Sewing for Kids in the 1950s

Is this not the cutest hipster utility jacket for toddlers ever? It is a rhetorical question and the answer is “yes!”.

Butterick 6176
Butterick 6176: The envelope is a little worn, but the pattern itself is in good condition.

It’s part of the stash of vintage patterns that my mother gave me when she cleaned up her sewing things. But this was not one of her patterns. There’s a bit of writing on the envelope. It says “Effie’s pattern – 1958”. I would recognize my grandmother’s handwriting anywhere. And of course it isn’t her pattern either. Effie is my great-grandmother and this is her pattern.

Butterick 6176
Butterick 6176: The back of the envelope is a bit torn.

The pattern is Butterick 6176 in size 2. From the envelope back: “Toddler’s Sunsuit or Overalls and Jacket. (A) This short button-front jacket has long, cuffed sleeves set in raglan style. Makes a suit with these side-buttoned overalls (B). (View C) Make this simple sunsuit: bib-top with button-on straps and briefest bottoms.” Indeed!

How old is this pattern?

If you look for this pattern on the Vintage Patterns Wiki, you’ll see it says it was a pattern from the 1950s. However, I think this pattern was probably released through the 1950s and 1960s.

It’s difficult to date vintage patterns, and I am certainly no expert. Butterick patterns, like this one, don’t always have a date printed on them. You have to make an educated guess. Sometimes you can use the pattern illustration, or certain design elements to date the pattern, but children’s patterns tend to be less fashion-forward than patterns for women’s clothing. Another way to date a pattern is by the pattern envelope style.

Butterick 6176
Butterick 6176: Toddler’s Sunsuit or Overalls and Jacket. (A) This short button-front jacket has long, cuffed sleeves set in raglan style. Makes a suit with these side-buttoned overalls (B). (View C) Make this simple sunsuit: bib-top with button-on straps and briefest bottoms.

This pattern has the classic upper-left square around the Butterick logo that is typical of patterns from the 1950s. You can see the same style logo in this pattern dated 1956. Her copy was probably published in the 1950s. There were a few other patterns with this one, with dates printed on them, that were from the 1930s and 1940s.

Butterick 6176
Butterick 6176: The instructions are in great condition.

However, even though the copy of this pattern that my grandmother had was from the 1950s, you can find this pattern with different envelope designs. This probably means that it was published over an extended period of time. It would have to be published in the late 1940s or after, since the pattern is printed and not perforated in all the versions I’ve seen. And it seems to have been published through the 1960’s judging by logo design alone. The price of the pattern varied between 35 and 48 cents, from what I can tell from a quick internet search.

How is it different from modern patterns?

The envelope from my grandmother’s pattern is barely holding together, but the pattern and instructions are in great shape. It looks like only the overalls or sunsuit were actually sewn up. The jacket was carefully cut out though. My great grandmother had eight grandchildren to sew for in the 1950s and 1960s, but I’m curious about who got the overalls.

Butterick 6176
Butterick 6176: Check out all the different layouts. There are layouts for fabric with widths of 35″, 39″ and 54″. Fabric usually now comes in widths of 45″ or 60″.

The first thing I noticed were the cutting layouts. There are layouts for fabric with widths of 35″, 39″ and 54″. Fabric usually now comes in widths of 45″ or 60″.

Butterick 6176
Butterick 6176: I like how they want me to use tailor’s tacks.

I also think it’s cute that the pattern calls for the use of tailor’s tacks or a tracing wheel, a tool “much used by Professionals”. I like the gratuitous capitalization.

Butterick 6176
Butterick 6176: The pattern shows how to make corded, blanket-stitched buttonholes. Keep in mind, this is a jacket for a two-year-old.

The pattern also tells you to make corded, blanket-stitched button holes by hand. Ooh la la! Keep in mind that this jacket is in size 2 and will last about a year before the lucky, but admittedly well-dressed recipient grows out of it. “Modern sewing is easy”, it says on the envelope. Un huh. I recently read a blog post that asked if patterns used to be more complicated. In this case, yes.

What else is different? If you look at the pattern illustration, you’ll see that this is a pattern for both boys and girls. If you look at Butterick’s current catalogue, you won’t find any patterns for boys at all, unless you count pyjamas or a layette. McCall’s has only a couple patterns for boys. And if you look at the girls’ patterns on either site, they are all super girly – ruffles, loads of pink, bows and ribbons. Ugghhh.

