Top 10 tried and tested *free* kid clothes sewing tutorials

top 10 for tuesday - tutorials

This time next week I, along with many other sewists, will be madly sewing children’s clothing as part of Kid’s Clothes Week.  For those of you who don’t know, KCW is a quarterly sewing challenge organised by Meg of the blog Elsie Marley.  The challenge is to sew for at least one hour a day for a week and see how many awesome clothes you can knock out!  It’s great fun and you really feel like you’re part of a community while sewing.

For this week’s Top Ten I thought I’d share some of my favourite free sewing tutorials for kids and hopefully inspire you to get sewing along with everyone else during KCW.  If these don’t get your juices flowing then grab a cup of tea, sit down and head over to the KCW Pinterest boards…you’re gonna be there awhile.

There are so many sewing tutorials out there that sometimes it’s hard to decide which ones are worth the effort.  All of these I have made and can vouch for the fact that they are clear, well-explained and actually work!  Go on, choose a couple and get some of your pics up on the KCW flickr group!

10.  Oliver+s bow hair ties

These are down at number 10 because, I know, technically they’re not clothing…but…if you sew, and you have a girl, and you have scraps of fabric then you simply must make some of these.  They take about one minute per hair tie, you can match them with everything, they’re great gifts and they just look super cute (and I’m not a hair accessory kind of gal!).

You can get the free pattern here.  Even though this is the most simple thing you could possibly sew, Liesl still writes the pattern impeccably, making it virtually impossible to make a mistake!
oliver+s bow hair tie (wearing)

And, of course, you couldn’t possibly stop at just one…oliver+s bow hair ties (2)

9.  Snap wrap dress

This is a dress tutorial from the ladies over at Prudent Baby.  I made this out of the lightest weight cotton I’ve ever seen.  It’s definitely one for sultry summer days.

When I made this I was a bit sceptical about whether or not I’d like that cross-over bodice.  For some reason it seemed too grown-up…does that sound prudish?!  But I actually ended up liking it.  This one is a quickie to sew up (especially if your fabric isn’t quite as light and floaty as mine was) so you could easily get this done in one afternoon.

The only reason that this dress is not higher on the list is that with only two snaps holding the whole ensemble together, my daughter has a habit of just pulling the whole thing open and walking around like that…perhaps your daughter will have more discretion.

You can find the tutorial and all the details here.

Dress made in July 2011…

snap wrap dress (1)

…and still fits (just about!) in 2013!

snap wrap dress (2)

8.  Two t-shirt nightgown

This is a great upcycling project.  Two large t-shirts, a bit of ribbing et voila!, a new nightdress! This one I made for a cooler months….but short-sleeves would be just as easy (and would use less fabric).

Two t-shirt nightgown - completed

The tutorial is from Kristin over at Skirt as Top and you can find it here.  Even though I have some issues sewing with knits without a serger (see this post), I found this tutorial easy to follow and quite satisfying.  Kristin also explains how to stamp your fabric for a cool effect, if you only have boring grey or black t-shirts to work with!  Great idea!!

If you don’t want to use jersey fabric, you can always use an old pillowcase or some quilting cotton and follow this tutorial to make a sweet nightdress.  This tutorial isn’t quite as detailed but you’ll get there in the end!  If you’ve made a geranium dress then you’ll be familiar with the process.

7.  Boys’ bias tape tunic

Given my love of bias tape, I was naturally drawn to this tutorial.  I made it for a wedding and it was the perfect balance of smart, yet comfortable.  This the first tutorial Mary from This is Marzipan wrote and it’s a good one!  The neck is wide enough to go over the head so no closures are needed (be careful not to make it too wide).

The only change I made was adding bias to the sleeves in addition to the neckline.  I also particularly liked the little vents on the side (which you can’t see in these pictures).

Be aware that you have to draft your own shirt pattern from an existing shirt.  Don’t worry – it’s not scary and she talks you through it really well.

6.  Oliver + s bucket hat

This is the ultimate go-to summer hat for kids.  It sews up quickly and, as you’d expect from Liesl, the instructions are perfectly clear.  I swear, Oliver + s patterns allow you to sew things you never thought you could because they are written so well.

I can’t believe I don’t have a photo of these hats!  I’ve been scrolling through my flickr stream and somehow I have neglected to photograph them.  You’ll just have to take my word that they are cool-looking, fit well and are easy to make…and free, of course!  Go here to give it a go.  Oh, and did I mention that the hat is reversible!?  That’s right, it’s like a two-for-one.

