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Tips for Sewing Children’s Outerwear

This post originally appeared at Get Your Crap Together in September 2013. With fall and winter sewing well underway, this is a great time to revisit some of these tips for sewing outerwear!I’m so excited that Chelsea invited me to share some tips and ideas for sewing children’s outerwear. Honestly, outerwear just might be my favorite thing to sew for little ones. As moms of little ones, our days are full! When I’m able to carve out a few spare minutes to sew for my children, I want to spend that time sewing something that will get a lot of use! I want to see the finished work of my hands be enjoyed over and over again. Outerwear accomplishes that goal so well!

Think about it. If you sew a shirt or a pair of pants, they get worn once and tossed in the wash. We don’t treat jackets or hoodies that way at all. We throw a jacket on our child as we head out the door, then hang it up to be worn the next day when we get home. Isn’t that cool?My family and I live in Florida, so I tend to make mostly lighter-weight outerwear that for those of you up north would work best for fall or spring or for layering in the winter. Since Chelsea is working on fall wardrobes for her littles, that’s what I’m going to share today. (You can definitely sew coats for colder climates, just do your research and make sure that you’re using the best materials. Also, as I’m a bit of a stickler for car-seat safety, please don’t ever put your child in a car-seat wearing a heavy coat! A poncho that you can pull on after your child is buckled securely is a great choice, though.)

There are some wonderful independent designer patterns available for boys and girls. I really recommend working with independent designers — I’m all about supporting small businesses, and it’s an amazing thing to be able to contact the designer if you get hung up somewhere! Since I design patterns myself, those are the ones that I’m featuring here. The hoodie pattern is my Charlie Tee and Hoodie and the Which Way Out Jacket is the zip-up jacket. The poncho is one that has yet to be released.
When choosing a pattern, keep your personal needs and tastes in mind, of course, but be sure to look for those things that make a jacket practical! Pockets are really a necessity, and a hood is great for keeping little ears warm without having to keep track of a hat.
I mentioned already that I love the amount of use that you get from outerwear, but you get even more bang for your buck if you choose a pattern that is reversible like my Which Way Out Jacket! It’s so cool to have a piece of clothing that is fun and playful on one side while it’s dressy and a bit more reserved on the other. It can be a huge blessing, too, when chocolate ice cream happens to drip down one side, and you can just wipe it off and flip it over!Once you have your pattern chosen, you need to decide on the fabric that you’ll use, and there are so many choices!The poncho at the top of this post is sewn with Cuddle Fabric, commonly referred to as Minky. Minky is a polyester fabric that is very warm and fairly heavy, and it has a teeny, tiny bit of stretch. The WWO Jacket just above this paragraph is sewn with cotton flannel on the inside and PUL (polyurethane laminate) on the outside. PUL is a polyester fabric that has a laminate fused to the wrong side. It’s commonly used by cloth diaper makers, and is completely waterproof. It makes a perfect rain coat or windbreaker!
The hoodie above is a great lightweight choice sewn with cotton stretch jersey. Other t-shirt knits are good choices for that little extra layer when the air is just a bit crisp, too. Cotton interlock tends to be my personal go-to since it’s a bit thicker than jersey but not sweatshirt-heavy.The hoodie above is sewn with cotton french terry. French terry has a right side that is smooth and a wrong side with little loops on it. You can find it in 100% cotton and in a cotton/spandex blend, usually referred to as stretch french terry. The first has a little bit of stretch, while the second has a good amount of stretch and recovery. French terry is heavier than the other knits mentioned above, but not quite as heavy as sweatshirt fleece. It’s a perfect choice for a hoodie for fall or spring . . . or winter if you live in my neighborhood!

