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.

Jackets
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.

IMG_1458
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.

Summary

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.

Valentine’s Day Pyjamas!

Valentine’s day pyjamas! They were supposed to be Christmas pyjamas, but life intervened. Oh well. It’s probably better this way, since the pyjamas aren’t competing for attention with Christmas gifts.

Bedtime Story Pajamas
Oliver +S Bedtime Story Pajamas in flannel, size 3.

These are the Oliver + S Bedtime Story Pajamas. I made them four times, once for each kid, hence the delay. I used a digital pattern (a PDF download) and it worked quite well. The pattern itself is great. The only thing that is unusual is that each pattern piece is separately taped together, instead of having them all in a giant sheet. I copied each pattern piece onto tracing paper, so I had quite a few pieces of paper to keep track of. On the other hand, it means you can print out just the pieces you want, which is handy if you just want pyjama pants. I’m not sure which way is better. As always with Oliver + S patterns, the directions are excellent. I don’t have a single complaint.

Bedtime Story Pajamas
Oliver +S Bedtime Story Pajamas in flannel, size 3.

I sewed a different type of ribbon into the neck and pants of each pair so that the kids can tell them apart.

Bedtime Story Pajamas
Oliver +S Bedtime Story Pajamas in flannel, size 18m, with snaps.

This is the second time I’ve made the pants, but the first time I’ve made the jackets. I made sizes 18 months, 3, 4 and 5. I made the larger sizes with ties, but put in snaps for the baby sized once – otherwise, kid No 4 will just chew the ties.

Bedtime Story Pajamas
Oliver +S Bedtime Story Pajamas in flannel, size 5.

I also started with snaps for the older kids. I wanted them to be able to dress themselves. But small snaps are a bit of a small target, even for little hands. I tried larger coat snaps, but then the kids couldn’t get out of them at all because it took too much strength to open the snaps. In the end I took out the snaps and put in the ties. Everyone seems to like this better.

Bedtime Story Pyjamas
Oliver +S Bedtime Story Pajamas in flannel, size 18m.

The first time I made this pattern, I made just the pants in sizes 12 months, 2, 4, and 5, also in flannel, in a monster print. I think I’ve tried most of the sizes now. The only one I had a problem with was the 12 month size (not shown), which fit a bit tight in the waist and hips.

Bedtime Story Pajamas
Oliver +S Bedtime Story Pajama bottoms in flannel, sizes 2, 4, 5.

When I made just the pants, instead of binding the hem, I just lengthened the pant legs and folded them over twice to hem. Then I appliquéd a big monster onto store-bought t-shirts. These were also a big hit with the kids.

Bedtime Story Pyjamas
Oliver +S Bedtime Story Pajama bottoms in flannel, size 5.

Summary

Pattern Review: Bedtime Story Pajamas by Oliver + S.

Fabric: flannel.

Sizes: 12m, 18m, 2, 3, 4, 5.

Sewing Level: intermediate (beginner, if just the pants).

Modifications:

I replaced the ties with snaps on the baby-sized jacket. When I made just the pants, I lengthened the pant leg and folded twice to hem, instead of binding the leg hem.

Results: Excellent! I would highly recommend this pattern.

Bedtime Story Pajamas
Oliver +S Bedtime Story Pajamas in flannel, size 5.

These are also part of the Stashbusting Sewalong Challenge. I made these for February’s ‘Love’ challenge where the goal is to sew something for someone you love.