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Making Baby and Toddler Clothes

Updated on December 17, 2012

Make your own baby and toddler clothes

I have been making my daughter's clothes since soon after she was born. The clothes are higher quality, better fitting and I have learned an important and, for me, a fun set of skills that are no longer as common. I have saved the time usually spent dragging a child through thrift stores and department stores trying on clothes - searching for something that both fits and is cheap enough to buy. My hobby is productive and exciting - and I have learned to sew home decorations, blankets and some of my own clothing, as well. If you can use a sewing machine to make a straight stitch and a zig zag stitch, you have the main skills well in hand. From there it is just having a will and a curiosity - and the bravery to try something new.

Winter is Coming

Time for warm clothes, and most of all - versatile clothes that can be layered. Find a few patterns like Simplicity 8943, long pants and jumpers, trumpet skirt. A pattern like this will provide an entire wardrobe of clothing. Include store bought long sleeved t-shirts under the jumpers and warm tights and you are set. A lightweight jacket for layering can help, too - there are a lot of dress patterns that include a coat as well.

Free Dog Applique Pattern

Drawn by me - an update on the classic 'poodle' skirt. Personal use only - thanks!

The Workspace

You will need somewhere wide and relatively clear to work. This could be the kitchen table, a counter, or even a folding table set up in a corner. At times, it can be the floor! You will need to trace out large pieces of patterns, check cloth for holes and stains and generally have a lot of elbow room while working. A very good light source and some storage options are good, too! Workspaces also need regular upkeep to keep them useful, as little bits and bobs, scraps and loose tools tend to collect there while you are working.

Think Ahead

The future is only a little way away... if you see a pattern in the next size up, don't despair! Every time I go through my stack and realize that we're close to or have gained another size up. Some patterns are really 'half-sizes' - check the waist and breast sizes - they are one off of others their size. Those patterns will fall away and larger patterns will take their place. It is nice to have snagged that larger pattern to work with when the time sneaks up on you!

A stitch in time saves nine

Another great feature of handmade clothes is that you can reinforce seams, choose the strongest fabrics and mend small tears over the life of the garment. A small patch or a few stitches in a seam can add months of life to a garment.

In fact, in a test run I conducted my daughters handmade clothing (dresses and thick cotton pants) survived over 1 year in useful school-wearable condition with small repairs needed. Several storebought t-shirts and hand-me-down jeans were discarded between four and six months after receiving them for large tears and split seams.

Pink eyelet shirt

The pink shirt in this pattern was thrown together from a pattern from the 1940s along with alterations because our little one is very tall for her age. Another great reason to sew clothes for your growing child - everything can be adjusted and might even last a lot longer because of it!

Japanese sewing books

There are a lot of wonderful Japanese sewing books that show step by step how to craft beautiful clothing for children. I will showcase one or two from time to time. They are worth at least going and looking at the pictures for inspiration!

Choose a Pattern and get started

and have a measuring tape handy

Use a flexible measuring tape and measure the child around the waist and chest. Also take measurements from the hip to the ankle and from the neck to the waistline. Look at the back panel of the storebought patterns and use these measurements to choose which size pattern to buy. The pattern will also tell you how much and what type of fabric is needed for that size in the garment.

Find vintage children's patterns - sew clothes to fit your growing child

I can have my daughter pick out a fabric in the store that afternoon and have a dress or pair of pants sewn for her by bedtime - she loves it and the handmade clothes fit her better, wear longer and best of all - are easily replaceable from spare fabric, using our old clothes etc... Choose medium weight cotton woven cloth and a strong thread - the possibilities are endless!

Lay out and cut

Once you have your pattern, cut out each piece of the pattern on the black line and fold each piece away until it will be used. Be sure the fabric has been washed and dried in the same manner the garment will be in the future. This will keep the seams from shrinking after sewing! I often wash my cloth by itself in very hot water for that first wash - as it will also remove any extra dyes that might get onto other garments in the wash!

Use a waterproof pen and trace each piece of your pattern out onto the fabric. If the fabric is dark, it may be difficult to see a dark pen color, and a white 'chalk' should be used, instead. There are suggested 'laying out' pictures inside the pattern, or use your own judgement. Some pieces must be cut out twice, such as two halves of a pair of pants. These pieces are normally 'reversed', cut with one print side down and one print side up. Pay attention to diagonal lying pieces - these are 'on the bias' and may be important for skirts and coats.

Pin your pieces of the pattern together and sew 1/4 inch from the edge. Use the pictures in the sewing pattern to help you put the right pieces together and sew in the right places. Facings can be difficult, I've tried to put up a good 'step by step' here with pictures of a project.

Pin and seam

Pin your pieces of the pattern together and sew 1/4 inch from the edge. Use the pictures in the sewing pattern to help you put the right pieces together and sew in the right places. Facings can be difficult, as the one pictured. I've tried to put up a good 'step by step' here with pictures of a project.

Little bits

Notions you might need are elastic,pins, safety pin, thread, a pen, scissors, pinking shears (really useful, but expensive).

How to put elastic in a pair of pants: Measure the elastic one inch less than the child's comfortable waist measurement. By 'comfortable', it means to not pull the measuring tape tight around the waist, just comfortable. Sew the waistband of the pants closed all but a two inch gap. Take a safety pin and close it on the end of the elastic. Use the safety pin as a handle to wheedle the elastic through the gap in the enclosed waistband from one side to the other. Inch the safety pin further into the casing a little, grab the safety pin and pull the casing tight. It may take a few minutes, but when the safety pin emerges from the other end of the casing overlap the elastic over itself and make a few small stitches to hold the two opposite ends together. You may zigzag the elastic shut with a machine, as well. Once you have tried the waist on the child, sew the small gap closed.