McCall’s M6385, Vintage Butterick 6176, and Simplicity 2292

About the closest you would come to this pattern is McCall’s M6385 or Simplicity 2292. But look at the styling. It’s sort of like a big billboard ad “You Must Dress Your Girls in Pink.” And of course the boy outfits must be “boy-ed-up” with “boy”-themed appliqué work. Personally, I prefer the little red utility jacket.

I think it’s pretty fun to open up old patterns, but I’m geeky that way. What about you? Have you ever tried a vintage children’s sewing pattern?

Fall Hats

When I saw these beautiful hats by Jo at Bubala I just loved them. So so so cute!

So I made my own. I made four and I let the kids choose what was on them.

Two kids just have buttons on theirs shaped like books and flowers, and two have embroidered bugs.

Four little caps
Four little caps. Sorry for the wrinkles. I had trouble rounding them all up for photos, since the kids are often wearing them.

I liked the ribbon idea on the Bubula blog, so they all have a snippet of ribbon as well. The kids also chose their own ribbon.

I used a charcoal grey wool coating for the hats (the same fabric I used for my Menswear Bunnies) and some polyester-cotton lining. I think next time I would use flannel though, to keep them a bit softer and warmer. These were nice and colourful though.

You can just see the lining peaking out. I used bright blue and purple, also the kids’ choices.

The pattern is the Little Cap by Leila & Ben, a Canadian independent pattern designer. The company sells adorable sewing and crochet patterns for kids’ clothing.

The pattern comes in two sizes, 12m-2T and 3T-5T. I found the sizing to be quite small. The 12m-2T fit my three-month-old. The 3T-5T fit my two-year-old. I enlarged the pattern to 105% as Jo at Bubala recommended, and that fit my four-year-old and six-year-old. Luckily I had quite a few to make, in all the sizes, so no fabric was wasted.

Four little caps
Tiny baby cap.

I found the pattern to be very good. There are only two pattern pieces. The pattern was extremely easy to follow and I was able to make all four hats in an evening.

Although I made these for both girls and boys, they are perfect for Celebrate the Boy, an online initiative to share cool sewing projects for little boys, which is taking place this week and next.

Celebrate the Boy
Celebrate the Boy 2013

The kids really love them. They just cover their ears in cold weather. And I get a ton of compliments. People stop us in the street to find out where we “bought” them. I think I’ll probably make another set for summer in cotton or linen.

These photos weren’t taken today, because this is what it looked like outside yesterday. Definitely too cold for fall hats.

Big snowfall.
Too cold for fall caps.


Pattern Review: the Little Cap by Leila & Ben (PDF).

Fabric: charcoal grey, medium-weight wool coating.

Size: 12m-2T, 3T-5T, though the hats fit small.

Sewing Level: beginner.

Modifications: none

Results: Excellent! I would definitely recommend this pattern.

Whale Quilt

These are some photos of my second quilt. Unlike my first quilt, this is the first quilt I made myself without a pattern or a class, and I’m quite happy with how it turned out.

Whale Quilt
Whale Quilt folded.

When I started, I was very sure about how I wanted the front to look, but didn’t really have a plan for the back.

Whale Quilt
Whale Quilt front.

When my cousin announced she was pregnant, I thought this would be perfect for her new baby. But now that the quilt was for a very special little one, it needed something a bit more fun for the back.

Whale Quilt
Whale Quilt back.

Anne Kelle’s whales were perfect and exactly the right colours!

Whale Quilt
Whale Quilt

I did some simple straight-line quilting, and I love the crinkly look it ended up with. I bound it in Kona white. It’s not the most practical choice, but it does look nice. I followed the tutorial on how to machine bind a quilt from Red Pepper Quilts. It worked very well. So much easier than hand stitching!

Whale Quilt
Whale Quilt close-up.

The quilt measures about 50 by 56 inches.

I’m not sure what all the fabrics are. But here is a partial list.

  • Kona white from Robert Kaufman.
  • Anne Kelle’s Urban Zoologie collection Whales in the bright colour-way from Robert Kaufman.
  • Crystal Palace from Classic Cottons.

