Back to School Wardrobes: Clothing for Boys

Back to School Wardrobes: Step Three

No, I haven’t forgotten about sewing for back-to-school.  I am just milking the fortunate climate here in the South that allows me to continue to dress my children in their summer clothes while I polish up a new pattern release (woot!! next week, you guys!!).

The past few days have given us a peek into cooler temperatures, though, and I’m returning my machine to thinking about sewing up new things to get our kids through the fall and the bulk of the school year.  Next up: our boy!

Back to School Wardrobes Planning List

When I was first designing children’s clothing for a local design co-op, making clothes for girls was easy for me: I am one of three girls, I had two daughters of my own, and I was accustomed to sewing my own clothing (I’m a girl, too, after all).  But designing for boys just STUMPED me.  I thought all boys were willing to wear was graphic tees and cargo shorts, because that was all I ever saw them wearing.  Once I began to teach sewing classes and talk to other moms about their boy children and how hard it was to find good clothing for them, I learned pretty quickly that it wasn’t that boys would only wear those things–it’s that those were all moms were able to find on the shelves at stores.  Add in the “themed” nature of most of these clothes–dinosaurs or trucks or sports, with the all-time-classic dinosaur-in-a-truck-with-sports-equipment tee (which I saw in real life, no lie)–and it’s pretty slim pickings out there.

flannel scarf for boys

I feel very, very strongly about boys (all children, really) having the freedom to move and climb and play and run in their clothing.  Even as a family who change out of our “nice” school clothes and into play clothes at the end of the school day, I still recognize how much HARD play goes on during the school day, and want our kids to have that movement in their garments.  And wanting it for my boy isn’t gender stereotyping–Harvard has released details of the most ambitious longitudinal study ever conducted that indicate that boys whose mothers really embrace their “boyishness,” who don’t just permit but revel in their antics and exploits, their very “boys will be boys”-ness, are the ones whose sons grow up to the most successful adult men.  Not just financially or professionally successful, although that’s certainly part of it, but with the greatest long-term physical health, the highest level of self-described happiness and satisfaction with the outcome of their lives, and the longest and happiest marriages.  I want that for my son, and don’t think that my sewing is too small a place to seek it out.  If by the act of sewing clothing that gives our boy the room to move, the freedom to fall out of trees and run far and fast, the doesn’t-even-think-about-it comfort of well-sewn clothing in which he can do ANYTHING, if my sewing those things for him gives him even an inch more happiness by the end of his life, then the hours I invest here are not in vain–even if I won’t see the results of that for decades.

Sewing, my friends, is never a small thing to do.

whipstitch | lobster boy shorts

So a good, classic, adaptable wardrobe of basics for our boy is a must, and I really can’t rely on the shops to provide that.  In addition, my taste being what it is, I like to see him in lots of retro-styled stripes (we all tend to go back to what we knew in our childhood, really, which explains my mother’s fetish for cowboys and Elvis and my penchant for horizontal-striped ringer tees and wrap skirts–behold, children of the 70s, unite!!) and a mock-fly pant with a long break (I like them to almost drag the heel of their shoes in the back–so sue me).

This, then, is the list I’ll be pulling from over and over the next few weeks.  I confess that while many of these are indy patterns by designers I love, others are my own self-drafted designs, because sometimes you just see what you want in your head and you can’t accept anything else.  (Some of my self-drafted patterns are scheduled to be put together for sale down the road, but not all of them; feel free to let me know if you see something you’re really grooving on, and I’ll move it higher up in the queue.)

made by rae flashback skinny tee

Let’s not beat around the bush: if you’re looking for a great retro-styled tee, the Flashback Skinny Tee is a surefire bet.  I love Rae’s styling on this one, and the long-torsoed fit.  Add in long sleeves, and we’ll need about half a dozen of these this fall and winter.  I have hoarded some striped jerseys from Girl Charlee with exactly this shape in mind for him.  He’s much (MUCH) more willing to wear a tee that I’ve sewn than a button-front shirt, which makes me weep since I adore him in a little collared shirt, so I feel good about making a mountain of these for him.

oliver and s schoolbus tee

I also love the Oliver + S Schoolbus tee–it has a slightly boxier shape and a higher neckline, and works great under sweaters or layered.  I have some novelty knits and solids I’m planning for this one.