Other Baby Items to Sew

Ideas for other baby necessities to sew.

Hooded towels: See our tutorial!

Burp cloths - Cut a piece of terry cloth, an old towel or flannel to the same size as a piece of washed cotton fabric. Place wrong side of cotton down and sew all around edge leaving 1 or 2 inches gap on one side. Turn inside out, close hole and then topstitch all around outside about 1/2 inch from the edge.

Tip: After turning inside-out, take a pencil eraser and poke the corners out before topstitching.

Flannel Blanket for baby's crib - Same instructions as the burp cloth except cut both pieces to the size of your baby's crib. You can add some horizontal or vertical topstitching down the length of the blanket or topstitch small squares or circles here and there to keep everything flat.

Roll-Up Changing Pad: See Instructions at my blog

Sewing and Knitting for your Newborn

some online resources

Necessity is the mother of invention - and mothers definitely want to get all the necessary items together for their new arrival, sometimes months ahead of time! It's nice to have a stockpile of clothes ready for your little one, and in a variety of sizes.

For those whom 'ready made' isn't quite what they're looking for, or want to use special fabrics, or yarns to make items for their babies - here are some links I've found and instructions for newborn clothes, pants, hats, bootees, shoes, sweaters etc...

Definitely check out the book 'Kwik Sew for babies', below, on Amazon. It has patterns for making everything you need for your new baby.

From baby to toddler

sew along as they grow

Storebought clothes just have never really fit my girl - so I continued to learn to sew handmade clothes for her. To find pants that would fit her I would have to buy them much too long and the back always rode down when she ran. I just started making all the pants with elastic waists out of fun colors she liked. For shirts some of the storebought shirts would fit for a little while - but her arms quickly got too long and she would cry because the neck holes were so small. I moved on to making her dresses from vintage sewing patterns. In truth I use them over pants like a long shirt with a skirt and a zipper up the back. She loves them and everyone thinks they are some new brand or vintage.
Choosing patterns, tips and steps of making a toddler dress

You can use adult clothes recycled from rummage sales, thrift stores, hand-me-downs etc...to make excellent children's clothing. Te pants featured were made out of a thrifted men's shirt. The front pocket of the shirt is the toy pocket in the front of the pants.

sew your own diaper bag - find a pattern here

I received two diaper bags at my baby shower - but ended up using the one I designed myself. You'll quickly find out where you want pockets and what you need to carry for your little one - so get sewing and make the bag that works best for you!

Knit an Easy Baby Hat

This hat should fit a newborn.

Materials: size 6 DPNS and a soft worsted weight yarn. Reccommended yarns: KnitPicks Shine Worsted, Caron Simply Soft

Cast on 66(for larger sizes use 72,78,84) stitches and join together to knit in the round.

Knit one row of garter stitch all the way around, put in a stitch marker.

Knit rounds of K5,P1 (knit 5, purl 1) for 9-10 centimeters (3.5 to 4 inches).

Knit round of K4, P2tog (knit 4, purl 2 together)

Knit round of K3, P2tog (knit 3, purl 2 together)

etc... until K0, P2tog (knit zero, purl 2 together)

Cut the yarn with a long tail hanging from your baby hat. Take a yarn or darning needle and draw the tail through all the stitches left on the knitting needles. Slip the needles out and draw the circle tight.

Use the darning needle to pull the yarn to the inside of the hat and weave/tie it down securely. Secure your beginning tail the same way and your hat is done!

Reader Feedback

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    • profile image

      ccusa2 5 years ago

      Hi ,this is very helpful way to learn sewing without going anywhere.I can learn to sewing lots of clothes

    • accfuller profile image

      accfuller 5 years ago

      Wow - there are some great ideas here. Thanks!

    • Anahid LM profile image

      Anahid LM 5 years ago

      Hi I started sewing for my granddaughter was born and since then every year I make few dresses for her and I have a lens about Baby dresses. All the best Thanks. Anna

    • annieangel1 profile image

      Ann 6 years ago from Yorkshire, England

      great lens - angel blessed and featured on my road trip into crafts lens

    • Senora M profile image

      Senora M 6 years ago

      Good ideas! I love sewing, but I haven't made clothes for my little guys.

    • Lemming13 profile image

      Lemming13 6 years ago

      I had the same problems dressing my kids - my son is very, very tall and thin, with long arms and legs, and clothes that fitted his arms and legs were always much too wide everywhere else; and my daughter also has long arms and legs but is short in the body, so nothing fits her properly either. Great tips here. Blessed.

    • Anahid LM profile image

      Anahid LM 6 years ago

      Hi good idea I sew some clothes for my granddaughters and i have a lens about handmade baby clothes. Great work all the best. Anna

    • profile image

      Craftybegonia 6 years ago

      My mom learned to sew using my sister and I, as we grew, she just made the clothes bigger until she wound up sewing for herself and even at times, for my dad. Crocheting is the same. Lovely lens! Go for it! I love ingenious creativity.

    • profile image

      tssfacts 7 years ago

      Growing up my Mom always made my clothes until I learn to sew and then I sewed them myself. I had noticed that what was my dress used to be her dress. It wasn't until many years later that I realized that she took one of her dresses because she needed material to sew for me.