I was scrolling through the Brindille & Twig Facebook group one night and a post caught my eye – an Aunt, Noelle, talking about having sewn ALL the clothes for her niece’s first year of life. I was immediately intrigued, and despite normally avoiding talking on the phone at all costs, I asked Noelle if she was willing to chat with me and share her story. Lucky for me, and you, she agreed!
My initial question was, what does a year of handmade clothes even look like? I can only speak for myself, but we have way too many clothes; a mix has evolved in each size from handmedowns, generous gifts, and things I’ve made.
284 articles of clothing is a mindblowing number. Noelle was quick to point out that she doesn’t have any kids of her own, and doesn’t know how parents find time to sew for their own kids! I find it even more inspiring that she sewed all of those things for her niece, and it turns out that she is a niece borne from longstanding friendship rather than blood.
While you’re here, check out these other posts too:
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Noelle started babysitting at age 11, and the little girl she watched, Jamie, turned into a lifelong friend. They grew up together and stayed in touch through moves and life changes, but truly reconnected when Jamie became pregnant with her first child, Emma. Jamie and her spouse decided to wait to find out the sex of their baby, but Noelle was anxious to get started sewing so her OB mailed Noelle a card with the ‘GIRL’ announcement So the doctor, Noelle, and Noelle’s partner were the only 3 people who knew before the birth!
Noelle’s Mom made many of her clothes growing up and taught her how to sew, but she fell out of practice, only pulling out her sewing machine when her first niece was born. 5 years passed and sewing’s growing popularity brought lots of new, modern fabrics to work with and Noelle caught the creative bug again! Googling around for layette patterns brought her to Made By Rae, with Big Baby Bottom Pants, and eventually to Oliver + S who are renowned for teaching skills in their instructions. Brindille & Twig* is Noelle’s current favorite designer because they have clean, modern styles and sizes for the tiniest of babies.
Noelle didn’t initially plan on keeping Emma outfitted in all handmade clothing, but realized after a few months how excited Emma’s parents were about all the things she’d sent. Without setting a specific goal, it organically unfolded that her parents didn’t buy anything and Noelle continued to sew, encouraged by seeing her adorable handmades on a kid she loved.
Emma is growing up in a family that values handmade things, with a Grandma who quilts and sews handmade toys. Many of the scraps from the clothes Noelle sews go to her Grandma, who makes them into dolls (the smallest of scraps are shipped to another crafty friend, who uses them as stuffing filler, something I love to do myself!).
Noelle mentioned something that many of us who sew joke about; she’d hate to see how much she has spent over the past year tallied up. Her partner put that into perspective when she said “This is art. This is your legacy. When she wears these clothes, our love is wrapped around her, and that’s important”.
I asked Noelle what she thought Emma’s family would do with all the handmades – they obviously treasure them, so I knew they wouldn’t end up in the trash. She said she wasn’t sure, but she imagined they’d keep them for Emma to have when she was older – or they may be used for future children!
One of my favorite things about knits is that they’re comfy and easy to play in, so I loved that Noelle responded that “I can always make another” when I asked about how she anticipated feeling when Emma starts ripping holes and staining her handmades as a second year brings more shenanigans and harder use.
Noelle spoke with warmth about how connected they feel to Emma, despite the several state separating them. I think it’s pretty amazing to have all that love and thought stitched into every seam, in the pictures and videos of all her “firsts” and surrounding her every move.
I found Noelle’s story so inspiring – I hope you did too! She said she’s planning on continuing to try and sew her entire wardrobe for year 2, which is so cool! If you have any questions for her, or comments, please leave them and I’ll make sure she sees them.