The History of a Christening Gown
The History of a Christening Gown
Many families have a traditional christening gown which is passed down for each generation to use on this significant day for the baby.
However, my family have never possessed a special gown. We were christened in a simple dress or suit.
When our first grandchild was due to be born, I held a strong desire to make a special christening gown to be passed onto future generations. I wasn’t sure how I was going to manage this because I am not an experienced machine sewer. I have always loved hand embroidery from a young age but when we moved to Toowoomba I met and joined a group of ladies who were doing many varieties of work including grub roses, smocking, shadow work and intricate heirloom stitching. I was hooked!
The desire to make a christening gown remained with me. One day, I received a phone call from my sister-in-law, also a keen sewer, inviting me to join her at a three-day retreat at Mt Beauty in Victoria. One of the workshops on offer was to create a christening gown.
This was my opportunity and I immediately accepted.
The venue for the three-day workshops was amazing. The enormous fireplace welcomed us from the cold. Our rooms were comfortable and the view of the gardens was stunning. Our welcome dinner gave us an opportunity to meet other students of which there were eighty, doing different workshop.
I was excited until………
The following morning, I entered my classroom which was light and airy with only eight large tables, one for each student. I placed my sewing machine on my allocated space and looked around. I had never seen so many fancy machines. My basic little Singer looked out of place. The teacher looked at it and managed a sigh.
Thankfully I had brought the book of instructions on how to use my machine. I repeat….I was a very basic machine sewer.
My excitement turned to fear when I saw the completed christening gown hanging up near a window. I gasped and asked if that was the one we were going to be making! The reply was ‘Yes’.
I thought there and then that my best option was to pack up my sewing machine and donate the substantial amount I had paid for this course and LEAVE!
The sweet teacher caught me before I could escape and settled me down with a reassurance that I could do this, and she would help me.
I was a nervous wreck. Everyone else seemed confident and relaxed. I only knew how to sew forward, backwards and zig zag on my machine. How would I ever do the lace inserts and fine lace work, tiny French seams etc.
We were each given a box of instructions which included all the beautiful materials to be used. The softest Swiss voile, the finest French lace, tiny Italian pearl buttons and silk thread.
The first day passed as we worked from eight in the morning until six in the evening with an hour for lunch. I was managing the French seams as we started to assemble this beautiful piece. My eyeballs were hanging out and my head thumped from sheer concentration, but I felt happy, especially after a couple of brandies and a delicious dinner.
The following day was more of the same and the pattern was beginning to make sense, but I knew the complicated bits were to come. I was able to discover that my machine could roll the fabric and gather lace and I managed to do this.
The eyeballs and the headache had intensified. Panadol was consumed often. But I could see where this was going, and I was excited. An extra brandy to celebrate that night.
The third day was intense as we had to have our work at a stage where we could complete it at home. Lace inserts, lace trimmings, tiny, puffed sleeves added with delicate French seams, buttonholes, gathering and I finally had a piece which resembled a gown.
I booked an appointment with my optometrist when I arrived home and it took days for the headache to subside, but this was one of the most challenging and rewarding three days I have been through.
I was able to call on a dear friend who is a beautiful sewer to help me complete my work of art.
I remain in awe that I completed this task as I am a very slap dash machine user, but I was determined to complete this gown and I DID IT! I have even made a smocked coat hanger and a petticoat with the grandchildren’s initials embroidered, and a voile bag with the initial ‘O’ in tiny grub roses.
Our two eldest grandchildren wore this gown at their christening, out of our six, but I know I have left a legacy to the family and I’m sure it will remain special because they know it was made with love.
Until next time
Jenny Old AUTHOR
‘Innocent Nurses Abroad’
‘Back of Beyond’ Facebook