I’ve been working with my go-to pants pattern for years–since at least 2008.  I had it nearly perfected, and then our house flooded and all my patterns were destroyed.  Grgh!!  I started over from scratch in 2010, and am pretty sure I’ve finally gotten it just right.  I use it for shorts and for pants, and love that it has a flat front, elastic back waist and a mock fly.  Getting that perfect balance between a low rise (my kids are Below the Belly wearers of all waistbands) and good coverage in the bottom when they’re bent over to play is HARD, so I’m unlikely to find love for another pants pattern any time soon.

Our boy has a boatload of new $9 jeans, but I still want him to have a bottle green pair of cords, plus something of the navy chino persuasion.  I’ll be using this pattern for those–and I encourage you, if you have a favorite pair of pants that your kids wear, to trace those and make your own pattern, or to explore Dana’s or Rae’s pants patterns.  They’re all great ways to get good pants!


Despite his reluctance to wear a button-front shirt, there’s just no way around the fact that a boy has to look a little more spiffed up once in a while–or, let’s be honest, the fact that there are some really AMAZING print fabrics out there that we all want to sew up!  I wonder if this Prepster Pullover might be a happy medium for us.  I have this great Alex Henry animal skeletons print that I know he’ll love, so maybe I can find a way to break him into the woven shirts by luring him with his favorite things.

patterns by figgys beach bum hoodie

I also really like the idea of this Beach Bum Hoodie–and wonder how it would work as a shirt in a woven print?  Or a nicely textured solid?  I want it to have a little more length, but I think a tee under the hoodie layered as if it’s two shirts (rather than a shirt and a cover-up) might be just the ticket for inside the classroom during the school day.

jacket detail

One of my fantasies this year is to manage to pull of a PUFFY VEST.  Is that crazy??  I started pricing out rip-stop nylon and batting to quilt it, and wondered if maybe it was going to be waaaaay more expensive than just buying one–until the Hanna Anderson catalog arrived, and I saw that one could easily pay $69 for such a garment, and I surely won’t do that.  So I’m thinking I’ll adjust and re-purpose the jacket pattern from my Sewing Clothing for Kids e-course to make it.  Something in the forest green family in rip-stop, an exposed chunky plastic zip (maybe a contrasting color?), and little snap-closed welt pockets, yes?  I should preface this by saying that given the progress on my men’s sport coat, I might want to cut the size 8 for my six-year-old boy, just to make sure it’ll still fit him when I’m done.  Ahem.


I’m also kinda grooving on this cowl-neck shirt for outerwear.  Right?!?  Especially for game days: watching them or playing them.  Our boy will avoid wearing a heavy winter coat if at all possible (y’all, he’s NAKED every chance he gets, so just sleeves is a victory some days), hence the vest and this sweatery-sweatshirty-top.  I have some sweatshirt fleece I’ve been saving in a lovely oatmeal color that would work great, with maybe an orange contrast?  And I bet this one would be good in a soft fleece–it’s easy to find loads of it on sale this time of year.

terrific boys neck tie

For special events (maybe holiday photos??), he’s also going to need a tie.  We’ve done bow ties in the past, and I’ll be honest, my husband and I both totally melt to see him in one.  But this year, I want to see how we do with a standard neck tie.  This pattern is FREE and quick and should work with whatever dinosaur or super hero fabric he’d like to choose–because if he can’t add a little personal flavor with his ties, where can he?

overmost linenFinally, I’m working on a pair of overalls for him–this was him, four years ago, in his Easter Overmosts.  I can’t even process how little and CHUBBY he was then.  All gone, baby belly.  Sniff.  As a bigger boy, though, I think there’s still a place for a good pair of overalls–in our case, in a heavy Robert Kaufman ticking for railroad overalls.  I’m most of the way through sewing those already, so maybe they’ll be the first pattern you get to see all sewn up!

There are other great sewing patterns for boys out there–these just cover the garment categories we most needed to hit.  What other patterns have you made for boys that you really extra love?  Or what patterns have you seen that you’re wanting to try?  I’m open to suggestions–hit me with ‘em!


Now Available: The Pockets E-Book!

Raise your hand if you love POCKETS!!

