Sewing clothing for my sons was one of my special joys when they were small. My foray into serious sewing for them began when they were toddlers when I discovered patterns for one-piece overalls that snapped or buttoned at the shoulders, and with snaps up the inside of each leg to make for easy diaper changing. Each pair of overalls took less than a yard of fabric so the cost was very little. I added pockets because my boys always had something they wanted to lug around — a small truck, a rock or a cookie — sometimes all three in one pocket.
Though most of what I needed to clothe my sons could have been purchased in town or through catalogs, I chose to sew because it gave me a way to be creative, and to save a lot of money. Fabric cost often was only 50 cents a yard, and a set of snaps cost less than $1.
I chose sturdy, mediumweight cotton fabrics, some woven, some knit, for the overalls. I washed the fabric first to ward off shrinkage, knowing that these little pieces of clothing would spend a lot of time in the washing machine. I finished the seam edges with a zigzag stitch to keep frayed edges at bay. Each pair I finished made me smile, especially the pair with bright orange oval patches affixed to each knee with the numbers 1 and 2 embroidered in the center.
In the late 1970s when my sons arrived at the age where jeans and corduroys were everyday attire, I still made shirts for them — complete with flat-fell seams that hid all the raw edges. I used striped, chambray and flannel fabrics. I embroidered the yokes with animals. I wish I had saved some of those shirts as a reminder of that chapter of my sewing history.
Patterns for children’s clothing are still sold at fabric stores and many patterns, especially for little girls, are simple and easy to make. The styles generally parallel what is fashionable in women’s clothing, but it is possible to find patterns in a more classic mode that make children look like children instead of tiny adult women. As least one author has picked up on that theme: Fiona Bell, author of “Sewn With Love: Classic Patterns for Children’s Clothes and Accessories.”
While this book doesn’t have a pattern like the overalls I used to make for my boys, it does have one for shorts with straps that button to the bib front. It has a fine array of traditional looks for toddlers and young children, including dirndl skirts and dresses with lots of swirl, drawstring shorts and yoke-back shirts for boys, and old-fashioned pajamas with button front and roomy bottoms with elastic waist.
Bell selected fabrics with a vintage ambiance so the designs in the book have an ageless “feel” that channels the 1940s and 1950s. The book comes with a DVD of all the patterns for the designs too.
Making clothing for children is a good way for beginners to get started in sewing, and it’s a wonderful way for seasoned seamstresses to enlarge the wardrobes of their grandchildren.
If you sew for older children, involve them in the project by taking them to the fabric store to choose fabric and a pattern for those special “grammie-made” pajamas or dorm pants. And while you are at it, give them a lesson on how to sew a fine seam.
Free sewing patterns for children’s clothing, including sundresses, bandanna halter top, dress and pants, dress made from a man’s shirt and towel ponchos for beach babies and children, are available at http://www.marthastewart.com.
Call Ardeana Hamlin at 990-8153, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.