The Chinese Spring Festival celebrates the beginning of a new year according to the traditional Chinese calendar. This year became the Year of the Tiger on February 1st, and my son was ready for it with an outfit made by me! He thoroughly enjoys the fabric store as much as I do (I’m so lucky) so on one such visit he picked out this tiger striped micro-suede fabric from the remnant section asking me to make something of it. I obliged him by choosing to sew the tiger print into crazy pants. That wasn’t going to be enough to keep him cozy since he is easily cold in winter, so I turned a knit remnant from on hand into a turtleneck. Now he has a full mom-made outfit! I love enabling his personal style. He is as intrepid as a tiger here, ready to make his presence known with some admirable confidence in a roaring bold look
FABRIC: just over 1 yard of polyester micro-suede for the pants, and 1 yard of an all-cotton interlock for the top (leftover from this project, posted here)
PATTERNS: both are Burda Style patterns – “Rollneck Top for Boys” #132 from October 2020 and then “Trousers for Boys” #129 from August 2019
NOTIONS NEEDED: lots of thread and just enough elastic for my son’s waist
TIME TO COMPLETE: not long at all – it took me 3 hours to sew each piece and they were both finished February 2, 2021
THE INSIDES: left raw, as neither fabric really frays much, but I did zig-zag stitch over the micro-suede “just in case”
TOTAL COST: The microsuede was a discount remnant for about $7 and the knit and elastic piece were remnants on hand so I’m counting them as free
It is a convenient fact that my son’s school ‘family group’ color is orange for when they have school wide events and divide up into ‘teams’ to compete in a trivia match or athletic race. Now, for such events, these wild and obnoxious but totally individualistic trousers are just the thing he can appropriately wear! In fact, I took it a step further and dyed one of his surplus plain white school polo shirts to be a matching toned, solid, bright orange. Of all things, I actually happened to have a bottle of tangerine liquid RIT dye on hand, so it was too easy of a fun ‘refashion’ to pass up. Most importantly, though, my son was totally ecstatic over the crazy idea, so much so that we even threw in a pair of plain white socks into the dye bath pot on the stove! Yes, we were literally ‘cooking’ up some fun that night. I’m proud to see he takes after me, it seems – my son is also assertive in being himself and letting his fashion choices reflect that, even if it means not being “the norm”. After all, he is not far off to think that the best stuff to wear is handmade by mom, anyways!
I simplified the pants and streamlined their construction since this was just a crazy fabric that was going to be for him to wear for fun and play…nothing nice to be worn at church. The waist was given full elastic waist around rather than the called-for partial elastic with mostly drawstring fitting. He is too skinny for drawstring waists, I have found out from some ready-to-wear items. Taking it a step further, the front fly is here just for show too, a faux detail and non-working. These are just pull-on pants, pretty similar to the waists of pajamas. I was not in the mood to do a full fly with a fiddly, tiny, 5 inch zipper – especially not for play pants, as I have said. Besides, my son was watching the entire pattern tracing and construction process, as well as helping me along the way, so I wanted to make this project appear easy to him. It would be intimidating (no doubt) from his perspective to see how a zipper fly goes in, but I know it also would have made him think I can work miracles at my sewing machine. More on this topic later down in my post!
Nice pockets are a must for me, but especially so for my son. This is why this Burda pants pattern was fantastic…four roomy pockets! I love how the front inset pocket flows right into the back booty’s applied patch pocket, connecting together at the side seams (see picture at right). It is little well thought out touches like this that I appreciate in menswear (whether for big or small boys). There is not much exciting that can be done with the overall general seam lines for most masculine clothing, so it all comes down to how the small stuff is refined. All he cares about is if he has room for lots of nose tissues, rocks, food snacks, pencils, and all the other oddities that he loves to stash in his pockets. It was a win-win for both of us.
I lengthened all the hems of both items by several inches to accommodate his fast rate of growing. This is why you see the pants roll cuffed and the top’s sleeves pushed up his arms. In sewing, catering what is made to the body it is intended for is presented with an extra challenge when it comes to kids. My son grows so darn fast! At least I know he always only gets longer in the limbs and taller in his height, but never really fills out. Thus I can fit his waist and torso as it is, but only have to add an extra 2 something inches in length so as to give him an extra 9 to 12 months of wear. Custom garment sewing really pays off when I sew for him, because what I make gets worn for a longer period of time than my son’s store bought items. This vintage jacket I made for him (posted here) was able to be worn for three years because I thought ahead and added length. Yay for my mom brain, which thinks ahead!
