Published on March 11th, 2016 | by Julie Finn3
Sewing for Tweens: The Chambray Dress from Handmade Style
Sewing for little kids is easy, and that’s fortunate, because that’s the time when a lot of people first get interested in sewing. Projects go quickly when they’re made for tiny people, and kids are built like such straight little noodles that patterns are simple. The fit on little kids is also forgiving, so even newbie sewers have a satisfying experience.
Sewing for big kids, however? It’s a whole new pastime, and it isn’t necessarily for the beginner, nor the faint of heart. Big kids are picky, and they’re fickle; you can’t just toss together some mismatched pieces from your stash and rely on a big kid to wear it. Big kid projects are also bigger–gone are the days when you can make a kid an entire outfit from a single dress shirt.
The most challenging aspect, however, is that a big kid is no longer a straight little noodle. They’ve got hips and busts, biceps and thighs, and they no longer always welcome the ubiquitous elastic waistband that makes fitting a little kid easy.
This Chambray Dress from Handmade Style (which I checked out from the library, pattern pieces and all–woot!), by Anna Graham, is my first legitimately big-kid sewing project. Mind you, I’ve sewn plenty for my tween, but it’s all been T-shirts and comfy shorts and the slouchy jammy-style pants that she loves above all else. She’s not the clothes horse that her younger sister is, so I admit that I’ve been spending most of my sewing time making the more elaborate garments for that mostly-noodly nine-year-old.
Fortunately, this Chambray Dress turned out to be a great project to sew for a tween. Other than the darts, the majority of the shaping that a tween garment needs is achieved with the side seams. This makes the dress actually pretty simple to sew, and the simplicity itself is also a bonus–tweens aren’t really into ruffles and ruches and mitchy-matchy pieced fabrics of the kind that you can get away with for a little kid.
With my tween, I am just about no longer able to sew her something from my stash. I used to buy fabrics that I love in two-yard increments, but this dress pattern calls for almost three, meaning that the blue pegasus fabric that I had my heart set on was a no-go–bummer! Fortunately, I had this red print as a souvenir from my MIL’s trip to Hawaii, and the kiddo agreed that even though it has flowers on it, she’ll wear it. It paired well with a solid black blend that I got who knows where, and although I could have fancied the sleeves and bottom hem up with the same kind of contrasting bias tape that the neckline uses, I LOATHE making bias tape and so opted out. I also deleted the cuffs that the dress calls for, and I think that the plain sleeves look just as nice.
Fit is so important for a tween, not just because they’ve got curves now, but also because they grow so quickly! My tween still grows almost an inch a month just in height, and she always, ALWAYS needs new pants. I wouldn’t dream of sewing her something that fit correctly right now, because I can guarantee that in two weeks, it would no longer fit. But at the same time, tweens can’t pull off being swallowed by their clothes, either. This Chambray Dress is also a good choice in that regard, since the shaped side seams give it a nice drape even when it’s sized to be roomy, and the envelope sleeves are a great way to avoid having to use a zipper or snap enclosure. Can I just say that I LOVE envelope sleeves?!? I have never before seen them on any piece of clothing meant for anybody over the age of two, and now I want every single piece of clothing that I make to have them. They’re brilliant. Sewing them is easier than setting sleeves the traditional way, and they look nicer, too.
The Chambray Dress is an adult pattern, of course, but based on my tween’s measurements, I made her the medium, and it works, although she’s a little on the short side for it. I’m pleased, though, because this means that I can sew this same pattern for the kid at least a couple more times before she outgrows it. Maybe I’ll even buy another yard of that pegasus fabric and make my dream come true!