Sunday, July 25, 2010

More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Leggings

Alice won't wear any type of pants besides leggings. Ever. I bought her exactly one pair of leggings in the time I've been sewing for her. They got a hole right at a seam within an hour the first time she wore them. As I sat cursing while repairing them, I decided that I would never buy leggings again. And I haven't. Having made her leggings for 4 years now, I've got things down to a science and thought I'd share.

1. The leggings are always solid colors. I also try to coordinate things so that she can match at least 2 different colors of leggings with each dress. This past year her leggings wound up being orange, lime green, pink, and yellow. She also had blue, purple and lilac left from the previous year. Next year she's going to require a bunch of new clothes due to a growth spurt. This year will be pink, orange, brown, green, and turquoise. We've also got one of each legging left over from this year.

2. If I cut extremely carefully I can get 2 pairs of leggings from a yard of fabric. This year that required cutting the first pair with a double thickness of fabric and then cutting the second pair one leg at a time. Next year I think I'll have to get more than a yard to make two pairs. (She'll be in 2nd grade next year to give you an idea of sizing...) Ottobre 4/04 has my favorite leggings pattern. It's sized from baby through big kid and dips in the front. Very flattering and comfortable. I always cut them on the long side to allow for growth during the year and to try to eek out a 2nd year's wear from some of them.

2-1/2. I save my scraps from the leggings in case I need to repair them. This year Alice ripped the knee on one pair and I rescued them by sewing a heart-shaped patch over the hole. They became her very favorite pair to wear.

3. In April I stop being very concerned about treating the knees of the leggings for stains. When it starts getting warm out I cut a few pairs off for bike shorts. When it REALLY gets warm out (May!) I go through, set aside the pair in each color that has worn the best and cut the rest off into bike shorts for the summer. This allows for cold weather in the summer as well as expanding her color choices for the next year. It also buys me time if I don't get the new set of leggings done in time for fall weather.

4. I cut the shorts long. This way it is possible to get more than one year's worth of wear out of them. She has a few this summer that she's been wearing since she was three. She'll be 6 this summer.

I tend to make a ton of pairs of leggings at a time. This year I've got 12 pairs cut out. I make them assembly style.

Here is a big pile o' leggings that I've chain serged the leg seams:

Here are two pairs all finished:
Alice doing modern dance. Notice the top. This was a product of a nice long sewing weekend with a friend. Her little girl has a matching top. This top is so darling I've changed my mind about making dresses from jersey in favor of more tunic tops.

12 pairs of leggings cost me roughly $35 in materials or $2.91 each. Granted, two pairs were free fabric, but even if I bought that fabric @ $6 / yd it only brings the total to $3.41 a piece. Not bad.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Function and Style

Today I'm going to talk about the last two elements in wardrobe planning: function and style.

Function = What does she need? What will she be doing in her clothes? Does she need something for church? Will she be running around in gym class in these clothes? Does she need something for a special occasion? What will the weather be like when she's wearing these clothes? How long do I need this outfit to last / fit?

For now I'm focusing on cool weather school clothes. We've scored some great deals on gently worn second-hand dresses that are more appropriate for church than everyday, so that is one wardrobe category where Alice is set, at least until it gets really cold.

Once I figure out function I start hunting through my patterns to figure out the specific styles I want to sew. When I see something I like, I sketch it in my idea book along with pattern details. I'll also mark which fabrics I might like to use. Here are my design pages:

As you can see, it's nearly all dresses and tunics. This is the first year I'm planning to make tops with sleeves. I've stuck with jumpers or tunic length jumpers in the past because that way Alice is able to get optimal wear out of her clothes. She wears them sleeveless in the summer, with short sleeves in the early fall and spring, and with long sleeves in the winter. She has one jumper she's worn regularly for three years. I'm changing things up this year because I'm afraid she will decide that that type of outfit is babyish. I'm trying to keep a step in front of her to keep her happy in her hand made clothes.

When I make clothes in mass quantity I like to stick with a few basic patterns. If you think about it, this is probably how you'd shop if you were buying clothes anyway. Or, at least, you probably wouldn't automatically reject something because you already have a similar cut in a different fabric. Sticking with a few basic styles keeps the process manageable. Details and trim can always be changed.

