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Oct 13, 2018

Sewing For Children

Readers, I can hardly believe it, but my little twin niece and nephew are about to turn two!

Now you would think I'd have sewn for them already but I haven't.  They seem to have a huge wardrobe of mainly hand-me-down clothes given to them by friends of their parents (my brother and SIL) -- babies seem to outgrow clothes before they can wear them out.

Now that they're a little older and more aware of clothes (and me), I'm starting to get excited at the prospect.

Just two years ago...
 They're growing up!

A couple of years ago I purchased a large pattern lot on eBay that was mainly vintage children's patterns.  I bought it because it included a vintage Forties dress pattern (see below).  I still have them all and they range in size from 2 to teenager.  There are some very cute patterns in the lot.  What's cool about kids clothes is that they really haven't changed very much in the last 80 years or so; a little girl can still wear a Shirley Temple dress and not look like she's doing vintage style.

Naturally, I also love the old illustrations.

A few of the boys patterns are also sweet and very wearable.

My favorite is this boy's jumpsuit pattern.  So cute.

I think this is the dress pattern that inspired me to buy the lot -- it was in the same box.

My own aesthetic leans more toward even older patterns, especially the 1920's.  I actually bought and made a muslin of this 1920's boys Mackinaw coat pattern a few years ago.  Love it.

I recently saw this romper pattern on eBay, which could be for a boy or a girl.  I like it but I think I would have to run this by the parents first.

In closing, I'm excited.  I think I may start with something simple like a flouncy tulle skirt for my niece and superhero cape for my nephew (or vice versa).

Have you ever sewn for children and was it fun?  Any recommendations?

Have a great day, everybody!


  1. Sewing for children is the best! Fast, cute, rewarding.

  2. Oh gosh. Trip down memory lane. I wore many dresses made from each of those 3 patterns. Never made them as we were entering the '60s by the time I was sewing 55 years ago.

    I made clothes for my kids all through their school years and just finished a unicorn costume for my granddaughter. Size and detail tend to steer whether an outfit goes together easily or like a nightmare. Ones with lots of tiny pieces to stitch cannot be hurried. You do seem to have the patience of Job and I think you will do fine and actually get a kick out of sewing for children.

    I would recommend starting with garments they can play in and won't break your heart (or put the parents on a guilt trip) if they get spills that won't come out. Oh, and double fold sleeves/pantlegs/skirt hems so they can be let down.

    1. See above. 100%. That heart break thing is real (someone I know destroyed the homemade bib overalls for Thing2 for reasons I have no understanding of. And he's still dating her. Grrrrrrrrrrr.)

  3. In sewing for children , which I have done for over 44 years now , involve them in the process . You would not believe what they can understand in the process , they are like little sponges for knowledge .

  4. Handmade children’s clothes are heirlooms.
    Go for it and make them special.

  5. Oh, how fun to be able to sew for little humans! You’re right about asking the parents since wearability really determines how much wear the clothes will get. For example, while my son was still in diapers, easy on/off pants were what got most wear and, for me, overall type outfit was out of the question. I ended up mostly making pull-up elastic waste pants in colorful prints. (Talk about easy!) By the way, my mother made almost all clothes and undies for my sister and me until we were about 12. The photos of us wearing mom’s creations are so precious, although we, as tweens, didn’t appreciate it back then. (Kids!!!)

  6. I sewed dresses occasionally for my nieces when they were preschool age. What surprised and delighted me was how easy it was to handle small pieces. It made a huge difference.

  7. When my own children were young my sewing for them was mainly confined to dressing up clothes and Halloween costumes. But now that I am retired and have more time for sewing, I have made several items for my granddaughter, including dress-up clothes, a couple of cute dresses and some tops. The plus side is you can often pick up cheap remnants that are large enough for children's clothes. The downside is kids clothes can be a bit more fiddly to construct as everything is smaller.

  8. Some of those patterns look like what the English royalty children are still wearing. Patterns may be different now, but when I made little boys' clothing over 50 years ago, width and length didn't match my boys, and I made the mistake of going by length. Wrong choice: go by circumference and lengthen or shorten as needed. I had no problems with patterns for girls.

  9. Sonia in 2020!

    "Caring, capable, and constructive!"

  10. I sewed a lot for my kids. Decades worth. The boys liked their homemade pajamas and I did make lots of those! They also liked the comforter covers I made for their beds. Of course mostly I sewed when they were little and did not critique my work.

  11. I love sewing for kids. You do not need much fabric.

  12. Okay, Peter. I can't speak as much for the little boys' stuff, but the little girls', well, you know I have a LOT of experience in that area. For modern patterns, go PDF. Peekaboo Pattern Shop has the best kids' patterns on the market. The fit is pretty exact from the measurements, so I usually end up going up a size.