The turtleneck was super simple and much appreciated by both of us. I love the fact there is a pattern for this because I rarely see kid’s turtlenecks for sale – he loves them because he is so easily cold but having something snuggled around his neck keeps him happily cozy. There were only 4 pattern pieces for the win, too. I triple stitched everything in a tighter zig-zag stitch than I normally use because this is for him…and if you’ve ever seen the way he plays, moves, and can be rough on his clothes, you’d understand. Cotton knit does not have as much of a rebound or return in its stretch as a polyester nit does. Yet, it is lofty, thicker, and more breathable than a poly…thus perfect for a turtleneck. It was the perfect way to use up something long hoarded. Hubby can’t believe the remnants I save, but no matter how small, they really do always become worthwhile. My son’s top was made from what was left of a project of mine back from 2013, but at least it was a full yard!
My son was totally invested in curating this outfit and I was so happy he wanted to be included in the making of it, even if he was not the one sewing. He is determined in the desire to learn to sew and make things for himself, yet even with something simple I make he is blown away with “how cool” (as he says) it all is. My one time comparison of working the machine foot pedal to a car’s gas pedal is something incredibly appealing enough alone for him. I don’t think he has a bigger view of the whole process yet, or sees exactly how what gets done at the pattern stage relates to what the finished piece will look like, but that will come. Crafting clothes really is much easier to achieve than it looks in the end, I tell him, and I think how quickly the pants came together really made an impression. From a fabric roll he picked out at the store to something he can wear, the whole thing took one afternoon and he was ecstatic. To him, this is much more complex than the pillowcase bags or hair scrunchies the girls in his school classroom show off to him from their sewing classes. It’s weird that after teaching sewing for hire to a bunch of stranger’s kids over years, I suppose I will now have to share my sewing class lessons with my own son in the future!
This project was incredibly easy and fun. A good part is due to the fact that it is really satisfying to make something special for my boy but I also enjoy working with Burda Style kid’s patterns. Burda patterns also seem to not be as wide and short proportioned as other kid’s patterns, even vintage ones, which is good for my tall and lanky son. They turn out well for him and are much more available (and appealing) than any of the paltry offerings “the Big 4” pattern companies offer for kids. I love the details and the accurate sizing to Burda’s children’s patterns, as well as the fact they fairly cater to both boys and girls with what offerings are in most magazine editions.
Why can’t a home seamstress have the tools needed to make interesting boys’ clothes, too? Why is it assumed that boys are not either recipients or participants in home sewing realm? All the kids patterns offered from most companies are primarily for girls, it seems, and little men only get patterns so basic (i.e. pajama pants) that buying anything better than loungewear from a store is a more attractive option. I want to make my son fashion apparel, something that has a good cut as well as something that is unique enough to warrant its making, and I do not want to pay for a design that looks so basic and unimaginative I might as well draft it myself. Offer something better or more unique than ready-to-wear, and a pattern company would have an appealing edge that would attract me and others in my position, I am sure.
Men desperately need to bring a sense of style back into mode, and what better way to do that than to start ‘em off on the right foot than when they are young. Sewing pattern companies need to realize this and start offering interesting boys patterns, too, because sewing is not just women’s work and cute dresses are not the only thing worth sewing for all moms out there. Maybe boys will even want to sew their own clothes if there are better pattern designs? Home Economics is generally catered to girls, but I say that needs to change. If they learn how to sew, maybe those boys will be capable of taking care of their own wardrobe as they grow into adulthood, and (if anything) be able to darn their own socks, patch tears, and attach buttons just the same as any woman. After all, sustainability is for everyone, and taking take of what you have is the responsible thing to do, not restricted to ladies only because it is sewing related. Just the fact sewing is very math oriented is enough to appeal to my son, besides the fact he wants to be like mom. My rant is not done, but over for now. Nevertheless, I truly think my son’s outfit is a good opportunity to recognize the gaps in the tools available to the home sewing community and see the progress in introducing boys (or men) to sewing that needs to happen. Let men and boys be as creative and assertive in the sewing realm as women. I’d love to see it!