Monday, 14 March 2016

Summer Rompers for Toddlers

I'm so excited about my new favourite free pattern and tutorial from the internet. It's by Corinne, of Purl Soho, it comes in sizes 2-11 years, and you can find it here. I recommend it for its ease and clear pictures and explanations. Here are my three four finished rompers.

First, for a just over two-year-old (by the summer):


Next, for an eighteen month toddler:

And finally, my version for a two and a half year old.

The first is size 2T according to the pattern, the second, a slightly smaller size 2T, and the bottom one is size 3T, made as separates. 

This is a very well designed pattern and tutorial, and I have used it with only minor modifications. Anyone who reads my blog will know that I almost always fiddle to make things work for me. Either the size isn't right, or I want to use the armhole of one with the bottom of another. So most of the time in making something for my grand-daughters is the initial planning of how to do it, and then making my own pattern. Sometimes the original is unrecognisable. However, this was not the case here, it is a great pattern, and I think the small modifications I did make could be helpful to anyone making the younger sizes. Mainly, I wanted them to work for toddlers not yet able to undress themselves quickly to use the bathroom.

So go ahead and use Corinne's lovely pattern, and follow her instructions: but if you are making for a very young child, you might want to read my blog as well! Below, I show how to make the modifications so a young child can have a nappy changed, or can easily use the potty without getting completely undressed!

Several of the comments made on Corinne's post relate to how a younger child can get the romper off to use the potty. Like some of the commentators, I'm making for one child who is recently out of nappies, and another who may well be by the time summer comes and she can wear summer rompers.  The youngest is likely to be in nappies for the whole of the coming summer. For children who want to use the potty or 'grown-up loo', undoing the straps and taking the whole garment off might just take too long! So my main modifications were to facilitate the 'got to go' moments. I did two different type of modification, one, for a child already out of nappies, and the other for a child not fully yet ready for that.

Because I would be making a 3 year old size and a 2 year old size (and one a bit smaller) I traced the 3-year old size pattern pieces onto tracing paper, and the 2 year old size pieces on the same paper, as the smaller pattern all fits within the 3 year size. In fact, I overlapped the two pieces for the bottom (back and front) by half an inch (because each seam allowance is 1/4") and joined them, so I would not have any side seams. 

This does mean you can't match the side seams when you join top to bottom, but I was happy to have a couple of seams less to sew. It also means you have to be careful to reverse this larger pattern piece when cutting,  so you get two that are mirror images of each other. You could fold the material width-wise if it is wide enough, mine wasn't, for the first one I made, and I wanted to make sure both pieces were the right way up, as it had a definite direction. You can also see that I added about an inch to the length of the legs - more about this later.

Version 1 of modified pattern - 2 years and under (in nappies, or in early stages of potty training)

For my middle granddaughter, I thought we might or might not still have nappies involved by the summer. I followed Corinne's tutorial exactly, except that I put an opening at the bottom with poppers. So a nappy could be changed without removing the whole garment. And if she can use the potty by the summer, it will also be easier to undo the bottom.

I love this farmyard material! 

For the youngest grand-daughter, who will be 18 months old by the summer, I made the same version again, a smidgen smaller than the aged two size. But I used Velcro instead of poppers for the opening. I've used the photos mainly of the smaller example of this version to explain how I did made the openings, but the same method works for poppers or Velcro.

On the first of these two, (the 2 year old example with poppers, the farmyard material), I made extra facings to attach to the inner leg seam-line. By the time it came to the second one (the 18 month example  - and now also the 2 year-old one with the blue dinosaur material), I had realised that it is easier just to cut the pattern with the extra material already included, so you don't need extra seams. So that's what I show below.

My recommendation now would be to add 2" to the front seam and 3" to the back seam on the pattern before cutting. The plan was for the front inside leg seam to overlap the back seam (i.e. the front folds backwards over the back.) I wanted to end up with the seam lines from the pattern to butt up against each other so they would be in the same relative positions. I added just over 2" to the front seam line, and about 3" to the back seam line.

This above illustrates (I hope!) the 2" extra on the front and 3" on the back (after folding in the seams). The front seam overlaps the back. The poppers are of course actually sewn right through all three layers of material. Hopefully this will become clearer as you read on.

The pattern fitted exactly on the folded width of the material. There is a fold on the left of this picture which I had to split.

I starting sewing the bottom part of the romper as Corinne describes (except that I'd dispensed with the side seams). In other words, I sewed the centre seams for the front and back. I then pressed up the hems on the legs. I made quite a shallow hem. Even with my extra inch on the leg length, there was not much leg to hold poppers or Velcro. To make an opening crutch seam, you definitely need at least that extra 1" length on the legs. In future I might add 1 1/2".

Here is the back centre seam sewn, and zigzagged, with the leg hems pressed up.

I then ironed the two parts to the crutch seam, front and back, to make a more or less straight seam. Folding these two parts provided the reinforced  parts for the poppers.  I folded the crutch seams in twice, 1" and 1", so that I would be sewing fastenings onto 3 layers of material. 

The poppers (or Velcro) would be on the inside at the front, and on the outside at the back. The front would then overlap the back so the original seam lines matched. Here's the diagram again.
For the version with poppers, (which actually had a whole separate binding attached) I had put strips of iron-on interfacing in between as well for extra strength. I didn't bother with this for the Velcro version as I didn't want more bulk than I had to have.