The dark blue, light blue and yellow are just fat quarters that I picked up at a local quilt shop.

Whale Quilt
Whale Quilt test drive.

There may have been a test drive (ahem) before I shipped it.

The Big List of Canadian Sewing, Knitting and Crafting Lounges


Whether you work at home or in an office, sometimes it’s nice to be able to pick up your laptop and go work in a coffee shop for a change of pace. It’s so much more difficult when you have a sewing machine instead of a laptop.

Here is a list of Canadian sewing (and knitting lounges) lounges, that offer “sew-by-the-hour” or “knit-by-the-hour” services, from east coast to west coast. The list is short, but hopefully it will grow soon.

If you notice that any lounges are missing, just leave me a link in the comments, or get in touch.

This list was last updated on September 24, 2017. Lounges are generally listed geographically from east to west.

Crafting Lounges

Sewing Lounges

The Lunenburg Makery
Lunenburg, NS

Atelier Fiber Arts
Montreal, QC

Montreal, QC

Ottawa, ON

The Workroom
Toronto, ON

The Make Den
Toronto, ON

The Sewing Studio
Toronto, ON

Hamilton, ON

STASH Needle Art Lounge
Calgary, AB

Spool of Thread
Vancouver, BC

Richmond and Coquitlam, BC

The Makehouse
Victoria, BC

Knitting Lounges

Montreal, QC

Espace Tricot
Montreal, QC

Biscotte et Cie
Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, QC

The Knit Cafe
Toronto, ON

STASH Needle Art Lounge
Calgary, AB

Unwind Knit & Fibre Lounge
Gibsons, BC

How I Organized My Growing Hoard of Sewing Patterns ; A Software Review

When I started sewing again, one of the first things I decided to do was to get all my patterns and fabric organized. I only had a small stash: one box of quilting fabric, one box of apparel fabric, and one box with patterns and unfinished objects (UFOs). It had been a while since I had gone through it all and I honestly had no idea what I had to work with.

The other reason for getting organized was that I was tired of going to the fabric store, finding the perfect fabric, and then having no idea how much to buy. Other times I would come home without buttons, or with the wrong  type of zipper. I couldn’t carry around all my patterns, just in case I needed to consult the back of the pattern, or could I?

My Goal

My goal was to create a system that was easy to use, affordable, allowed me to know what I had in terms of fabric and consult my patterns anytime and anywhere.

There are a couple of ways to do this. Of course you can do this the low-tech way, lugging patterns around, or little scraps of paper, but this wasn’t working for me. So I decided to go high-tech.

What Are the Options?

There are a number of dedicated smartphone and/or desktop apps you can use.

Sewing Kit, and Sewing Kit HD

Sewing Kit HD is an application that is available for the iPad while Sewing Kit is built for iPhone. You can use it to keep track of your patterns, fabric, measurements and other data. It doesn’t allow you to sync between devices, however.

Cost: $9 for iPad, $5 for iPhone.


PatternPal for iPhone lets you organize your sewing projects. It keeps track of patterns and allows you to input up to 2 photos. There is also a Fabric Stash app for an additional fee.

Total cost: $5. Add $4 if you also want Fabric Stash.


PatternFile is a desktop application that lets you keep track of which patterns you own, and where they are located. It costs $10-20 USD, but if you want  to be able to use your data on a mobile device (of course you do!), and to automatically import pattern data, it’s another $5 per month. Mobile apps are available for iPhone, IPad and Android. The iPhone and iPad apps are only available in the US iTunes store.

The software automatically imports pattern data, images, yardage, etc. directly from the pattern companies’ websites. It also allow you to quickly import data for some vintage patterns. This is a really great feature, especially if you use current patterns from the ‘Big Four’ commercial pattern companies.

PatternFile also allows you to share you data with friends and see which patterns they have. I can safely say I would never use this feature. The chances of a friend using the exact same software, and having patterns I want to look at is exactly zero.

Total cost: $23-$55.


Filemaker makes a product for Macs only called Bento that allows you to create simple databases. The system is pretty flexible, so you can decide what information you want to store. Fabric, patterns, and notions can all be recorded, you just need to take the time to set things up. There are even some ready-made templates available for organizing sewing patterns which can save you some time.  Bento allows you to download their product for a 30-day trial.

