Thinking about handmade clothes

Have you seen the new patterns that Figgy's have launched since rebranding themselves? I'm quite in love. The promotion photos have a feeling of Japanese pattern book about them, with their stylish prints and minimalist backdrops.

The garments themselves are full of crisp, clean lines and subtle styling details that give them a very modern feel. I love the the little shoulder puffs on the dress, and the curve that sweeps down either side, ending in slanted pockets.

To me, they feel like big-girl patterns and as though they've been drafted to produce the perfect garments to fill in the chasm that I worry may open as my children grow older: that of a mama who still wishes to make a few garments for her children; and her children who wish to look fashionable and may feel self-conscious wearing designs where the styling may make them appear overtly homemade.  These are exactly the kind of clothes I can imagine my daughter wishing to swoop up in Zara.

You can find these patterns from Figgy's new range for sale here in Alice's lovely shop, Backstitch.

Thinking about children growing up and minding their clothing appearing homemade: is this an issue for those with children older than mine? Or is this simply a perceived issue that's come from my growing up in a generation that, for a time, rejected the handmade to the extent that it was seen as a symbol of poverty, rather than creativity? I wonder whether this generation of children has entirely cast off these negative connotations?

I remember as a young teenager going to a school disco where one of the girls wore a dress that she'd made herself. I can't recall what the dress looked like, but I do remember that the boys ridiculed the dress loudly in the corridors, while many of the girls whispered and giggled over it in the cloakrooms. Shamefully, I wasn't so filled with confidence at that age that I felt able to defend her bold move, or even to let her know that I thought she looked rather super, so I said nothing and just wondered at why anyone would intentionally put themselves in such a vulnerable position (she was clearly a year or two ahead of me in watching Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink, where her character arrives at the highschoool prom in a homemade pink dress and went on to serve as a fiesty independent-spirited role model for every young girl growing up in the late 80s. If I'd already seen this myself I may have had more awareness that she'd just outfoxed the entire school with her own coolness). Instead, I remember lying in bed that night feeling guilty and worrying over whether she might be lying in her own bed crying. My school was large with several classes in each year group and I barely knew this girl -I now wonder at how much I probably would have loved her as a friend if our paths had ever properly crossed...I may have branched out earlier from my undercover knitted glove-puppet making, which was my speciality aged 13. My memory of these creatures is of them being rather fine...which leaves me wondering at what point in time the ability to knit proficiently decided to leave me.

Florence x


  1. i too love these patterns. I put my kids (aged 4 and 6) in handmade things. They both love chooseing the fabric and having clothes no one else has got. My son worn is mummy made trousers to school on no uniform day and despite being teased about them still loves them and wants to wear them on non uniform days! i know they'll grow out of it but for now i'm enjoying it!

  2. I wore my own clothes and adaptations all through my teenage years and I wanted to look different although I did get a bit of teasing along the way- on the flip side I did wear some rather odd concoctions. My daughter is 11, already interested in vintage and adding homemade touches, I can still make her clothes but she has a lot of input into it if I do, that's how we make it work. Congrats on your Company nomination by the way!

  3. My 6 year old loves me to make dresses for her. I like it when people are surprised that I made them :) I think that if they're done well, it shouldn't be a problem. I never had a problem wearing jumpers my mum had knitted as a teenager as long as they didn't look rubbish. She made a kind of spiderwebby one that I loved and wore to death! And I was VERY conscious of what I looked like, I just didn't advertise that it was hand-made to someone who wouldn't understand :)

  4. My kids love it when I make them things, but I wonder, too, if they'll continue to love it as they get older. However, I'm a high school art teacher--- and I often have patterns in my bag that I let my students look at and they are fascinated that I can actually MAKE clothing myself. They think it is AWESOME that I sew for my kids--- sometimes coming in before first bell on Monday to find out what I made over the weekend. So, I have to wonder if that mindset has diminished.

  5. My daughter is 22 and has been making some of her own clothes for a couple of years now, but from the pre teen to teenager years she just wanted to dress like everyone else.

