Smocked Baby Romper Tutorial

I have to say baby rompers might be my favorite item of baby clothing. They are comfy, easy to slip on, and are so. darn. cute.

Yesterday, I made a white bonnet for Vintage May and today I am going to share the romper that was pictured with the bonnet.

It’s a sun bather style romper that has a bloomer cut on the bottom. My husband scrunched his face at it and asked if I just made a baggy swim suit. Well…yes, sort of. :)

The top is smocked with elastic shirring and the legs are cinched with elastic casings.

Let’s make one shall we?


3/4 yard of fabric (any cotton, linen, etc. should do…I used quilter’s cotton)
elastic thread
coordinating thread
3/4 yard of 1/4 inch wide elastic

*The measurements in this tutorial are for a size 12-18 month romper.

– Fold your fabric in half selvage to selvage. Your fabric should be about 42-45 inches wide. Mine was 42 ish (after washing and drying). *You want to fold it selvage to selvage so that the cross wise grain (more stretchy direction) extends from left to right. If you flip it and use the cross wise grain from top to bottom, it may sag and hang incorrectly.
– Using an existing baby body suit, determine how long you need your romper to be. I made mine 18 inches long.
– Cut your fabric into a long rectangle. My finished cut was 42 inches x 18 inches.

-Now cut that that rectangle in half so you have two pieces, each 21 inches by 18 inches.
– Fold those pieces in half short end to short end.
– Using a body suit, mimic the shape of the bottom of the body suit, but exaggerated so that you have space for the elastic to gather and cinch the legs.  Also, add an inch from the bottom the body suit so that you can fold it under to make the casing. The front piece will be more curved than the back piece. Be sure the bottoms (the crotch) are the same width. (I realize that I should have made the crotch about 1.5 inches narrower, but that’s the beauty of a tutorial…you can learn from my mistakes! :))
– Finish the edges of the legs with a serger or a zig zag stitch. Iron it under 1/2 an inch.
– Line up the front and back pieces, right sides together, pin up the sides (unfold the part you ironed under for now) and sew with a 1/2 inch seam allowance.

– Next, you want to finish the top of the romper. Fold it under 1/4 of an inch – twice. Iron it in place (so you won’t have to pin it down and to keep it even). Sew around the top.

Now it’s time to get shirring!

I hate messing with the tension on my drop-in bobbin, so I have an old basic Kenmore machine that I got when I first started sewing when Reid was a baby ($25…really basic). It can’t do much very well, except for shirr! So, I keep it just for that.

If you have a drop in bobbin and want to shirr, Grosgrain has a great tutorial on that HERE.

Hhere are my tips for shirring with a bobbin like the one you see above:

– Hand wind the elastic onto your bobbin. You want a consistent tension that is not tight but not completely loose either.
– Only wind it about 2/3 full. If you fill it completely up, it might not work.
– Lengthen your stitch significantly (I max out my stitch length).
– Always do a test swatch. I never can remember just how tight I need to wind my bobbin, since it’s kind of a fussy process. So, I wind it and test it first. Once I get it how I like it, then I proceed.

*My tips may or may not help you depending on your machine. Be sure to test it on a scrap of fabric until you get it just right.

**Also, be mindful that you will have to re-wind your bobbin several times.
This step is optional but, I like back stitch and then pull long (ish) tails off after each row and knot the elastic ends together. This ensures that the elastic thread never comes loose. It might never come loose if you back stitch at the beginning and end, but it’s just my preference to do it this way.

Sew about 10 rows. It will look smocked but probably not quite tight enough.

Which brings us to the next step with is SUPER fun. :) Like pulling off a freezer paper stencil kind of fun. Heat up your iron and put it on full steam. Press (don’t push back and forth) your iron over the shirred lines and…magic!

Watch the elastic pull together and smock your romper beautifully. :)

Next, it’s time to finish the bottom of your romper.

Sew the casing in place (this where the previous pressing prep helps out). Measure the length of elastic you’ll need  by using the existing body suit as a reference. I used 11 inches per leg. Once you thread it through, sew a line of stitching at each end to hold it in place.

Now, you have a choice. You can sew the bottom of the romper, right sides together. This is the simplest sewing option but would mean that you would have to pull the romper all the way off and on when diapering.

If you want to be able to open the bottom, add snap tape. You can pick this up by the yard in the notions section of most fabric stores.

Simply pin and sew into place. Make sure you sew the snap tape in such a way so that the back comes up to the snap over the front.

This means that one line of snap tape will be on the outside of the front piece and the other line of snap tape will be on the inside of the back piece.

Phew…we are almost there. Are you ready for straps?

The simplest option would be to sew on ribbon. You can also cut 1 1/2 inch strips of fabric (the picture shows 2 inch strips but I cut it down afterward) and make fabric straps.

Fold the raw edges inward and then fold it in half. Press it with a hot iron (pretty much how bias tape is made but the fabric doesn’t need to be cut on the bias). Sew the strips and knot the ends. You need four of these straps, each strap at least a foot long. I usually make them much longer than that and then cut them down as needed.

To add the straps tie two pieces together into a bow. Pin them in place.

I like to space them about 5 inches apart in the front and the about 2-3 inches apart in the back. This ensures the straps will stay on the shoulders better.