    And measurements are your best friends. Seriously, I'm guessing that your niece and nephew probably fit in size 1/2 right now. The sizing of toddler patterns is kinda wacky when compared to RTW sizing. And vintage will definitely have a better fit for them than the modern big 4. HOWEVER, with the dresses, double and triple check the finished length measurment! Most of those dresses are tunic length compared to modern, which means that your niece's butt WILL hang out of them. Lengthening dresses is something that becomes routine when sewing vintage for modern kiddos. And sometimes you have to do it with modern patterns if your kiddo is tall. (Currently engaged in battles over that with the ten-year-old. Because we think she should look ten and refuse to get or make dresses that aren't knee length. Gives some growth space, too)

    Another thing, comfort is king. In my experience, (sewing for 6 kids) jewel necklines are just plain out. They don't like how close to the neck they are and will refuse to wear it. Which means that your fabric and hard work is wasted. The solution is simple, though. Just trace the pattern without the seam allowance (and the collar, too) and sew as normal. It gives just a tiny bit more space so they don't feel like they're choking.

    Be aware of the rise in pants, too. From experience with my nephews, they will try and wear their pants where they're used to wearing them and thus end up with the crotch at their knees.

    Just wait. Soon you, too, will be getting requests for vampire pumpkin costumes come Halloween. Or Pokemon costumes. Or Unicorns, Mermaids, rainbow dinosaurs.... (Wanders off to grab her sewing machine because she has Ninja Turtle and Unicorn costumes to make)

  13. For a modern pattern that is super play friendly I love Twig&Tale Barefoot Romper or Pixie Rompers on my 10mth and 2yr.

    And for dressing up costumes their new wings patterns are devine.

  14. PDF patterns, knit fabric, and what the kids like is so necessary! Check out Made for Mermaids, Patterns for Pirates, Peekaboo Patterns, to name a few. Simple easy patterns. My littles didn’t like scratchy seams and mommy didn’t like to iron, so no more cotton.

  15. I agree with Laura, above. Measure, measure, measure. Sizes are goofy. I sewed for my daughter, 35+ years ago and actually made a dress for her pretty much like that second Shirley Temple dress. Was and still is the most intricate pattern I've ever made. Since I have only grandsons, for the last twenty years, I've been making boys clothing. Boring, but I'm sure that you can spice it up!. The only bad thing is that they grow out of them so quickly.

  16. Peter, my list of measurements for kids is more extensive than adult measurements, and some things are just different. Would you like my list of standard kid measurements? Oh, and since they're not used to being measured, bribery works. I started mine early so they were used to it, but even I need to resort to chocolate sometimes!

  17. Prewash: Nothing is better as a mom than watching your daughter sit on the ground and make mudpies in a "fancy" dress and being able to turn and say, 'Don't worry, it's washable'
    Use your couture handwork techniques: They are strong and durable, sometimes they are actually easier than trying to manipulate small areas through a machine, and add a bit extra smile to them...

  18. Can be super satisfying! Fun to make something special if they’re going to a wedding or Holiday outfit or something. Those kind of things you have to accept they’ll prob only wear it once and take pics to document the cuteness :-).
    But over time I’ve realized that it actually is a ton of fun to make the easy wash and easy to put on (easy for parents, and easy for kids if they’re older) things bc you’ll see them wear them all the time. At first it’s a little hard to give up the idea that they’re wear whatever you want to make.... but once I got onboard with making things that are easy to clean, easy to get on— and easy to get off, as someone mentioned for potty training— it’s so satisfying.

  19. Grandma Sonia looks to be in her element.

    Looking forward to watching the evolution of this exciting new chapter.

    Cousin Simplicity must be seething with jealousy, though I guess there isn't much call for flouncing civvies at boarding school.


  20. I will make a recommendation for patterns - Ottobre from Finland. They have an English version and it is in magazine form, like Burda. Check out Just another rabbit hole for you.

  21. When I read this post I thought the clothes were going to be for your cousin Cathy's child, Simplicity. She is, what, 5 years old now?

  22. My grandaughter is now 15, but when she was from about age 1-4 I made her the most wonderful little sun dresses. Very simple pattern and I could make them with a yd or a little more of fabric and about 5 little buttons. I could get fabric on sale for 98C a yd, the buttons for a few cents more, and have an adorable dress for under $2.00 !!! Unfortunately, when she became older I lost the pattern and have regretted that ever since. I think I found similar ones (Simplicity 1208, and New Look DO941), but I remember those dresses with great fondness.

  23. Remember that sewing for children takes less fabric, but no less time or steps to complete than adult clothing. In fact, those smaller pieces can be harder to sew because they are so small.