Whipstitch ebook guide to sewing pockets

Back in 2012, I created a 14-page printable workbook to accompany a practical workshop in pockets, one of my very favorite details to add to sewn projects.

flat piping on shorts slant pockets

Originally written for Sewing Summit, this workbook features step-by-step photos and instructions for constructing SEVEN different styles of pocket.  I loved every minute of putting this together and teaching from it, and now I’m making it available to everyone!

pocket pieces

Pockets are dreamy, and they’re an exceptionally simple and quick way to add both functionality and visual detail to a project–I especially love them on garments, like dresses and skirts, where they’ll stand out and take your sewing from looking ho-hum homemade to looking hoo-ah handmade.  Learn to make patch pockets, lined pockets, slash pockets, zipper pockets, in-seam pockets, flap pockets and welt pockets–all with full-color photographs to guide you and clear written instructions as you go.

elastic skirt pocket

Use the guides and instructions on these pages to cut your own pockets–or use the included templates to create duplicates of the ones pictured.   That’s right–this guide includes both the guides for all seven styles AND printable (or traceable) templates to make your own.  You can even enlarge or shrink them to adapt the pocket styles to your own needs!  There are classic shapes and quirky ones, and fun shapes and simple ones.  In-seam pockets and patch pockets, slash pockets and welt pockets, zipper pockets and more.  All of them are clearly explained and photographed in full color.

pockets workbook screen capture

This is a downloadable PDF file that you can save to your desktop or print as a reference.  You can also add it to your tablet, where you’re able to zoom in on the images for incredible detail and keep right next to you as you sew as a handy reference!  I loooooove my tablet, and often work with it next to me as I sew.  Having this workbook as a reference that can be printed is awesome–but it’s even better when I can add it to my iPad newsstand and access the content digitally, where I can make the images as large as I need to get the detail necessary to really get the sewing done right.  I’m so excite to offer this e-book to you with those features in place!

I hope you’ll love using this workbook as a guide and a reference.  I poured a lot of love into it–and some whimsy, too, like a word search and a “quiz”–and can’t wait to see what you’ll make with it.  For a short time only, it’s on 40% discount, too!  Hop over to the Whipstitch shop and click to buy for just $5!

8 Things I Have Learned Now That I’m 40

40th birthday cake

Last week, I turned 40.  FORTY.  It has been a long road, y’all.  And I’ll tell you the truth: these past five years have probably been the hardest since my 20s.  (And you couldn’t pay me cash money to go back to my 20s–not a chance, people.)  I have learned a ton, and most of it was hard-won.  But where I am now, and how happy and grateful and satisfied and content I feel today, is worth even the heartache and the shame and the disappointment.

As much for my own record-keeping (particularly as I chart my year of MARGIN) as for any sense that I might serve as a cautionary tale, I’m sharing some of the lessons I’ve learned in these 40 years.  Here’s hoping they’ll help at least some of you skip the icky parts and get right to the wonderful ones.

1.  Life is about relationships.

Seems like everyone’s searching for the Meaning of Life.  How many books and movies and songs are about THAT, am I right?  But like so many other things we realize as we get older, the answer was right in front of us all along.   Read More

Sneak Peek: New Patterns Coming Soon!

I have been working like a busy little bee for weeks and weeks and weeks–and it’s almost ready to share!

sneak peek skirt 1

I have THREE new patterns coming out this fall, and I am about to burst, I’m so excited.

sneak peek skirt 2

You’ll have to be patient and wait a bit longer for more details–they’re in the final stages, and the first should be ready to go in the next couple of weeks!  There is a skirt and two dresses, and I can’t wait to share them with you.

sneak peek skirt 3

I’m nit-picking and streamlining and smoothing out the final details.  I want everything to be just right for you before I share them.  But when I do…I hope you love them as much as I do!

Girls’ Skirt Measurements: A Handy Reference Chart

So many of you were pumped about the 20-minute skirt I included in my post detailing my tween girl sewing list that I put together a quick printable for cutting! The 20-minute skirt is a quick and easy dirndl style, which means the skirt itself is a giant rectangle with no shaping. That means no pattern pieces, no curved hemming, and just measurements to sew!

The sizing goes from 12m to 12 years, and the PDF is perfectly formatted to store on your tablet and keep next to you while cutting and sewing.

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Using the chart, select the length you’ll need to cut for the skirt. An allowance is included in the cutting length for the elastic at the waistband and the hem–if you use a different width of elastic or a different depth of hem, you’ll want to adjust these measurements. BE SURE that if you’re sewing the larger sizes, you note that you’ll need more than one panel of fabric–that means you’ll combine the width of one panel with another in order to give you more volume in the skirt. Bigger girls need that room to move!

