Republique du Chiffon Mini Bernadette hack
The last time (the only time) we posted pictures of these two small people of mine, they were wearing matching Mini Sutton tops in different Nani Iro fabrics. And here we are again, months down the track, with those same sisters in matching Mini Bernadette jackets – in different Nani Iro fabrics. When we were planning these photos, we agreed Klarissa should take them separately this time – or I’d start to look like one of ‘those mums’ who matchy-match their kids.
Truth is, when it comes to sewing the more special stuff for my kids I do often double up. For a number of reasons: to prevent squabbles about who got the better deal; to make the most of kid patterns before the sizes are too small (or the kids are too big); because it’s quicker and easier to roll off two of the same. And quietly, because I may have a slight thing for siblings in matching sets. There. I said it.
I should know better, as I carry significant trauma in this area from my own childhood. My mum had a thing in the 80s for colour-coding her kids – I was light blue, my older brother was green and my little brother was red. This wasn’t really something I questioned until we took a trip to Europe to stay with family and the whole colour thing went into overdrive. Our capsule travel wardrobes consisted of matching knitted navy jumpers with ‘our’ colour as a stripe, which were paired with colour-coded skivees underneath (the Wiggles owe me), and matching navy trackies. We wore these outfits almost every day, along with other coordinates in our assigned colour, because my mum thought it would make us less likely to get lost or be kidnapped. The situation hit peak ridiculousness while we were staying in my dad’s Eastern Bloc village and a trip to the local barber resulted in three matching bowl haircuts. All these years later I still can’t look at the photos – we look like members of a cult.
You may well ask, given my past, how can I risk passing the damage down another generation? Blame Instagram. And Pinterest. I’m a total sucker for those inspo accounts with perfect mums wrangling adorable, clean children in matching beautiful French linen smock dresses as they wander around farmers markets with woven baskets eating whimsical ice-creams. I can’t help it – I know it’s not real (how do they keep the ice-cream off the linen?) but it all looks so lovely – and the matchy kids are so darn cute. Somewhere along the line, desensitised by all this ‘parenting porn’, I’ve decided that dressing your children in the same outfits is a good thing… as long as the outfits are gorgeous.
And so I made these matching jackets – both at the same time, in a mini production line at a recent craft camp. The fabrics are treasured pre-quilted Nani Iro double gauze that I bought at Tomato in Tokyo Fabric Town last year. I chose quite a different print for each kid (see – not really matching at all) and luckily they both approved of my selections.
The pattern is Republique de Chiffon’s Mini Bernadette jacket, (Klarissa made one a while back here) with many small hacks. I lengthened the body of both sizes (8 and 10) by 4cm, and curved both of the lapel pieces. I also replaced the zipper with single wooden buttons from Buttonmania, and finished all edges with visible bias binding. I wanted a good colour match for the binding and searched a few shops before finding both colours sitting obediently beside each other at The Fabric Store, in perfect lightweight cotton. What luck. The Mini Bernadette pattern is lined, but I left this step out as the quilted fabric meant it wasn’t needed.
The jackets would have come together in no time – the pattern is very straightforward and simple to sew (even when translating from French) – but I complicated things by finishing all of the internal seams with Hong Kong binding, which took forever. I wanted to do justice to the precious fabric by finishing it neatly, and I’ve always loved how clean and professional Hong Kong binding looks. Or should I say ‘looked’. Because I managed to so badly mangle sections of my binding that ‘professional’ doesn’t really apply. The layers of fabric and quilting proved quite challenging to evenly bind, and I got impatient and careless.
I took more care with the visible binding on the outside edges of the jackets: for the small jacket I machine stitched the binding to the top side then hand-stitched it under; for the bigger jacket I made 8cm-wide binding, folded it in two, machine sewed the raw edge of the folded binding to the inside seam, then folded it over to the front seam and machine stitched close to the edge. I’m not sure if that description makes any sense, but it’s a great binding trick I picked up on craft camp (thanks Karen!).
Luckily small people are quite forgiving of internal binding imperfections, and these girls have been delighted to get their paws on their new jackets. I think this will be my last matching make – even I accept they’re getting too old to be treated like their mum’s dolls – so I’m glad I’m going out on a high note. In fact I like these jackets so much I’ve had a few fleeting thoughts of making one for myself. Because matching mother and daughters is totally fine…right?