Recently a friend told of a visit from a relative and how the four-month-old baby was dressed. It seems the father was a recent graduate of Yale and a New York native, so this may explain it all. After all, what does a Yale graduate know about clothing a youngster? This four-month-old had on jeans and his dad refuses to allow him to wear baby clothes. Imagine having to be clothed in those rough clothes at such a young age. Why the very idea!
Baby Shoe Fastened with a button hook
Of course, this caused me to reflect on how it used to be. One of the most important items for a young baby in by gone days was a belly band. Ladies made bands from soft fabric – whether it be a worn out sheet or maybe a flour sack. It was about three inches wide and long enough to wrap around the tiny stomach. If I remember correctly the child was to wear a band for six weeks. This was to allow the navel to heal properly. I’m told babies no longer wear bands.
Diapers were another big item on the list and in those days they were not disposable. Instead of calling them diapers, they were called hippins — maybe because they were used around the hips? I don’t know about that one. Anyway, these items could be made from flour sacks because of the softness. Birdseye fabric was the choice fabric for diapers and before our oldest was born I ordered Birdseye from the Sears, Roebuck Catalog to make diapers. As I recall the fabric was the correct width and all I had to do was cut the diaper off the desired length and hem it. The size escapes me. Now remember that folks back then had no washing machines – many did not even have electricity – so washing was not easy to do. In the summer time some mothers would hang the used and wet diapers on a bush to dry and reuse them. In the winter time they would hang them across the back of a straight chair in front of the fireplace to dry so they could be reused, too; however, after the second using the diaper became somewhat rank smelling. To me there was nothing prettier than a line full of pretty white diapers blowing in the wind. In the winter they would freeze as fast as they were hung out, but then one could tell when they were dry by the way they swung in the breeze. There was an art to the folding of diapers, but they were folded, stacked and ready for use when they came in off the line.
Gowns, receiving blankets, etc. were made from a soft cotton fabric we called “outing.” When the baby arrived the washing picked up, as most times when the diaper got wet other wearing apparel was wet, too. Patterns were available for tiny dresses and gowns. The receiving blankets were square and simply hemmed around the edge, but most times there would be a blanket stitch done with a different color embroidery thread around the edge. These items would be made in advance of the birth, of course. Little dresses, made from batiste, would have dainty tucks in the bodice and/or maybe embroidered flowers and leaves – sometimes done with soft colors, but many times done with white thread.
Knitted and/or crocheted booties were common back then, too. Oft times grandmothers, a relative or friend would do this type thing. Babies worn a tiny homemade sweater called a “sack” which had been knitted or crocheted. We don’t see that type dress for the babies anymore. Under shirts were the norm back then, too, because houses were not heated as well as they are today.
Shawls were another knitted and/or crocheted item made especially for the new baby.Of course, it would be blue for the boy and pink for the girl; however, one didn’t know ahead of time what the baby was going to be, so they had to wait for the birth to decide what color to use. Of course, white would do for either. In fact, there is a baby due in our extended family – I just may get my crochet hook going soon.
Toddlers all wore what we called “little aprons.” They were so cute – boys and girls alike wore them and Sis and I made lots and lots. For the winter the little apron was a long sleeved dress buttoned down the back. They had Peter Pan collars (round) and the boy’s apron would have a belt that went across the back and buttoned, but the little girls had sashes on their aprons. Many times the aprons would have two pockets on the front and this was a good place to appliqué a duck, rabbit or something similar. Appliqué was done in a color and embellished with a different color embroidery thread. White was the most popular color for the aprons, but many times a tiny check would be used – pink for the girls and blue for the boys. They would “do up” beautifully. You don’t know what “do up” means? That means they were washed, starched and “arned.” It was much easier to change a diaper on a toddler wearing an apron than it was if they were wearing pants of some kind.
Summer time aprons had short sleeves – straight sleeve for the boys, but puff sleeves for the girls. I remember a pattern my sister-in-law and I had for the summer and it was cut in sort of a circle and had no sleeves with a simple tie at the neck. Wish I still had that little dress pattern.
Oh well, my space has long since run out, but this is how I remember days gone by with its style of country living.