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Back when my grandmother was young, I would always hear the stories about how she made all her kid’s clothes. And in the 40s-60s that was quite the normal thing to be done. Nowadays, sewing has become more of a hobby instead of the self-sustaining craft it once was.
With the advent and rise of big box stores and their ability to get fabric in mass for cheap, it seems like buying your kid’s clothes is cheaper. But is it actually cheaper to buy kid’s clothes vs making them?
As a mom who sews a majority of their toddler’s clothes, the answer isn’t as simple as a yes or no. The answer depends on your circumstances and ability. I know that isn’t saying much but stay with me.
Initial Costs & Overall Upkeep
You haven’t even started the fabric buying process for making kids clothes yet and you’re already having to deal with some, at times crazy, start-up costs. The biggest one being the sewing machine.
What if you don’t want to buy a sewing machine and want to buy a serger or overlocker? What if the sewing machine you want costs upwards of $500 or more?
It seems slightly overwhelming at first, doesn’t it? If you’re like me and have family that sews, usually they’ll give you your first machine the moment you show interest in the craft.
However, if you don’t have relatives that sew you can usually find some solid deals on gently used sewing machines and overlockers/sergers on OfferUp, Facebook Marketplace, and Craigslist. Most times you can find a brand new affordable sewing machine at Amazon.com or Joann’s.
The upkeep is usually pretty low, replacing a needle here or lost bobbin there. However, if you manage to somehow destroy your machine, I’m not judging, I did it – then sometimes you’ll just have to come out of pocket the money for a replacement.
So for $300 or less, you can have a functioning sewing machine and all the little things you’ll need to maintain its upkeep. And it’ll last you for a few years, or until you feel you outgrow it and upgrade to something better.
Fabric & Patterns
Now it’s time to decide what types of kids clothes you want to make. Do you want to make leggings, joggers, and jeans only? Maybe you want to just tackle blankets, bibs, and quilts. Maybe onesies and diaper covers are your forte. Or you’re like me and want to do them all.
Whatever you choose to create, the fabric and patterns are endless, and that’s where it’s cheaper, in my opinion. You wouldn’t think so at first, and that’s how I felt at first too. That is until I bought a super cute $7.00 dress from Walmart and I saw four other little girls wearing that same dress the day she had it on.
So sure, I only spent $7.00 on a fully completed fabric item for my toddler daughter, but so did four other moms. So when you purchase from big box stores, you’re sacrificing any ounce of uniqueness as they’re mass-produced. Even if they initially appear cheaper in the long run, you’re sacrificing a lot of things that creating kid’s clothes allow.
But before I talk anything about the endless possibilities of making kids clothes, let’s address the sleeping giant in the room. Kid’s clothes prices are ridiculously inflated. In some places, a simple bedtime sleeper can run as high as $24.99 at child niche stores like Osh Kosh and Carter’s.
Is it possible you can make the same sleeper for cheaper? Yes, it is. Is it going to be as simple as getting in your car and purchasing it, or ordering it online? No, it’s not. However, you will have a lot more room and flexibility in the actual sleeper you create. The best part, the pride that comes from making something super cute for your kiddo(s).
It’s just going to take time, patience, frugality, and the willingness to learn and mess up quite a bit before you nail it.
So you may have heard many arguments in regards to sewing kid’s clothes. Some being price. Some being time and ability. And while those are all very valid reasons as to not sewing, they’re also hinderances.
Anything you do so long as there are kids in the surrounding vicinity will take longer to do. That includes sewing and clothing creation. So unless you choose to construct, sew and create while your child(ren) is asleep, sewing is going to take you a little while.
So I don’t ever count the time it takes me to make an article of kid’s clothing against the “price” I would pay if I just bought it. Mainly because I know my daughter is going to slow me down if I don’t sew when she’s asleep and secondly, I’m not going to sell the item. So my time isn’t really worth a numerical number in that regard.
If you have every intention of selling your handmade kids clothes, then most definitely, count your time into your purchase price calculation.
Alright so let’s break down some basic costs with making kids clothes. First, you’re going to need fabric. I use knit fabric for all my kid’s clothes, unless its pajamas, then I’ll use fleece or flannel or even thermal knit. And it can get really expensive really fast if you’re not careful.
I purchase my fabric from three places usually. The first is Joann’s because their print knit fabric is almost always on sale, and if it isn’t, there are coupons you can pair via their mailer or the Joann.com mobile app. However, always check the roll for the price. Sometimes that super cute knit fabric can cost $10.99 a yard, and it won’t be on sale.
Typically, Joann’s kid’s print knit fabric when on sale, can range from $4.99/yd to $7.99/yd. Most kids sewing patterns, size NB-6T, takes 1/2 yd to 1 1/2 yd per clothing creation. So on average, you’ll spend $5 to $15 on fabric for your little one(s).
So why pay more, right? Well, you can mix and match the patterned knit print with solid knit prints to make some absolutely gorgeous and uniquely one-of-a-kind raglan shirts or tied tops for your little one. The likelihood of you finding something as unique from a large store, that isn’t Etsy, is slim to none.
However, with Etsy, you’re paying for the creator’s time, cost of fabric, and shipping + tax. And most toddler raglans that aren’t plain two colors are $20 to start off with. So it seems like a pretty fair trade-off in my honest opinion.
The second place I will shop is Girl Charlee. Some of their knits are a little more expensive than Joann’s but the quality is really nice. They also have a huge selection of different printed knits. So if I’m in the market for a specific type of knit look, I’ll stop here first. I’ll usually stop by their bargain lot before exploring their knit collection. I also enjoy that no matter the amount of fabric I buy, it’s one shipping cost, $7.99 and they always run weekly deals.