    For two-year-olds, remember that easy access for diaper changing is still imperative. For three-year-olds, you have to make it easy for the child himself/herself to undress in a hurry, and re-dress with ease. Knits and elastic waists are wonders of modern life. So is snap tape and Velcro.

    Favorite toys for lots of toddlers are those cloth books that let you practice buttoning buttons, zipping zippers, snapping snaps, buckling buckles, doing and undoing hook-and-loop tapes, lacing and tying shoelaces (do any children still wear lace-up shoes?), and suchlike life skills. The books are fun to sew, too.

  24. I sew for my just turned two year old, but not too much just yet. She had enough clothes given to her to last her first two years and I've actually had to ask people to stop giving her clothes for a while as we work our way through them. I think this fall and winter will be a turning point, and I've got corduroy and flannel set up for warm clothing. Zips and snaps are much better than buttons, and if they're potty training then consider speed (no rompers without snaps!) I took a tip from a sewing blog that recommended hemming from the inside on those tiny little sleeves and pant legs and it's made a huge difference. My daughter is starting to appreciate clothing and fabric, and has also started to express fabric and design preferences, so involve them when you can.

  25. If you make a cape for a child to play in, I implore you to make it with shoulder straps (like a backpack) instead of a tie around the neck. Children are fragile.

  26. Oooohh! You are going to have so much fun! And as others have noted, the occasional heartbreak because a little one (or adult!) does not realize how much work is involved or that a fabric is special. :(

    Sizing: As others noted, base size selection on pattern envelope and actual pattern and child's measurements. You already are ace at that, so no fears! The pattern size number has no bearing on the age of the child. I regularly see bloggers who are disappointed when a Size 2 pattern does not remotely fit their two-year-old.

    Please keep in mind that a garment or pattern size followed by a "T" usually is designed to accommodate a diaper. Size 4 used to be the largest size designed that way, but I have seen garments up to Size 6. Not sure about contemporary patterns, as I have not purchased anything since the mid-eighties! All of those little ones are parents now, with the two youngest children of the next generation age 11. Three of the others are at University, with the last one a high school freshman!

    Pockets! Somewhere between ages 2 and 5, every child in my sewing sphere was in pockets mode! Be prepared to add pockets to almost everything you make for a few months to a few years. Depends on the child!

    Happy sewing!


  27. One of the most priceless moments is when they discover those pockets....

  28. I only made a couple of things for my niece when she was little, but as we lived 3+ hours away by plane, they didn't fit well, so I didn't try again. BUT when she started playing with Barbies I went into overdrive. I made literally laundry baskets of clothes for my niece's Barbies. Lined suits, ball gowns with crinolines and matching evening capes, fur jackets, leggings and t-shirts, on and on and on. Most fun ever. I loved it. So did she.

  29. Since they probably still wear diapers, make sure that any rompers or bodysuits include snaps in the crotch and leg area for easy access.

  30. Oh Peter - you lucky guy!Congrats on you niece and nephew. I've sew a few things for my 2 grandkids for the past few years - so much fun!! At one point I took the older one to the fabric store and let her pick out the fabric. She had never seen so much material before and had to touch every bolt, even commenting on them, especially the ones with the "hidden jewels". I've made lined skirts, lined jumpers, french seams; made tote bags for their favorite sports, reading book pillow covers, tuffets and squffets. Sewing for kids brings a new enthusiasm to each and every piece. Enjoy!

  31. I sewed for my daughters for years. My recommendation would be denim and/or chambray for your first items. Not as fun or frilly but will be well used and appreciated by the parents.

  32. Sewing kids clothes is fun. With a handicapped daughter who never made it to normal size, I have had to learn a lot of things. how to make room for a diaper in a larger size pants and also a little more rise for children who sit in wheelchairs. Also at age 28 my daughter started refusing all those tops she wore in the teen years. I went to goodwill and bought small women's tops and sweaters. She took to those really quickly. Just what she wanted. Sew what they like, not what you think they should like.

  33. Sewing for kids: the first thing to keep in mind is that you don't have very long to put them in what YOU want them to wear. I'm so glad that I made my kids smocked dresses in Liberty prints while I could. By the time my older daughter was 5, she would not wear clothes made with woven fabrics (only knits). My younger daughter wore the dresses I made for her until she was maybe 7, then she went knits-only as well.

    Once your niece and nephew start wanting to wear more modern clothes, the patterns in Ottobre magazine are fantastic. They sell Ottobre at Barnes and Noble near me. Also, there are numerous Japanese sewing books at Kinokuniya focusing on childrens clothes. Basic Style is one of my favorites. It's kind of like Book of Mens Coats, but sized for children. I've made like a million coats from it. It looks like this:

    Also, in case you have not figured this out, the European childrens sizes roughly correspond to the child's height in cm. So, a size 120 would fit a kid who's 120 cm tall.



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