Historically I have never loved baby showers. It should surprise exactly no one that the construct of most baby showers gives me (or gave my 22 year old self, anyway) the extreme heebie jeebies. All the cooing, all the fawning, all of the mandatory performative group gift opening resulting in a hat made of curlicued ribbons for a probably-already-somewhat-beleaguered-sober-woman-with-swollen-ankles-pounding-cake-at-10am. Also, where are the dudes? You call this a party?
Hearing my best group of (single, non-mother) girlfriends talk smack about an upcoming baby shower this spring in front of our 5 months pregnant friend (“God. They’re the worst. All the moms standing around looking tired just waiting for their gift to be opened and then saying (does awful high pitched voice) ‘I know it doesn’t look like much BUT HE’LL LOVE IT WHEN HE’S OLDER I PROMISE!’… “Oh yeah, oh yeah or like ‘THIS WAS A TOTAL LIFE-SAVER FOR US’… Seriously? BARF!”) makes me also think my 22 year old self was probably kind of a jerk. Sorry, Stacey + Ev!
That being said, there are aspects of the modern baby shower that definitely suck. And there are aspects of it that are totally and completely luminous, heart-lifting, and truly amazing. Under the latter file: bringing together a group of strong, fierce women at the height of their wolf-running-wisdom wherever they are on their trajectory towards (or away from) motherhood. Creating a kinship network of oral history and babe-rearing tradition based in experience and trust the likes of which would have existed if we all still lived in a village or on a commune but is now difficult to authentically muster from the smoking ashes of interdependent female communities in the age of distance and distraction. Experiencing the generosity of spirit and in-kind support at a time when you literally need a whole crap ton of stuff (did I need a gravy boat when I got married? nope. but when babe came along I sure as hell needed a car seat and thems expensive). Being given the opportunity to feel like the wondrous-yet-mundane thing you are doing—the thing that is at once as giant as the cosmos and as small as a pinprick of blood—is not a solitary, isolating pursuit relegated to bloated midnight lonelinesses and WebMD fear-cycles, but is actually an interconnected miracle in a long line of lady-power-history? That is incredibly potent. And, you know, love.
Chief among the legendary bummers at baby showers: no booze. GAMES.
I completely understand the desire for some sort of “activity” at a shower… after all, at a regular party there’s music and dudes and dinner and bonfires and shenaniganz and oysters and unpasteurized cheeses and someone might end up dancing on the picnic table so hard it breaks. At a baby shower? If you’re lucky, there’s ribbon hats and a diaper cake. Womp Womp*. If you’re unlucky, well, you might find yourself in a self-made hell of eating fake poop made of candy bars out of a Huggie. You can’t make this Baby Ruth up.
*(though, TBH, at Rav’s baby shower we did go through a case and a half of champagne and someone did end up asleep on the glider on the porch around midnight with a piece of fried chicken in her hand. IT CAN BE DONE).
Like everything in life (and in parenting, as ye being showered may soon discover) there can be a lovely middle ground for every dilemma.
Enter: TIE DYEING ONESIES.
As an “activity” it’s essentially perfect. It’s easy, it’s fun, it’s safe and non-toxic for babe (unlike paint or similar), there’s no fake poop (why is this even on a list), no one has to do it, it gives perhaps disparate strangers from different eras or circles in the mama-to-be’s life something to talk about other than their pregnant woman in common, someone is usually secretly (and perhaps surprisingly) excellent at it, and when it’s all said and done, the mama leaves with a ton of killer clothes for the little bohemian that, in addition to looking fresh to death, also do a great job at hiding stains. WINNING ALL AROUND.
Long story long (and the putative reason for this post) I’ve been point person for a few tie-dye-onesie extravaganzas at various showers (including my own) and subsequently, I’ve been asked for a breakdown of instructions and supplies multiple times since. After my dear one Reid wrote me this week asking for a rundown for a shower she’s throwing, I decided to just write it all down in one place. Perhaps the internet will find it and it may help like-minded souls avoid the slings and arrows of outrageous diaper games and nudge our collective inner-20-something’s feelings about showers from “BARF” to “actually, that was really so very lovely”.
Who knows, if there’s champagne we might make it all the way to “man, what a fun party!”
BABY SHOWER ONESIE TIE-DYEING
- White onesies– Gerber or Carters makes great standard onesies but WalMart also has a new in-house line of plain ones which are way cheaper/just fine if money is a concern (which it often is if you’re throwing the shower with a bunch of women in a group/sometimes all the time). If you’re fancy then you can buy organic ones from the local/sustainable purveyor of your choosing. If you’re really thrifty you can sometimes score plain ‘ol stained ones from thrift stores and that’s fine for this purpose. You do you. For people who don’t spend hours googling baby clothes, they call them bodysuits sometimes which can make it easier to search for them online. You’re welcome. You can explain Tinder to me some time.
Get an array of sizes/sleeve length. Ravenel somehow worked out exactly how many short sleeved vs. long sleeved onesies in appropriate size ranges for babe age at the given season (e.g. my Lois Rose was born in February so we had long sleeved newborn onesies, then a few long sleeved 3-6 monthers and a lot of short sleevers for that spring>summer, then a few short sleeve 6-9 monthers and a lot of long sleevers for summer>fall)… we had enough/still do for the babe to be outfitted in tie dye basically until she’s done with onesies/is in high school.
