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How to Make Vestments for Infant Jesus of Prague

Three Methods of Making Infant of Prague Vestments  -  McCall's Pattern Cape and Gown Method  -  Simple Half Circle Robe and Gown All-In-One

The Alb  -  Neck Hole Problem Solver   - Incredibly Ornate - Incredibly Simple to Make  -  Wedding Gown Vestments  - 

Embellishments  - Transfers - Appliqués - Clerical Trim - Clerical Fabric - Lace - Ready Made Vestments

 

See Also:  Miraculous Infant of Prague Artifacts  -  Images of the Original Infant of Prague and His Vestments - Devotions to the Infant of Prague

How to Make an Infant of Prague Crown

One of the most captivating aspects of the Infant of Prague is the diversity of vestments with which we adorn the Child King. The pious practice of dressing the Infant of Prague brings His humanity closer to us. While some Infants don elaborate robes with exquisite beadwork and embroidery best done by professionals or, at the very least, extremely talented individuals, making vestments for your Infant of Prague is not at all hard to do. 

The original Infant of Prague and many that we see in our parishes have four components to their garments. First, the alb, which is a plain white undergarment which may have a small lace edge added to the hem. It looks like an old fashioned nightshirt. Over the alb is a gown referred to as a robe. It closes in the back and has ornamentation on the front. This is followed by the mantle or cape which can have a stand up collar. The last pieces are called ruffs.  These are the lacy cuffs for the hands and around the neck. Over the years I've handled more Infants and their vestments than I can count and frequently I've come across detachable ruffs. I thought these were the result of lazy seamstresses, but I recently learned that even the Infant housed in Prague has vestments with detachable ruffs! (There's always something new to learn!)  We'll deal with the crown in a separate area.

There are three basic ways of creating garments for the Infant of Prague. The first is by following a pattern that yields a separate gown and mantle (robe).  These are based on the now out-of-print McCall's Infant of Prague pattern.  You'll find a discussion of this method below.  The second method is the simplest and involves two half circles.  You won't believe how easy this one is.  We'll discuss that as well with photos of the diversity possible with this design. Finally, there is the version which involves the alb. (see photo at right)  This is where so many go astray.  Very few Infant of Prague statues are designed with arms that will accommodate an alb with sleeves. And once you make one, you're likely to find it is no mean trick to get it over His head and the sleeves onto the arms of the Infant.  Sort of like a real baby, isn't it? We'll cover that last.

A final note. There are people in this world who follow instructions and who seem not to be able to do much without instructions.  There are other, terribly talented people who make those instructions. Finally, there is that group who don't "stay within the lines" when they are coloring. They can't (or won't) follow instructions and don't seem to be troubled by not know things - like how to sew.  I fall into that last group and I'd like to invite you to join me there.  Look at the many images of the Infant of Prague I've posted here and find a little inspiration. Next, look around for fabric and trim you like. If you don't have a sewing machine, don't worry. These are relatively small items that you can easily make by hand. Then spend some time with your Infant and let Him guide you. Trust Him. He will never let you down.

 

Two Piece Method - Separate Gown and Mantle Based on McCall's Infant of Prague Pattern #2463

The "hard" way first. 

So many women hunt desperately for the vintage McCall's 2463 pattern which has been out of print for years. 

I know I did and I hate to admit what I paid for one. The pattern is for statues 9", 12" and 18" and as you can see from the photos, it is for an Infant without long arms so there are no sleeves to make.

You really do not need a pattern, but if one of those people who needs to follow directions, there are two places where you can get copies of this pattern shown at the right.

 

  

Original McCall's 2463 Infant of Prague Pattern Sleeve Showing Pieces and Fabric Needed

Copy of McCall's 2463 pattern offered on eBay $9.99 for photocopy

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Holy Needles Infant of Prague Pattern $34.99

Step by Step  I originally intended to have a friend who is a professional pattern-maker adapt it to a simpler design and then offer it to my readers.  The truth is - it is so simple, you do not need a pattern. Really.

