Sewing Children’s Clothing

Meg McElwee, author of  Growing Up Sew Liberated gives her thoughts on sewing children’s clothing.

Clothing acts as our second skin, protecting us from the elements and providing warmth. As adults, the clothing we choose might identify us as members of a group or profession, signal an important occasion, or it might be a tool with which to express ourselves socially. For children, the considerations to take into account when choosing clothing are a bit different. As a mother, I ask myself three questions when making or purchasing clothing for little ones:

crossover tee

Is It Comfortable?
Babies and young children should always be dressed in comfortable clothes. They are just learning about the world, and we want to surround them with positive impressions of it. My preference is for organic cotton and wool knit fabrics. In a warm climate, I love making shirts and pants our of woven linen/cotton blends. I avoid synthetic fibers, as they don’t breathe as well as natural fibers.

Does it allow free movement?
This question pertains to little girls, especially. Boy’s clothing seems designed for ease of movement, but for some reason, that’s not always the case for girls. Children of both genders need to be free to move their bodies, to climb, to explore, and to get dirty outside. While there is certainly a time for dressing up for special occasions, this should be kept to a minimum for little ones . For example, a crawling baby girl shouldn’t wear dresses or longer tunic tops, as they will impede her ability to crawl. If you have an older girly-girl, try to find her some comfortable nit dresses that can be worn with legging or shorts underneath so her play won’t be affected by er wardrobe.


In general, I prefer stretchy nit fabrics for babies and young children, as they move with the body and are not constricting. Cotton interlock is perfect for trousers-fortunately, knit trousers are easy to whip up even if you don’t have a serger.


Does it promote independence?

This is a big one-a key to avoiding frustration and meltdowns in your children (and keeping mum and dad sane). Children tend to prefer clothing they can put on and take off themselves! Jeans are a big culprit here – a three year-old may not be able to undo a belt, a metal button, and a zipper and still make it to the toilet in time. The same goes for dungarees. If your child is becoming toilet independent, then they definitely need to easily get in and out of clothes for this purpose. Look for elastic waistbands, large button closures instead of zips. A good time for kids to practice with new closures is in doll play or while playing dress up. Of course, babies are different, as they aren’t dressing themselves, but the same principles will then apply to you-if you can’t get it on and off your wiggly baby without frustration, the it’s probably too complicated for him or her to be wearing.


When you find a particular style that works for your child, sew up several garments in that style to make the choice of outfits easier. Some young children enjoy choosing their outfits, some children find this difficult, and some children couldn’t care less what they war! The choice, however, should be very simple, such as the choice between a red top and a white top of the same style. Try sorting the majority of the young child’s clothes in another room (instead of their own room), pulling out two appropriate choices for the day, and letting your child choose between them.


About Growing Up Sew Liberated:
Growing Up Sew Liberated includes a techniques section with how-to photos, extra tips and tricks, and a bonus full-sized pattern section. This sewing project guide is jam packed with creative ideas that are perfect for integrating creativity and adventure into the daily lives of sewists, children, and families alike.

Meg McElwee puts her signature sewing style into gorgeous children’s clothing and creative activity-focused designs. The book is packed with 18 innovative, playful sewing patterns including:

  • envelope tees
  • reversible baby sweatshirts
  • reversible bubble pants
  • baby leggings
  • crossover tees
  • pocket pants
  • baby slings
  • art satchel
  • hideaway play tent and many many others

If you love making adorable clothing and playthings for children, we highly recommend this book!

Growing Up Sew Liberated

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