Photo from Oliver + S Little Things to Sew

5.  Jack and Jill skirt

I made this skirt for last Spring’s KCW and boy has it been a success.  It is still being worn (and still fits!) so I think we’ll get another summer out of this.  The tutorial is from Liesel of Brown Paper Packages and can be found here.

Just two things to note with this tutorial:

  • The instructions tell you to use elastic thread to make the gathers in the tulle.  My sewing machine and I have had many a falling out over elastic thread (and everything I’ve read leads me to believe that it’s not possible to use elastic thread on a Brother machine) so I changed this step.  Instead I just sewed normal gathering stitches (on a high tension setting) and gathered them myself.  This worked fine so don’t be freaked out by having to use elastic thread. (And if anyone has any tips on how to get elastic thread to work in the bobbin of a Brother machine then please speak up!).
  • Once the skirt was made my daughter complained that the tulle was scratchy against her legs.  This never stopped her wearing it and she doesn’t mention it anymore but if I made this again I would try to find a way to make it smoother underneath.

You can read more about attaching a ribbing waistband here.

4.  Circle skirt

This is by far and away the quickest skirt to knock up.  In fact I made this one in 20 minutes flat (not counting working out the pattern and doing the cutting).  Dana gives a super tutorial for figuring out your circle dimensions.  Once the circle is cut, it’s literally a matter of attaching a waistband!

flower circle skirt hanging

You can use varying thicknesses of elastic (I like the neon touch here), play around with the lengths, and you know you’ll be loved forever because what little girl doesn’t love a good twirl!  And look….
circle skirt open

…it really is a circle.

A few notes:

  • To make it even quicker, don’t bother hemming it – just go over the edge with you over-casting foot (look here for an explanation) or a serger.
  • Gifts!  These make great little girl gifts!  A circle skirt with a matching bow hair tie – everyone will think you’re soooo clever (but really you can do it all in under an hour!!).
  • Since the fabric is cut in a circle, if you have one-direction print (Iike I did) then in some places it will but sideways or upside down.  This doesn’t bother me, but if you are particular in that way then choose something that looks great from all angles.
  • If you want to get really fancy have a look at this – a circle skirt made into the most fabulous dress.  Stunning.
  • And, if you want to try a circle skirt in knit (which I will do once I finally get a serger), then go Figgy’s free e-pattern here.

3.  Shorts

We can’t have summer without shorts, right?!  Without wanting to fill this list up with Dana Made It and Oliver + s patterns (although it is tempting), I do think Dana’s shorts tutorials are the best.

Dana talks you through each step of drafting the pattern and then how to assemble the pieces.  The best thing about these is that they’re infinitely adaptable.  They’ll work for boys and girls and can just be thrown on before rushing out the door!

red linen shorts with star

These shorts are now on child number 3 – and still going strong…

This year I’m determined to make more shorts for my daughter (instead of just skirts and dresses) so I’m on the look-out for a good tutorial for scalloped-edged shorts that I could incorporate with this pattern.  I also want to try Meg (elsie marley) ‘s knotted shorts tutorial.  Anyone tried that yet?

I’ve also come across this tutorial from Saltwater Kids for turning a man’s shirt into shorts.  I haven’t tried this one yet but it looks pretty perfect (I have three sacs…not bags, sacs…of men’s checked shirts so I have a feeling I’ll be using this soon).

2.  Solar dress

This is one of the first dress tutorials I used when I first started sewing.  Even with my very limited skills I was able to knock up a dress in an afternoon.  This is one for very hot weather – when you hardly want to wear anything at all.

The tutorial is a bit rough and ready but stick with it – it’s well thought out and it works!  I haven’t made this in a while – looking at these photos, I’m even inspiring myself.  I’ll be making a couple more of these this summer!

For the full tutorial and pattern hop on over to Indietutes…and while you’re there read this post on finding your passion (or your passion finding you).  I just came across it and it feels very appropriate for me this morning.

1.  Flashback skinny tee

So, here we are at number one!  First disclaimer – this pattern is NOT free!!  I know, I’m sorry, but I couldn’t not include it…and it’s only $10….and you’ll use it endlessly…and you can even search for different variations of turning it into a dress, a nightgown, a bathing suit cover-up, you name it.   Even without a serger, this is $10 well spent!