If you click the image of the back of the envelope above, you will see that the mantle (cape) is only a half circle. The gown is a bit less than a half circle, and while the pattern introduces darts in the front, you do not need them at all. The pattern actually advises you to make a gown of muslin first because you need to figure out where the arm holes go! 

The stand up collar is just a smaller piece cut to fit the back of the cape, but it can also lay down if you wish. The original pattern came with a transfer. Mine didn't. You don't need it. But we'll go into that later.

Making the Gown - Look at the shape of the gown piece above. You can just cut a half circle and then fold in half and remove some or just leave it as a half circle and it will be a little fuller. Figure out where the arm holes will go and cut out ovals. Don't worry if they're messy. The ruffs will cover them. Hem as shown.

 

Making the Ruffs - If you took a look at the Image of the Original Infant of Prague page, you'll know that many of the fine vestments have detachable ruffs. That was a surprise to me. Here's how the pattern makes them:  Basically three rows of lace basted together and then gathered to fit. Pin around arm holes and neck and you're done. Add a Velcro dot or snap for closure.

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Making the Cape - The cape - or mantle - is nothing more than a half circle with a collar.  Easy as pie. Measure your Infant from the chin down and add an inch or so for a hem.  Cut two.  You'll probably want to cut one for the outside in whatever color you choose and one in white for the lining.

If you're going to sew beads or sequins on, do it before you sew the pieces together so the threads don't show. Then, put the right sides together and sew leaving the neck open.  The original pattern gets a little trickier.  They have you sewing the lace edging sort of sandwiched. More complicated than it needs to be, I think. Here's the image if you want to try.

The collar.  Many like the look of a stand up collar, but if you look at the images of the original Infant of Prague, you'll see that none of them has this collar!  It seems to be a McCall's invention.  You can copy the image below and adjust for size or make a shape that pleases you..  Again, cut two. One in the outside fabric and one in the inside fabric. Then cut one of stiff interfacing - or whatever you have on hand. You can even use quilt batting which might make an interesting look if you tack on some beads. You'll be sewing right sides together, so make the interfacing a little smaller so you can fit it inside after you turn it.

Again, if you are going to add beads or sequins to the outside of the collar, do it before you sew the pieces together.

Attaching the collar to the mantle.  Here's where the original pattern gets a little confusing.  My own recommendation is that you now have the mantle with the neck open and right sides together. Turn them right sides out. Then turn a little hem inward and iron in place. Take your assembled collar and position it in the opening. Baste it in place. Be sure the interfacing is down a little to force the collar to stand up. Stitch in place, but be sure your needle is strong enough.

Now you can add your lace edging or trim and some ribbon or braiding at the neck to hold it in place.

Done!

The Half Circle Method of Making an Infant of Prague Vestment

The Easy Way to make Infant of Prague Vestments  Most of the vestments you will find commercially are nothing more than two half circles sewn together like the one shown below.

 

Note: Ideally the gown should be tucked back and the mantle pulled forward, like the one below

Cut two half circles - one in white for the gown and one in the color of your choice for the mantle. With right sides together, sew across the top straight edge.

 

 

Cut a small neck hole. Cut it smaller than you think you'll need. Turn in and hem. Hem the bottom. 

Figure out where the arm holes need to be and snip. Make lace ruffs and attach to arm holes.

If you want a collar, fashion on as above and attach to the back. Attach lace edges at the bottom. If you want to get fancy, cut a second half circle of lace fabric and lay it over the white half circle as in the image at far left before you sew the front and back together.

 

 

How easy is that?

Neck Hole Problem Solver

Neck Hole Too Big? No Problem! Here is another example of the same simple half circle design. If you happen to cut the neck hole too big, not to worry. Turn a hem, leaving openings in the front and run ribbon or thin braid through. Pull to gather and tie in a bow with beautiful effect like the one below. 

The maker of this one has saved some fabric for a matching inset to the crown. There is also added interest with simple gold braid sewn over the lace and a Cross fashioned from sewn down braid.