I also snipped off chunks of excess material in the hem folds to make the bulky crutch seams less bulky. It seems to have worked in the end.

I should say that in order to decide how much to trim off, I made a paper model first. I folded in the leg hem twice, then the crutch seam which was going to encase it, and experimented with how much I could afford to trim. Some of the folds were going to be entirely enclosed, but I didn't want fraying edges poking out the sides. I ended up with something like this. (Sorry, it's the opposite way up to the photo above.) The shaded area is what I trimmed away.)

The finished crutch seam looked quite neat.

Once the front and back crutch seam parts had been turned up and sewn, the final job was to add poppers (or Velcro, for the smaller version). There was only room for 3 poppers, one on each leg, and one close to the middle (but not on the middle because of the centre seam.). In future I would try and have 4, two each side, or just one each side, because the almost central one means the legs can't quite lie flat against each other. (The blue dinosaur version, made several weeks later, has just two, one each side.)

With the Velcro version, I split the Velcro into two rather than have one continuous strip, for the same reason - the seam still needs to be able to fold in half between the legs.

I hope the Velcro will work. We've yet to find out if she will just pull it open. If she does, I might have to replace with poppers.

I also decided to add a little DIY appliqué to the smaller version. I previously posted about making your own sew-on appliqués. Here's the one I made to complement the little giraffes on the romper material.

One of the reasons I rate Corinne's design and tutorial so highly is how neat the finished garment looks on the inside (even with my appliqué addition, and with my inexpert sewing skills). This is the smallest version with the Velcro closed.

Version 2 of modified pattern - aged 3

I actually made this version first. This was for the oldest granddaughter. She's tall for 2 and a bit, hence the size 3 pattern. She surprised her parents a couple of months after her second birthday by announcing overnight that she wanted to wear knickers during the daytime now, not nappies. They weren't sure whether she'd be ready, but she's proved she can do it. Her little friends at nursery are mostly a few months older, and she was determined not to be left behind. But she is still in the early stages of being 'a grown-up girl', so I thought the best thing for her was to make her rompers in two halves, one half of which will just pull down like pants or shorts, and the other half stays put. This version does not have an opening crutch seam.

The PDF pattern in fact already comes in two halves, a top and a bottom, which are normally to be stitched together. So I already had a good starting point for separates rather than an all-in-one romper.

Because the bottom was going to be standalone shorts, I made the shorts part of the pattern a bit higher in the waist (about half an inch). From the photos on the Purl Soho website, I thought it looked as though the waistline was slightly dropped, so for shorts I wanted it higher.

Above and below, you can see the shorts with both the front and back seams sewn up, and the bottom hems pressed up once, and twice, prior to sewing the inside leg seams. (Remember, no opening at the crutch on this version, so seam is just sewn up as per Corinne's original design.)

I aimed to make the waistband a bit more substantial. The waistband that is described in the pattern for a one-piece romper is effectively a single layer, a band that attaches to the (joined) top and bottom to form a channel for elastic. It is made of material cut 1 5/8" wide. I cut mine about 2"-2 1/4" wide, so I could use it doubled, but the same length i.e waist circumference, as the pattern.

I folded and pressed my waistband in half along the length, and pressed in a 1/4" seam allowance on either side of the centre fold. I put a light iron-on interfacing of about 3/4" width, from the centre fold to the seam line to give it a bit more body. (Sorry I didn't take pictures of this.) Then I attached it to the shorts using the seam allowance on one side, with right sides facing. I folded it back over, and over-stitched all bar a couple of inches for threading elastic through.

As I was about to thread the elastic through (having cut it to the length given in the pattern) it occurred to me that the full romper is not intended to be close fitting on the waist - it doesn't need to be, as it is held up by the shoulder straps. I needed to make my waistband able to hold the shorts up, so the finished size needed to be a close fit. So I called time while contacting  the toddler's Mummy for a precise waist measurement. As expected, this was a little smaller than the pattern. We went with a 19" waist, so I used 20" of elastic.

I also finished the waistband with a little slip of ribbon in the back so it could easily be identified. (Sometimes Daddy has been known to put the children's clothes on back to front.).

I mentioned that I had added about an inch to the length of the legs. Commentators have also mentioned that the legs are rather short on the smaller sizes. I could have even added a bit more, but the extra inch makes it easier to turn up a hem - and personally I think it makes the legs sit better. When I came to make the smaller sizes with a crutch opening, this was even more important, as I've mentioned earlier.

For the top, I added rather more to the length, so that it would hang down over the shorts like a peplum. In fact, I also slightly flared the pattern out and curved the hem a bit. 

Other than that, I followed the tutorial. I love that the way straps attach has the effect of enclosing the raw edges of the sides of the  elasticated top (on all versions).

As you can see, I've also added an appliqué to this one, this time, her initial. Also homemade. (See my method of making your own appliqués in an earlier post here.)

So, there you have two alternative ways to use Corinne's pattern for not, or newly, potty trained toddlers: an opening crutch seam, or the whole thing made as two separate pieces.

When summer comes, let's hope I get pictures of the three rompers in use!

Postscript: Well, here's one of them!


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