I’m A Sewing Surrogate, Creating Special Gifts For My Sister’s Granddaughters

Danita & Dina6 9-5-10I love this photo of my sister and me walking near the ocean in Watch Hill, Rhode Island, one night about eight years ago. My husband was just a few steps behind and caught us slowly coming together until we put our arms around each other. It was a very natural thing for us to do. Being so comfortable in each other’s company was just one intimate aspect of our relationship. You can’t tell what we were saying or how we were looking at each other as we walked along, but you can probably tell that we were close, we loved each other as friends, and we would do just about anything for one another. We were much more than just sisters. It’s a moment I still treasure today.

My sister’s name was Dina. She died six years ago from complications due to surgery. My entire family still suffers from this tragic and unexpected loss. The shock took my breath away then, and if I let it, it can still bring me to tears today. I miss my friend!

But as we’ve all seen, life goes on. No matter how hard we try to grasp those precious memories and keep them at the forefront, other things happen: Families continue to grow, expand and change; people move; they get new jobs; they get married; they have babies. And that last part is what brings me to write this particular blog. As a survivor of loss, I’ve chosen to find new ways to connect with the new family members who are coming along, especially Dina’s own granddaughters, of which there are now two.

Dina had three daughters herself, but none had any children by the time Dina passed, so she never got to experience the joys of being a Grandma. Dina’s youngest got married about a year before she died, but she and her husband didn’t start a family until 2016. That meant Dina missed out on doting on her grandchildren, which, knowing her as I did, would’ve meant sewing special outfits for them. So I’ve taken it upon myself to be their surrogate grandmother, creating lovely dresses just for them.

These little girls, who are now 2½ years and 5 months, respectively, are the living legacy of my dear sister, and making clothes for them with my two hands is how I can show my love to them and their mother, while also trying to do what I know Dina would’ve done for them.

London in June Front

This is the oldest girl, wearing one of my custom creations. And now that she has a baby sister, I can take comfort in knowing that the outfits I made for her, long since outgrown, will soon have a second chance to be enjoyed and appreciated. Yes, that’s the polite way of saying that my newest grandniece will have some me-made hand-me-downs!

I can’t begin to tell you how much it’s meant for me to be able to create beautiful dresses for these beautiful little girls. I know it’s exactly what Dina would’ve been doing. She was the consummate artist and creator. She probably would’ve even outdone me with high-couture dresses for her sweet granddaughters.

Emma&London 12-14-18

I’ve been a grandmother myself for seven years now, so I’ve already experienced the joy of seeing my granddaughters wear my handmade garments in situations both special and routine (swimsuits for the pool, fancy dresses for school portraits, and so on) and it’s both fun and fulfilling to be doing the same for my grandnieces too. I hope they eventually come to understand that it’s my way of showing how much I love them.

Now that I’ve poured out my heart about family love, let me switch gears for a moment to talk about specific sewing projects. Hey, this is a sewing blog after all! For the aforementioned grandnieces, I’ve been wanting to try a new pattern to make them matching dresses. I found the perfect pick at my favorite pattern company, Violette Field Threads. It’s called Maisie. I was thrilled that it comes in both baby and child sizes. I also found a diaper cover pattern called Ruby. The fabric is from Hobby Lobby, and it’s a high-quality cotton that will be comfortable next to baby’s skin.

London and Emma dresses

Here’s a back view of the matching dresses, plus the diaper cover.

Maise for Emma Front

First I made the baby’s dress, in size 6-12 months. I used three coordinating fabrics, using handmade bias tape to finish the hem.

Maise for Emma Back

This was the first time I used a lace exposed zipper. I love how it turned out! Also, I put my Designed by Danita label on the back of the diaper cover so as not to be irritating.

Maise for London Front

I wanted the girl’s version of this dress to be of the same material as the smaller. The ties on the sleeve match the lining of the dress.

Maise for London Back

The lace exposed zipper came out beautifully for the second dress too!

I’m looking forward to many years of dressmaking for these two very special little girls in my life. These gifts come straight from my heart and soul. And best of all, I know I’d be making my dear friend and sister smile!