Which Fabric is best for making clothes for kids (for babies as well as for older children)? This is a question that gets asked all the time.
Whenever a mom starts to make clothes it will not be for herself – it will always be first for her child. Finding the perfect fabric is one major hurdle she has to pass, especially as it is something that stays so close to her precious gem.
There are so many clothes you can make for kids – Little Girl Dresses, onesies and rompers, Smocked or embroidered Gowns, Bonnets, Blouses, pants, little skirts, shorts – there are so many things to make and you need the best of all fabrics for all these. Check out this post on sewing for children for some tips you can apply when sewing all these.
The first and foremost consideration when selecting fabric for sewing for your kid is that – it is soft and non-irritating. For a newborn, an extra consideration is that it should be comfortable against the cut umbilical cord. For older babies and kids, comfort and safety rank as the prime consideration. You also do not want the fabric to be clingy or slippery or thick – the fabric has to be breathable. The fabric also has to withstand many rounds of washing and also wear and tear from play and tumble, unless it is occasion wear.
Usually, the first choice for making kids’ clothes is Cotton. It ticks all the criteria I wrote earlier – like absorbency, breathability and comfort level. Organically made cotton tops even this, as it is made in a very eco-friendly environment without any of the chemicals used otherwise. Read more about organic cotton fabric here.
But simply going to the fabric store and asking for ‘Cotton’ is not going to do you any favour. There are so many types of cotton (about 90 types). An uninitiated person may be tricked into buying some seemingly smooth soft looking fabric which may be terribly unsuitable for kids’ clothing – it may pill heavily after the first wash or turn rough and irritate the kid’s skin or it may be made of synthetic fibers which can make the kid very uncomfortable
Same is the case if you buy synthetic fabrics. They stain easily and pill after even the first wash. Though they look soft at first, this is lost sooner than later.
Note: Whatever be the fabric you choose, never make clothes for kids without prewashing the fabric. Prewashing is done as a ritual by most sewists as a preparation before sewing but when sewing for kids it takes on another meaning. You get to remove most of the chemicals which are most probably sprayed on factory made fabric, this way, at least get an illusion of it.
The following cotton and other fabrics are popularly used to make baby clothes and older children’s clothes (depending on the rules of the land, ofcourse. For eg. in some countries like USA cotton is banned for making commercial kids sleepwear. More reading on this here)
1. Lawn Cotton
This lightweight soft 100% cotton fabric with a high thread count, is very much suitable for making kids’ clothes, especially baby clothes. ; it is somewhat transparent and has a slightly crisp feel but at the same time, it is very very soft to touch, as it is made of very fine thread. It is a popularly used fabric for making christening gowns.
Do you know that for small babies you need fabric that can dry fast (of course you do, silly question) – At the rate at which babies change clothes the dresses have to dry fast or you need an infinite wardrobe -which is one of the reasons mothers choose lightweight cotton/cotton blends for making baby clothes. Cotton Lawn fabric is lightweight if nothing else.
Voile is a semi-sheer fabric which is almost gauze-like. This is very similar to cotton lawn, but thinner and more see-through and somewhat crisp. But it is also free-flowing. It is a very suitable fabric to make little dresses. A swiss voile with dots has the dots woven into the sheer background. You can use this fabric for smocking as the dots aid in pleating and smocking.
This fabric, which is lightweight and smooth can be a cotton or cotton blend. Choose the cotton for making clothes for babies. The cotton broadcloth has a lustrous surface texture with a fine rib effect. You can make gowns and dresses with this fabric. Small kid tops and dresses in this fabric embellished with fine embroidery can be seen in retail showrooms
4. Handkerchief linen
This is a lovely very soft lightweight semi-sheer linen. The fabric has a slight texture to its surface (slubs) This is an heirloom project staple. As it is linen, expect the elegance of linen but with a soft feel (a cotton/ linen blend will come without all that wrinkling natural to linen). This fabric is perfect for making christening gowns. As it is lightweight you can sew dresses with gathers, peats, as well as smocking without the unwanted bulk.
This is a cotton fabric available in many different weights – from very thin to somewhat dense, even coarse. The thin muslin is great for making baby clothes as you do not get more breathable fabric than this, it being 100% cotton. Muslin is usually used for making cloth diaper covers, swaddle clothes, burp cloths etc rather than clothes as it is not very glamourous looking. This fabric is very suitable for lining and for making petticoats to wear under dresses.
Gauze is a cotton muslin fabric with a slightly wrinkled look. It is open weave, airy and very breathable. Single gauze and double gauze fabrics are available. Depending on its make, gauze can be very soft.
This is a cotton open weave fabric which is very soft. It is not transparent like voile, or lawn fabric. This fabric is very durable compared to other cotton fabric and at the same time very comfortable to wear as it is super soft. The lightweight of the fabric also makes it a winner. Swiss batiste fabric is a favourite fabric for making baby dresses and nightgowns.
7. Eyelet cotton or Broderie anglaise fabric
There is nothing more beautiful than embroidery on fabric . Isn’t it great that with eyelet and Broderie Anglaise fabric you get fabric with embroidery already done on it. They are great for kids dresses, nightgowns. They can be used to make the garment themselves or as trims or accents like yokes, pockets etc.
8. Jersey knit fabric
Cotton jersey knit fabric is a favourite for baby and children’s clothes They are soft and breathable. Another advantage over woven clothes is that jersey knits are stretchy. Knit is very accommodative of constant body movements and growth spurts; you know how kids grow. Other favourite knit fabrics for making children’s clothing include interlock, double knit, cotton spandex. Know more about the 12 different types of knit fabrics here.
Light fleece fabric is a good choice for kids’ winter clothes. Fleece is used as an alternative to wool. It is moisture-wicking and keeps the body warm. Unlike wool, fleece is easy to maintain as it is machine washable and dries fast. Make swaddle blankets or kid jackets. Learn more about fleece fabric here.
10. Microfiber fabrics
This is a new type of fabric which is very soft and non-allergenic. For kids who have very sensitive skin, this is a great choice.
11. Fabric with pile/nap
Terrycloth is such a pile fabric; you can use this highly absorbent fabric to make robes, cloth diapers etc. Others like corduroy, brushed denim, flannel, velveteen, velour are all favourites.
12. Bamboo rayon
Bamboo material is an ultra soft yet durable rayon fiber made from cellulose derived from bamboo plants. It is organically made and is supposed to have non-allergenic properties which make the eco-conscious parents choose this fabric over others. It’s great for sensitive skin and is thermal-regulating, meaning that it will adjust to a child’s body temperature and consequently the body is, less likely to become too hot.
13. Waterproof fabrics
If you are looking for fabric for making cloth diapers, diaper covers, blankets, washable bed pads, training pants, wet bags, nursing pads, bibs you may need a fabric that will be waterproof. For this, you can buy Polyurethane Laminated Polyester (used on the outside of cloth diapers and diaper covers), Vinyl-backed Terry cloth etc. Ensure that the cloth you buy is breathable or the kid will be uncomfortable.
Check out the post on 8 types of waterproof/water resistant materials for more details.
Check out the post on some tips for making baby cloth diapers with 18 free sewing patterns
It may be tempting to buy pretty printed fabrics in polyester and nylon or sequins knits as well as add trims like synthetic lace and crinoline petticoats.But before you take out the purse, think about your kid, first.
Remember that a child’s skin is very delicate and she / he does not care that the pretty dress she is wearing is dazzling to others- the kid just wants a comfortable dress in which she can run around, free as a bird. The fabric you select go a long way in making her feel that way. So choose wisely rather than be tempted by the synthetic brigade, pretty nevertheless.
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