Reported by Erika Martin
I’ve been sewing since I was a little girl, so when the opportunity came up to review the book, Sewing Clothes Kids Love, I was all over it. After all, I have two kids of my own (10 and 11 years old), as well as nieces and a nephew, and lots of friends that have kids. So, why not?
The cover of the book alone is enough to make a seamstress drool. Bright colors, a variety of fabrics and lots of ruffles are what caught my eye. The book is hardcover with metal comb bound pages inside. There’s 144 pages of full color, glossy sewing bliss! Inside the front cover of the book is a pocket with all of the patterns you’ll need for each of the 10 projects included in the book, sized from 18 months to kid’s size 12. For the cost of $24.99, this is an amazing deal.
The book has not only patterns, but a lot of great information packed in the first half of the book. From making your own “Kinderquin” (the author’s version of a homemade mannequin to fit your child’s size perfectly), to tracing & altering patterns, adding embellishments, sewing must-haves, to including a sizing chart and more, the authors obviously put a lot of work into making sure they covered as much as possible.
I made three articles of clothing from this book and they all turned out amazing, though there were definitely things I learned along the way and even some things that I did for the first time and know that I will continue doing and enjoy.
Before I even started cutting anything out, I traced the patterns onto heavier paper so that I could have one of each size. When I was a teenager, my mom, sister and I used to have a custom sewing business and it was my job to do the pattern transfers. The book goes into detail on how to do this, but since this was something I’d done many, many times, this was a piece of cake for me. I went to the print shop in town and asked for some large paper to fit my pieces and came home with a generous roll to be able to transfer ALL of the patterns in the book. I placed my patterns onto the paper and traced around them with a Sharpie marker and then made sure to also include the grainline and fold lines on the pattern along with the sizing and name of the pattern. Since these won’t fit inside the pocket in the book cover, I will be putting all of the pieces in manila envelopes to keep them separate and stored safely.
One big difference with the patterns and sizes in this book from other books is that the patterns are made in the European tradition. There are no sizes on the actual pattern pieces. There are lines with specific patterns that correspond to each size, unlike a US pattern that has the size number next to the pattern lines.
There’s a size chart for each pattern to make sure that you are taking correct measurements to fit your child and there are US and Euro sizes for each. There’s also a box on the pattern sheets that have the sizes on them along with the corresponding pattern line for cutting. It can be a little confusing in tight spaces of a pattern where lines converge so I had to make sure to pay very close attention when cutting my patterns. It can also be difficult when tracing patterns, as well.
I was so excited to get started on making a pair of pants for my daughter that I failed to read the part in the book about European patterns not including a seam allowance, so when I got the pants ready for her to try on, they didn’t fit, as I hadn’t cut extra around the pattern for a seam allowance. Unlike US patterns that have a seam allowance already incorporated into the pattern, traditional European patterns do not. At first I thought the sizing might be all wrong in the book and on the pattern for the pants, but when I went back to the book, I realized it was my own error for not FULLY reading all the details about European patterns vs. US patterns. This was my first time using European patterns, so I had no clue that seam allowances weren’t included. While this isn’t an issue for me, since I’ve been sewing for so long and have a lot of experience with tracing patterns and cutting, for a new sewer, this could be a bit of a challenge. It takes some patience extra time and a seam gauge or transparent ruler. Hem allowances also need to be added, which are not included on the pattern.
Another difference between US and Euro patterns is that there are no notches, though there are short lines drawn on the patterns to show where two pieces should align. This takes a little bit of mental adjustment, but after you get the hang of it, it’s not really too big an issue. I did pretty well without them, though as I’ve said, I’ve been sewing for a long time.
I chose to work with the Insa Skirt as one of my projects. I made one for my niece and one for my daughter. My niece is 3 years old and when she came to visit and tried on the skirt, it was a perfect fit. Little Jasmine loved it so much that every time my sister-in-law tried to put her in something else over the weekend, she would change right back into her new skirt. It was quite apparent to me that I’m going to be making quite a few more of these skirts so that her mom can wash them in between wearings.
Each of the projects in the book are labeled with a skill level (there are three levels in the book – simple, intermediate, masterpiece). The easiest are in the beginning and they work up harder as you go toward the back of the book. The Insa Skirt was labeled as intermediate, but I found that it was incredibly easy to make. There’s only 3 pattern pieces for this project and the seams are so quick to sew, this could have easily been labeled as a simple project.