The hoodie below is made with cotton sweatshirt fleece. This is the traditional hooded sweatshirt fabric, smooth on the outside, fluffy on the inside. Sweatshirt fleece is generally 100% cotton, and does not have much stretch to it. That makes it easier to sew, but sometimes harder to pull over the head! (A little tip if you’re sewing a traditional hoodie for a child with a larger than average head, cut your hood slightly taller — about 1/4″ — than the pattern calls for, and then increase your seam allowance by about 1/8″ of an inch when sewing in the hood. You’ll be amazed at the difference that little bit makes!)Other good fabric choices for outerwear include cotton quilting fabrics — the reversible cars/houndstooth jacket above is sewn with two layers of quilters cotton, flannel — flannel is a great choice for lining a double-layer jacket, and polyester fleece is another good choice — it comes in tons of colors and prints!

I think many of us look at outerwear as being more difficult or more complicated to sew than other clothing, but it’s really not! There are sometimes a few more steps involved, but I think the extra time is worth the end result. Choose fabrics and a pattern that you love, and go for it. Chances are, you’ll be smiling all season, every time you see your hard work put to use!

Pattern Extra: Add a Zippered Pocket to the Sand & Sidewalk Boardshorts

Because you asked, and it makes me happy to make you happy … here are the instructions for incorporating a zippered pocket into the side of the Sand & Sidewalk Boardshorts. Those of us who live in the deep south or in the southern hemisphere will be using this tutorial right away — I promise that I’ll remind those of you up north about it in the spring! In case you’re not familiar with the Sand & Sidewalk Boardshorts and Skate Pants pattern, a front knee panel is incorporated into both the shorts and the pants. This tutorial is only for the shorts. (The curve at the bottom of the knee panel on the pants would make this more difficult.) This tutorial is a little long but the most complicated step is drawing in the back portion of the wrap-around knee panel, and that’s not really hard at all! I’ll walk you through each step, and if you have a question, just ask!

