Tips for Sewing Clothes for Children
I miss sewing clothes for kids – not that I do not sew for my kids anymore – but they are not little anymore and a lot more opinionated about what they wear now compared to earlier. As a result, I do not do it at the frequency that I used to.
Those days when they used to wear whatever I dole out from the sewing room is a thing of the past. Nowadays they are more finicky and color-conscious, fashion-conscious and whatnot.
When they were small kids – NO, don’t let me start again!. Those were golden days. but I do have some real nuggets from those days when I used to practice sewing on my small very appreciative kids.
Why do I love to sew for children?
First and foremost you need only this much fabric to make those cute as button frocks and things ( which include those newborn tops – checkout the tutorial, baby dresses, rompers, shorts, shirts, skirts, dresses, overskirts, leggings, mittens; those small accessories which are perfect scrap busters like bow ties, fabric hairbands, little bows on hair clips, sling bags, wrist bands – the list goes on).
Then any mistakes you make can be covered with ruffles, frills, embroidery and other trims
Kids are appreciative of whatever you make and if it is colourful they are blissed. If you can incorporate their favourite characters into their clothes (cartoon, fairytale, sports etc) joy knows no bounds.
And then even if you are still not happy with it, you can calm yourself saying anyways they were not going to wear it for long – they would have outgrown it in one or two years so not much of a loss.
But if you get it right, you have the satisfaction of having fitting clothes in the fabric of your choice in the design of your choice
The simple guidelines in choosing fabrics for kids wear
The three main considerations when sewing for kids are -comfort, safety, and appearance of the child. These can be taken care of mostly when buying the right fabric to sew.
The best thing about sewing for kids is the variety of fabric you get to buy – I love shopping for fabrics and the variety you get is nothing short of astounding. Check out the post on the best fabric for sewing clothes for babies and kids
If you would like to know the names of fabric patterns of some of the clothes you go to buy you can check out this post with names of some common fabric prints and patterns
Select fabrics that are soft on the kid’s skin and lightweight enough. Some other features to look for are fire resistance, ease in washing and maintenance fabrics which are not prone to shrinkage and those that will not fade too much with washing and sun exposure. You can refer to fabric care labels available with fabric for these features or ask the retailer
Ease of laundering – One very important factor is the ease of maintaining the fabric. You need clothes that can be tossed in the washing machine and washed thoroughly. Most of the kids’ dresses need to be laundered often and thoroughly and if the fabric is not up to it like velvet you are in trouble. Either the dress will not be used often or the dress will be destroyed in the wash.
Comfort – A great feature to look for is absorbability and breathability.
First and foremost decide on the use of the dress – If it is absorbent a party wear you don’t have to choose the most durable fabric but for a play dress you need to select the fabric which will endure all kinds of falls and scrapes. The appearance of the garment and its use/purpose will decide what fabric you will use. The safety and comfort of the kids are also to be concerned.
Seasons also will decide what fabric you will choose – a woolen knit fabric or fleece fabric is best for winter or cold places but in summer you need a fabric that breaths
A medium-weight firmly woven fabric like cotton is my first choice. Soft denim is good for pants. Soft corduroys are usually used for sewing shorts and pants ad overalls for small infants. Cotton blends that have good qualities of both cotton and the synthetic fibers work very well for making kids dresses. They are less expensive and also less prone to wrinkles so a good choice for kids garments.
Knits are also good as they are stretchy and comfortable. You will have to ensure that the knit is of good quality. A knit fabric when it is bad is very very bad. The advantage of knit fabric is that after a lot of wear at the end of the day it will still look still fresh, unlike cotton which can look all wrinkly.
Synthetics may not catch fire easily but they burn horribly, sticking to the skin – they are fire hazards. Cotton fabrics and its blends are also highly susceptible to fire and in some countries, they are banned for making sleepwear. Checkout this post for more details on this
Follow the safety regulations in your country when buying fabric suitable for sewing for kids and keep the kid away from the fire.
Check out these fabrics which are very absorbent.
Plain or printed Fabric?
This is a million-dollar question. Because some prefer plain fabric and they look down at printed fabric but some never ever consider plain and are always on the lookout for pretty printed fabric for sewing for kids.
If you like print or your kid loves print you are in luck. There are so many pretty prints available in stores. One thing you have to ensure is that they are not too big for the size of the child. Very big prints though they look good in isolation, can overwhelm the small kid.