Here is another example of coping with a neck hole that has been cut too  large. This one was due to the need to accommodate the insertion of an overly large padded collar. While some of the statue shows through, none of the beauty is lost.

 

Here is a third solution.  Although this is shown on a two piece design, the idea is simple. If all else fails, add a circular collar with a snap or hook closure in the back.

 

The Alb - That Tricky Undergarment

The Alb is the undergarment for the Infant of Prague. While it is based on an ecclesial garment, it is sort of like a slip.  This is where most homemade vestments for the Infant of Prague go terribly wrong. We assume that He must wear something like a dress with sleeves, but most statues of household size don't have arms! Some do, but we forget those little details like the globe He holds.

So, if you must make an alb - and there's no reason not to if you have time, here are some ideas.

 

ARMS

NO ARMS

 

Here is a basic alb design.  You can, of course, sew separate sleeves, but make sure you make them roomy because (1) there's the globe to work with, (2) your Infant's arms do not bend!

 

Your best bet is to measure how wide you want it at the base and then cut a "T" shape and gather the neck. The body will be a big tube. Sound odd? Take a look at the one on the right

This alb is more embellished than an alb should be, but if you look at it, it's just a tube gathered at the neck. Figure out where the arm holes should be and either sew on loose sleeves or lace or nothing.

 

 

Below is an example of a homemade alb with the right amount of decor and in a plain fabric. However, this type of statue has no arms! Consequently, it looks a little ballooned. It is very nice and a work of love, but I'm betting the seamstress said, "Hmmm. What happened here?" and not "Oh! He has no arms!"

Incredibly Ornate - Incredibly Simple to Make

Wow! What an amazing vestment! It looks like the icing on a wedding cake!

Who could make something like that?

You can! It's easy!

Let's get started.

 

Look at the back of this vestment. You'll see it is the same simple two half circle design as shown above. The front is the part that's highly embellished. The collar also has added lace. If you look closely, you'll see there is an overlay of lace over the fabric on back. To do this, lay it over the right side before sewing.  If you wish, you can do lace on both sides.

Before sewing the front and back pieces of the two half circles together, add lace. Start at the bottom of the curve. Add the next row slightly above the first so it overlaps. In this instance, the seamstress has alternated rows of white and gold lace interspersed with gathered satin ribbon. Sew right sides together at the top and you're done!

Wedding Dress Vestment

Wedding Dress Vestment for Infant of Prague

There is a pious practice among some ethnic groups of Catholics that involves making a magnificent gown by recycling treasured garments like wedding dresses, baptism gowns, First Holy Communion dresses or Quinceañero gowns  for use as vestments, often in Thanksgiving for favors granted by the Miraculous Infant of Prague. Our former parish had a statue of the Blessed Mother dressed in this fashion by a Filipino prayer group member.

Here is an example of an Infant of Prague vestment that was probably fashioned in this manner. The fabric is heavy satin with magnificent embellishments in silk and pearl. Despite the ornate fabric, the design is the same simple two half circle method, but this one has been cut longer for a more formal appearance and spreads out beautifully. Lace is sewn in the straight seam across the top to create the impression of a separate cape and a bit saved to tuck into the crown.

 

While you might want to use a garment of your own, don't discount looking at estate sales for beautiful ornate gowns to use for your Infant.

Click the images to enlarge so you can see the detail

Embellishments

No matter how beautiful the vestments we make the Infant of Prague, it is the rare Catholic who can leave well enough alone. We are compelled to add little embellishments to the gown, to the cape, and anywhere they will fit.

There are the popular iron on transfers, iron on appliqués, sequins and beading, embroidery, and edging in clerical trim..

A now-deceased, very famous opera singer I knew took the beading from the gowns she wore at the Metropolitan Opera House and La Scala and had them worked into a magnificent robe for her Infant of Prague.

The possibilities are endless.

A commercially made gown with gold iron on embellishment on gown

Here is another example of a well made simple vestment with the transfer embellishment on front that has been over embroidered

Little iron on rose appliqués adorn the red robe.