I hope you love making this simple and quick skirt! We’ve got piles of them going for our girls, some that were made for my oldest and handed down and others that the girls have chosen fabric for themselves–because when they find a fabric they love, all of us can spare 20 minutes to turn it into a skirt they’ll adore, right?

Have fun sewing, y’all!

One Little Word Update for July/August

See more of my monthly updates from this year on my YouTube channel!

Why I (Still) Sew: The Story of a Sewing Evangelist

September is National Sewing Month.  Which sneaks up on me every year, in the same way that Grandparents’ Day sneaks up on me every year, because I wasn’t really looking for it, and because it’s not one of those huge holidays you plan for.  Unlike Grandparents’ Day, though, I want to make a really big deal of National Sewing Month. white-thread-spool But I feel weird doing it.  You know?  I mean, if I wore a National Sewing Month tee shirt and pranced around telling everyone they should sew, it would be…oh, hang on.  It would be a lot like every other day of the year, because I DO think everyone should sew.  EVERYONE.  And I make no secret of that fact.  The world of sewing (especially this shared virtual, online world of sewing) has become increasingly filled with amazing people making beautiful things–but still I think my place is here, calling out the mystery of sewing and spreading the word that it touches you in a way that I can only begin to explain.  I’m not the only one sewing, but there is a good reason why I still sew: because of what it does to my soul. quilted pouch sewing kit It’s becoming a fun party game.  I go to events, usually with my husband or our friends, where virtually NO ONE there sews.  And they ask me what I do all day (very popular question in Atlanta–I once saw a special on PBS about Savannah where a hansom cab driver said, “In Augusta, they ask who your people are; in Atlanta, they ask what you do for a living; and in Savannah, they ask what’s your drink.”  I have found this characterization of our cities to be fairly accurate over the years).  I tell them I sew, and generally get either, “Oh!” or “Ooooooh!”  The first reaction is, “Really?!? People do that??  Huh, something to my right just became EXCEEDINGLY interesting.  How about this weather we’re having?!?”  The second reaction is, “Wow!  Seriously?!?  People still do that??  My mother/grandmother/aunt/neighbor used to sew. You can make money doing that??” Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 10.06.42 PM And universally, I tell them I think EVERYONE should sew.  I think it changes you.  I think it’s therapy.  I think you can’t lie when you’re in front of the machine, because where you are in life and what you’re feeling is going to come out at the needle.  I think we all should have more experience making things with our hands, and appreciating the effort it takes–and the comfort in which we all live compared with 100 years ago (or the other side of the world today).  If you’re not sewing, you’re missing out on a truly accessible means of connecting with yourself, your neighbors, your family, your ancestors, your fellow human beings.  It’s tangible and it cannot be duplicated with any other medium I have experienced. stitchalot decor I didn’t always feel that way about sewing.  It took me some time.  And it took being exposed to it year after year after year.  I think that these small little conversations, in darkened ballrooms over weakly mixed drinks and lukewarm appetizers, make an impact.  I think when I say, “EVERYONE should sew,” it’s a seed that has been planted, and I think it will grow, in one way or another (and probably hardly ever the way I expect, but that is the way of seeds and growth). multipcolored yoyos I sew because I am compelled to create, because I can’t imagine a life where I don’t make something with my hands.  And when I wonder what that life would be like, I realize that I am seeing the world through different eyes: that sewing has changed my worldview and my perceptions, and that I have found a metaphor for nearly every challenge and relationship I have experienced, waiting for me beneath my needle.  Sewing has changed how I think about economy and surplus, how I consider spending and saving, how I parent and wife, how I am a sister and a daughter, how I treat my friends, how I experience success and betrayal.  In a very, very literal way sewing has made me the person I am, because it has shaped my thinking and my seeing and given me a means to make tangible the ideas and beliefs I have.  Sewing reminds me that not by me, but perhaps through me, moments can be made and hearts transformed–it isn’t the answer to anything, but it is a place to begin the search, and to find others who are seeking it, too.whipstitch studio tools And so I continue to do what I do–to teach and design and write about sewing–because I love the world that I see, and I am fulfilled by the relationships that I tend, and I am ennobled by the acts that I can do for the good of others, and I am terribly, terribly grateful for the largesse of the universe that I am so fortunate to hold in my heart.  And I want every other person on this planet, every single one, to feel the joy and the passion and the contentment and the thrill that sewing has given to me–I want their souls to sing, and I think a needle and thread can teach them the notes.