Rae of made-by-rae has really spent the time to get the fit just right so that it’s cool and skinny but without being skin-tight.  It comes in two sizes; 12 months – 5 T and 6 T – 14 T.  It’s $10 per pattern or $16 for both sizes.  Check it out here!

The pictures here are not great, I admit.  I guess it’s one of those things that’s such a staple item I don’t think of photographing it.

I’ve just (as in a few minutes ago) finished upcycling a shirt for this version.  I can’t decide if i should just hem the sleeves or add the black/red ribbing around the edges.  Thoughts?!

flashback skinny tee - vikings

Hot off the sewing machine – upcycle of a men’s xl t-shirt…sleeves still need hemming.

My mission is to not buy any t-shirts for my kids this summer and see if I can get away with making different variations of these instead.

For lots more inspiration on t-shirts, go to the Flashback skinny tee flickr group.

And, if you really don’t want to spend that $10 then there’s a free decent tutorial here which will walk you through the steps of upcycling old t-shirts into new, trendy ones!  It has raglan sleeves but otherwise it’s a similar process to the flashback.


So, that’s everything nicely tied up!  I hope you feel inspired to get involved in KCW this Spring. It runs from 22 – 29 April 2013 and it’s gonna be great!!  Later in the week I’ll be posting my sewing plans for the challenge…

oliver+s bow hair tie (1)

Thanks for reading,

Laura x

28 thoughts on “Top 10 tried and tested *free* kid clothes sewing tutorials

  1. Fiona

    What a great list! There is one or two here I haven’t seen before, which is quite exciting! I’m looking forward to participation in KCWC next week and to see what others come up with!

  2. Sash @ IndigoElephant

    I so should not have clicked through to the KCW pinterest board! There goes my night!! Thanks for the great links, I’m finally purchasing the Flashback Tee… have been umming and aahing about it for ages but with 2 boys, I definitely need it!

  3. Angelika

    Laura, you’ve read my mind!! My niece (your name sake, as it happens) is celebrating her 4th birthday next week, and I’ve been planning to make something for her, but couldn’t quite decide what. You’ve given me so many ideas now and I will start tonight! Thank you!! Angelika

  4. Ilona

    Awesome list – I wish I’d asked you before labouring away on a VERY complicated a-line dress for a one-year old!

  5. Katie

    Great list! I hadn’t seen some of these but I’m going to check then out! I love the Flashback Skinny Tee also. But for a free option, Dana has a tutorial and pattern in size 4/5 from this spring’s Celebrate the Boy series that would also be a good option.

  6. thingsforboys

    Great list! So glad you included the bucket hat…it’s a great free pattern! And you’re right about the Flashback tee. It’s such a versatile pattern. I’ve made so many of them I’ve lost count and I only have one 2.5yo.

  7. Adirondack Inspired

    Ha, I pinned this when I was only halfway through! Great list, Laura, thanks!! I think I need to make some basics (leggings and flashbacks) next week, but maybe try out Meg’s knotted shorts too!

      1. Adirondack Inspired

        Oh, no leggings are so easy! I’ve drafted pairs for both my girls, and they are great…that knit fabric keeps things forgiving, I think. I follow this tutorial ( ) and it works like a charm, although I don’t have a double needle so I just use one of the stretch stitches on my machine. I made a pair of leggings after a sewing fail the other night just to make myself feel better, actually…..ha.

  8. Lisa

    I teach private sewing lessons and i am always looking for free simple tutorials for my clients. I loved this posting. Thank you. Now I can reciprocate by helping you with the request regarding the elastic thread in a Brother machine. First, purchase a bobbin case to use only for elastic thread. Second, adjust the tension with a quarter of a turn (to adjust, you turn the screws on the case). This always works not only for me but my beginner clients as well. I hope this works for you.

      1. Lisa

        Sorry, I should have included that. If there is a local Brother dealer, contact them. If not, Amazon has it with the model numbers listed that it fits. It is on sale for $24.99.

  9. Lisa

    I have shirred using a brother machine. You have to make a manual adjustment on your bobbin case to make it work. People who do this all the time have one set just for that and change the whole case! Otherwise manual adjustments like that are tedious. It took many failures and heaps of googling to work this out. Hope this helps.


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