At Christmas markets across the South, handmade children's holiday wear is a longstanding tradition. I remember seeing hand-smocked little dresses when Nashville's Christmas Village
was first held at the old Hippodrome on West End. I introduced my line of hand-embroidered children's Christmas togs a couple of years ago at Tis the Season
, sponsored by the Junior League of Nashville, My sisters and I had a booth that we called Chez Noël.
I'm not really sure why the tradition of hand-embroidered, smocked and handsewn heirloom children's clothes is a particularly Southern thing. But it sure hit home when I moved to the Washington, D.C. area and found that all the "necessaries" for children's heirlooms were not as readily available as they had been at home. I eventually said a fond farewell to that wonderful old city on the Potomac (which many actually consider to be in the South) to move home to Nashville. I won't say it was just because I missed my old sewing haunts, but I sure was glad to get back to them!
For me, The Children's Corner
in Nashville has always been the gold standard for the finest children's sewing. It was opened during the early '80s by several Nashville girls who had learned smocking and heirloom sewing from the legendary Elizabeth Travis Johnson
. Mrs. Johnson taught children's sewing for many years at Watkins Institute downtown, inspiring generations of young mothers and loving grandmothers.
I relied on just a few styles as I created my daughter's wardrobe. Among them: the smoked yoke dress and the "bishop," a simple Ragland sleeve style, above, in original Children's Corner illustrations.
Another of my favorites were hand-embroidered heirloom collars, like the one at left, available at my online Christmas market, Chez Noël. It's not a holiday motif, but it makes a special gift for the well-dressed little girl. And embroidered Christmas collars allow you to turn almost any little dresses into a perfect holiday outfit.
Another classic mainstay in my daughter's wardrobe were eyelet ruffle cotton panties. Those of us who practice the art of classic children's sewing will embroider just about anything, and these little bloomers lend themselves especially well to hand embroidery, particularly Christmas designs.
The ones at left feature an updated use of the old-fashioned knotted ribbon bow, like those often used to trim French handsewn christening gowns. I created the Christmas wreath with traditional embroidery techniques: the feather stitch and French knot. I've got numerous Christmas styles plus one sweet little year-round variety available at Chez Noël.
Another adorable palette for the embroiderer's needle is the simple Onesie, especially if you're looking for something less fussy, maybe for a little boy. My Christmas tree above is made up of feather stitch branches, French knot lights, and the treetop star is a bullion-knot rosette. You'll find holiday Onesies at Chez Noël
in a wide variety of styles and sizes.
Want to put together a special outfit with, say, matching socks and collar like the candy cane designs above? No problem. Most all of our embroidery designs at Chez Noël
can be applied to any of the clothing styles we have. Don't find the motif you want in the size you need? No problem. E-mail me at email@example.com, and I can provide what you need in time for that special holiday occasion, as long as you contact me by next Wednesday, 15 December.
Handsewing for children, at least for me, wasn't a passing fancy that I lost interest in after my daughter decided she was too old for the look (and that was much too soon for me). I love creating clothing for other people's children, just a preliminary, though, to the grandchildren which I'm told are not too far off. I also enjoy applying my classic children's clothing know-how to doll clothes, from antique to American Girl styles. The dolls never grow too old for the look!