The last place I will shop is Nick of Time Textiles. However, when I’m here, I’m here for a very specific fabric, and that’s usually the thicker knit types, sweater knits, fleece knits, and thermal knits, and then denim. Their denim and thicker knit fabric selection is huge and decently priced, you just have to be patient with shipping if you’re not in the local area to go pick up your fabric directly. The best part, they have free shipping on all orders over $50, and when I shop here, I will always spend a little over $50. So that’s a nice little perk.
However, since kids are kids and are tornadoes on two legs, you can usually get away with using bargain bin or super cheap fabric for their clothing. As usually it’ll get stained, holes torn in it, they’ll outgrow it and you’re not out of pocket a lot of money when you go to replace the item.
What $15 – $22 In Fabric Actually Gets You
I will usually buy 3 to 3.5 yards of fabric when I purchase as I make two to three pairs of pants and a shirt out of that, or a pair of pants and a shirt, or two shirts and a pair of pants. I have a 2T – 3T toddler, so I will use about 2/3 of a yard per shirt and 1 yd for pants. So 3 yards gets me a lot of cute clothes for a decent price. So I’m paying between $5 and $7.25 (or whatever the cost of the fabric was per yard) per kid’s handmade clothing item.
Since it’s cool where I live, some days are cold, a lot of her pants have been made out of jersey knit, which is a little thicker and holds body warmth really well. So she hasn’t complained about being cold, and yes, she’ll let me know she’s cold while thinking it’s hilarious to touch me with her cold hands.
Anyway, I digress. If you choose to purchase the exact yardage you need, and if you’re a beginner, always purchase a little bit more as you haven’t mastered cutting it yet, you will get one shirt or pant or skirt or diaper cover or whatever it is you choose to make. So keep in mind when you’re purchasing fabric, what are you making and what is your end goal. That’ll help you stay on budget and on track and you’ll avoid going overboard.
And since most patterns run on the large side of the fitting scale for size, you’ll get more than a couple months out of your handmade kid’s clothes, you’ll get more like a year to a year and a half. Which saves you money in the long run, as it’s less clothing you have to buy in the long run.
Patterns, Patterns, & More Patterns
Another expense that you may not take into consideration, I know I didn’t when I started, is patterns. Here’s the thing though, there aren’t a lot of physical packaged patterns for toddler girls across Simplicity to Burda. There’s tons of patterns for young girls, your 6T and up, but not so much for 2T-5T. And that’s where it can get difficult and sometimes expensive. So always purchase patterns with the purpose of creation at the moment, not creation at a later date.
I make just about everything for my daughter, and I only have eight patterns and dotted pattern paper that I purchased from Mood Fabrics for $34.99 in NYC. Which by the way, I HIGHLY recommend spending the extra money and getting yourself a roll. It saves your patterns and allows you to easily modify your patterns without destroying the original pattern. It also gives you the freedom to create patterns simply.
I’ve compiled a list of resources that I use, where you can purchase cute and cheap downloadable patterns for toddler girls, and these patterns go as high as teenage girls and even adults. So you’ll get a ton of use out of them over the years.
Etsy.com – Just search toddler girl sewing patterns and you’ll get a massive list of pattern creators for your sewing need.
MamaCanDoIt – Has a huge collection of onesie patterns (I bought the book and use the pattern for my soon to be born daughter). Their patterns are easy to follow, easy to sew and more than affordable. Plus they’re pretty cute.
P4P – Patterns for Pirates – Has a huge selection of any possible pattern you could want to sew. Some are free, some are paid for, but they’re simple and pretty easy to follow.
Peek-A-Boo Pattern Shop – Another pattern creator that has some super cute patterns for the entire family. They’re easy to follow and even beginner-friendly.
There are a ton more resources out there in regards to printable pattern PDFs, but these are the sites that I use whenever I’m in the market for a new pattern. I have sewn their patterns as a beginner and as a somewhat not a beginner but in reality still a beginner. So I recommend them wholeheartedly.
In The Long Run
So the question still remains. Is making kid’s clothes cheaper than buying them? And still, at least in my opinion, the answer isn’t as simple as yes or no.
For my family, making my daughter’s clothes, and even some of my sons, have given me a sense of pride that I didn’t have before. To include the fact that she always gets compliments on her little outfits. So that makes me super happy on top of the proud.
Not to mention, I don’t have to worry about any other children having the exact same shirt or pair of pants or dress that she has. Every article of clothing is created with her in mind and her growth. So because I choose to sew a size larger than she currently is, most of her shirts and pants have lasted well over a year.
So this year alone, I’ve spent about $300 on fabric for her and she has a lot of pants and shirts. Would I have spent that much if I bought in-store, I don’t know because I don’t really go shopping for her outside of shoes and some cold-weather gear, when she needs it.
Have you ever made clothes for your child(ren)? Did you find it cheaper or more expensive overall? I’d love to hear about your experience.
Some Of My Favorite & Affordable Sewing Machines
In the market for a new sewing machine? Here are some of my favorite sewing machines.
Recommended Brother Sewing Machine Presser Feet
I don’t quilt, yet, but I actually own the brother walking foot and the 48pcs Aiskaer. I still have to Google what most of the feet are for, but I do enjoy experimenting on scrap fabric. I think some of these are universal, but make sure to check with the manufacturer and your sewing machine.
Recommend Rotary Tool/Mat Set
I actually own this very set and it’s almost two years old, actually, I think it is two years old. I still use every piece of this every time I sew, and you can even see it in some of my photos.
Fiskars Rotary Sewing Cutting Set – $29.88