I firmly believe that it’s worth the trouble of making clothes for your children. Not a lot – not a wardrobe full – but just a couple of things they’ve helped design. They’ll wear them over and over again until they are falling apart and it’s you, not them, who insists they must go into the scrap pile. Just make a couple of things and they’ll have enough to wear all season long. Listen carefully and you’ll hear them telling total strangers that they chose this or that feature, or why they went for that fabric, or which bits they helped stitch. Try it and you’ll see what I mean. They walk a little bit taller.
I also think that simple shapes are the way forward: dresses made with a simple bodice and wide, pleated skirt. Bits that you can tie or roll, for comfort and ease of play. A lack of fuss, really. And when you find a design they like, make it their signature. There’s nothing as comfortable as feeling like you in the clothes you wear.
Seb’s shirt is an exact replica of his favourite shirt of all time: the naval flag shirt he wore and wore until his belly button was showing from under the bottom hem. It couldn’t be simpler to put together. As always, I used Winifred Aldrich’s pattern cutting books (the one for children and baby wear, this time), and stuck with the very simple ‘flat body and shirt block’ on pages 40-41. I made some little tabs with button holes in them to sew to the inside of the sleeves at elbow height, and with a button on the outside he’s able to roll them up and out of the way when he wants to.
Start by adding a simple placket to the front of the shirt (this is an excellent tutorial) and then, having joined the shoulder seams, make a simple standing collar to fit. Mine are always one inch high and stiffened with a bit of interfacing. Hem the sleeves, and add the tabs if you haven’t done so yet. Then sew the finished sleeves into place, join the side seams and hem the bottom. I use french seams throughout for a neat finish and no tickly dangly threads. Hand it over to your happy child (girls would look great in these too) and watch them wear them all summer long, under jumpers at first and then over their bathers as they build sandcastles and leap over incoming waves.