G’day everyone, my name is Marnie, I’m a hopeless fabric addict who loves to sew and who occasionally remembers to post things on my instagram page horrisanddeedle. I’m here today to talk about the challenging task of sewing for tweens. I have one myself and also have a handmade clothing business where I have sewn for this age group for many years. Let me just say first of all that if you don’t have a tween who is “picky” with what they wear, you should just head on over to that group of women all talking about how their baby slept through the night the first week that they were born, hit all their milestones three months early, toilet trained themselves at 12 months, never threw a tantrum, sailed through the early years of school with straight A’s, no social issues, ate all their vegetables in their lunchbox, and is next in line to receive a nobel peace prize! What I am getting at is that most tweens are choosy about what they will and won’t wear, even if they were not that picky when they were younger girls. The challenge as the person who sews for them is to work out what is and isn’t acceptable. Here are my top tips from the years I have had sewing for this age group.
6 Tips for Sewing Clothes your Tween wants to wear
It’s import to remember that tweens are still children, so when you are tackling tween sewing you will benefit from careful listening. They may not be great at verbalizing things and this does often get worse the older they get. It’s a great introduction to teenage years. Listen with your eyes and your ears. Observe what they choose to wear day in day out. Take note of what their friends wear. Listen to them when they timidly ask for a top like that one they saw in the shops, or when they politely (or not so politely) tell you that they no longer want to wear twirly dresses. Make them what they want, not what you want to make them. This is the key to a tween who is happy with what you’ve sewn them vs a frustrated one.
2. CONSIDER CREATING A CAPSULE WARDROBE
I know this one is a bit of a rabbit hole to go down, but it’s a cheat code to successful tween sewing. There are so many different opinions and “rules” as to what constitutes a capsule wardrobe – honestly keep it simple and create items that mix and match together well. That way your tween can choose their own outfit each day without criticism from you about how things don’t go together well. Love notions have so many wonderful patterns for girls that have a fantastic size range that can be sewn and worn as everyday clothes. Do a little bit of groundwork, think about the upcoming weather season you are sewing for, the observations you make when “listening” and sit down with your daughter and browse the Love Notions website. We are coming into Spring here in Australia. Spring is normally a really short season and becomes Summer quickly so clothing that can layer well is important . My daughter and I browsed the Love Notions website and came up with the following patterns, which we used to create a mini capsule wardrobe for her, and I will use that as the basis for most of my pictures in this blog post.
- Girls Boyfriend Cardigan – this is the Feature Friday pattern (on sale) this week and it is a great practical pattern that I get loads of wear out of and so does my daughter. It has different options for a hood and no hood, and can be layered over so many different outfits to create warmth when needed, including all the patterns listed below.
- Girls Classic Tee – everyone always needs more tees!
- Sloane Sweater – she loves the boxy and relaxed fit of this pattern. I have modified it to create a boxy tee in this picture.
- Tempo Sundress – my daughter no longer loves wearing dresses which I am ok with and totally understand her reasoning. This is a really common theme for tweens. She does however like to have one or two in her wardrobe for the rare moments when she wants to look fancy, or if we are going somewhere nice for dinner. The tempo sundress with its elasticated back panel and skirt that isn’t too full is perfect for her tastes.
- Summer Caye Pants – we love a good lightweight wide leg pant here and wide leg pants have been very on trend over winter on our side of the world. In a lighter fabric like rayon they are perfect for cooler Spring days. This pattern also goes all the way up to size 16 and has separate plus sizing pattern pieces so it is a great pattern to have in the collection.
3. MODIFY PATTERNS TO SUIT TASTES
This one is really important and where you put your communication skills and listening skills to the test for tween sewing. My daughter loves the boyfriend cardigan, but doesn’t love wearing hoods and also didn’t want the shawl collar. This was an easy modification and worth discussing as if I hadn’t taken the time to discuss this with her, I would have made some cardigans that sat unworn in her cupboard. The line drawing included in the pattern listing on the Love Notions website is a really useful tool for this as it clearly shows all the pattern options. She now has a cardigan she loves and is happy to wear instead of one she doesn’t like.
4. BE PREPARED FOR A RAPIDLY CHANGING BODY
Older girls are starting to become more aware of their body, how it compares to their peers and bodies can change rapidly at this age. This is where handmade can trump store bought on so many levels as you can really sew things that fit well. Most girls over the age of 8 are a little all over the place with their body measurements and being able to mix measurements to stop a top gaping on a developing bustline, or clinging on a stomach, or lengthening sleeves to fit when arms and legs have suddenly grown and the rest of the body hasn’t caught up yet can help them feel happy and satisfied with their body. I believe a positive body image is so important as they start to head into the teenage years.
5. EDUCATE YOURSELF ON COMMON PATTERN MODIFICATIONS NEEDED TO FIT DIFFERENT BODY TYPES
The onset of puberty can be a challenging time for everyone, but especially so for girls who enter it as tweens. Little girls tend to have bodies that are straight up and down, whereas depending on when the hormones hit, older girls can start to develop curves. This means that in order for clothes to fit properly and comfortably, pattern modifications may need to be made, just like they do for many women when sewing for themselves. For example, it has been a fight to get my daughter to wear t-shirts with sleeves for the past 12 months. When we initially started to discuss this problem, she wasn’t great at verbalizing what she doesn’t like about sleeves. All she would tell me was that they feel “grabby” under the arms and make her arms look huge. Zoe is a swimmer and advanced a squad level around this time and her upper body muscles really started to develop as a result. I have worked out that she needs both a broad shoulder and broad back adjustment for t-shirts. This is a common adjustment I do on all her patterns now and it makes a big difference to whether or not she will wear a handmade item. There are many sewing school blog posts on the Love Notions website that are a wonderful resource for learning how to do pattern adjustments.
5. LET THEM CHOOSE THEIR OWN FABRICS
This is self explanatory. They have their own tastes. It may surprise you. They may choose boring fabrics. That is OK. They will need to be guided as to which fabric type suits which pattern, but let them loose in your fabric stash, and if you don’t have one (seriously is that even a thing, not having a stash) let them choose which fabrics to buy. If you want the clothes you sew to be worn, let them choose! Offer guidance if they can’t make a decision. Over time they will get more decisive and you may end up like me, with piles of fabric suddenly appearing on your sewing table that have been carefully placed there by your daughter in the hopes that you will turn them into something wearable.
Fabric costs can be substantial as children get older and you can no longer whip them up something from a yard of fabric. Upcycling clothing you no longer want and visiting thrift stores can be a great way to find fabrics. My daughter is at the age where she loves wearing her brother’s clothes that no longer fit. She has two teen brothers who grow like weeds and outgrow clothing faster than they outwear it. For the shirt below, which used to be one of her brother’s, I used the Sloane sweater pattern, cropped it off to a shorter length and cut the sleeve off to create a short sleeve. I cannot tell you how many times she has worn this shirt.
7. BONUS: LEARN TO SEW FOR YOURSELF INSTEAD
Finally after all this if your kid still doesn’t want any handmade clothes, learn to sew for yourself instead. There are so many great ladies Love Notions patterns to choose from including the Ladies Boyfriend Cardigan which is also included in the feature Friday sale, and the only picky person you need to accommodate is yourself!
Thank you for reading and following along. All patterns used in this blog post do contain affiliate links. It doesn’t cost you any extra money to use them, it just allows me to support my sewing habit. May the force be with you as you strive to sew your tween clothes they are happy with.