Don't feel like you have follow your plan to the letter. You can see that I had decided to make a bunch of long sleeved knit dresses. Then I got together with a friend who was in the planning process of her little girl's fall wardrobe. Over the course of a long weekend we made our girls matching long sleeved knit tunic tops that are so incredibly cute that I'm re-thinking the dresses.

Next time we start sewing!!!!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fabric, fabric, and fabric!

There are several factors that go into planning a wardrobe for a child (or anyone, really.)

* Type of clothing
* Type of fabric
* Color
* Print
* Function
* Specific Style

In the first four categories, I strongly suggest you go with your child's preferences. That little sailor dress might be so precious it makes your teeth hurt, but if your child hates dresses, or thinks its babyish, it is a waste of your sewing time.

I also cautiously suggest you consider current fashion when wardrobe planning. Generally, the clothes that are out there for the elementary set make me ill. I could go on about how sick it is that society insists on sexualizing our young girls through "fashion" but I won't. You need to know what's out there, though, because that is what your child's peers will be wearing.

I figure out type of clothing first. Alice prefers leggings and dresses. Tunic tops are also fine. Jeans are not. Jeans precipitate a screaming, crying fit. They hurt her ears. (I don't exactly understand either.) I don't let her wear teeshirts with leggings because I don't think it's modest, so regular length tees are out too unless they are going under a jumper. Then I figure out what she needs so we don't wind up with 22 dresses and 3 pairs of leggings. This year that part is easy because she needs everything, lol.

Next I figure out my fabrics, colors and prints. Following the Gymboree model, I try to pick things that have commonalities. Here are the prints I've chosen for this year:
Wovens are on the left, knits on the right. These will all be made into tops or dresses. I *may* make her one pair of woven pants.
We'll see.

Then I pick colors for leggings. My rule is that each print MUST match at least two colors of leggings and each color of legging must match at least two prints. The more the better. Here are the colors I've chosen for leggings:
I generally stick to solids for leggings. The green / white polka dot was free (I won it for having a sewing disaster!) and I think it's neutral enough to work.

Here are the fabrics they match:
Brown leggings

Pink leggings

Aqua leggings

Green / white polka dot leggings

Orange leggings. They only match two things right now, but this is U of Tennessee Vol country and people bleed orange here. During football season the kids are encouraged to wear orange every Friday. No beating it, so why fight it? Besides, orange leggings are surprisingly versatile (who would have thought?!). These will also go with the few dresses she still has in her closet and any Halloween dress I make.

Now the fun begins! I get to decide what styles to make! To make this easier (and portable) I glued one inch square swatches of each fabric onto a piece of paper. This is totally optional, but it makes the planning process portable rather than tied to your sewing area.

Tomorrow I'll show you what I've got planned....

Wardrobe Planning

When Alice was born I fell in love with Gymboree. She was too tall for normal preemie clothes and too scrawny even for the newborn clothes I shrunk. Gymboree preemie clothes fit her perfectly. Actually, Gymboree is the only line of clothing that has consistently fit Alice well.

Alas, we can't afford to dress her in Gymboree 24/7, and, besides, what fun is that anyway? Why dress her in cute outfits that a bazillion other little girls have when we can sew our own for a fraction of the cost?

Alice has been wearing a 90% home-sewn wardrobe since she was about 3. I've learned a lot about wardrobe planning along the way. At first I didn't plan at all, which resulted in Alice dressing herself in outfits such as a red striped shirt under a purple jumper with orange leggings. It also resulted in too many stressful mornings of not being able to find a single pair of clean leggings that matched any clean top.

Last year I took a page from Gymboree. Everything within a Gymboree line is mix and match. If you stick in the same line it's difficult to make a mistake getting dressed. Simple idea, but it was a revelation to me. Mornings were much, much easier last year. I didn't fret about laundry and Alice was easily able to put together outfits that didn't blind people.

This year my task is daunting. Alice has been wearing a lot of her dresses for three years. She has finally outgrown most of them, and the ones she hasn't outgrown are showing their wear. This year I need to make her more clothes than I've ever made her at one time.

Tomorrow I'll show you how I plan...