Kids Can Sew Shorts! Tips for sewing clothing with kids

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The weather is warming up and we've been making shorts! My afternoon sewing class on Mondays has been itching to make clothes, I could tell. This can be hard in a group setting, but pajama shorts were something I knew we could manage and I'm so glad we did! 

 Tips for teaching kids to sew clothes

Natalie made up a pair just for fun using Simplicity 8401 and it's such a simple pattern, I knew it would be perfect for my students. Plus, it includes a matching doll shorts pattern! 

This pattern takes just one yard of fabric and has only two pattern pieces! I've made pajama shorts with sewing classes before and we used a Jalie pattern that was much more complicated (although very nice). This Simplicity pattern was easy to fit and easy to adjust by taking in the side seams if they were too large. 

Here are a couple things I've learned when sewing clothing with kids: 

1. Size up. I either take measurements beforehand or ask their moms to send me the needed measurements so I'm prepared with the right sizes. It's easier to make smaller than to make bigger, so if someone is in between sizes, I go up!

2. Explain pattern sizing to them. Make sure they know that pattern sizes are different than ready-to-wear sizes. If you have a child who may be sensitive about the number of the size she is sewing, do what you can to make sure she knows that the number doesn't mean much. This can be hard, I know. To avoid the issue altogether, I've sometimes traced patterns and put only their names on them and NOT the size that I traced. Everyone gets their own pattern and no one has to dwell on what size it is. Instill in them that the beauty of sewing is that we can make things to fit our own unique bodies! My 13-year-old, who has a hard time finding dresses off the rack to fit her long and lean frame, sews a size 10 in patterns, but with a size 16 for length! 

 Natalie made her Easter Dress this year! We used New Look pattern #D0917

Natalie made her Easter Dress this year! We used New Look pattern #D0917

3. Give them one step at a time. Sewing garments can seem very abstract to someone not used to it. When sewing with one of my own kids one on one, we do read the instructions and I help them understand step by step, but in a group setting I offer one step to the class at a time and we do our best to stay together. It seems like ages 12 and up are better able to understand pattern instructions than younger ones, in my experience. 

4. Let them choose fun fabrics. I try to provide everything we need for my classes, including fabric, but sometimes I do let them know they are welcome to bring their own if they want, and tell them exactly what to look for and where to find it. Who doesn't love going to pick out their own fabrics?? For those who don't, though, I keep a stocked stash of fun and trendy fabrics. For this shorts project, I added a few trims to my stash too. Although I already have a nice stash of laces, I was low on pom-pom fringe and I knew that's the one they would all likely want (I was right!)

5. Explain useful terms as you go. For example, when cutting, show them the arrow that goes with the grain line and with the selvedge, and why you want the stretch to go across your body, not up and down. Don't bog them down, but help them learn terms that will be useful for next projects, like hemming, edge stitching, basting, casing, seam allowance. That kind of thing. Help them learn the lingo and they'll better be able to attempt using patterns on their own! 

 Sewing clothes with kids

I'm already brain storming more clothing projects because these girls really loved making something they could wear and most said this was their favorite project so far. Layla thinks circle skirts would be fun! I own the books #ootd and Girl's Guide to DIY Fashion and they both have some promising choices. I'll let you know what come up with! 

Cheers and Happy Sewing :)

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