We all have those people we instantly connect with in person or online. Jess is one of those people for me. She’s living in Australia (which automatically gets bonus points in my book), she makes the most amazing masks and patterns, and she’s constantly coming up with the most outstanding looks for Kid’s Clothes Week. And today she does it again – check out the amazing tips she has for us…
Hi, I’m Jess from Willow and Stitch. I blog about sewing, sustainability and inspiring imaginative play. I’m really happy to be here today to share some of my tips on how you can get the most wear from your handmade clothes.
While I obviously LOVE the explosion of sewing blogs and the resurgence of sewing as a hobby, all the exposure to beautiful new patterns, inspiration and fabrics can leave us feeling like we need to buy ALL the fabric and sew ALL the clothes. There is certainly a risk there that we begin to feel like we just NEED TO KEEP SEWING or we will get left behind. Sound familiar? I often think that life would be better if we were able to slow down, buy less, make less, and take more care of the things we do make or buy.
I have always had a little bit of a fascination with the Second World War. Not so much with the war itself but with the effect that it had on daily life for those who were left at home. I have always loved to hear my grandmas talk about life during the war, about rationing, food and clothing coupons and the many resourceful ways that they found to make everything go further. I find it really inspiring, particularly now that we are faced with the need to live more sustainably – not through war-induced necessity but through moral imperative. The more I look into the deprivations endured during the war, the more outrageous our own excesses appear.
I know I’m preaching to the converted here. I have always believed that sewing and that making things by hand is the perfect first (or second, or third) step towards a more sustainable lifestyle. Once you have made clothes by hand, it is impossible not to treat all garments, handmade or not, with a little more respect, to have a greater appreciation for the effort and material that go into making them, and therefore of their true value.
Now don’t worry, I’m not going to get all ‘Sound of Music’ on you and start insisting that you make clothes out of curtains (although you totally could). I’m also not going to go into too much detail about up-cycling because I feel that it has already been rather thoroughly canvassed elsewhere. What I really want to write about today is the attitude of ‘Make Do and Mend,’ i.e. ways in which we can make sure that we get the absolute most wear out of a garment and how we can look for ways to ensure that nothing goes to waste.
I recently bought this ‘Make Do and Mend’ book, which is actually a collection of a series of leaflets published by the Ministry of Information in the UK during WW2 with tips and advice on how to survive clothes rationing. Apart from being hilarious in places, “your corset is one of your most precious possessions” and “never let your girdle get too dirty” (erm, OK then), it’s also full of all that amazing advice that your grandma used to give you; that advice that went in one ear and out the other because at the time you had no idea that it was actually really useful information!
The point here is that when you are pouring time and effort (and money) into creating handmade clothes, you most definitely want your efforts to be worthwhile and for the clothes you make to be used, and loved, for as long as possible. For me this usually manifests itself in my inability to make anything in the correct size, I nearly always make things one or two sizes too big so that they can be worn for longer – of course this usually just results in things being much too big, and they then have to be put away until next year when they might actually fit.
So, here are my top 5 tips for getting the most wear out of your handmade kids clothes without forcing your little ones to run around in clothes that are obviously much too large for them:
1. Sew a waistband which can be let out
If you are sewing a garment with an elastic waistband, cut the elastic extra long and sew it with a 2 or 3 cm ‘seam allowance’. If you also leave a small opening in the elastic casing then you will be able to easily get to the elastic and let it out as your child grows.
2. Sew a large hem
Cut all children’s pants, skirts and dresses with extra length and sew an extra large hem. This will give you the ability to lengthen them as your child grows by letting down the hem. This is a particularly useful tip for older children (over the age of 3) who tend to just shoot up without ever really getting bigger around the middle.
3. Add a cuff / contrast strip for extra length.
Once you have exhausted the extra length that you can get by letting down a hem, you can add extra length to pants or skirts by sewing a cuff to the bottom of pants or an extra contrast band to the bottom of skirts.
4. Make a matching pair of bloomers.
Alternatively, if you have a dress or skirt which has become too short, why not channel that super cute vintage look and make a matching pair of bloomers from the fabric remnants. That way you will be able to get another summer’s wear from the dress.
5. Cut pants off to make shorts.
Once the added cuffs of pants have been grown out of, get a little more use from them by cutting them off to be shorts. If you have a dress which is too tight around the arms and chest you can cut the top off and turn it into a skirt by adding a simple elasticated waistband.
Have you ever thought about any of these ideas?! I actually haven’t. And I can’t believe it. These simple suggestions are brilliant, and I’m definitely going to be incorporating them into my future clothes for my kiddos.
Come back tomorrow to hear from Jonie from Knot Sew Normal!