For the next few weeks, during National Sewing Month, let’s all think about why we sew, and how to celebrate the amazing depth and passion that we are able to find in the simplest of actions: putting needle to fabric and drawing it through. sew boldly whipstitch

Join me today at the Daily Sew!

sew boldly whipstitchI’m guest posting all day today over on Facebook with The Daily Sew–articles and blog links and ideas and questions about your current sewing.  I’d love to hear your answers and inspiration!  I’m posting every couple of hours all day today on their page–can’t wait to see what you have to say.


Back to School Wardrobes: Tween Girl (and why it’s so hard to dress them)

Alright!  Time to get sewing these clothes for school.  I’m starting with the toughest to sew for, and working from there–in our house, that’s our tween girl.  She’s 8, so just barely a tween, but old enough that a lot of the available sewing patterns on the market either don’t go up far enough in size or look too juvenile for her to realistically wear to school (or both, let’s be honest).  My goal was to fill the gaps in her wardrobe with things she’ll really want to wear and like wearing, that make her feel excited and also let me feel confident that she’s dressed well–truly well, in things that are well-made and good quality, and that don’t have crappy “sassy” or “juicy” logos and skeezy messages all over them, that encourage her to think well of herself.

back to school wardrobe step 3

There are times when I think my attitude about how my girls dress is so fundamental to how parents think that I skim right over it.  And then there are others when I realize that for a segment of the population, they REALLY don’t think about the messages our children’s clothing can send, and how that will impact them throughout their lives.  Mainstream media–like this article from ABC  or this one from CNN about skimpy fashions–have even begun to report on the long-term negative effects of overly “sexy” tween clothing and how that impacts our girls.  I would extend that argument to include the “sassy” contingent, who seem to want to imbue tween girl clothing with messages virtually guaranteed to breed a whole host of Mean Girls in the fourth grade.  It makes me gag, over and over, and I know I’m not the only one.

kids back to school wardrobe organization

At the same time, I am a mom of older girls, and I totally get it: there just isn’t much on the market for them.  And it’s hard to sew clothing, especially, beyond just buying it, that allows our girls to look…well…normal, for lack of a better word.  I don’t want to send my girl off to school looking like Holly Hobby (oh, how I miss her, though!), or like some homemade bumpkin who doesn’t fit in and never could.  But I also don’t want to send her to school looking like a miniature adult–which she isn’t.  It’s a tough age, and a tough transition, and I know I am not alone in wanting to make it gracefully.

girls knit tee walking away

So I’ve worked to locate patterns that satisfy our goals: well-made, nice-looking clothing that is classic and that a young girl will love to wear.  I’m less concerned about “fashion-forward” than classic shapes, but confess that there isn’t much being designed right now for this age that is fashion-forward without showing more skin than an 8-year-old needs to be showing.  (There does seem to be a movement in the right direction–there is Yellowberry, a line of bras and panties for young girls, and some argument in the media that we’re headed “away from trashy twelve and more toward sweet 16.”  A recent article pointed out that “there’s a trend toward…something that’s a little more timeless, a little more quality,” which I think is amazing.) When it comes to sewing patterns, though, at least for the moment, the choices are often between large-toddler and mini-grandma styles–I suspect that will change rapidly, but finding patterns to sew for your tween is still more time-consuming than for your toddler girl, where there are seemingly new crops of patterns out every ten minutes.  The gap seems to be in finding patterns that are suitable for girls as they try to figure out how they want to dress before they understand that what they wear sends messages, intended or otherwise.

I am all kinds of willing to fight this battle, with my needle as my sword and an oversized bobbin for a shield, y’all.  Our To-Sew list for my eight-year-old includes the following items:

sewing plan for a tween girl wardrobe

I created a printable to organize these projects, just the ones I’m sewing as opposed to the ones I’m willing to buy.  It lists what garments we need, what patterns I’m planning to use, and what fabrics I think will work best for each one.

back to school wardrobe sewing list


And I’ve rounded up a short list of the patterns I have on hand or have already sewn up, that I think work for what we hope for our girl while still giving her the sense that she’s free to make her own choices.  Lots of these are meant to be mix-and-match, too, so that I don’t have to sew a zillion separate pieces for her to have a wide number of wearable outfits.bateau top sewing pattern by Wee Muses on EtsyFor the knit tops, she needs at least two short sleeve and two long sleeve tops.  I have been hoarding striped vintage-feel jerseys from Girl Charlee all summer, and am planning to make three striped and one solid top for her to supplement the ones she already has.  The Bateau Top, above, is such a sweet and versatile pattern, which I’ll be using for both the long sleeve and one of the short.  I’m thinking of modifying the Schoolbus Tee from Oliver + S for the other short sleeve, and giving it a little more volume and a lower neckline.