Start by printing and assembling your pattern.Flip the knee panel pattern piece over onto the bottom edge of the back pattern piece so that their right sides are facing. Line the bottom edges up on the right hand side as you’re facing the pattern pieces. Mark where the top edge of the knee panel hits on the right hand side. (Doing this will assure that the sides of your knee panel will line up properly.)Flip the knee panel back over and place the right hand edge of it so that it’s overlapping the left side of the back pattern piece by 1″ with the bottom edges aligned, as shown. Tape this in place.Now comes the slightly tricky part. You’re going to have to draw in a slight, gentle curve from the overlapped edge to the far side of your back pattern piece where you made that mark before. (I’ve found that it’s easier to get a nice curve when I cut than when I’m drawing, so if your curve isn’t perfect now, you may be able to “fix it” when you cut in a minute.) You can see here that I drew the curve starting at the very edge of the back piece, rather than starting at the edge of the overlapped knee panel. This will give you a smooth finish on the top of your pocket.Still with me? Now cut along that curve that you just drew.Before you move on, make a notation on the top back pattern piece that you just cut away that says, “Add 1 inch,” with an arrow pointing to the bottom edge. (You’ll need to add an inch when you trace this later to accommodate the seam allowance.)Deep breath. When you finish this, you’ll be ready to modify all sorts of patterns to do fun things like this! Okay, now we need to draw in the pocket. On the size 5 that I did for Charlie, I made the pocket 5″ wide. On the size 7/8 that I sewed for Jamie, I made the pocket 6″ wide. You sort of have to decide what size works best for the size shorts that you’re sewing. (And, you’ll need a zipper slightly longer than the length you decide. Any length will work, as long as it’s at least a bit longer than the width of the pocket.) The center of your wrap-around panel is going to be at the center of that overlap. Draw a line there, then draw straight lines 1/2 the distance of the width of your pocket on each side. In this case, since my pocket is going to be 6″ wide, my lines are both 3″ out from the center. (The center line says, “Seam line”, on my copy because that is where the seam on the upper part of the shorts will line up.)The lines that you just drew in will end up being the finished seam lines, but you need seam allowances drawn in before you can cut out your fabric. If you have different color pens on hand, some color-coding may help keep things clear in this step. I generally use a 1/2″ seam allowance on all of my patterns, so that’s what I’m going with here. To get the width that I’ll cut the pocket, I drew new lines 1/2″ on the outside of the original lines. Those are the blue lines in the following two pictures. For the front and back pieces of my wrap-around panel, I added lines 1/2″ to the inside of the pocket seam lines. Those are the red lines that you see here. I like to draw in arrows and note which part is cut to which line when I draw in these seam allowances. Otherwise, it’s really easy to get mixed up!You’re ready to cut out your fabric pieces! What I usually do is place the pattern on the fabric, trace the outside of the pattern up to the lines that I’ve drawn in …Then, I either fold the pattern back on the line, or I use a straight-edge to draw in the straight line.Be sure that you’re tracing your pattern pieces to the correct seam allowance line. You’ll need four pocket pieces (two, then two reversed), and you’ll need two each of the front and back pieces (one, then one reversed). Label your pieces when you trace them!!! I put a letter “B” for the back, a letter “F” for the front and a letter “P” for the pocket using a washable marker at the inside edge. (If you don’t label these, you may end up with a mess.)Now that your wrap-around/pocket pieces are all cut out, you’ll need to cut out the rest of your pieces. When you cut out the upper back, you’ll need to add 1″ for the seam allowance. (Since you didn’t add 1/2″ to the back knee panel that you created, you’re adding the seam allowance for it and the seam allowance for the back at the same time. Just trust me, that you need an inch. You do not need to add seam allowance to the front piece, since it has the seam allowance already added in.)Time to sew in the zipper! Are you ready? Lay out the pattern pieces for the wrap-around on one leg, and arrange them in order. This photo shows the pieces for the left leg. The front piece is all the way to your left, the two pocket pieces are in the middle (both with right sides facing up) and the back piece all the way to your right. You want your zipper to close with the pull towards the front of the pants.Set everything to the side except for the front pocket piece. Turn your zipper face down, as shown, on the top edge of this piece and line up the edges. Pin the zipper so that the pin heads will be facing you as you guide the zipper through your machine. That will allow you to remove them as you get to them.Put the zipper foot on your machine and adjust the needle so that it falls 1/4″ from the zipper’s outside edge. (Remember this setting because when you sew the other side of the zipper, it will be hidden between two layers of fabric, and you want both sides to be even.) Stitch the zipper in. When you get to zipper pull, backstitch, remove the fabric from the machine, pull the zipper pull past and start stitching again where you left off.Once you have this side of the zipper stitched in, I like to flip over to the back and trim away some of the fabric so that those raw edges will end up sewn neatly under the zipper when it’s topstitched. (If you don’t do this, those edges may fray with washing and end up getting caught in the zipper teeth. You won’t have to do this on the other side of the zipper since it will be sewn between two layers of fabric.)
Flip the pocket down away from the zipper and press it lightly. (Be careful because plastic zippers can melt!) Topstitch 1/4″ from the seam.Pull the zipper pull over so that it’s above the pocket and cut away the extra zipper.Place the second pocket piece behind the front. Line up the top edge of this piece with the top edge of the zipper and pin. Flip the front piece up at the bottom edge and trim away enough of the bottom pocket piece so that it falls 1/2″ shorter than the front piece. (This will reduce the bulk when you hem the shorts.)Sew the back wrap-around panel piece to the back side of the pocket. Serge or overcast your seam allowance to prevent fraying. Before sewing the front of the wrap-around to the pocket, pull the zipper pull back and pin the zipper teeth close together.Sew the front of the wrap-around piece to the pocket. Serge or overcast the seam allowances.Pull out that twin needle and topstitch down both sides of the zipper. (Or just sew two rows of side-by-side topstitching.)If you haven’t already assembling the top portion of this leg, do so now. (This top portion looks slightly different than the pattern because it’s the modified version that I did for Project Run & Play.)When you pin the wrap-around panel to the bottom edge of the top portion of the leg, pin the top edge of the zipper in the same way that you pinned the bottom edge of the zipper earlier. This time the zipper will be sandwiched between two layers of fabric, so be careful to line up the three edges evenly. Sew the pieces together using your zipper foot with the same settings you used for the bottom of the zipper.When you overcast or serge this seam allowance, you’ll need to open the zipper, go part-way, stop, pull the zipper past and start again where you left off.Topstitch above the seam using a twin needle or stitching two rows of side-by-side stitching.From here, you’ll do the other leg, then follow the instructions in the pattern to complete the shorts. Be careful, though, when you line up the inseams the make sure that the wrap-around seams are lined up as closely as possible.That wasn’t too hard, was it? A few little tips/notes: first, I didn’t put this together in a PDF, but my blog has Print-friendly button at the bottom of each post, that will make it easier for you to print if you prefer. Second, because you’re basically drawing in your pattern and you’re not a computer, you may get edges that don’t quite line up. As long as they’re small pieces, just trim them so that they do line up and move on. Those little tiny misalignments aren’t going to affect the fit of the final piece.

