Jayme is an artist and freelance writer who trained in the medical field, and has worked as caregiver, farmer, mom and DIY'er.
Sew Your Own Baby Bibs out of Old T-Shirts
Babies are adorable, squishy little bundles of joy. They are also quite the little mess-makers, which is why baby bibs continue to be a traditional shower gift. It doesn't matter if everyone else has given bibs, too—mom and dad will need all they can get.
If you have a particularly heavy drooler, a baby prone to spitting up, or a messy eater, then you might want to increase your own bib stash. Store-bought bibs can come in a range of prices and styles. The more interesting the logo or design, the more expensive the bib—and the fewer pieces you get for the money.
If you want a unique baby item that is easy and fun to make and doesn't cost a lot (they are just going to get stained anyhow!), why not look to your closet for a way to make cool bibs? Turn your seldom-worn t-shirts into bibs and let your baby eat in style.
Before you being, assemble your materials. You will need the following:
- T-shirt, either plain or with a cool logo
- A store-bought bib or printable bib pattern
- Washable marker or fabric pencil
- Sew-on Velcro
- Sewing machine or needle and thread
- Straight pins
- Trims such as buttons and lace
Optional: If you want, you can choose a stiffer fabric to use for the back of the bib to make it hold its shape better.
How to Prepare the Fabric
- Lay out your t-shirt, wrong-side out. You can cut your shirt apart at the seams if you like. I left this one together, since I was using the same material front and back
- If it is particularly wrinkly, you might want to run a hot iron over. Do this BEFORE you mark on it, else you run the risk of setting the ink into the cloth.
- Lay your bib or bib pattern on the fabric. If you are using a large, solid colored shirt, you can lay the pattern sideways and get two or three bibs from the same shirt.
- Center the bib over any logo you want to incorporate.
- If using a paper pattern, you might want to pin it to the fabric to prevent it from slipping.
- Trace around the bib shape with your marker or pencil. For light fabrics, use the lightest colored marker possible to make washing it out easier. For dark fabrics, use a light-colored fabric pencil or colored art pencil.
Finishing and Cutting the Template
- Once you are done tracing, look at the pattern on the cloth and see if you want to make it larger, longer, or change the shape of the bottom. Make this adjustment with your pen or pencil.
- Note for beginners: A squared-off bottom is easier to sew closed later.
- When you are satisfied with your shape, pin the pieces together.
- Cut around your bib, giving yourself a generous seam allowance.
- Be careful not to pull or stretch the material while pinning or cutting. Knit isn't very forgiving, and stretching it can make your finished product crooked.
How to Sew the Bib Together
Now to sew this bib together. If you are using a machine, set your sewing machine to a long stitch. This keeps the material from puckering badly. If you are hand-sewing, be sure not to pull the thread too tightly for the same reason. When you sew a bib, it helps to start from the bottom, a little off center. this is where your opening will be.
- Sew slowly around the curves, being careful not to pull or push the cloth.
- On the curviest parts, you may have to raise the presser foot and turn the cloth. Do this while the needle is in the fabric to keep your seam straight.
- Be sure to stop an inch or two from where you started. You will need an opening for turning the bib.
Trimming, Clipping, and Tidying Up
Now for the boring part.
- Trim the edges closer to the stitches, except where the opening is. I will explain this later.
- Clip notches into the rounded parts of the bib. This will be most of the bib if you have chosen a round pattern, so get some coffee. Cut the notches as close to the stitches as possible.
- If you squared your pattern off, don't forget to clip across the corners so that they will turn correctly.
- I also like to cut all the dangly threads, even though they will be on the inside.
How to Turn and Top-Stitch the Bib
Next, turn the bib right side out through the opening. Use your finger or a pencil to push out all curves or corners.
- Press again with the hot iron to get all the seams aligned correctly.
- Turn the edges of the opening inside and line them up with the shape of the bib's bottom.
- Press with the hot iron to hold.
Now you can top-stitch the bib. This helps hold the shape, and encloses the seams. You can draw the line where you want your top-stitching to be. I stitched around the shape of the bib, while "feeling" the internal seam edge for guidance.
You can get creative here and do a pattern. With the blue and white bib in the first picture, I stitched around the bib shape, then did stitching that followed the zig-zag pattern of the screen-print. Just be sure to catch the edges of your opening when stitching.
