Wacker says:

    Could you please send me the patterns for the angel robes. I would lime to make some gor our local hospitals.

  14. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    Absolutely! You can print it from this link: http://7pinedesign.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/AngelGownFourPage.pdf or if that doesn’t work please give me your address so that I can print it here and mail it to you.

  15. Dawn keshner says:

    I can not get links for ange gown pattern to open. Can u please send to my email.

  16. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    Have sent the link to your email and I can always print and send to you in regular mail, just give me your address

  17. Sandy Caskey says:

    Thank you so much for the patterns.
    I have just started doing the gowns and have had a explosion of interest. I started with the Funeral Home that did the burial for my premature Grandson. They have gotten me in touch with several organizations. I will be setting up a table at a 5K run, sponsored by one of the groups, to accept donations of the wedding dresses from the Mothers of these precious baby’s. I am praying this will help with the healing process for them.

  18. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    You are so very welcome! That’s wonderful that you are helping these families at their most difficult time. It’s a small gesture but means so much. Best regards, Janet

  19. Kate says:

    Do the pdf patterns print in true size or do they have to be enlarged?

  20. Alison Cosshall says:

    Could you please email me the pattern for the dress/gown? I recently had an angel baby and I would like to make these gowns for other parents.

  21. Christine Cormier says:

    I’m trying to get into sewing for the nicu. Down here in Louisiana.

  22. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    It’s really rewarding. The important first step is to contact the hospital volunteer office and get the name of the head of the NICU ask what their needs are. They may already have a sewing group that you can join, or they may not have volunteers yet and would love to have anything you can make!

  23. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    True size. All of the sizes are included, and there is a measure-square to make sure your printer is printing actual size.

  24. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss, I’m sure that it is devastating….hopefully this sewing project may give you some peace. I have emailed the file to you, if it doesn’t open please let me know, I can always print it and mail to you.

    Best, Janet

  25. Maureen Wilson says:

    Thank you for your pattern &’easy to follow instructions ,
    today I have made the tiniest size for little Issac born too soon at 24weeks.
    I hope it will bring some comfort to my daughter in law’s friend & her fiancé
    I made the gown in white , with a little oblong of fine blue ribbon to indicate a yoke ( the trickiest bit ) & a little ribbon bow tie at the throat.
    A knitting exhibition group I belong to have been making tiny cardigans & shawls & one of these shawls is for issac Thank you once again
    Maureen

  26. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    Oh Maureen, I’m so sorry to hear about little Isaac…how sweet of you to make such a lovely gift for his family. I’m sure it was appreciated more than you know. I love the idea of adding blue ribbon. Very best regards, Janet

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