THE SEWING DIVAS sewing, design, fashion

July 21, 2006

Sewing Better Looking Children’s Clothes

Filed under: Fabric,Sewing For Children — phyllisc @ 5:20 am

As the rest of the Divas know, I have strong opinions about sewing children clothing. If you go onto Pattern Review, the vast majority of projects are from Moms making clothes for their kids – a wonderful expression of love. Children’s clothing is also a good way for beginners to learn sewing. Children’s patterns are simpler than adult patterns, and the little ones will still wear your project proudly event if your skills are still developing.

But let’s be frank – nothing suffers from the “happy hands at home” syndrome more than home sewn baby and children’s clothing, and this distressing fact is not always related purely to sewing skill.

But there are a few things you can do to make you children’s sewing look as good as your adult sewing. The shirt above incorporates several concepts I apply when making clothes for small fry:

Print Scale & Pattern Repeats – Originally, I wanted to make this shirt from a black cotton festooned with chilies. However, as you can see, the motif size and pattern repeat on the chili fabric was just too big for such a tiny size garment:

No Cheap Fabric – Everyone loves a bargain, but using poorly made fabrics just makes your project look cheap. If you wouldn’t wear the fabric yourself, don’t make children’s clothes from it. Last year I made a wool/cashmere coat for a toddler, which sounds ridiculously extravagant; but remember these are tiny garments that use so little fabric you can often use remnants or less than one yard of new fabric. Plus you’ll create something special that will definitely be handed down gratefully.

No Juvenile Prints – children are so beautiful that they don’t need to be adorned with dinosaurs, soccer balls and ballerinas. Expand your fabric choices and consider looking beyond traditional kids prints.

Sew it Like an Adult Garment – We sewists think nothing of changing pattern details we don’t like, and the same concept can be applied to children’s clothing. The pattern for the shirt above is Butterick 6030. I really liked the sport shirt styling, but the pattern collar piece was pretty crudely drafted and it didn’t give me the sport shirt look I wanted. So I modifed it to this:

…which gave me the more RTW-looking collar you see above. Also, as with an adult garment, good sewing habits get results – so press as you go during construction, and clean finish your seams.

These concepts will make your childrens sewing as impressive as the garments you do for adults. You can read a full review of this shirt on Pattern Review.


  1. What an adorable shirt! Great tips.

    Comment by Gigi — July 22, 2006 @ 7:31 am

  2. Great piece, and I don’t even sew for children!

    Comment by nanflan — July 22, 2006 @ 8:09 am

  3. Amen! Kid’s clothing is almost as fun as doll clothes. NOTE: One reason that kids’ clothing can be so expensive at retail is because even though the yardage consumption is less, the labor is almost the same as for adult size garments.

    Comment by Georgene — July 22, 2006 @ 9:26 am

  4. And WHAT about sewing for cats???
    Not that I’d WEAR clothes. I’m not a Beatrix Potter character.
    But I should still have the option

    Comment by Miss China Paws — July 22, 2006 @ 12:47 pm

  5. I’ll add one more guideline: consider the comfort of the child. A child will not happily wear anything that has scratchy seam finishes, stiff fabric, or tight necklines. Come to think of it…neither will I:)
    Shannon G

    Comment by Anonymous — July 22, 2006 @ 4:54 pm

  6. Thank you Phyllis, for a great post! I have seen some children’s garments that are so shoddily made that I wouldn’t put them on my cat (with apologies to Miss China Paws). The amount of time it takes to make a kid’s (or cat’s) piece look good and be comfortable is less than most people think, and it will make the difference between something that the child will love to wear or not.

    Comment by Gorgeous Things — July 23, 2006 @ 7:48 am

  7. Thank you for this post! I sew for my daughter as well as my self, and I try to make her clothes as every bit as nice as mine. Vogue 8018, a suit in girl’s sizes is just as detailed as a women’s jacket and skirt. Fully lined, shoulder pads, the whole shebang. I’ve made 2 of these suits and was amazed at the detail – they’re beautiful, too. My husband thought I bought one of them at a boutique for $75. BTW, this also sets an example for the child as to what makes a good garment and what doesn’t and teaches them not to settle for a second rate item. My daughter (who will be 8 in Aug.) is very particular already about fabric and pattern details. In fact, I need to get the royal blue crepe back satin she requested for her birthday dress (“Shiny side out, Mom!”)!