When top-stitching, use thread that matches your cloth, or contrasting thread for fun. Two or three rows of multi-colored top-stitching an be a funky embellishment, if you want to re-thread your machine that many times.
How to Add Velcro and Bling
After the bib is top-stitched, it is time for the fasteners and trim. I use sew-on Velcro. The kind you buy in a long strip and cut to fit. A good rule here is to put the scratchier Velcro on the 'facing up" tab, and the softer piece on the 'facing down' tab.
You can use the machine or hand-sew the Velcro to the tabs. There is a Velcro that sticks to the fabric, but I found that it washes off after one or two trips through the laundry.
Decorations to Add Some Pizzazz
After the fasteners are in place, your bib is functional and ready for action! If you want, you can jazz it up with a little decoration. I have used decorative buttons, embroidery, iron-ons, stenciling, rick-rack, lace, stamps, crocheted edging, and fabric patches. Stenciling or stamping works best if you do it before you sew the bib, if you don't want it to bleed through.
Whichever decoration you use, make sure it is securely fastened to prevent baby from swallowing or choking on it. Also, if you want the bib to remain soft enough to wipe messy little faces, avoid scratchy items on the main part of the bib.
Don't Stop There!
Get creative with your bibs. Consider making matching burpcloths, baby-sized cloth napkins, or a variety of other gifts embellished with the same fabric to create one-of-a-kind gift sets.
With just a little time and effort you not only clear out space in your closet, but provide your baby, your grand-baby, or a friend's baby with everything he or she needs to dine in style. Have fun making these bibs!
Ricki Lieberman on September 02, 2018:
Hi, I crochet baby bibs out of 100% cotton. These can then be thrown in the washing machine. I want to decorate them with patches! I don’t know if I can use the iron on or sew on patches. Do you reenforce with fabric glue? What is the best glue to use and what is the best patch for yarn material?
RTalloni on June 01, 2015:
Congrats on your overdue Hub of the Day for this useful tutorial that offers a chance to get very creative and even personalize items for babies (and their moms). :)
Thelma Alberts from Germany on June 01, 2015:
Congratulations on the HOTD! This is a very useful DIY for a mother or a granny. Voted this up and useful.
Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on June 01, 2015:
Congratulations for HOTD!
This sounds like a clever idea and I really like when things are reused and re-purposed.
Thanks for sharing and voted up!
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on June 01, 2015:
Congrats on HOTD, Jaymie! What a clever idea on baby bibs. Voted up for useful!
Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on June 01, 2015:
Bibs could be so expensive and a parent could go through quite a few bibs in a day...this is an excellent and economical way to save money and have many more bibs! Great idea!
Mary Hyatt from Florida on June 01, 2015:
What a wonderful idea! Oh, and congrats on a well deserved HOTD! I have made pillow covers using T-shirts I wanted to save for sentimental reasons, but never thought of a baby bib. I have two new grandchildren arriving just any day now, so I'll check to see if have some old T-shirts around.
Voted this UP, etc.
Jayme Kinsey (author) from Oklahoma on October 04, 2012:
Thanks frogyfish! That's a great tip! There are definitely some materials that are way too stretchy and hard to work with. Glad to see another bib-maker too I love making bibs!
frogyfish from Central United States of America on October 04, 2012:
Hey, I thought I was the only one to do this. Glad to find a thrifty, creative, skillful fellow-baby bib partner --that's co-ool!! I do usually cut the shirt or material and turn the second bib side 45 degrees, so the stretchiness will be less problematic. Great hub!
Jayme Kinsey (author) from Oklahoma on September 04, 2012:
Thank you! No, I haven't gotten up the nerve to try Etsy yet. I don't think my skills are quite on par with some of the very talented craftspeople there. I made two dozen sets of bibs and burpcloths for my daughter, as wells as a dozen cloth diaper covers. Now I just make these for shower gifts for others. They are very soft and for some reason they don't stain as badly as the terry cloth bibs that you buy. My daughter hated the bought bibs with plastic backs, so I used these all the time and they still look as good as when I made them. (only the yellow one in the pictures is newly made).
Brenda Kyle from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA on September 04, 2012:
I love to see items turned into something new and usable. Do you sell them on etsy? They must be soft and easy to clean with the fabrics you use. Great detailed hub.