An example of a sewn on appliqué

The gown is completely covered with beadwork

 

Iron On Transfers  The original McCall's Infant of Prague Vestment pattern came with an iron on transfer.  You can make your own.  I've assembled a collection of 104 different images that can be copied and pasted onto a transfer sheet and printed on your home printer. I've created them in 1.5" and 2" sizes.

Needless to say, I spent a lot of time on this project. For love of the Infant, I am offering a zip file free of charge for non-commercial use.  If you are a business, I would ask you to send a donation of $20.  This is honor-based, but the Infant knows!

Download here

I recommend that you practice on a scrap of fabric before applying to the garment

 

Samples of Iron On Graphics

   

You will need to purchase transfer paper.  If your local craft shop doesn't sell it, you can find it at the links below.

For paper that works with Ink Jet Click here

For paper that works with laser Click here

Many of the designs can be beautifully enhanced with embroidery, especially in gold

Click here to Buy

 

Iron On Appliqués - This is another easy and foolproof method of embellishing your Infant's vestments.

Popular themes are Crosses, Hearts, and flowers. I've provided some links to sources for very lovely appliqués.

Click here to see Flowers

Click here to see Hearts

Click Here to View Iron On Crosses

Click Here to View Iron On Crosses

 

 

Click Here for God Bless Iron On

Trim for Clerical Garments - While you can certainly use any trim you have on hand or any trim that appeals to you, if you are preparing a large Infant of Prague vestment for home or church use you might want to consider trim specifically made for clerical garments. 

I've included a few images of the many types of jacquard and metallic clerical trims available from this source. Do take a look around to see if there's anything of interest.

These trims are certainly not something you'll find at just any fabric or craft store. 

 

Click here to explore them all

Click here to explore them all

Fabrics - The fabric you select is completely up to you.

Velvet is very popular, but if you plan on washing your Infant of Prague garment, be sure to test it for color fastness. I can't tell you how many vestments I've seen with the red from the velvet run onto the cape.

Satin is also an excellent choice. For smaller statues, use a lighter weight satin. You can add overlays of lace, organza or chiffon if you wish. Metallic lame type fabrics are wonderful for festival robes. Use pinking shears to avoid fraying.

Ecclesiastical or Clerical Brocades are also a wonderful choice, particularly for larger statues. I've provided links to places where you can find these.

Vogue Fabrics Store offers a rich array of clerical brocades and metallics. Below is a small part of their selection. Click here to see all
Fabric.com also has a wide variety of clerical fabrics.  Click Here  Check Out Fabric.com Coupon Corner

It's Not An Infant of Prague Without Lace!

It just isn't a "proper" Infant of Prague without lace. And for some, the saying "less is more" means nothing.

I find most of my lace at estate sales. I'm blessed to live near neighborhoods that were once chock full of Italian dress makers and the lace I've found is beyond comparison with anything you'll find commercially.

If you can't find vintage lace, I hope you'll visit Vogue and Fabric Dot Com using the links above to check out their lace.

I also regularly look on eBay and have found some great bargains. Try floaty chiffon ruffles or maybe a gold lace overlay. Be creative! Bless Him and He will bless you!

Warning! Buying lace can be addictive!

I love this Infant of Prague Vestment. He is absolutely covered with lace, but somehow it is very regal. The seamstress has added little rhinestone accents and the tiniest bit of gold braid.

Here is another lovely vestment set. The gown has an overlay of lace and a tiny bit of gold that nicely offsets the jeweled robe.

Gold Lace Makes a Beautiful Overlay

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Ivory Lace Gives An Antique Look

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White Lace Goes with Anything

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Search for Lots of Lace - Great Bargains!

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Gold and White Lace Trim- Search Now

Beaded Sequin Trim - Search Now

Ready Made Infant of Prague Vestments
What???

After all this you're ready to give up

and buy a vestment set?

You can find some on eBay.

Or support the Shrine and Visit

Shrine of the Infant of Prague Gift Shop

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