For the skirt, I’m thinking my 20-minute skirt, with just a dirndl shape and an elastic waist.  We have a mess of these that she’s handed down to her younger sister, and she keeps trying to wear the too-small versions, so some larger ones might be in order.  (On a side note, this is HER, in this photo!  Man, it all goes so fast…)  These skirts are the PERFECT place to use novelty and seasonal prints–they look great with solid or striped tees plus a cardigan, and allow me to indulge my long-standing passion for silly prints.  Plus, our kids really, really groove on the almost-but-yes-ok-totally-tacky seasonal prints from the big box stores: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Fourth of July.  They looooove that there is fabric that’s specific to a special day, and a quickie skirt that uses just a half-ish yard is the perfect place to let them choose their own fabric and wear it with pride (and for tweens, they can even make the skirt themselves!).

dimensional denim shorts w ruffled pocket

She’s already got one new pair of shorts, using my go-to self-drafted pattern, and needs one more.  I’m not really sure what fabric I’ll use here, but suspect I still have some cotton twill down in the basement in a box that I can dig out.  I feel like, to minimize the sheer NUMBER of garments I’ll be sewing, I should focus on versatile fabrics and colors that can be incorporated into a LOT of outfits.  I think this is a really important point, and while it might seem to contradict using those seasonal prints for the skirts, they go hand-in-hand: I want my children to have unlimited choice within an edited palette of options.  By making quick and simple-to-sew projects in fabrics that don’t go with much but that they love, and making more challenging projects in fabrics that are versatile and go with everything, they get to have freedom and have a solid foundation from which to make choices.

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For church dresses, I like this simple and classic shape with princess lines: Simplicity 1382.  I know it doesn’t look that great in these line drawings, but if you look closely, you’ll see that this pattern can be easily adapted with a lot of fabrics and made to look both classic and chic, and not-so-little girly.  She’ll need at least one in a nicer fabric for the holidays (I have some silk-blend plaid left over from a holiday skirt I made myself) and another in a pretty cotton print (I’m thinking a Cotton + Steel print).  Yum.

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For a woven tunic, I also love the Ice Cream Dress from Oliver + S.  (Their blog even has an article posted about all the versions of their patterns made in tween sizes–did you know nearly EVERY O + S pattern goes up to a size 12??)  I also really like the idea of sewing up the Book Report Dress, with its cool pocket detail, in a knit.  Our girl would wear the stink out of these both on their own, now while it’s warm, and later over leggings and skinny jeans.  I have some heavier knits (including a polka dot Ponte de Roma) that might be great for this.

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She needs a couple woven blouses, to balance out all the knit tees in her wardrobe.  At first glance, this Simplicity 1625 is total crap–I don’t have the first clue what’s happening with that weird overlay, for one thing.  But I do like the view C top, and think she would look great in a slightly longer version of that–somewhere between the dress and the top length–in a Liberty floral.  Yes, I will sew Liberty for my child.  But only because I know she can pass it down to her little sister.

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I also totally love this fun vintage look that I discovered on Etsy.  There are SO many great vintage patterns you can dig up in girls’ sizes that have a classic vibe with clean, classic lines.  If you’re struggling to find things you love, you could do worse than to haunt Etsy and eBay looking for great styles from the past.

And that’s that!  A total of 10 garments to sew for our oldest girl, and a stack of those are repeated patterns.  Now tell me: am I crazy in thinking that pickings are SUPER slim out there for tween girls?  Did you read all this and think she has lost it/I know of a zillion patterns & stores to get great stuff for this age/geez, Deborah, when did you get so uptight?  Tell me in the comments!  I’m still on the hunt for a great tween girls’ skirt–share your pattern numbers, folks!



