Sewing for kids-- It "seams" obvious

ClareBroommaker's picture

I just thought of something about ready made clothing that my own mother started complaining of back in the late 1960s, and it has application to making new children's clothes at home, or reworking clothes to fit children in these days.

Her complaint was that off the rack clothing was no longer being made with wide enough seams that clothing could be "let out" for a growing child, or to pass on to a child who was larger than the original wearer.

The application, of course, is to make sure that, where possible, we make children's clothing with excess material in the hems and sew seams a bit wider than patterns might lead us to allow for.

That might "seam" obvious, but if one is younger and never experienced a world of hand-me-downs and use-me-ups, perhaps this would not have occurred to one. And if I understand serger sewing machines, that would mean not to serge the seams at all-- because doesn't that cut off the excess seam material and sort of seal it all up in thread? (Sounds wasteful of thread, too, but I might have that wrong. My machine only sews straight lines forward, reverse. Very simple. I'm naive of machines younger than 1940s.)

Relatedly, I suggest that if you are buying pants that might need knee patches, try to buy a pair that is way too long so that the extra length may be turned into matching patches. I sit here now in jeans so patched.

The fashion industry has been making seam margins narrower and narrower for decades. Improved cutting technology (with lasers!), precision fitting, and better machines (like sergers!) mean the seam margins can be as narrow as 1/4 inch. I've seen it in T-shirts and other knits, especially at the lower end of the price scale.

Narrower seam margins also saves cloth, an important consideration when you buy in 100,000 yard increments.

A solution is to cut the larger size and sew a wider hem but you've got to be careful with the fit as not every seam is amiable to this treatment (armscyes in particular).

Or, take a much larger garment, cut out ALL the seams, then either layout pattern pieces directly on the cloth sections or just resew it back together. Experiment first with thrift store finds. Often, the wear is most evident in the underarm seams or at the hems.

David Trammel's picture

Want to talk about small seams, lol, imagine the one's on Barbie outfits. My mom made pocket money in the 60s making Barbie outfits. Watching her do it is why I learned to sew. Then later I got into RenFairs and Sci-fi Convention costuming. With those, you always allowed for huge hems and allowances off your seams. Sometimes I would put a lining into costume pieces that would cover them. But yeah we were always ripping the seams out and making changes or reusing fabric.

My husband is short enough that he can't get pants off the rack of the right length. I've talked him into buying the 30 waist with the very longest inseam. Just yesterday I used a cuff harvested several years ago to patch the crotch of his "dress" pants. I bought a book on fancy darning a year ago and have been trying to convince him that visible patching is very stylish.
I have taken folks to the thrift shop to teach them how to tell well-made clothes from junk. Seam allowances should be ample, even if you never let the garment out. Wool, linen, and cotton wear better than polyester or its cousins. I usually buy very large garments made of fabulous fabric and use the pieces to make what I want.
Barbie outfits had generous seam allowances with respect to her size--and she never put on or lost weight.
When I was a sixth grader a woman donated a doll with several adorable outfits. The nuns sold chances on the doll and her trousseau and used the money for pagan babies. I decided to buy only one chance and pray that I would win. I lost--which permanently soured my feelings about both gambling and intercessory prayer. The most exquisite part of the doll's trousseau was a turquoise cable knit sweater. I went home determined to up my knitting game and knit one for my own doll. And I did. The sweater had been such an object of female pre-pubertal lust that I knit them for birthday gifts for friends and younger sisters for years.

I was thinking about children's clothing recently. My grandson goes through the knees of his pants at an incredible rate and he prefers softer leggings and sweat pants to the more durable trousers he has.
My train of thought went to the traditional English practice of dressing boys in short pants. It's really quite an good solution especially considering the damp climate. As well as solving the problem of wear at the knees, dressing a child in short pants with thick wool knee-high stockings reduces the laundry load of heavy dirt and stains and keeps him warmer and dryer than long pants with soggy cuffs from moving through damp grass.