So, why am I calling this the Lionheart nightgown when it quite clearly has a star pattern on it? Read on to find out more about this very special project made for my wonderful, brave girl.

The story begins back in July, when I took Daisy to Bristol Children’s Hospital to meet with her heart surgeon. Technically, I suppose the story begins back when she was four months old and he first operated on her, but will go with July for now.

Back when she was a baby Daisy had a heart defect repaired (a complete AVSD, if you’re interested in the details), but the divided valve has been leaky ever since. Her cardiologist has finally decided she is ready for the follow-up operation I always knew she would be facing. In July her surgeon talked through the operation with us, and let us know it would likely be later in the year—possibly next month.

This kind of situation always makes a parent feel powerless, but one actionable thing I took away from the meeting was that Daisy would need a button front nightgown and/or pyjamas as open-heart surgery leaves a big scar wound, meaning it is hard to move your arms freely for a while afterwards. Any kind of T-shirt style top would be very difficult to get in and out of, and all of Daisy’s current PJs are that style.

As we were heading home from the appointment Daisy said she was scared of going into hospital for surgery. I asked her if she would like me to make her a special nightgown to be like a lucky charm and give her some extra courage. This project is the outcome.

There is a whole host of patterns for pyjamas and nightshirts out there, but I chose Simplicity 1504 because I liked both the optional piping detail, and the fact it has so many sizes in one packet (from age 4/5 to adult). Let’s just ignore the truly dreadful styling and cheesy poses on the packet cover, shall we?!

Gabriel is a big fan of traditional pyjamas, so I will definitely be making some for him from this pattern and he fits in the smallest size now so I could start right away. Maybe I’ll start a new Christmas tradition, and make the kids a new pair of PJs every year. Perhaps in matching fabric, to be extra twee!

Daisy fit in either the top size of the Childs range or the bottom of the adults sizes. I went for the child sizing, as I figured it would be a better fit on her body as she’s still shaped like a child rather than a young woman, so doesn’t need any extra ease in the bust.

The first fabric Daisy chose ended up being out of stock, but I’m really glad because I think this cerise pink Star Print Fabric is even better. It’s a cotton broadcloth, which is one of those fabric types I’ve heard tell of, but never actually sewn before. All I can say is: broadcloth, where have you been all my life?!

Seriously, this stuff is da bomb. It has all the lovely qualities of cotton (breathable, easy to press, sew and care for) but is so much softer and warmer to the touch than any cotton I’ve encountered before. It also has more drape than most cottons, so I can see it being perfect for summer dresses and more casual shirts. There’s no way I want to sew clothing from quilting cottons or poplin when this stuff is available instead.

This was a pretty easy pattern to sew, even though I did make life a little more difficult by including the piping and using French seams. A word about the piping…

The envelope says to use two packages of piping, but gives you no idea how much is actually in a package. So not helpful, Simplicity! The internet wasn’t much more help either, so in the end I used a measuring tape to hang around Daisy’s neck and guestimated how much to order. I figured three metres would probably be enough, so I ordered 4 to be on the safe side. In the end I had exactly one metre left over, so I’d definitely say to order 4m when making this nightshirt (perhaps 5m for the adult sizes), as it gives you a bit extra for practice and making mistakes.

I wanted to make my own piping to have more control over the final look, so I ended up selecting some gorgeous pearl Duchesse Satin Bias Tape and 3mm Piping Cord. I’ve only worked with piping a couple of times before when making cushion covers, but both times I made my own and it’s really simple to do. I don’t even have a piping foot (new presser feet for my Bernina are EXPENSIVE) but find it easy enough to get a good result with the zip foot. Here’s a really helpful tutorial if you want to have a go yourself.

While the satin bias tape is perhaps a little on the heavy side for piping, it gives a really luxurious effect and I love the way it looks. If it’s your first time sewing piping I’d probably go for something a bit lighter and more flexible, but this wasn’t difficult with a bit of experience under my belt.

The other bits and pieces I needed to make this up were thread, interfacing (I used this Vilene sew in stuff again as I love it, and it seemed fine for this weight of fabric) and seven buttons. Daisy picked these Flower Buttons and while I’d have gone for a plain white myself, she loves them so much I’m really glad I beat down my inner stylist and let her choose.

I didn’t really have any difficulties sewing this one as it’s pretty straightforward, other than dealing with that curved and split hem. I followed the instructions for a narrow hem and it’s not my best work. I think next time I might use bias tape to face the curved hem and the side slits, perhaps before sewing the side seams to make life easier.

Another thing I would do differently is to continue the piping around the top of the front neckline to meet the collar, as I think it would look better and shouldn’t be too hard to do. At the moment there’s just a little gap there which ever so slightly bothers me, but not enough to unpick it all and start again.

I deviated from the instructions to make French seams wherever I could, as this fabric frays like crazy and I’m not all that keen on overlocked seams for wovens. I also sewed the sleeve piping in the round rather than flat as it gives a much smoother finish at the join (see pic below!), and is pretty simple to do.

The alterations I made for Daisy’s shape were to take the shoulders in by 1.5cm, and the sleeves up by 5cm. I probably should have sized down for the whole upper bodice as she has very narrow shoulders and looks a little swamped, but she’s comfy and her movement won’t be restricted, which is the most important thing.

Daisy is absolutely thrilled with her new nightie, which is all that really matters, but I’m pleased to say I’m really happy with the result too. I probably could have lengthened it a little for modesty, but I figure she can always wear leggings under it when she’s in hospital if it seems too short.

Most importantly, making this nightgown for Daisy has helped me face up the reality of her impending surgery, and has helped give me a sense that I’ve been able to be of some use. This is definitely sewing as therapy. Thinking of which, I’m going to have to figure out some sewing and knitting projects to take with me to hospital, as there’s going to be lots of time free to work on something there, and I’ll need to keep myself occupied or I’ll go insane. Maybe an embroidery kit?

Back to the nightshirt: I’m definitely going to make this pattern again for the kids, and might even make myself a nightshirt this winter. It definitely beats wearing a ratty old t-shirt to bed! I love the way the collar and cuffs are cut on the bias, which would give a great effect in a plaid fabric. You could cut the pocket on the bias too for extra cuteness.

Anyone else fancy making some winter jammies?

Anna-Jo x

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