It's Christmastime, 'tis the season to be super crafty. At least, it's my favorite season to do arts and crafts because I'm stuck indoors and really need something to occupy my time. Did you ever take a home economics or "family and consumer science" course? I think I took one, or maybe two, and I vaguely remember how to use a sewing machine. Now, my mother is an amazing sewist and I learned a lot from her. I'm not sure if she ever sewed baby clothes for us - but I decided to pick up sewing when I was many months pregnant with Shep. I ordered a sewing machine and watched a lot of YouTube videos, and frantically texted my mom to help choose fabrics. At the end of the day, I'll probably never be as good of a sewist as my mom. But I can make some darn cute baby clothes!
Sewing for babies might seem intimidating, but I promise it's not as daunting as it looks! Plus, baby clothes are very forgiving; you likely have lots of leftover fabric from each project to fix any "Pinterest fails". Because their bodies are so itty bitty, their clothing comes together really quickly. You don't have to spend hours sewing (or seam-ripping) when the clothes are so tiny! Babies are (for the most part) the same shape and size - they don't have curves that make clothing harder to fit. It's a lot easier to make clothes than it is to make clothes you need to extensively tailor to fit a grown adult's body. If you're interested in making baby clothes for your own kids, you'll need a few things to start out. Now, you don't have to go investing in all the most expensive machines or loads of fancy tools! These are the absolute must-haves if you're going to sew something that lasts.
Learn Your Fabric Essentials
One of the best things my mom taught me was a basic understanding of fabric content and behavior. By content, I mean knowing what your fabric is made of; 100% cotton, 97% lycra, 93% polyester, etc. Each fabric has different characteristics and best uses. It's also imperative that you understand the difference between knit and woven fabrics. Knit fabrics stretch - sometimes in all four directions, sometimes in just two, sometimes only a little "give" instead of a true stretch. The average tee shirt is a knit fabric, for example; very forgiving and comfortable to wear. Woven fabric, on the other hand, doesn't stretch or give. Oxford shirts are made of a woven fabric (typically a cotton blend) - this fabric is easier to sew but not as easy to "fit" to the person you're sewing for.
Baby Basics: Knits are more comfortable for wriggling babies! Try super soft double-brushed poly, but beware of synthetic fabrics in hot weather. They don't breathe as easily.
Choose A Paper Or PDF Sewing Pattern
The first thing you need is a pattern! Some like to start with a fabric they love, but beware to use that fabric only on an appropriate pattern style. Traditionally, patterns are available in these tissue paper packs that are the most complicated map you've ever looked at in your life. You can find them at most craft stores - and they're often on sale for a few dollars each. If you'd like something more modern and a little easier to use, I recommend trying PDF patterns you can find online! Most pattern-makers have made it possible to print only the size you'd like, in one sheet from a copy shop. Alternately, you can print the pattern at home and tape the pages together. Be sure to read all the pattern instructions COMPLETELY before you begin to cut your fabric at all.
How To Choose Fabric and Thread
Choose your fabric according to pattern requirements. If you're getting started, try upcycling clothing! It's an inexpensive way to learn without feeling like you've wasted costly specialty fabrics. In terms of thread, all-purpose thread works for most projects. Again, consult the pattern for notes on thread requirements. Choose a color that contrasts and complements, or matches, your fabric choice as close as possible. Now that you have fabric and thread in hand, it's time to gather the rest of your supplies!
Baby Basics: Upcycling clothing is easy - try using sheets, curtains, blankets, or adult clothing to get the full amount of fabric needed. Luckily most baby patterns use less than a full yard of fabric!
Do You Need A Sewing Machine?
Consider borrowing a machine or buying one secondhand. Maybe you're lucky enough to have a sewing studio in your area - a place where you can rent machines by the hour or even take sewing classes with a provided machine. This is an invaluable service if you have access to it; it's great to learn from those with more experience and plug into your local sewing community.
Baby Basics: Learn your machine's stretch stitches for knit fabrics - these are the most comfortable for sewing seams! Try the zig-zag stretch stitch for starters.
Get A Solid Pair Of Fabric Shears - Not Scissors
Shears - yes, shears - no scissors. Regular kitchen or craft scissors will not do the job! Paper dulls scissors like you would not believe, so do NOT use your sewing shears for anything other than cutting out fabric. If you want to get really fancy, you can invest in a rotary cutter and cutting mat. Rotary cutters work quickly and are easier to grip, but they're also very sharp! Clumsy people like myself might want to use extra caution.
Baby Basics: Try layering fabrics of patterns if you want to make more than one of the same item. Rotary cutters handle multiple layers with ease!
Using Straight Pins Or Clips
While straight pins (those long pins with a ball on one end) are the standard tool for most sewists, some choose to use clips instead. I have both because clips are easy and quick - but for really delicate work, I still prefer a straight pin. When sewing, pins hold your fabric in place so that your machine can stitch without the fabric shifting. Whatever you choose, keep a pincushion or sorting jar next to your machine so you can stay organized!
Baby Basics: Clips are much safer around little hands!
Types Of Sewing Machine Needles: Universal Or Ballpoint
You'll also need needles that are appropriate for your project. The brand is less important as most needles and machines will work together, but needle specifics are still crucial to your success! Heavier fabrics will require thicker needles, while thinner fabrics can handle more light-duty needles. Knit fabrics, specifically, require a ballpoint needle - that's because ballpoint needles find an opening in the weave instead of cutting through fabric fibers, which is essential to maintain elasticity.
Baby Basics: Double needles (shown in the middle above) make hemming a breeze!
Sewing might seem overwhelming, but it's very accessible, even to the less-crafty of us. It doesn't require a natural "eye" like photography or painting. It doesn't take nearly as much practice as sketching or drawing, or hours of memorization like knitting and crocheting. All of those crafts have their merit, for sure, but for those of us who aren't naturally artistic, sewing is a great hobby! Sewing baby clothes is a great way to figuratively - and literally - wrap your baby in love.
Tweet me pics of the cute baby clothes you've made @pi3augarpi3 with #SewSewBaby.