Cutting down adult clothes to kid's size : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

Have any of you had good results in cutting down for example, an adult's shirt to make a nice girl's dress? I have noticed that most of the dresses in the thrift stores are not suitable for wearing around the farm. They're either too summery or too nice(light colors or fancy). On the other hand, I have way too many clothes, including some nice flannel and cotton long sleeve shirts, that are made of sturdy , long wearing fabric. I'd like to make the dresses without a store bought pattern, and using the buttons and buttonholes that are already on the shirt. Any ideas? Kids clothes are expensive, and they wear them out so quickly!

-- Rebekah (, November 17, 2000


I'm no seamstress or anything close to it, but you may could rip out all the seams the sleeves, armholes, and side seams, just go around and cut several inches on each seam, for the neck you could take the collar off and take the back of the shirt and fold in a couple of inches down the middle of the back and sew it up, then sew the shirt back together as it was, if you want to reuse the collar, I'm not sure how you would go about it except to do the same thing, rip it apart and cut it down, this way you still have the button holes and buttons in the front, for the length just hem it up to what ever you need, or if it's not long enough maybe you could add some of what you cut off of the shirt. A lot of people tear apart old clothes to use as patterns for new ones, or recycling. Hope this helps!

-- Carol in Tx (, November 17, 2000.

Take one apart at the seams -- I just cut them apart, rather than ripping the seams out, unless I think the pattern pieces will be a really tight fit. Iron the pieces, lay out and arrange your pattern. I have cut down several things this way, sometimes saving the front buttons intact, sometimes not. (Button spacing on an adult garment may be too far apart for a small child's garment.) My middle daughter, now 22, still has and wears a dress I made for her by cutting down a very large dress I found at a thrift shop!! It looks nice, too!!

-- Kathleen Sanderson (, November 18, 2000.

Oh, I'm re-reading (it's almost 3 am -- sorry!) and see that you don't want to use a pattern -- try buying one or two when they are on sale for a dollar or so. You can't just trim the seams on an adult's garment and end up with something that will fit a child, they aren't proportioned the same. There are a lot of adjustments that need to be made. You might be able to work without a pattern after you've done the conversion a few times, but I think I would find it difficult, and I've been sewing for all my life almost. If you want something simple, an easy jumper over a t-shirt or a turtleneck would be about the easiest thing I can think of.

-- Kathleen Sanderson (, November 18, 2000.

I agree with Kathleen and I too have been sewing most of my life. In fact, when my kids were little and I didn't want to go out and work I did sewing for people. Might be an idea for some of you stay at home moms who need a little extra money! I always had more than I could keep up with. Advertised once or twice in the paper and from then on it was word of mouth. even simple things can bring in quite a bit of money such as hemming up things. It's surprising to me how many people can't or don't want to do this simple thing!

-- bwilliams (, November 18, 2000.

If you have a child's garment that you would like to replicate (because its too worn or too small...) you can rip out the seams and press it all and use those pieces as your pattern on the fabric salvaged from an adults garments. Or you can try carefully tracing those pieces on newsprint if you like..using this method will allow for enlarging the garment without ruining your fabric. Save all of those buttons and fully functional zippers, serviceable elstic from waistbands, ribbed waistbands etc that can be used to make new cuffs, etc from garments so that you never need to buy notions like those. Keep them in a box or something for future use. Lovely warm garments can be made from adult sized sweatsuits, sweaters, flannels etc with a little ingenuity. There are sites galore on topics like this that can give detailed instructions for recycling clothes into new ones. If you have little or no sewing skills better get a book or something from the library just to help you out. Also, Kwik Sew has pattern books that contain instructions and master patterns for a variety of garments in each book. Its a real deal pattern and sewing wise. The toddler book goes up to size 4 and has lots of clothes to choose from. White freezer paper is excel;lent for making patterns with too because you can iron it onto your fabric and cut out without pinning several times. I love that!! (hate pinning) My mom still tells me about the housecoat she made for me from an old worn one of hers when I was I never saw the pictures!LOL Best of luck! This is a favorite topic of mine, recycling notions and fabrics etc. It can be a real money saver.

-- Alison in Nova Scotia (, November 22, 2000.

I have frequently cut down clothing, not only for my daughter but also for myself. I almost always used a pattern though. I've never tried to save collars or buttonholes, though I will admit to saving zippers in place and reusing waistbands. I wouldn't attempt it without at least a homemade pattern for a guideline - much cheaper to toss paper than fabric.