Go sew some cool shorts! And, then share them with us! We would love to see them in the Fishsticks Sewing Group or on the Fishsticks Fan Page or tag me on Instagram!

Bowties are Cool ~ Denim is Cool, Too!

I know – Denim Week at PR&P is over! I’m running behind. I spent quite a bit of last week working on upcoming new patterns and Quilt Market samples, and then my site was down unexpectedly for a little while. I am happy to report that I did finish up Jamie’s outfit, though, and he got the bowtie that he wanted!

We’re sort of big Doctor Who fans around here. The 11th Doctor is my personal favorite … “I will always remember when the Doctor was me.” I love that Jamie thinks bowties are cool. For the record, though, I asked him which Doctor was his favorite. “David Tennant,” he said. I tried to convince him that surely he was mistaken, “But, Matt Smith wore the bowtie!” “Well, David Tennant is my favorite, but I really like Matt Smith’s bowtie!”Since I’m still sewing along with the Project Run & Play challenges, and last week was the Denim Challenge, Jamie got a whole denim outfit. I did a quick Pinterest search when I was first starting on this outfit, and I found tons of denim shirts with jeans … even a few with bowties! That was great encouragement to go with my plan of a denim button-down top with jean shorts.For the top, I started again with my Everyday Camp Shirt. This time I added a high curved yoke and pockets with curved bottoms on the front. I narrowed the collar like I did with Charlie’s shirt last week, and put in that same collar stand, too. I cut the button placket separately to give it more definition, and added a curved yoke on the back. I also gave the top a shirt-tail hem.This button-down has a ton of topstitching. Topstitching seems to be my personal theme for this PR&P season! Because my sweet Australian followers so kindly asked me to go ahead with doing a tutorial for that side zipper-pocket on the Sand & Sidewalk Boardshorts, I used that pattern again, primarily because I wanted to take photos of the pocket process, but also because I really love this pattern! I added the belt loops this time, but skipped the extra topstitching on the front pockets. On the back, I added a curved yoke to mimic those on the shirt, and I used those same curved-bottom pockets. I really like all the curves in this outfit!I have all the photos done, so hopefully, I’ll have that pocket tutorial ready for you in the next few days!Of course, this outfit works really well without the bowtie, too. And, I think that it’ll be worn far more often this way than with the tie … maybe? Hmmm … I suppose I’ll have to wait and see what Jamie decides!You may be able to tell from my pictures that Jamie is almost always very serious and thoughtful. Getting him to smile for pictures is nearly impossible! (Isn’t it cool how children from the same family can be so different?)On to my signature look. Hopefully, I’ll have that one done and posted before the week is up!

Fabric in the top is from Joann fabrics.
Fabric in the shorts is from Robert Kaufman Fabrics.
The bowtie fabric and the buttons on the shirt are upcycled from thrifted men’s tops. (The buttons are from one of the shirts that I used for last week’s look!)

