How to Make Clothes for Kids and Babies

Posted by on Apr 24, 2012

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Even the beginner seamstress wonders how to make clothes — the Kilimanjaro of sewing. But start out small, literally, by making clothes for your tiny toddlers, kids and babies. Still intimidated by scary jargon and the just-as-massive time cost? Expert kids' clothes designer Kelly Crawford of Sewing in No Mans Land is here to help. She shares inside tips and her beautiful eye for fashion to help the rest of us master the scary (albeit totally adorable) craft of sewing clothes for kids and babies.

toddler in handmade children
Clothes are one of the most intimidating things to make, particularly for beginner sewers. Why are we so afraid? 

We buy the pattern, the fabric, the notions, and then on top of the monetary investment, it is usually a big investment of our time — something no one has enough of. I think people are also intimidated because they usually involve terms like "baste," "hidden zipper" and "french seam," which really should not be intimidating. When I found out what a baste stitch was I started laughing. 

Any tips for overcoming our fears? 

The best thing about sewing is that anything you do wrong (aside from cutting something) can be undone. You can seam rip and redo almost anything. Sure, that means double the work, but still, sewing is extremely forgiving. 

I also like to break my clothes construction up into several sessions. First, I wash and iron my fabric. Then the next day, I will cut out my pattern pieces and cut out the corresponding fabric. This always takes longer then you think. Then the next day, I will start sewing. This keeps me from getting exhausted and burned out on a project before I finish. It is so nice just sitting down on a fresh day and having everything ready to go. 
young boy in handmade pajamas
What do you look for when choosing fabric for kids and babies? 

My fabric selection for kids, first and foremost, is dictated by washability. You will never find my children in a fabric that I cannot spray with Spray 'n' Wash and toss into the wash. After that, it depends on the season. I adore light breathable cottons in the summer. I also prefer nice neutral tones (even on my girls), and shades of linen are my favorite. They are classic and won't go out of style, and if I am going to go to the effort to make something, I want to make sure my grandchildren can wear it!

Why is fit often a problem when sewing garments for kids and babies? How do you avoid these pitfalls? 

Children's sizes vary sooooo greatly at these ages. My middle son is 4 1/2 and still wears a size 3! He is just a petite kid. Plus, if you look at toddlers' bodies, they are oddly proportionate, unlike adults. Short legs, short torso and so on. 

I think the best way to avoid poor fit is to measure your child really well, at least once every few months. This usually means turning on a movie or giving them the phone with games while you measure them. Once you have measured them, then you can look at the measurements, not the sizes.

Any tips for sewing clothes for plus-size children? 

I think this goes back to good measuring. I am a firm believer in moveable, breathable clothing and always think it looks a lot better to have the clothing fit loosely (not baggy) so your cutie can move. If it means going a size up and having to hem pants, so be it!

Image credits (from top): All images from Kelly Crawford

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