Bar tack the straps in place. Or in other words. Sew a dense zig zag stich over each strap. Trim excess strap length as needed. Add a tag if desired…

And you are D.O.N.E.! Wahoo!

Pair it with a bonnet and some summer sandals…

(I just bought Natalie her first pair of Saltwaters. Love them! I have a feeling a new pair of Saltwaters will be a yearly Spring tradition.)

…and you’re baby is adorably set for a warm day outside.

Natalie was obsessed with stomping ants during the whole photoshoot. She kept pointing them out to me, and then squealing as she danced and stomped all over them.  haha. I love how cute this age is.

Even though Natalie is 14 months (can’t believe it!) she is very petite. So, there is a lot of room to grow into this romper all summer long. Her shoes too. She is still a size 2! The smallest size Saltwaters come in, are size 3.

Don’t let her size fool you though. She is a pint size firecracker with a large, crazy, fun personality.

Fabric source: Honey Honey – Garden – Sunset by: Kate Spain from Southern Fabric. See listing HERE.

Hope you are having a beautiful day!


  1. says

    So cute. I can't wait to make one for my newly turned 1 year old daughter!

    Did you mean to use the elastic/snap tape pictures twice? I think maybe the 2nd set should be the steps for the straps. Maybe?

  2. says

    Adela! Thank you for letting me know! Late night blogging is catching up to me. :) It's fixed. Happy birthday to your daughter!

  3. says

    I love this!!! I think it just got added to the must-make list. Time to get over my fear of shirring.

    Also? I'm so glad you talked about Natalie's petite-ness. I saw those Saltwater sandals and was green with envy because my daughter is a 2-3 in shoes still (at 12mo) and I'm always so sad that the "good shoes" seem to start at 4 or 5. But now I think I am off

  4. says

    so so cute!!! and that fabric is perfect for it, reminds me of a vintage sheet. :) and we need saltwaters, I hear they hold up really well. My girls beat up their shoes so quick!

  5. says

    Delia, she looks so sweet pointing to a bug or something on the sidewalk. I love rompers, too, and think this one is just precious with that sun bonnet!

  6. says

    Thank you for this tutorial! Ive been thinking of making this but separate pieces (shirred top with shirred waist bloomers) so i can use the bloomers multiple times. I also cant wait to make that sun hat!! I almost got one saturday from knotts berry farm and saw the price tag and told my husband "i can make that!" And you posted it! Wahoo thank you… Natalie is a cutie!! I just finally

  7. says

    Delia–Oh. My. Goodness!!!! How sweet is this, I am in love. Your photos are so beautiful with that sweet baby and gorgeous flair! I need to hurry up and make one of these before we reach the potty training phase :)

  8. says

    I just can’t even stand how cute this is! Maybe I can get Addie to wear one of these….Is almost 4 too old for a romper? kind of, huh… It’s just too cute. Love, love, love it!

  9. says

    Delia, oh man, I was with you until snap tape. But you just slipped it in there so slyly, like “this new thing is no big deal, just try it…” I don’t know. My false confidence might just push me to give it a shot. :) The thought of fully undressing Hannah at each diaper change…nah. Must do snap tape closure.

    But seriously, this is so adorable that I am tempted not to try to do something “like it” but to replicate it exactly. That fabric is PERFECT for such a sweet little outfit, and you just can’t beat rompers as the perfect way to display adorably edible baby skin. :)

    On a side note, the way you did the photos and writing in this one is really cool! Such a blogger thing to notice but still. :) Looks great. End of longest comment ever.

  10. says

    This is great! And why the heck have I never heard of snap tape??!! This opens up so many possibilities. Thank you for introducing us! :)

  11. says

    That is so cute! I think my husband would have the same reaction as yours if I made one though. =)
    My 18-month old still has tiny feet too… also size 2.

  12. says

    Delia I have followed your blog for a long time and always love your tutorials! I have to thank you for the magic step using the iron to shrink up the shirring. I have never seen anyone use that step before! I have twin 19 month old daughters who are also very petite, still wearing size three shoes, and just got their first Saltwaters – the only sandal I could find for them. I tried to make them tops with shirred neck and arm holes a while back but I could never get the shirring to shrink up enough. Thank you thank you because I really want to use this technique and hopefully this does the trick! I am in love with baby rompers and have had my heart set on making some this summer for my girls!!

  13. says

    love this!!!! I stink at shirring, so I’m a little afraid of that. But Ivy is still so tiny, none of the clothing I have for this season is fitting, other than what I’ve made her. I totally gave away everything last fall that fit last summer, thinking she’d be bigger than the 16lb thing she is now. ANYWAY, this is perfect. love love love

  14. says

    so adorable..and you will love those saltwater sandals! I got some last year for two of my girls (who wear the same size) and they both wore them all the time..and can still wear them this year. Just a tip for those wanting to buy them..they run big. My daughters wear a size 12 in regular shoes, but a size 11 in the sandals! They really do wear well (and should last for my third girl too) so even though they are a bit more $$ at first, they are perfect for hand-me-downs!

    • says

      Yes! So sorry about that. I linked to it at the end but that link has expired.

      It is Honey Garden Sunset by Kate Spain. It is from last yearso I am not sure how available it is now, but it’s worth a search! There is a navy version that is super pretty too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>