Sketchbook Shirts in Fanfare Flannel

fanfare flannel shirts and whipsers Well, I can cross off two more items from my to-sew list for the kids, thanks to today’s Fanfare Flannel Extravaganza!  Plus, I finally got around to sewing up the Sketchbook Shirt from Oliver + S roughly five years after purchasing it, so today’s sewing is a gigantic WIN at our house. fanfare flannel shirts for fall I made one shirt each for our two youngest: his is a size 6, and hers is a size 5.  I wanted a classic button-up shirt, but like a lot of folks who sew for their children, am trying to be cautious about using the same pattern again and again and AGAIN (two agains is totally acceptable, but when every. single. shirt. in their closets is identical in construction, it gets a little repetitive).  Using my inventory (more on that tomorrow, along with a new printable for keeping track of what patterns you’ve selected to keep track of filling various gaps in their wardrobes) has really helped in that regard.  So: Sketchbook Shirt, a pattern I haven’t sewn up previously (sewed up? whichever), and that went together crazy fast.  His took a total of two hours from tracing to complete, not including buttonholes, which I always procrastinate installing; hers took closer to three hours, since I was adding ruffles and FORGOT to add them the first time I sewed on the front button plackets.  Ahem.  Sometimes I just get super excited. boys button up shirt in fanfare flannel I wanted to play a little, so I didn’t just use this FABULOUS chartreuse elephant print from Rae’s new line of colors in her Fanfare Flannel (an organic cotton flannel from Cloud9; see links to purchase at the bottom of this post); I threw in some bits of the Fanfare solids, too, on the button placket and the undercollar, just for fun.  You can see a bit of it peeking our here, at the neckline–I love that bit of POP, and feel like I’m seeing it a lot lately on men’s shirts, right?  Like, a hot pink on the collar band, or a little peek of a contrasting fabric on the inside of a sleeve cuff.  This isn’t a strong a contrast, but I love that the Fanfare flannels come with solids that coordinate so I have that option. one piece collar in fanfare flannel The Sketchbook Shirt pattern features a cut-as-one banded collar, which means that unlike a men’s collar on a button-up shirt, the band–that little curved section under the collar that helps it stand up–and the collar itself–the part with points–are a single piece.  I like how much quicker that makes the sewing, since you don’t have to go through the extra steps of attaching the collar to the band before you can sew it to the shirt; if I’m being totally honest, though, I really do prefer my go-to banded collar where they’re separate.  I think I just am so accustomed to the seam between the two that NOT having it is less satisfying here.  Having said that, the collar looks GREAT, it has plenty of support, and the shaping is super flattering.  So if you dislike sewing a banded collar, or have avoided sewing one because it looked too involved, this is an excellent pattern to try–it takes that step out of the equation and is nearly fool-proof! oliver and s sketchbook shirt in fanfare flannel The back of the shirt has a classic yoked upper back, and a small pleat in the shirt back below it–I love, love this detail, and how simple it is to sew while also making the shirt look really professional.  Downright store-bought, if I do say so myself.  I topstitched the lower yoke seam, after serging the seam allowances, and then I topstitched the shoulder seams, as well, both within the body of the yoke.  There was a decent amount of topstitching on this pattern–collar/collar band, cuffs, yoke–but truly not overwhelming.  And I like topstitching, so it was fun. upside down flannel shirt fanfare Good grief, this fabric is ABSURDLY soft.  Have I mentioned that previously?  I mean, like SUPER soft.  I really, truly love it.  All three of our younger children and I have pajamas made from the first release of Rae’s flannels, and have been wearing them regularly (read: most of the time when they’re not in the wash) and I feel like they’ve held up really well.  I haven’t noticed a ton of pilling, like I sometimes do with other flannels, and while I wish they’d softened up a little bit more, sometimes that just takes more wear.  The colors stayed super vibrant on our jammies, which was part of what motivated me to choose really bright shades for these shirts: this chartreuse is really deep and rich, and the lilac is so warm and bold.  I feel good about those colors lasting and looking great all winter, wash after wash, and staying new-looking and un-pilled through what looks like it might be another cold season. his and hers fanfare flannel shirts for fall When I very first agreed to be part of the Fanfare Flannel Extravaganza, I knew for SURE that I wanted to make button-up shirts, but even more than that, I knew I wanted to experiment with adding ruffles at the front button placket on the girls’ shirt.  Wow, do I love it–I mean, like reeeeeaaallllly love it.  