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Get Crafty

Welcome to our Get Crafty guide, with tips on how to make clothes in the colours, styles and motifs that the children in your life will love.

We look at the best patterns on the market, where to buy fabric and the strengths/weaknesses of making from home.

Want to do your bit for the environment too? Get set to Make do and Mend and join the ever growing community of Craftivist's around the world.

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Start simple. Look for sewing or knitting patterns that are for beginners. The more you make, the more you will progress towards making more complex designs. Once you've learnt a sewing trick or particular knit, you won't forget (like riding a bike)

You don't need expensive equipment, and can pick up wool, fabric and notions (buttons, needles etc) inexpensively from charity shops and Ebay. For a beginners sewing machine we recommend a £99 one from John Lewis which come with a 2 year guarantee AND a selection of cool colours. You will need to take care of your machine, so its a good idea to buy some sewing machine oil (usually about £2 for a small squeezy bottle) and a brush to clean out the fabric dust.

There are hundreds of books about making clothes on the market, but to narrow things down, we're featured our favourites and must haves opposite. If you don't want to pay full-price, check out your local library, Ebay or other second-hand outlets. Books are also great for ideas as well as instructions, and often come with free patterns inside.

Need help if you get stuck?

 

Check out one of the countless tutorial videos over on youtube. This has been an indispensable resource for me over the years, from difficult knit stitches to simply working out how to make a pair of trousers (its not obvious how to neatly join two narrow tubes of fabric!)

We're surrounded by fabric, zips and buttons so if you don't want to buy new, what about taking apart the old clothes you no longer wear? You can even find quick tutorials on how to make a child's dress from an old pillowcase! Fabric off the bolt (a rolled strip of fabric from the supplier) can be quite expensive, but you're spoilt for choice on texture, colour and print. 

Most fabric shops sell by the FQ (Fat Quarter, usually a fourth or a yard or 18x22"), the half metre (full width) or metre. Yarns for knitting come in a variety of lengths and thicknesses, so its best to follow the guide on what wool to buy from your knitting pattern.

We recommend Frumble for an array of exciting fabrics, and for yarn check out your local store - we love Ippikin in Much Wenlock, Shropshire.

 

Bare in mind the type of fabric you need for each project - cottons come in a plethora of prints but have poor stretch, some glittery fabrics may look nice but are they scratchy? If in doubt, order a swatch or sample piece.

One of the easiest items of children's clothing to make is a one-seam skirt using an elasticated waistband. For a quick and easy tutorial, check out this guide I wrote for Man Vs Pink a few years ago. Once you're mastered simple skills like hemming, and creating the channel for your elastic at the top of the skirt, you're ready to try the same on trousers, culottes and shorts!

 

Other equipment:

For Sewing you will need a standard household steam iron, a measuring tape, sharp scissors, some chalk (for marking your fabric), a seam ripper (really useful for taking apart mistakes) and of course some basic notions - thread, buttons, zips. These are all really easy to find, and aren't expensive. You can even pick up second-hand or vintage sewing boxes complete with contents from Ebay, charity shops or your local car boot. 

 

Strengths and Weaknesses of making your own children,s clothing:

 

Time. Unless you have the time to sit down, order fabric, measure, cut and make, its quite difficult to keep up with your growing child's needs. I've made over 800 children's skirts and even at my speed, it takes 30 minutes per skirt. Even simple dresses can take well over an hour. However, if you enjoy it and feel your creative juices flowing, then pencil this in as a fun activity and set aside a few hours a week.

 

Expense. It can be expensive to get started, or at least feel that way. You may be tempted by a pricey does-all sewing machine, but even the simplest £99 ones can buttonhole, serge seams and usually have a few decorative settings too. Sewing patterns start at around £5-10 each as well, but you can pick up some great designs cheaper at your local charity shop (just remember to check all the sheets are there!) 

 

Sizing. The trickiest part of sewing is sizing, so there may be a little bit of trial and error to begin with - which is why elasticated waistbands and stretchy fabrics are really useful.  Wait until you feel confident with a pattern before using expensive fabric's, start out with some scrap instead like an old bed-sheet. Its important to remember: Measure twice, cut once.

Tackling waste!

We all know that throw-away fast fashion is unsustainable, which is why we advocate paying that little more for quality that will last. Can that skirt be cut into a child's dress? Those buttons saved for a future project? Those pockets turned into patches? Getting creative with clothes isn't just good for the planet, it is also good for the soul. 

Keep a scrap pile and fill your sewing box with old zips and buttons, but you can also donate any unwanted fabrics to The Linus Project, who make quilts for children who are unwell in hospital. Check out their website for your local group.

Get online!

Pinterest is filled for sewing and knitting inspiration with links to free projects and pattern downloads. Social media is good for finding local and online sewing groups who share tips and pictures of how patterns have turned out.

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Our top

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Its worth investing in an "ultimate" guide that covers everything from the start, from types of fabrics to basic stitches.

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Illustrative basic guide on clothing repairs, quick fixes and mending tears .

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Colourful and fun from whimsical childrenswear brand, Wild Things, includes dresses, dungarees and jackets.

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One of my favourite sewing books with patterns & easy instructions. Buy second-hand below.

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Great for beginners, with plenty of small craft projects to get you started

handmade-animal-dolls-melissa-lowry-9781

Why stop there? Try your hand at making soft toys and dolls too!

how-to-be-a-craftivist-the-art-of-gentle

A must have for any budding Craftivist, your work could start a revolution...

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For cool and easy to follow Sewing Patterns check out Oliver and S who have designs from beginner up+ available on instant download.