If I were going to try to make a dress from a shirt reusing the button placket, I would make a jumper - sleeves are a pain to do without a pattern. You said "nice dress" so I am assuming you don't want it to look like a cut down garment - this means that you are going to have to pitch or remake the collars, cuffs and pockets - they will be too large in scale for a childs garment.

Measure your daughter from the base of her neck to the length you want the dress, then add about 4 inches (at least 2, to make a decent hem, plus 2 for seam allowances - unless you are planning to use the shoulder seams of the shirt for the shoulders of the dress). Now measure your shirt - do you have enough length? Measure your daughter at her bust, waist and hips - take the largest measurement and divide it by 2; then add at least 4 inches (seam allowance and room to go over a top). Pick a shirt that you don't particularly care for and cut the collar and sleeves off the shirt at this point, as I would use the sleeve material for either bias banding or facings. Cut a sheet of newpaper or whatever to this length and width measurement.

Now, decison time: do you want to do facings or band the edges of the neck and armholes? (This is where I would go to a thrift shop and dig for a pattern!) You will need to cut the arm and neck hole a bit deeper for facings; and you would not cut the shoulders as wide if you plan to band, as you would not have as much fabric in seam allowance. Let's go with facings, for now. Measure your daughter from the top of her shoulder to just below her breast. Measure down and mark this length on both outer edges of the paper - this is the bottom of your arm opening. Move up 1 inch and make another mark - the area in between the two is your seam allowance.

Now, at the top edge of the paper: measure in and mark at 1 inch (seam allowance), 3 inches (width of strap) and 4 inches (inner seam allowance). Do this on both sides. Take a dinner plate and use the edge to trace a semi circle in between the two 4 inch measurements - this is your neck opening. Take your dinner plate again, and on both sides of the paper; trace an off center semi-circle from the shoulder to the bottom arm opening (don't go too deep). This is your pattern - grab your daughter and hold it up to her. Check the shoulder to arm measurement especially. If the pattern looks ok, get another sheet of paper and cut out neck and arm facings by tracing along the outer edges of the neck and arm openings; and then again - 3 inches in toward the center of the pattern. You will need to add seam allowance at the top of the arm facing.

Fold your pattern in half, side to side - to make sure it matches. Lay your pattern flat out on the shirt, being careful to place the shoulders even with the shoulders of the shirt; and making certain that the center of the pattern is centered on the button placket of the shirt. Since you are using facings, you need to pay attention to where the buttons are on the shirt - remember; you have a seam allowance, so the top button will not be where the edge of the pattern is. Adjust your neck opening (higher or lower) to reflect the placement of buttons on the shirt. Draw a line 1 inch inside the neck opening to help with placement.

Now, close your eyes and say a prayer. Open your eyes and cut out your jumper and facings (don't forget that you need front and back facings). Unbutton the front placket of the jumper and turn it inside out. Match and pin side seams, trying it on the child. If it appears to fit, stitch up side seams. Stitch front and back facings together, pin to arm and neck openings with RIGHT sides together and stitch at seam allowance. Do not clip seam allowance until you've tried the garment on the child. If it fits, clip seam allowances to 1/2 inch and snip straight in almost to the stitches on the curved areas. Turn and press.

To fancy this up a bit, instead of cutting it straight, cut it in an A-line shape, or add elastic to the back waist or ties at the side to give it more shaping. Try making the top (to an inch or so below the arm opening) from one fabric, then gathering a skirt from another fabric to the top (large square 2 1/2 times the childs widest measurement). Perhaps a plain shirt for the top and one of the flannels for the bottom? Some corderoy from a pair of britches for the top part and some flannel or wool for the bottom? Check your neck opening and make sure they can pull the garment over their head if you don't use a shirt that has a button placket.

Good luck - and I hope these instructions are clearer than mud!!

-- Polly (, November 22, 2000.

Polly, thank you for taking the time to post such a thoruogh answer! I can tell that yoou have plenty of experience at this! I actually have patterns that I have picked up at the thrift store 5 for $1.00, but I like to do it without the pattern if I can. I have in mind a simple little sack dress, something that can be played in. I was thinking of maybe using a pair of sleeves to make a pair of pants for her ( she's only two), using the button sides around her ankles. I am going to give it a try and see how it turns out!

-- Rebekah (, November 29, 2000.

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