I know I have mentioned this on many an occasion before but the very best way to have these items hold up to child-strength wear and tear is to sew them really well the first time around. Sewing machines and dryers are also particularly harsh on clothing and we are used to clothes sewn on industrial strength sewing machines. The difference is those machines hold down and chomp on that fabric at the seams all at the same time, thus creating a very tight seam. This in turn allows us to wash our clothing without even thinking about how handmade garments made from our home sewing machines will require a similar technique throughout the sewing process if we want them to hold up as well as those we purchase.
I personally like to sew items such as pants for children one of two ways, the first being a set of three stitches, 2 straight stitches and then once the seam has been trimmed, a zig zag stitch added to finish it up. If using a serger you can skip this as the machine does all the needed stitches at once but for those of you using a regular single stitch machine you will find this helpful as it really holds the seams together. In the photos below you will see I have sewn these little shorts in this way. The second way would be to sew French seams and for this I would cut the fabric not one but a size and a half up from the original pattern so as to accommodate for the French seams. French seams are really nice in that they offer a very clean look on the inside for clothing but I want you to not slack here and just add one stitch but at least two straight stitches to really make those seams tight before turning in and sewing again. The other thing you want to remember for French seams is to always check that none of the raw edge of the fabric is showing on the outside before turning in finishing up the inside seam. If you do think some of the fabric will stick out simply trim it down a bit before sewing in the inside and you should be good there.
Making items such as bottoms are as easy as the photos below and the simple tricks I use ensure everything is even on both sides and sewn well enough to handle the wash and dryer.
I also have a habit of adding a little tab of fabric of elastic to the center back of items (you will see this in a photo or two below). I just go with a piece of something on hand but I always think that if I had to dress more than just myself in the morning I could really use every bit of help I could get and something as simple as adding a tab to remind you which is front and back just might help you out in the early hours. So if you receive an item and see a strip of fabric or elastic or some defining marker on only one side, that is your tell that that is the center back. You might not care, you might be saying the child is dressed-that’s good enough and now it’s time for a ‘Mommy Needs a Minute Cocktail’ but never the less, I figured the tab on the center back can’t hurt.
For bloomers, simple diaper clovers and little shorts simply cut out two pieces for front and back. For sewing as I did with the non-French seam style, lay your fabric piece so the up side of the fabric is facing inward. Sew the side seams twice each, trim and then add a zig zag stitch. For a French seam, do not put the fabric right side in but right side facing out and sew the side panels together, sew the seams again once more, trim (add a zig zag stitch if desired at this point) and then turn inside out and press the seams and then sew in ¼” from the folded inside seam.
Next I line up the crotch and sew, repeat sewing as desired and then I fold under ¼” and sew the top waistband and the bottom hem of the legs.
Making easy style changes to patterns is simple:
At this point you have decided whether you want an elastic waistband around the waist or a draw string. You may want straight legs or elastic. Those choices are all fine and elastic is easiest for the kids as they don’t pull the drawstring out. Elastic is also great in that it provides a decent way to hold those bottoms up on the kids and space for growth a bit more in the tummy area. Straight legs are more popular for the toddlers and elastic more for the smaller munchkins, usually the parents go up to about 16 months with the elastic legs but honestly these are all things dependent on you and your kids needs. So if your little one loves the sand box, maybe elastic around the legs of the shorts will keep the sand out? Kids are messy and as their adult supervisors you know their needs more than anyone so when sewing I know you will know what is needed when you reach this point in the sewing process.
If you are going to go with straight legs and or a drawstring waistband then you will want to sew the hem for each once, trim and then for the legs fold under once more and sew a straight stitch. For the drawstring waistband you will have folded the top hem over once, sewn, trimmed, and then fold over once more and see where you will need a button hole added and add a pin to mark the spot. Then open the folded fabric up and cut a little button hole and sew the button hole clean on a tight button hole zig zag stitch. Then place your drawstring material back into the folded over waistband and pull the ends of the drawstring material through the button hole. Once in place and pinned, carefully sew the top waistband stitch down, taking care not to sew any of the drawstring down or it won’t move freely throughout the waist area. Trim any excess drawstring material as desired, fold the ends of the drawstring and sew if needed and you are finished.
For elastic waistband or legs you will want to sew once seam for the hems, trim, and then fold elastic into the folded hem, pin and sew in the same manner as described for the drawstring so as not to sew any of the elastic but also pull the elastic through the casing you are sewing so as to cinch the elastic a bit before you reach the end of the seam. Take care when sewing at this stage to cinch the elastic to a comfortable length but not too tight. You may wonder how you can tell. You will be able to tell. Test it out a little, pull the elastic slightly through the casing as you sew and you will find a happy medium with the elastic length in relation to the fabric getting the elastic. When adding the elastic to the legs I recommend sewing one leg and then when I go about sewing the other leg I start out by sewing a tiny end of the elastic to hold it in place and then I line up both legs to make sure the legs width with elastic are proportional.
Here are some more photos of the finished items.
Here are some more photos of the finished items.
And then for those who want some accessories to go with, here is what I've made recently ->
and then here is a super big Pebbles & Bam Bam Beach Bag...
measurements for the above bag are: Dimensions: 22" width (55.88 cm), 9" gusset / depth (22.86 cm), 18" length (45.72 cm), 16" width zipper at the top (40.64 cm), 8" x 8" pocket (20.32 cm) and long handles that run around the bottom so as to increase the overall strength of the bag.
For some baby clothing from the past click this way ->
Happy Sewing and have a great 4th!