From divine mama Meags, here’s the exact breakdown of what they got for a winter babe:
3 Pack Long-Sleeve (0-3 Months)
5 Pack Long + Short Sleeve Variety Pack (3-6 Months)
5 Pack Long + Short Sleeve Variety Pack (6-9 Months)
3 Pack Long-Sleeve (12 Months)
3 Pack Short Sleeve (18 Months)
- Dye- I love Procion dyes which are brighter/more colorfast, but do require a bath in soda ash fixative prior to dyeing. Rav bought AMAZING COLORS (turquoise, cobalt, green, and hot pink) for me, but this kit has primary colors which can be mixed. I ended up loving the prettier colors so it was definitely “worth it” to buy the colors individually.
- Soda Ash Fixative: The “soda-ash” in the aforementioned kit is sold in a tiny cellophane bag like it’s diamond dust. It is NOT PRECIOUS. This Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (which is sold at most grocery stores in with the laundry stuff) is the same thing for like one dollar.
- Large bucket or pot for the ash pre-soak.
- Gloves- I bought a pack of these nitrile gloves for this purpose and have since become addicted to having them on hand for dealing with bones or skulls when I find them (or, you know, whatever you use fine touch plastic gloves for).
- Squeeze Bottles– You can dip the onesies into pans of the dye (and I use disposable tinfoil roasting pans for this purpose) but it’s also cool to be able to direct the stream of the dye to have more control over what goes where. Especially useful if there are any people in attendance who are secretly super good at this kind of thing you’ll get, like, five from that person with hearts and stuff shibori’d into it.
- Rubber Bands- For tying up the knots/making the patterns
- Individual plastic bags- Having a big stack of plastic grocery bags is super useful for separating individual onesies out when they are done being dyed so they don’t drip dye all over each other in a big pile and ruin everything. The onesies are also supposed to “set” overnight, so it’s nice to just have a paper bag full of the plastic bags corralled and not making a mess anywhere.
- Aprons, plastic tablecloth, newspaper, etc– nice to cover the area/floor if doing it inside. Do it outside if you can.
- Bring other stuff to tie dye if you want! Swaddles, crib sheets, or boppy cover for the mama, or old t-shirts/stained throw pillow cases/whatever you have lying around that’s old and tired while you have the dye stations set up it’s NBD to slap a new coat of many colors onto a tired old thing. Keep all of the things separate.
Obligatory duh warning: dye will dye clothing and stain things. Use a plastic tablecloth with newspaper over it and gloves, but people should be mindful of their clothing. The squeeze bottles will also sometimes burp little toots of color.
- Fill canning pot or large bucket with hot water and stir in 2 cups of washing soda/dye fixative.
- Soak onesies in hot water with fixative for at least 15 minutes before dyeing. Washing the onesies first makes them more receptive to the dye but, honestly, not enough that it’s a deal breaker if you don’t get around to it. It’s a party! Relaaaax.
- The ash water is not caustic or harmful, but some people find that it dries their skin out, FYI.
- Mix dye powders in squeeze bottles to desired colors using hot water. Use at least a teaspoon of dye per bottle. More dye=more saturated color. Enjoy deep discussions re: primary vs. secondary colors/favored colors/gender normative color assumption.
- Squeeze ash water out of onesie, tie/twist/fold and rubber band into your desired design, squeeze or dip dye onto onesie in desired location.
- Place each finished onesie in its own plastic bag and corrall them all in another bag so whoever is in charge of processing them (the mama, someone else) can grab them and bounce when the party’s over.
- Once the onesies are dyed they can just chill in their plastic bags until processed. At least overnight and not so long that they get moldy.
- To process: Officially, the best practice is to rinse the onesies in cold water with their rubber bands still on and then rinse them under warm water while removing the ties before machine washing… but parties have happened where one or both of those steps have gotten skipped with fine results. How intense you want to be with it is up to you.
- Wash onesies with detergent in the washing machine with hot water and a cold rinse. Et voilà
- It’s nice to clean up soon afterwards so the dye doesn’t stain the squeeze bottles/any other thing. FYI, procion dye is fine to pour down drains in newly glazed porcelain/enamel sinks or metal sinks but may stain old porcelain sinks/tubs.
ENJOY ENJOY ENJOY BEST OF LUCK WITH YER BABES + YER PARTIES!
ps. Here’s Lois this week in her tie dye in the same raised bed with the same gardener (Ann Marie, tending bounty with grace, always) as in the first shot. Time flies when you’re making things grow. as an afterthought because the world be crazy especially ab babies:
I am a plebeian layperson. While the information herein is carefully researched and checked for accuracy, the author makes no warranty regarding the content of this website and will not be liable for any loss, damage, or injury arising from the use of any information on the site.
I am not a medical professional and the advice on this site and newsletter should not be taken as such. It is not the business of the author to render professional opinions or medical advice. Readers should always seek professional medical advice from their pediatrician, OB/GYN, or midwife, blah blah blah.
Thanks to lucieslist for the language.