    Comment by SBanks — July 23, 2006 @ 11:01 am

  8. Great tips! Just wanted to add one of my own….. Another problem with commercial patterns is the use of facings. The facings are two wide and bulky for most infant and toddler clothing. If possible, switch to bias tape facings/bindings or modify the pattern for a built-in facing (like down a shirt button placket). The clothing will look more professional and be more comfortable for the baby. I wonder if you eliminated the back neck facing or if your pattern included one? The technique you used is one I prefer, especially on children’s shirts. Your shirt looks very nice!

    Comment by Esther — July 23, 2006 @ 5:32 pm

  9. I second the comment about the size of the print. It makes a big difference in the quality (to me). hjm

    Comment by hjm — July 23, 2006 @ 8:43 pm

  10. Not all children like the small prints that adults think they should wear. My DGS would love a shirt with the peppers. One of his favorite shirts was from a wall panel featuring Orca whales. I matched the design all around the shirt so that it looked like the whales were swimming around him. He is now into Hawaiian shirts and prefers the brightly colored ones to the more sedate. I think the attention to detail, such as the appropriate buttons, is just as important on my DGS clothes as it is on anything I make for myself.

    Comment by Margie — August 6, 2006 @ 7:19 am

  11. quality is always the best way to go, knockoffs have short run sales because the once a customer gets the product they also get disappointment. Travweling is essential. No one can judge quality from a photo.

    Comment by Anonymous — August 13, 2006 @ 12:08 pm

  12. I love these ideas and the comments were mostly helpful as well. Would Miss China Paws also make clothes for my horses, please. I think another thing that is important when making children’s clothing, (more than babies) is to actually talk to the child. Your intentions may be pure but if the little brat then refuses to wear it, you are going to end up with some mighty brawls on your hands. I know this from first hand experience. (So nice to know that now they are grown up and have to deal with their own tantrums – back at ya!)g

    Comment by karen — October 27, 2006 @ 5:20 pm

  13. I read your site, and would just like to say thanks. This information will help me greatly with my G.C.S.E’s i do textiles and have to design and create a childs garment. so thank you very much ..x

    Comment by Nicky — April 29, 2007 @ 3:26 pm

  14. CHILDREN like dinosaurs and cartoon print. Sometimes it’s important to satisy the CHILD – they are not mini adults. They need play clothes – fun clothes sometimes.

    Comment by christy — August 5, 2007 @ 9:54 pm

  15. I’d like to add another tip-off to a homemade item: inappropriate closures for the garment. Many childrens patterns call for LONG zippers at the center back even in toddler sizes! I had one pattern that actually recommended a twelve inch zipper for a toddler size one – this would have been almost the entire length of the back seam. I redesigned the neck opening so it could be a pullover instead. Except for jackets most RTW clothes for babies, toddlers & children use a pullover style so no closure is nessary or they use buttons. I also totally agree about the previous comment about facings! You just don’t see facings in RTW.

    Comment by lori — January 13, 2008 @ 9:47 pm

  16. I couldn’t agree more… Nothing screams horrible like a badly made children’s clothing… I am of the school… if it belongs on a quilt it probably isn’t meant for clothing :)~ I also think there if a child wants to choose a print… make pajamas… that way everyone is happy…

    This is assuming the person sewing is looking for a professional look… This doesn’t mean adult clothing… it means tasteful…

    It is wise to consider what the fabric was intended for before using it. A lot of craft/quilting fabric does not hang nicely on the body… and can cause the whole sewing project to have the look of someone who is just beginning to sew.

    I also think closures should fit the overall look of the garment. A plain simple button looks much better on an outfit that has a lot of other things going on, such as, ruffles or trims. The fancier the closure… the simpler the outfit should be in order to showcase the closure….

    These are just a few things I learned along the way sewing for my children 🙂

    Comment by Shelly G. — July 31, 2008 @ 7:38 pm

  17. I wanted well-drafted slim pants, the look that is so popular for this Fall so I turned to Hot Pattern’s Cigarette Pants. Ahhhhhh! Much more bedda! The circumference of the leg of this pattern is 14.5″.

    Comment by Fashion Girl — July 9, 2010 @ 11:00 pm

  18. childrens clothing should be as comfortable as possible that is why the choice of fabric is also critical “;”

    Comment by Canister Set · — November 13, 2010 @ 12:11 pm

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