  6. My daughters are 11 and 15 and at the moment probably wouldn't be seen dead in something I made because I've been in the sewing wilderness for years. This may change when they see what I make for myself this year as my 15 yr old is quite happy for me to knit her a cabled jumper in red which looks just like those her friends are wearing. I find that there are two basic types, those who enjoy being "individual" and those who really don't as far as teens and pre-teens are concerned.


  7. I used to make my girls clothes up to when they could shop on their own and now they actually wouldn't really be seen out in something that was 'made' unless it was very special. This goes for my 13 and 14 year old but I think they go full circle because my 17year old daughter asked me the other day to teach her to make her own clothes. I could have cried with joy, so naturally set about finding her some patterns that she liked and now we have a date in the diary to go fabric hunting. I cannot wait to teach her and to see her joy when she actually puts on what she has made. (I live in hope for the other "!)

  8. ahahaha!I have just taken delivery of the first dress pictured from Figgys and am very exited about making it - the pattern looks great, just can't decide on the fabric. So glad you featured them. Sharonx

  9. Not to worry about how your children feel. They will let you know!! I don't think I especially cultured an atmosphere of honesty. I think kids just tell you if they don't feel they're going to get in trouble or hurt your feelings.

    Have you thought about getting in touch with that girl from high school? She might yet appreciate knowing that she had a supporter. She might be on her way to becoming a famous designer. Who knows. Find out.

    And yes, those patterns are CUTE! I had one daughter who developed a fashion sense long before she fit into sizes where the word 'fashion' could be applied. I did some designing but I'd have gone further with patterns like these!!

  10. I think it very much depends on what you make and how you make it! If you make items that make them stick out like a sore thumb in screaming colours that can not be found anywhere else, then yes there may be some resentment and you will probably be begged to stop! Some people also keep on making when they just don't have the skills and that is when people can tell that clothes are handmade and children might get teased. Of course if they enjoy it and are happy with the results that is all well and good too!

    However, there are more reasons for making your own clothes or those of your children than wanting to look individual. (I think how 'individual' a child or teenager wants to look should be left to them and may indeed be a reason for making clothes too). Being clever, skilled and wanting to use these skills is reason enough though.

    No one would look at anything you had made and ask if you had made it yourself. ( At least not in a way that suggests mediocrity and failure). No, your hand made clothes pass as 'normal' clothes. If they take a closer look, then they might find detailing and workmanship that would put the factory version to shame but most people won't be doing that will they? Of course, those people who know you make clothes will ask 'did you make that?' about everything. So I found it best not to tell. Those that did know frequently got it very wrong!

    My daughter wore nice clothes made by me that stood out only because they were nice. They were pretty nicely made too, although not as finely tuned as your own maybe. They didn't stand out because of the fabric, poor stitching or what I made her.

    My daughter loved what I made and we used to pick fabric together for all her best things like dresses for Christmas or her birthday. It all stopped when she was 8 and it still disappoints her that she didn't get the last dress she was meant to. I lost my sewing mojo I'm afraid so can't speak for my daughter past 8.

    However, I made my own clothes as a teenager and as I was very conservative no one knew most of the time. I got complements. One time I got found out (I told a friend) and boys knew! They were very nice about my dress too. I was asked by a university friend of my sisters to make her a dress which I did (my one and only time, I was definitely a selfish seamstress). I was then roped in to mending and fixing things too.

    My sister made her own ball gown for university and it was a great success, again not freaky or weird, just a lovely pretty dress.

    My mother made heaps of our clothes, sewn, knitted and crochet. Even school uniform. (actually I made my daughters first uniform pinafores they were so much cuter than the ones others had and no one ever knew, because the fabric was the same). My mum hand stitched some school skirts and we loved them. She also made lovely school summer dresses which we were very fond of. At 15 my mum made my sister a long tiered skirt which were really big just then, and her friends all wanted one. Oh and my best friend was almost completely kitted out by an aunt to the envy of us all. She was seen as very glamorous by everyone.

    Family sewing skills were used to make and adapt clothes. We just wanted to wear what everyone else did though so there was nothing weird and wonderful going on at all. This is what signposts 'hand made'. I think anyway.