The advantage I see in printed fabric is that even if there is chocolate dropped on the dress if it is not as easy to spot if it were plain
I have made some cute frocks for my daughter in gingham fabric with cute chicken scratch embroidery or smocking. I think gingham is a great print for kids.
Generally, bright colors and pastel colors suit kids very well. For very small new born babies like this newborn top pattern, I would buy a soft cotton muslin cloth in white baby pink or baby blue or even a pretty yellow. Eyelet fabrics are great for making cute little dresses.
Whatever is your preference they should be complementary to your kids’ skin tone.
There are about 46 different ways that you can change the look of plain fabric with textures, and manipulations. You can incorporate trims, fabric flowers and embroidery to enhance plain fabric.
Check out these cute embroidery designs suitable for baby/kid clothes.
You can buy small fabric cuts – Cut pieces of exquisite fabrics can be bought ( these are inexpensive remnant pieces available in most fabric showrooms) to make yokes or trims and bows and completely change the look. Checkout the related posts on making fabric bows or the post to make big bows or how to sew trims .
One thing to ensure whether the fabric is plain or printed is that the color of the fabric is embedded in the fibers of the fabric – if the fiber is dyed before it is made into the fabric – these fabrics will not fade even after repeated washing ( which is a given , because of the way kids dresses are worn) .
Party wear/ special occasion clothes for kids
Satin is a great fabric to make pretty dresses and gowns but being high maintenance the satin dresses are not daily wear. You can make great overskirts with silk organza/ tulle and use satin lining. SImple party dresses Embellish the party gowns with trims like lace edging, lace beading, ribbon, buttons, embroidery floss and entredeux.
Batiste is a great soft fabric for making pretty frocks. It is a semi-sheer, lightweight fabric with a soft face and a slight crispness and very much suitable for fine embroidery. Polycotton can somewhat mimic the look of silk and is inexpensive; it is easy to maintain as well.
For making rainwear / raincoats choose a waterproof fabric. Here is a list of the best waterproof materials used in sewing.
Simple guidelines in choosing patterns for sewing for children
Make what the child wants to wear rather than what you will like to sew.
This is a problem with many sewists. The dilemma between what you like to sew and what you need?
I like to sew skirts but my kid is not so much in favour of them and then they ride up when they play. So all the skirts that I made found their place in a corner of the wardrobe .
Consider the kid’s special concerns
My daughter who has super sensitive skin always get red irritated skin with clothes with zippers, velcro, and even clothing labels. As soon as I buy a dress for her I take out my seam ripper to take out those labels. So for kids with sensitive skin even if you love making clothing labels, consider skipping them
For kids with eczema and other skin conditions, special care has to be taken when choosing fabric ( organic on allergenic fabric works). They may also need loose clothing so that skin is not agitated or rubbed roughly at any place. And some may need to wear sun protecting fabrics to protect skin from sun exposure. Learn more about UV protective fabrics.
Make sure that the design elements in the kids’ dresses do not irritate the child; Like an oversized bow near the neck or a very big collar which does not lie flat.
Seams and other stitching in kid’s clothes
Make clothes with less bulky seams – a flat felled seam or a french seam is preferred for kid’s clothes.
Do not design restrictive clothes for kids. they should be able to move freely. Skirts that are tight near the knees like a mermaid skirt may prove to be a walking disaster for kids – they will fall flat on their face with such clothing
Make free neck opening – not snugly tight ones – they may feel claustrophobic in tight necklines ad collars.
The general categories of kid’s dresses fall under some broad categories
These are clothes for very small kids from birth to the time they start to walk. Baby clothes are categorised according to the weight and height of the baby, not according to their age.
Newborn babies grow very fast so very expensive clothes at this age are mostly a waste. but you never think about this when you make or buy kids’ clothes.
You want the dresses perfect. Kids are mostly a reflection of yourself and you want the best for your babies (this is so true even when they grow taller than you)
When the babies start to crawl make sure that you make clothes which do not come between their legs and trip them. Also, make pants with easy fasteners for easy diaper changes.
Do not use strings for kids older than 2 months. An over active baby would not hesitate to pull the strings in the clothes and make it too dangerous to even mention here.
