Lila and I set aside time this afternoon to play with fabrics and stitch a little. I was busy last weekend with events, so it was extra nice to spend time focusing on her today. In the past, I’ve mostly sewn little dresses for her and piecemeal separates. She’s getting old enough to have more input with her clothes, and since she’s a bit bigger I feel like it’s “worth it” to sew for her and put some thought into the process. I also have a nice little stock of remnants and fun prints I’ve collected for her, and it’s time to sew it up.
First We Cull
We started out going through her old clothes. Luckily, she’s a bit of an A-type personality and enjoys this. I use the same criteria I use for culling my own wardrobe:
- Does it fit?
- Does she wear it? I don’t fight the clothes fight, it’s not worth my energy. If she doesn’t like something, she won’t wear it and woe on the person who tries to force her.
- Is it stained/ripped/pilly/otherwise falling apart? I keep some icky clothes in reserve for painting and mud play, and I stash some of my favorites for use in a quilt later. If it’s dead, it becomes cleaning rags after I pull off the buttons and any other useful bits. Mending is usually not an issue with her clothes.
- Is it an orphan? She doesn’t have much of an “orphaned clothes” problem because her clothes are pretty basic and functional. Orphans go out, to rags or to smaller friends if it’s a nice garment.
Once we did that (which always takes less time than I think it will), I looked over what was left. She’s doing well for winter clothes- besides, summer is nearly upon us in Queensland. She needs good summer basics more than anything else- tops and shorts.
What are her needs?
It’s no good making a little wardrobe of clothes that don’t suit her purposes. I’d love to make a closet full of fluffy, frilly, silly things for her but that’s not her life. Besides, sewing too many of those pretty little girl type clothes is a waste of my time and fabric. She’s a very active 4 year old (is there any other type?) and needs clothes she can move around in. Clothes she can forget about.
She also has very tender skin and we live in the UV-saturated part of the world. The earth is closer to the sun during our summer than during the Northern Hemisphere summer, the air is less polluted which means less UV protection, and there’s a hole in the ozone around here somewhere. Sunscreen alone doesn’t cut it. I want to make her at least two long-sleeved, loose woven tops and a few simple loose pants for sun protection.
It’s also important to figure out design details ahead of time. It doesn’t have to be an involved process, I’ve wasted hours of my life in the past making wardrobe plans that I found very hard to stick to once I started sewing. Sometimes the fabrics have other ideas than what’s in the plan.
I find it useful to keep track of inspiration photos. Pre-pinterest, I kept files of images on my computer. I still do that, but it’s much easier to type “little girl shorts cute details” into google image search and pin like mad. Once I start gathering my inspiration, I usually notice what colors, cuts, and details consistently catch my eye. I can then scroll through with Lila and she lets me know what she likes.
Bring on the Fabric and Patterns
Every fabric along the top is either reclaimed from a Mommy-wadder or remnants from my own sewing. Free clothes for Lila! I also found a skirt I cut out yonks ago and never put together, so I’ll add that to this bout of sewing.
Prints or Solids?
It’s super tempting to load up on prints (especially for a little girl) because there’s SUCH a variety of gorgeous printed fabric out there. I don’t generally like the “mixed print” look, call me old-fashioned. It’s very difficult to build a nice versatile basic wardrobe using prints for both the tops and the bottoms, so I usually stick to one or the other. Instead, I like to rely on texture for variety. It’s safer. From left to right, the fabrics are an organic cotton canvas, cotton pique, cotton no-wale cord, medium weight denim, and linen.
Along the bottom of the photo, I laid the fabrics for her tops. The wovens will become long-sleeved tops (she insisted I use the brown, and it suits her, so ok), and the knits will become versions of the Blank Canvas Tee I made for her or Hopscotch Tops by Oliver + S. Usually, I’d pick a neutral, a main color and an accent color for a wardrobe but for Lila I just went for general “harmony” between the fabrics we chose.
I also want to make her a few dresses. She likes wearing them, I like making them. She has five or six Ice Cream Social dresses, so I spent a little time looking around for alternatives.
She’s infatuated with this organic cotton sateen I scored the other day at Fabricabrac (great day! Will do a round up this week!) and I thought I’d use this pattern. I have a “thing” for Oliver + S. If you’ve ever sewn with them, you understand. If you haven’t, and you sew for kids, I would strongly recommend taking a look. The instructions are sensible, the clothes look like “real” clothes, and I like the way the separates work with one another. They’re a bit expensive, but it’s worth it.
I’m planning to make her one (at least!) of these for summer, too. Doesn’t it remind you of a little girls’ Cambie? This dress is the “reward” for making it through the other pieces, we’ll hop over to Voodoo Rabbit and pick out something nice and distinctive. Pandas, pet deer, who knows what she’ll pick next? This dress is not a pattern, but a very clever “hack.” I’m itching to play with it! Check it out.
Where to Begin?
Culling the existing wardrobe, gathering inspiration, thinking about Lila’s clothing in a practical way, and playing with fabrics and patterns isn’t exactly play, but it’s fun and doesn’t feel much like “work,” either. The transition from the planning stage to the sewing stage of a wardrobe project can be a little tricky to navigate. I have been known to put all the patterns and fabrics together then stare at them for days or weeks on end, unsure where to begin.
I say start simple, start practical. We made a pair of shorts today to kick off the project because that’s what she needs most. Next week: Shorts, shorts, shorts.
Further Reading: Making a simple kid’s pants pattern from an existing pair of pants.
Tiramisu Testing Update: Wow! I’m all kinds of excited and energized by your warm reception of the Tiramisu lady, thank you so much for your kind words, clever backstories and beautiful name suggestions! I’m sifting through everything and I’ll be emailing testers later this week. Thank you all for volunteering to test! If you haven’t already, skip over and leave me a note if you’d like to test, or if you’d like to add to her backstory.
Also- one of my buddies who doesn’t sew but nurses her sweet baby agreed to test Tiramisu for nursing-mother-wearability. She and I used to live together, I guess she’s used to me because she didn’t bat an eye when I asked for her help. I’ll run one together for her and we’ll report back!
Next up- Conversant in Color: Your Environment