Sometimes when people find out I sew almost all of my kids’ clothes, they get weirded out.
I totally get it. It probably would have sounded insane to me a few years ago. Like, what, are you trying to channel The Sound of Music by ripping down the curtains and turning them into little jumpsuits?
(Updated to add: I did it. I turned curtains into clothing, LOL!)
What started out as a hilarious fail — seriously, you should see the hideous pair of “jeans” I tried to sew for my son when he was a baby — has turned into a hobby I love and it keeps my kids dressed in their own unique styles. They only sometimes come home with fallen-off buttons in their pockets.
If you’ve ever raised an eyebrow at a homemade frock or wobbly-stitched pair of leggings, here are five things you might not know about those of us who sew clothes for our kids:
1. It’s almost always cheaper
Yes, sometimes I’ll splurge on a gorgeous pricy fabric that I absolutely have to have, but it’s no different than picking up an expensive gotta-have-it dress at Gap or Gymboree.
For the most part, I watch for fabric sales and keep a sharp eye on the discount section. A $4 piece of pre-cut knit fabric is often enough for multiple T-shirts for each child plus a couple of pairs of leggings.
Last week I spent less than $11 to make matching pale blue PJs for myself and both of the kids. (My husband politely declined a matchy-matchy pair.)
2. You save even more money by upcycling
Once I learned to sew with stretchy fabrics, I realized our discarded adult-sized clothing was a treasure trove of free fabric.
So what if something has a deodorant stain or a tiny hole near the hem? Our kids are much smaller than us, so it’s easy to snip away those imperfections.
I’ve cut down shirts, sweaters, dresses, tank tops and leggings to make new items for the kids, and it’s been a great way to keep seeing my favourites. I also get tons of bags of hand-me-downs from my mom, my sister and her friends because they get a kick out of seeing their clothes refashioned into items for the kids.
3. Kids really, really, really like picking out their own fabric.
Remember those scenes in the Little House on the Prairie books when the Ingalls family would go into the dry goods store and pick calico for new dresses? They were psyched, and it’s no different with my own kids.
They proudly walk through the fabric store to check out what’s new since our last visit (likely three days earlier). They get to express their personalities by picking out exactly what they like, and their choices often surprise me. Yes, sometimes I kind of hate it at first but in the end I almost always decide they were right about it.
(Except for that Little Mermaid fabric my daughter picked where Ariel’s red hair looks like a repeating pattern of blood splotches. That was just a bad call.)
4. You get a custom fit (that lasts longer).
I have cranky conspiracy theories about how certain big brands tend to sell children’s shirts that shrink in length so quickly that you’re constantly needing to buy the next size … which is somehow far too wide for them. My friends complain about certain brands where the sleeves are always too short or the necklines are too droopy.
Every child is shaped differently. But when you make the clothes yourself, you can accommodate your child’s exact shape and take into account how quickly they grow.
I lengthen my son’s shirt and pants patterns so everything fits longer without being baggy, and my daughter’s been wearing the same pair of leopard print leggings for three solid years because of a sneaky sewing trick.
5. We don’t have anything against store-bought clothing.
Although I’ve bought fewer and fewer “ready to wear” items since I’ve gotten comfortable making everything from button-up shirts to hooded sweatshirts — even underwear! — I still buy pieces here and there.
Sometimes I’ll cut them up, change the sleeves or add a ruffle, and other times something is perfect as-is. But I certainly don’t think everybody should run out and buy a sewing machine to avoid putting their kids in *gasp* store-bought T-shirts.
If you have horrible flashbacks to using a seam ripper in your junior high Family Studies class, have a great time buying clothes at the store. But if sewing is a hobby you enjoy, try sewing something for your kids to wear. You’ll have fun messing around with different patterns and you’ll even have something useful in the end.
(Well, will probably be useful — don’t ask about the fur-trimmed bodysuit that literally fell apart at the seams the minute my daughter stretched.)
P.S. Here are the “jeans.” I wasn’t kidding, was I? Terrible.
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