Back to the Beach ~ Old Made New Again!

I adore upcycling!! And, there are a few reasons why. The one that stands out, of course, is that it’s environmentally responsible to make something new from something old, rather than throwing it out. There are some other great reasons, too, though! First, it’s a great way to save your pennies! I so often hear that sewing for your children can get expensive, and it can. Salvaging fabric from used clothing is easy on the budget! Second, the aisles of thrift shops are a great place to find fabrics that are hard to come by elsewhere. You might even find yourself buying and working with fabrics that you wouldn’t have considered using otherwise. Perhaps my favorite motivation, though, for re-using old clothing is that you get to see how the fabric wears! When you purchase fabric new and unwashed, it’s hard to know what it will look like twenty washes later. With used clothing, the fabric has already been washed and dried multiple times, so you can see how it’s holding up!This week’s challenge theme at Project Run & Play was the “Hand-me-down Makeover”. With last week’s disappointing loss, I wasn’t planning to continue sewing along, BUT on the last day of voting, Jamie came running into my studio and excitedly exclaimed, “I know you’re sewing for Charlie this week, but next week, can you make me an outfit with a bow tie?” Apparently, I’d gotten my boys really excited about having a new handmade outfit every week for four weeks. Without even thinking, I started explaining to Jamie that his Inspector Gadget outfit was losing, and I probably wouldn’t sew the remaining outfits …. and he cried. And, then I cried. And, then I promised to sew the rest of the weeks. So, here we are!

The very first time that I sewed along with PR&P, there was an upcycling challenge — using men’s button-down shirts, I think — and I made a beach outfit for Jamie. You can see that outfit here: the Upcycled Beach Boy. When I was scouring the racks of a local thrift store and ran across a navy blue button-down shirt printed all over with bright red crabs, I thought it seemed fitting to go Back to the Beach this time around!For the camp shirt, I began with three cotton woven shirts which I chopped up and pieced back together to create a casual, fun, beach-y top. I modified my Everyday Camp Shirt pattern by shifting the shoulder seam towards the front, narrowing the collar and adding a collar stand. I also drafted up a western-style yoke for each shoulder. I finished the top with metal snaps, at Charlie’s request. “So I can do it myself!”

Oh, my! Those eyelashes!

The back has a pieced, straight yoke.Charlie was so excited about the crabs on this shirt! As soon as we got to the beach, he started telling me this story about a crab and his family who live under the sand and the water. He’s such a great story-teller!Under the camp shirt, Charlie is wearing a tank top made from my free The Tank pattern with the addition of the pocket from my Honor Roll Raglan.The tank started life as a red cotton interlock mock-turtleneck.

Beach photoshoots are so much fun!

The shorts are my favorite part of this whole outfit because of the cool side zipper pockets! I upcycled the shorts from a men’s khaki twill cotton shirt. (I used every spare inch of the shirt fabric!)I used my Sand & Sidewalk Boardshorts pattern for these. I loved the way that last week’s zipper fly turned out, so I was going to do another, but Charlie begged for “pull-on pants”, so I went with the drawstring finish instead.I had the idea for this zipper pocket early in the process.I originally thought I would just work it into the knee panel, but after discussing it with a friend, I decided that it really needed to be on the side. So, I wrapped the knee panel all the way around and pieced the pocket into the center of it. (I can totally do a tutorial for it, if there’s interest! Maybe in the spring when those of you who don’t live in Florida are sewing shorts again?)It’s the perfect pocket for shell-collecting!I used the Everyday Camp Shirt pocket for the back pockets on these pants. (I actually did the same thing last week, and really liked the look.)This is a great Florida fall outfit! Charlie declared it just right for running …… jumping …… and bird chasing!Wait! One more … this is just before he got soaking wet from head to toe!

Can I just put my toes in … pleeeeeeeeeeeaaaase?

Up next week, a denim bow-tie? My wheels are turning!

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