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Pattern Review: Baby Bonnets

NOTICE: update 1/27/2017: a reader alerted me to the fact that the Purl Bee bonnet pattern discussed below has a notification on the pattern: “This pattern and project are for home use only, not for resale”. I completely missed that when making the bonnet and when reviewing the pattern. In retrospect, I’m glad that I made changes to it, so that I’m not using the original, and therefore CAN use it for resale.

  • Extended the brim
  • Revised sequence of stitching
  • Decreased lining pattern pieces for smoother fit

Additionally, another reader advised me that there is no legal standing for a pattern designer/seller to request that products sewn using purchased patterns not be sold. I’ve done some research and can find no definitive answer on this one.

January 18, 2017

Quite by accident, I had the opportunity to compare 2 very similar baby bonnet patterns this week. I was sewing a romper order from this vintage pattern, and I thought I’d surprise the mama with a bonnet to match, but not exactly the pointy one in this vintage Butterick pattern:


I was looking for a simple, curved-seam bonnet. A quick check online lead me to exactly what I wanted, a basic bonnet from Little Betty.  Her entire Etsy shop is based on this one pattern, and she has sold 885 units, so I figured it must be absolutely perfect! Since I was in a bit of a rush to get the package shipped, I proceeded to skip the muslin step and jump right in with sewing.  Not smart. Honestly, I just wasn’t happy with the shape.  It seemed too “boxy” :


And then the deal-breaker came when I noticed this message in the pattern instructions: “Not for commercial use”.  My fault, I should have read that in the Etsy item description (“You may not sell this pattern or bonnets made from this pattern.”) before purchasing.  Well, that makes the pattern useless to me. My “baby” is in college now! I only need a bonnet pattern “for commercial use”.

A second online search led me to the Purl Bee bonnet. Bonus: it’s free! Since I’d already invested in a pattern I can’t use, this made me happy. However, I’d learned my lesson and decided to take the time to make a muslin. Two muslins in fact. I wanted to compare the patterns, since from the outset the designs look pretty darn similar (Purl Bee on left, Little Betty on right):


When you print out the pattern pieces, there are 3 noticeable differences between the two patterns:

1.Range of sizes

  • Purl Bee: 5 sizes, up to 18-24 months
  • Little Betty: 3 sizes, up to 6-12 months

2. Number of pattern pieces

  • Purl Bee: 2 pieces (side, brim) ….the center strip is a self-drafted rectangle
  • Little Betty: 3 pieces (side, curved center strip, brim)

Honestly, “rectangle patterns” generally are off-putting to me. They remind me of beginner apparel patterns that aren’t really patterns at all, more like tutorials asking you to stitch together rectangles of fabric and gather them up with elastic. So you’d think I would prefer the Little Betty, right?

3. Shape of the side pieces:

Purl Bee (left) has a straight vertical line at the face opening, while Little Betty (right) is curved (to add more sun-protection?). Again my pattern-prejudice made me think the Little Betty had been more carefully drafted….and yet I wasn’t happy with the results from my first sample….so I was confused:


But I put my mixed emotions aside and proceeded to be objective, and compare muslins. Here is the Little Betty muslin:


Again, too boxy. I’m itching to pin out the excess in the curve of both the sides AND the middle strip.

Here is the Purl Bee muslin:


I had assumed the Purl Bee, with the rectangle middle strip, would be “boxy”, and actually it’s less boxy. I was so wrong! I proceeded to cut fresh fabric using the Purl Bee pattern:


….and I like it much better:


That said, I “always” tweak every pattern (sigh..can’t help it) and if I were making the bonnet without the brim, or without a ruffle,   I would extend the front of the Purl Bee a tad for sun protection, like the Little Betty does:


Comparing the instructions, I do prefer the sequence of stitching in Little Betty, where she has you complete the brim (stitch outer to facing, turn, press, top-stitch) before attaching to the body.

What I disagree with in the Little Betty instructions is that a bonnet can be reversible. This may be finicky, but the fit is always better in a lined garment if the lining is cut a smidgen smaller. Sure, you can cut both outer and lining the exact same size, and it will technically be reversible, however the inside will always be a bit puckered and wrinkly.

Lessons learned here:

  1. Don’t knock free patterns
  2. Don’t dismiss rectangle pattern pieces
  3. Always make a muslin

One last note (completely off-topic):  While I don’t have as much time as I’d like to write blog entrees, I do post photos almost every day of what I’m currently sewing.  If you want to see the cute little romper that goes with this Valentines bonnet, please checkout my Instagram page !




  • Lynn Poulin

    I have made the Purl Soho bonnet several times as gifts (even a couple using Liberty Lawn! ) and it’s a sweet pattern. Thanks for the pattern tweak!

  • Battra

    Thanks for this post! My friend is due next month and I’m thinking of making something simple for her baby. Side note, on the pattern it’s written “This pattern and project are for home use only, not for resale”. Do you think it refers to the pattern itself or including the bonnets made out of it?

  • Carolyn B

    Thanks for your posts – I really enjoy your experienced perspective. I’m not in the market for kids patterns at this stage of life but your pattern drafting insights are so helpful.

  • JustGail

    Would making 2-3 smaller pleats on each side of the vintage pattern make for a less pointy/boxy bonnet? Sort of like the tip to use 3 darts instead of 1 huge one for adult garments. And is the center panel of the Little Betty also a plain rectangle?

    I’m not sure I agree with draft your own rectangle patterns being off-putting. It might be the first step in encouraging people to realize they can make changes to patterns, maybe even make their own entire patterns. Now, if the pattern is for purchase, the more expensive the pattern, the more I’ll agree with you.

  • [email protected]

    Is there anything more lovely than Liberty lawn? I remember as a child living in Europe, we would visit London and my mom would choose a few yards of Liberty for blouses. It’s so pricey though, I can only imagine using it for small projects….a bonnet or hairbow is perfect!

  • [email protected]

    Little pleats/tucks could help….I’ve seen those on a lot of vintage bonnet patterns. I think the reason the Little Betty appears boxy has less to do with the side panels than with the center panel;it is shaped, but it’s too wide in proportion to the overall size (in my opinion!).

    I should have clarified that rectangle pattern per se are not bad…most garments in the world are made of rectangles! However, there are some indie companies selling hundreds of rectangle-only patterns for substantial $$$ which are truly not much more than tutorials. That said, people love them, and I support the free market. And anything that encourages more people to sew is always a positive!

  • TLSS

    FYI pattern designers can write “do not sell items made from this pattern” on there, but legally, that isn’t allowed to be enforced. If you make it, you can sell it, you just can’t sell the pattern itself in any form.

  • Cathy Allain

    Hello again. Your insta led me to the fb pattern group (recommended by you) which led me here…lol. I’ve made the Purl Bee bonnet about four times. My daughter loves it for her daughter. I was curious what you did about the hand sewn back neck area tuck that the PB bonnet recommends at the end of the pattern. It is a bit awkward for me. I have made them reversible, but I’m wonder how much smaller you make the lining…1/8″?

  • [email protected]

    Hey Cathy! Haha you found me again. Honestly I skipped the back neck tuck….I don’t think it’s necessary. If the neck seems too large, I’d rather trim off a bit of the side piece at the back towards the neck. I know it’s supposed to be reversible (in which case you cut both sides exactly the same) but I find that the inside layer gets scrunched up when worn….and these are not the easiest thing to iron. I prefer to cut a lining, and yes it’s about 1/8″ smaller.

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