Sewing for Girls: Create a Collection

Sep 25th

Sewing for girls in elementary school is simple: make comfort and style your goal.  But sewing for girls in elementary school is a lot different than when they are in preschool.  Pre-school we get to use whatever fabric that we love, for the most part.  But by the time they hit kinder, their tastes are starting to get more defined:  color matters, and so does fabric.  Is it only me, or does it feel that they just want to live in knits?

How many times have you sewn up an outfit for your child, and they just won’t wear it when it is done?  Even if they picked out the cutest woven fabric in the world.  Even if they picked out the pattern.  Been there.

The key to sewing for girls in school  is to keep it comfortable.  They have to have clothes that flex through morning jog, keep swinging on the monkey bars at recess, and don’t distract them in the classroom.  And they have to look good, too.

They way to do this is to start with a base of knits.  Add woven garments to it that can all mix and match.  Build a collection around a theme so that many pieces can be combined in different ways to let your child build their own outfit each day.  Work on creating, hacking or choosing patterns that allow for growth so you can get more than one season out of their wardrobe.  Create a signature piece that is fun, flexible and attractive.

Choosing Fabric for your Collection

By choosing two types of fabric, woven and knit, you can build a collection that has lots of variation but all fits together.  To make it easy, find a woven fabric collection that you love (you’ll be making a lot of pieces!) and then choose a single base color that will go with all of the wovens.  Black knit fabric that is breathable, has two-way stretch, and can be found in a couple of weights is the easiest.  While most of us would not choose black for elementary school children, it can make an excellent statement when used with the right pattern woven.  And it doesn’t show stains as much.  Big scoring points there.

short sleeve dress made in lightweight knit

short sleeve dress made in lightweight knit.  The simple black dress that gets worn all the time!

The pieces from woven fabric were all from the “Hello Tokyo” collection by Lisa Tilse for Robert Kaufman that was so hot a few years back.  It is just as fresh and exciting today after umpteen washings as it was then!   The knit fabric was made with some bargain bin lightweight knit from Michael Levine’s Loft in LA, and with medium weight bamboo knit from the Michael Levine store.

Fabric Bag with bias tape

Fabric Bag with bias tape

Choosing Patterns for your Collection Pieces

Look for patterns that  you can modify and hack to add extra length to sleeves and hems.  Modify your waist so you can let the elastic out as they grow.  Choose pattern that are loose-fitting so they can be worn for a while.   I used three different patterns: McCalls M6785 for some dresses, modkid kyoko for a top, and Simplicity Daisy Kingdom 2918 (check Etsy) for a jumper, jacket, purse and dress.  All were modified to meet my requirements.

 

multiple patterns add interest

multiple patterns add interest

What Pieces for your Elementary School Wardrobe?

Kids like to mix it up.  So make a variety of pieces that let them build a different outfit each time, depending upon their mood and weather.  Don’t feel like you need to make every piece.  Some solid knit tops from the local kids clothing store are usually less expensive than making them yourself.  Make the core pieces and fill in with the shorts and tops.

Pants are important.

Woven pants have an extra big hem, and extra elastic tucked in the waist for expansion.

Woven pants have an extra big hem, and extra elastic tucked in the waist for expansion.

Make them to go under tops or stand alone.

Simple pattern with aplique pants, perfect with a knit top

Simple pattern with applique pants, perfect with a knit top

Don’t forget your leggings with the knits.  They go under tops, dresses, skirts.  Consider adding some fabric elements from the woven collection to tie the two together.  These leggings have woven fabric plackets that let child scrunch up the sides by pulling on the twill tape.  Woven fabric elements on the ends of the tape tie add interest.

Use some woven fabric on your leggings for interest and to tie to your collection

Use some woven fabric on your leggings for interest and to tie to your collection.

Don’t forget the jumpers, tops and dresses

A jumper can be layered over long or short sleeve dresses depending upon the weather.  Put leggings or pants underneath.

Asian Top incorporates many fabrics in the Hello Tokyo collection

Asian Top incorporates many fabrics in the Hello Tokyo collection.  The obi is optional, and reverses to yet another fabric in the collection to vary the look.

 

An assortment of long and short sleeve pieces allows you to work your collection through multiple seasons.  The piece below was made with the medium weight bamboo fabric in a loose cowl neck for fall and winter.

Woven fabric elements repeat the placket and twill tape side scrunch found on the leggings.

Woven fabric elements repeat the placket and twill tape side scrunch found on the leggings.

This jumper has an extra long hem that will come out later to enable the piece to be worn through several years.  Even with growth spurts of 5 inches, it is still going strong and looking good.

Appliques make the ordinary exciting.

Appliques make the ordinary exciting.

Besides the hem being lengthened, the shoulders are adjustable, too.

Multiple buttons allow the jumper arms and shoulders to lengthen.

Multiple buttons allow the jumper arms and shoulders to lengthen.

Skirts and Jackets

The fabric from Hello Tokyo had a lovely scallop pattern.  This inspired the hem finish on a basic circle skirt that was made with an elastic waist attached to twill tape bow to allow for growth.  Thank goodness for the great instructions on making a scallop hem tutorial on Colette!

sailor-23

When I am sewing, I always like to have a bit of a creative challenge.  The jacket was just the outlet I was looking for.  Rather than find specialty fabric, two pieces of each pattern piece were cut from knit fabric, and one pattern piece from thin fiberfill.  Then the three pieces were basted together at the edges, and free hand machine quilted.  This let me get quite carried away.  The jacket has a bird in a nest, a heart on a sleeve, butterflies, exotic tropical leaves, and the child’s name.  If you look carefully below you can see the name.

Freehand quilting

Freehand quilting

 

The back features another applique from the Hello Tokyo collection.  The piece is zig zagged onto the main fabric after being quilted.

Fabric Applique

Fabric Applique

By making the jacket sleeves extra long and lining with coordinating woven fabric, it has managed to fit for several years.

Jacket back showing rolled up sleeves

Jacket back showing rolled up sleeves

 

Some pieces get worn more than others, but all of it gets worn every week to elementary school.  Try making a collection, and I bet you’ll find that your sewing gets worn more than individual pieces do.  That will make you and your girl happy!

 

 

 

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