This is for the time the baby starts to walk till the time the kid joins preschool. This is usually based on the chest measurement. For kids of this age make pants/shorts with snaps in the legs so that you can change diapers easily. Elastic waistbands are great when toddlers are potty training and do not have to fiddle with zipper pulls or even stubborn snap buttons.
Girl child & boy child clothes
This is mostly based on the height as older children are taller; they also are wider in the shoulder and the back. For a girl child the height range is from 4 .2 to 5.1 and for a boy child the height range is from 4 – 4.10
How to accommodate kid’s growth in their clothes
Kids grow fast. After a point, it does not become economical to buy extra clothes for every inch of increase in height or girth. You can plan for this when designing and cutting the dress itself.
Adding extra seam allowance is the first thing you have to do when sewing for kids. This way you can always rip out the seam and sew a new one when the kid grows. You can add many features like extra length in the hem, tucks, shirring, darts, etc to accommodate growth.
If you add one or more inches extra in the turned under edges of the hem they can be let down when the kid grows taller. This same can be turned into a decorative hem by making this extra into a tuck.
Checkout the post on lengthening short skirts if you have not done any of this.
Shirring fabric can take care of the increase in chest round to several inches. If you add darts, this can be let out at the waistline of dresses.
The elastic waist can also accommodate growth. The elastic waist can be added when making shorts, pants dresses, and skirts. This can accommodate an increase in girth.
A Raglan sleeve can fit the child a few more years than a fitted sleeve ; pair this with elasticized waist and the dress will last a couple of years
What are the extra precautions to be taken when sewing fo children
Choose patterns that have simple fasteners. I do not think a kid is ready to fasten all those pretty buttonhole loops you have painstakingly made; they are pretty but is it necessary on a kid’s dress?. Make the fastenings as easy as possible like snaps and non-irritating velcro.
Always Interface areas which are going to get a great deal of strain like the pocket areas, knees, elbows and buttonholes and buttons, sleeve caps and crotch seams .
Most of the dressmaking tips for making homemade clothes look equally good as a store-bought one work when sewing for kids. Check it out – 15 dressmaking tips
Body Measurement CHART for sewing for kids
Kids come in a wide range of shapes and sizes; just look at your kid’s class – all the students differ so much.
My younger daughter weighed 1.5 kg at birth but my elder one was born 3.5 kg. All the elder one’s clothes that I saved so overwhelmed the younger smaller one. Just to say that hand me downs sometimes do not work out as you plan – like everything in life and that same age kids differ so much.
We buy clothes, not according to age, but according to their height or chest round. Even then there are variations. When a shop sells clothes they cannot customize to all these differences, so they have general measurements. This is the advantage of sewing for your kids. You can make all kinds of adjustments.
General measurements of children according to their age, as a guideline before measuring the kid yourself.
Age of child / measurement inch Chest Waist Hip Armhole depth Shoulder Neck Upper Arm Waist length (back) Newborn baby 18 18 19 3 1/4 2 3 1/4 6 1/2 6 6 month baby 20 19 20 3 1/4 2 1/4 3 1/4 7 6 3/4 1 year 22 20 21 3 1/4 2 1/2 3 1/4 7 1/4 7 1/2 2 year 22 20 1/2 22 3 1/4 2 3/4 3 1/4 7 1/2 8 1/2 3 year 23 21 23 3 1/4 3 3 1/4 7 3/4 9 4 year 24 21 1/2 24 3 1/2 3 3 1/2 8 9 1/2 5 year 25 22 25 3 1/2 3 1/8 3 1/2 8 10 6 year 26 22 1/2 26 3 1/2 3 3/8 3 1/2 8 1/2 10 1/2 7 year 26 22/1 2 27 3 3/4 3 1/2 3 3/4 8 3/4 11 1/2 8 year 27 23 28 3 3/4 3 5/8 3 3/4 9 12 1/2 10 year 28 1/2 24 30 4 3 3/4 4 9 3/8 14 12 year 30 25 32 4 4 4 9 3/4 15
How to take body measurement of kids
When you measure a child you should realize that a child does not need a skin-tight garment. A lot of ease is needed to make the child comfortable. They need to run around and spaces like the knees, crotch and sleeves should not be too tight.
Other measurements you should take depending on the clothes you are making include the dress length or the pant length ( or skirt) and neck circumference if making collars.
Interesting reading – How are kids clothes made