In January I bought myself a sewing machine as a combined Christmas and 'well done for having a baby' present. My initial idea was to use it to make all of the curtains for our new house (and I have, plus a sofa cover) but sewing in straight lines gets boring quickly so I made a costume for my daughter's school, then a pair of trousers for my son, then some toys and a door hanger for each child, by which point I realised I was addicted. I have lots of patterns but I was looking for inspiration in the library when I came across this book.
Making Children's Clothes is aimed at beginners/advanced beginners who want to make simple clothes for their children. The book contains 25 sets of instructions and then the patterns themselves on full-sized pattern sheets folded up at the back of the book. Its all presented in a very modern/trendy style which is very different from most sewing books which are full of 1980's monstrosities. The patterns range from newborn to five year olds and include dresses, tops, skirts, trousers and accessories such as aprons and hairbands. As my youngest is 11 months and my daughter is 5 I was hopeful that I could find something for both of them in this book.
The first thing I noticed is how girl-centric the style and patterns are. I suppose they are appealing to their most likely market; mothers of girls wanting to make their daughters look pretty. There are lots of photos in pastel shades and the few boys who make it into the book look vaguely embarrassed. There are some patterns for boys; trousers and a shirt, plus a few unisex patterns such as the kimono pajamas and dressing gown, but they are oddly frou-frou, old-fashioned or impractical. The kimono pajamas for example have a button and a bow to close them at the front and look very impractical for those children who like to sleep on their front. The shirt has a very odd collar (sort of scooped and curved) and I spent at least ten minutes looking at it, trying to decide if there was any material that could use that would make it look a little less Victorian. The dressing gown is cotton and looks very nice, but I lean towards big fluffy dressing gowns and it would just look nice hanging on the back of the door until he grew out of it. I have a million trouser patterns already so it was clear quickly that this book was not one I would be buying.
So what about the girl patterns, are they worth making? The pictures aren't particularly encouraging, the clothes seem to sit oddly on the models and are obviously amateurish, which is of course fine if that is what you are going for. The party dress has been photographed in such a way that it looks like it at least two sizes too big for the model and the summer dress has been photographed from the side which makes the armholes seem huge. The Petal top drowns the model in fabric and is unflattering to boot. The baby bloomers were just plain ugly no matter how they were photographed, 1980's fabric and oodles of dated trimmings. The corduroy skirt is nice, the pinafore dress and so is the gypsy skirt, but they are the only things I think I would have made had I got this book before. A relative is having a little girl in November and I was eager to see what I could make but came up only with the baby bootees and a knit hat. The hat is sweet but the instructions fail to mention that the fabric suggested is hard to cut and sew, which might lead to a failed project for the newer sewer (I have many such failed knit projects). The pattern sheets are clear and made of sturdy paper so you can unfold them repeatedly, but it would have been nice to have proper instructions on how to lay out the traced paper pattern on the fabric, on the instruction pages. If you buy a commercial pattern this is included on the instruction sheet and is important as it speeds up the cutting process, minimises waste and helps you keep any print running in the same direction. And while it gives an explanation of some sewing terms in the glossary, a beginner sewer relying solely on this book may be confused by some of the terms included that aren't explained, such as 'press seams open'. Some techniques are explained, such as smocking, but quite simplistically and without the level of clear detail that you need as a beginner.
I spend a lot of time on the craft blogs and sewing sites and most of these patterns are out there already for free. I have hundreds saved, enough to make a slightly different outfit for my daughter for every day of the week if I wish. If I want to know a technique I turn to the internet and YouTube where I can watch it being done again and again. Commercial patterns have a wider age range e.g. from 3-8 years rather than 2 to 5 years (as it is in this book) and offer more detailed and helpful instructions. The book is very pastelly and in an aspirational yummy mummy style which totally rubbed me up the wrong way. I felt a little patronised in a soft focus way, as though I was supposed to bake lots of pretty cupcakes and make lots of bunting and aprons before picking Farquar/Jacinta/Amazonia up from the Montesorri nursery to take tea at Yo Sushi (irrational I know, but I havent slept properly in 11 months thanks to my amazing non-sleepy baby). I prefer a more direct and practical approach and this fluffy book doesnt have it.