Unfortunately, I had downloaded Bento a few years ago for some now forgotten reason but hadn’t gotten around to testing it out, and once your time has run out, you can’t get another trial.

There are also Bento apps for iPhone and iPad that allow you to sync your data and make it portable, but these are not free.

Total cost: $49 for Mac, $5 for iPhone, $10 for iPad.


Evernote isn’t really an application as much as a web service. It allows you to keep track of patterns, notions, fabric, and anything else you like. You aren’t limited to any number of photos and you can even save PDFs directly to the service. As long as you upload 60MB per month, or less, the service is free. Otherwise it’s $45 per year.  If you are routinely entering the same type of data, you can even set up templates to save time. You can access your data through a web browser, using a Windows or Mac desktop application, or on your iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry or Windows Mobile phone. You can also share your data with friends, if you choose to (I have no need of this feature).

Total cost: free.

What Did I Choose?

Evernote was the winner. It is free, easy to use, and did all the things I wanted (except for magically importing pattern data).

I started with my fabric. I created a ‘Notebook’ in Evernote called apparel fabric, then I started documenting all the fabric in my stash. For each piece I created a ‘note’. I took a quick and dirty photo of everything I had, and measured it and included that info. Evernote helps you keep the file size down by letting you take photos within the app in smaller file sizes.

The whole process was pretty quick. I only had one big box of fabric and I documented it one night while watching bad tv shows. That is also why the photos are a bit ‘meh’.

Evernote lets you sort alphabetically by the title of the note, so if you want to organize by colour, put the colour first in the note title, if you want to organize by fabric type, then put the words ‘lining’, or ‘silk’ first. If you want to, you can note how much you paid, where you purchased your fabric, care details, etc. You can also attach tags to notes that help you find things later. I didn’t really use tags for my fabric collection.

Evernote Fabric Stash Collection
Some of my fabric stash. I’m pretty sure I will die an old woman and my grandchildren will have to deal with that jaguar-print fun fur.

Next I tackled my patterns.

I created three notebooks, one for women’s patterns, one for men’s and one for kids’. This was the best way for me to start, since there is no overlap in these categories, at least not within my pattern collection. Well, I suppose there is that 1980s bomber jacket, but the chances of me sewing that for someone of any gender is small.

I used the pattern company name, followed by the pattern number in the title, and then the name of the pattern (i.e. Kelly Skirt). Then I pulled in the pattern front, pattern back and technical drawing for each one. In some cases there is also a link to the pattern company site, or to an inspiring blog post by someone who has made the same garment.

I really like that this system is so flexible. I can keep track of digital patterns and printed ones, ‘Big Four’ patterns and independent ones, patterns for me and for others. I can even include all my vintage patterns.

Evernote Pattern Collection
Some of my pattern collection in Evernote. I’m pretty sure I won’t be making that bustier from the 1980s.

With my fabrics, I only used a few tags, but with my patterns I used a lot. I tagged my patterns with the pattern company, the decade, the type of garment (dress, top, etc.) and any distinguishing features that I might want to search for later (gored skirt, puff sleeves, asymmetric, vintage, summer, half-size, etc.).

This process was more time consuming that recording my fabric, but well worth the effort. Now if I see a fabric that would make, say, a great summer dress, maybe with ruffles, I can just open up Evernote on my smart phone and search for ‘summer dress ruffle’ and see all the patterns I own that fit those criteria. Then I can choose one pattern, and get the yardage and notion requirements from the image of the pattern back. I have my entire database of patterns available at all times.

I also like that I have a good idea of what patterns are ‘missing’ from my collection. I don’t own a good jeans pattern, for example, and the men I sew for have very slim pickings. I also can avoid duplicating pattern purchases. In a zombie apocalypse, I now know that I will be able to clothe girls between the ages of 3 and 12 in skirts that are a-line, tiered, gathered, pleated, or culottes, in all lengths, without ever leaving the house to purchase a pattern. How did this happen?

Overall, I’m very happy with this solution. You can see how some other bloggers are using Evernote with their sewing herehere, here, here and here. Everyone is organizing their patterns a little bit differently, which just shows how flexible this solution is.

What about you? How do you organize your patterns and fabric?

Note: This post contains an Evernote affiliate link. If you click on it, I get a little extra storage space, but no monetary compensation. As always, my opinions are my own.