    We also wore and liked very much the hand knitted cardigans etc that came our way, from our next door neighbour. We loved everything. Very easy to please us!

    So basically I think that if you make what your children want, and get them involved they will love to wear your creations. You of anyone have no need to fear that your makes look home made. Home crafted is different and unique only in an enviable way.

  11. As I remember it, whenever I asked for clothes something got lost in translation and it never came out quite as I wanted. And theres always that thing of being able to hide behind a label. If you've made it from scratch, you've only got yourself to blame if people criticise it. Not that thats a problem when you're grown up enough to stand up for your decisions...

  12. I wore grandmother-knitted jumpers throughout my teens but I was decidedly not one of the cool kids. For sixth form I moved to a very arty school where a lot of girls (not me) took Textiles GCSE and people were very creative with their outfits. I still wasn't cool but nobody judged me for wearing jeans that I'd turned into flares myself. I think some people do still see handmade (and second-hand) as a sign of poverty. Is it a class thing? If you're clearly rich enough to buy things maybe it's OK to make your own because it's obviously out of choice rather than necessity.

    I find that first Figgy's dress a bit too grown-up for the child modelling it - is that just me? The shaping looks inappropriate for such a young girl. The other things are lovely (although I do find the 3rd pose a bit grown-up too).

  13. I am technically still a child, although I do fit in adult clothes and wear them as i am 17....but having been sewing for a few years, I have noticed it is quite difficult to find patterns that actually truly reflect what is in the shops at the time. Ironically though, it is the patterns that last the longest, as do the clothes made from them, so perhaps this doesn't matter. I do love making my own clothes though, I hardly know anyone else my age who does! I have also noticed that for smaller children, girls patterns are far more common than boys, and womens more common than mens!

  14. Rachel, have you seen the patterns by Wendy Mullin? She has a few sewing books out and a small line of patterns with Simplicity called "Built By You". They're more fashionable and 'young' looking than a lot of sewing patterns, and the one I've tried so far was pretty good. Break a leg in that Maths exam!

  15. Undomesticated Scientist - that's so lovely - it's been a complete delight to me too when that's been the choice for non-uniform days.

    Kerry - I didn't reach the wanting to look individual stage until I was about 16...but once I did,like you, I wore some very odd things - that's nice that your daughter has that confidence at a much younger age - I remember having a lot of fun playing with clothes.

    Jude Toone - yes, maybe it's about them being done well!

    Heirloomfarmhouse - that's SO lovely! I bet your students will remember you long after they've left school.

    Homebird - that's lovely - I hope you have lots of fun making something together. x

    Schmum - Oh, I'd love to see when you've finished!

    Greelyrita - Oddly, I can't even remember her name...just the dress at the disco.

    Anonymous - that's sad that you suddenly lost your sewing mojo (or perhaps you went on to just have more fun doing other things?). I've often wondered if I'll just wake one day to find that it's left me!

    Nina - I completely agree with you, but only in retrospect. I think that's why I'd thought of them as being older-girl patterns, as you're right, they do look a little too stylised for a child of the model's age. My daughter is ten, so this kind of look feels just right for her (from my point of view anyway), but like you, when children are younger I prefer them to look very much like children, rather than stylish mini-adults. That doesn't detract from my pattern-love though...I'd just completely overlooked the model and imagined them onto my own daughter.

    Love to Stitch - again, I'd agree with Nina - Built by Wendy tend to come up very small and have a very youthful feel to them. Japanese pattern books are also good for a younger or more petite frame.

    Thank you so much for all your comments (including those I haven't replied directly to) - it's been really interesting reading through them.

    Florence x

  16. Don't you think it's a bit sad that some of you seem apologetic/unsure of your efforts? If we don't respect the things we make we shouldn't and can't expect others too!


  17. I made nearly all my children's clothes when they were very small, even coats. But as they got older and I got busier with work away from home I made less and less. But my daughter is now looking forward to me making her wedding dress - so it all comes back.


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Florence x