The way these patterns are designed, they’re perfect for mixing fun patterns, bright or muted colors, adding trims and embellishments and great for using up odds and ends that you have in your sewing stash. For my niece’s skirt, I used all fat quarters that I found at a local quilting shop. I was able to add some die cut fabric flowers as zig-zagged appliques on the front of the skirt by taking left over fabric and running it through my Big Shot die cutting machine with a flower die. I used my machine to sew the buttons on and also used my zig-zag stitch to add color and variety to the skirt.
The over and under skirt concept of this project allows for lot of twirling and swirling by the little girls that wear it, and I really like that the book suggested putting some elastic along the vertical seams of the overskirt so that it scrunches them up a bit for more of the underskirt to poke out, but also for more “twirl factor.”
When it came time to add trim to the skirt, I bought some white ruffle at the craft store, but found that they didn’t have a huge selection of colors or variety of trims. What they did have was a bit expensive ($3 yard and more!) for the amount that I needed for my skirt. The book gave the idea of using patterned ribbons as trim so I simply pinned the ribbon to make my own ruffle and I’m now addicted to making my own ruffled trims! I bought some white ruffle for the skirt and paid $3 per yard and took home 4 yards. It was a total of $12, but when I made the pink and green ruffle on the over skirt, I only paid $1 on the roll of ribbon (4 yards) from the bargain bin. Sure, it took a little more time, but it was much cheaper and because there are so many ribbons to choose from, I have a lot more options open to me. I found it very relaxing and therapeutic to pin the ribbon while watching a documentary or sitting on the couch while the hubby read the kids a book in the evening. When I sew something I really like, I don’t like to rush the process. I like adding details and enjoying the creative process, so slowing down a little to make my own ribbon ruffles is definitely welcome to me.
My daughter loved the skirt that I made for her cousin and asked for one for herself. I found some beautiful brown fabrics with stitched detail and then used some green fat quarters for a soothing and early color combo. She proudly put on a pair of tights this morning and wore the skirt to school today.
For my daughter’s skirt, I decided to do green and brown trims with ribbon, but my ribbons weren’t long enough on the bargain spools to go all the way around the hem of the over and under skirts, so I changed gears a bit and modified the plan by alternating trims on each panel of the skirts.
Another difference between this book and patterns that you buy in a craft/fabric store is that the envelope packaged patterns have step-by-step illustrations for every process of making the garment. This book does not. It has written directions for every step, but not every step has an illustration to go along with it. This can be challenging for people that are visual learners. This book also doesn’t include a layout and cutting guide for your pattern pieces.
My first article of clothing that I made with this book is the Dortje Trousers. This is the pattern that I missed adding the seam allowances to. After I had my daughter try the pants on, I could see that if I’d just added those allowances, they would have been a perfect fit. Still, they turned out adorable and now I just need to find someone to fit them so their adorableness doesn’t go unseen.
I modified this, as well, by not adding the back pockets and forgoing the optional fake fly. These pants can be sewn as solid, unpieced legs or you can piece the legs with different fabrics as two or three pieces. The leg pieces can be gathered at the knee with a bit of elastic or left as is. I also modified the waist band so that I didn’t have to cut into the fabric to make a hole for the elastic as shown in the book.
What I loved about this book is that it’s a good guide for beginners, but for those of us that have been sewing a while, it’s also a great jumping off point to try new things and to easily modify the patterns to what suits us best. I could modify things to cut time down, to add extra details, to make adjustments, etc. and they all worked.
I may have only made three items from this book so far, but I know they won’t be the last. The projects are all unique and very well designed. With a little bit of a work-around here and there, I was able to adapt to using European patterns compared to using the US patterns I’ve used for years. I know I’ll be using these patterns again and again.
- Book includes lots of tips, techniques, suggestions, variations, sizing chart, etc.
- 10 patterns included
- Patterns range from 18 months up to kid’s size 12
- Great value at just $24.99
- Hardcover and metal comb bound book is sturdy and will hold up to consistent use and is great for laying flat when working with it
- Projects are very varied and one-of-a-kind designs – very unique
- Not all steps include illustrations so this might be a challenge for visual crafters and learners
- If you’re not accustomed to using traditional European pattern designs, it will take a little bit of flexiblity and adaptation to to the way the pattern is drawn out (no size numbers on pattern, no notches, no seam or hem allowances)
- If you want a pattern of every size, you’ll need to trace the patterns out onto paper (though it’s still a great deal at $24.99 even if you have to trace your patterns out to keep one of each)
So, how about you, Craft Critique readers… Do you have this book and what patterns have you sewn from it? Have you ever worked with European patterns? Leave us a comment and let us know!