So sweet, such a simple bit of sewing, and it makes this a whole different shirt, even though the two are the exact same pattern! ruffled shirt fanfare lilac foxes This one is for our youngest, and like on her brother’s, I really wanted to play with the Fanfare flannel solids.  I did the undercollar and the button placket both in the same chartreuse, and was tempted to carry that over to the ruffles–but figured less is more (hah! as if) and went the cautious route (chicken route? maybe) and used the coordinating lilac solid, instead.  It is a DEAD MATCH for the shade of this fox print (gahhhhh!!  which I totally love), and ruffled up MUCH more easily than I would have expected.  Flannel can get really thick, and I wondered if that would mean that the ruffles wouldn’t lie flat; in that case, I would have had to relax the ruffles and use fewer of them/less volume, which isn’t as fun, quite frankly.  But this flannel really drew up nicely, without a ton of bulk, and they lie so neatly along the sides of the placket!  Gah!!  Ruffles!!! fanfare flannel shirt with ruffled peter pan collar When I traced out the size 5 from the Sketchbook Shirt pattern (yes, I did trace, even though I was tempted to JUST GET SEWING ALREADY, because the pattern goes up to size 12, and we have a lot of years left when I want to have the option of choosing this pattern), I rounded out the collar points to make a subtle not-quite-Peter-Pan-collar shape.  Could I love it more?!? No, I could not.  CRAZY cute with these teensy ruffles. ruffled front lilac foxes fanfare shirt For the ruffles along the front button plackets, I cut a strip crosswise that measured 1.5-times the length of the button placket by 1.25″ wide.  That gave me a 3/4″ ruffle along the edge of the seamline, with a 1/2″ seam allowance to match the seam allowance in the pattern.  On one long edge, I used an overcast stitch to finish off the edge and prevent unraveling (I debated switching to a matching thread rather than white, which I used for the entire construction of both these shirts, and went with white; I don’t THINK it shows up too much, but might do it differently if I were doing it over), and then ran a line of gathering stitches at 1/2″ from top to bottom.  When I attached the button plackets to the left and right shirt front, I simply laid the ruffle wrong side to right side on the shirt front, sandwiched between the shirt front and the placket, then captured it in the same seamline.  Easy peasy!  Ditto the collar, but there I cut a 3/4″ strip, overcast the edge, ran a gathering stitch at 1/2″ and basted in place on the main collar piece before attaching the undercollar. fanfare flannel shirt inverse box pleat On the back of this one, a happy little accident: I stitched the pleat line down right sides together, rather than wrong sides together, and made an inverse pleat.  But I love it!  So I left it.  So cute, and just a smidge different enough from his shirt that they really look like different styles. sketchbook shirt sleeve and cuff in fanfare flannel I confess that I read very few of the directions that came with this pattern.  I’ve manufactured styles similar enough to this that I skipped that part–with one exception: that slash in the sleeve where  the cuff meets and buttons shut.  See that skinny strip of contrast there, on the inside?  That’s such a finicky, fussy bit of sewing, and I can always use a new tip on how it goes together.  Liesl’s directions were EXCELLENT, and gave me a new insight into how that particular bit of sewing can get done well–I don’t remember how I used to do it (badly, I think), but I know I never got results that looked as good as this, and I’m really, really excited about it!!  I was also really pleased with how UN-bunchy the flannel is here.  This step requires a lot of folding and some narrow stitching, and another flannel might have been too stiff or lacking in flexibility for the job.  This organic cotton flannel really pressed well and held its shape, and was very easy to sew in tight quarters. fanfare flannels and flowers I also switched up how I attached the collar.  Most patterns of this style have you sew the whole collar and then attach it with the undercollar already sewn on.  I attached the undercollar to the shirt FIRST, then sewed the whole collar on top of it–MUCH easier, I think.  More details in a future post! fanfare flannel shirt surprise I’m completely delighted with how these two shirts turned out   Despite the fact that I ran out of buttons and couldn’t add them to the cuffs (anyone catch that??), they are nearly perfect, and will be a GREAT addition to the kids’ wardrobes this winter.  The weather hasn’t turned here yet (poor darlings, they were troopers and modeled these in 85 degrees!), but when it does, the kids will wear them a TON–our girl has refused to take hers off, and keeps talking about how soft and fuzzy it is.  We’re all in love! Fanfare Flannel has hit stores all over!  Get it from Hawthorne Threads, Pink Castle, or your local fabric shop.  You can get the Sketchbook Shirt pattern as either a printed pattern or a PDF direct from Oliver + S or from most of the shops listed above!