I've had cause to be very grateful to people who are kind enough to put free patterns out there on the internet. People who do so ask, quite rightly, that their patterns are not used for commercial purposes. I think that's totally fair. If you are running a business and making money out of producing children's clothes, I don't think it's fair to pinch other people's ideas and patterns. If you are making clothes for your own kids and grandchildren on a not for profit basis, then it's very nice to be able to be part of a community that is prepared to share ideas and patterns. A big thank you to everyone I've linked to here, and to all the other people who share their patterns. FOOTNOTE: Every so often, I have to go back to this post, and others where I've provided links to patterns, as the links have changed or no longer exist. Hard to keep on top of it though, so please forgive me if any have changed since my last update in September 2018!
Equally, I've done lots of research myself, and produced the odd design, the results of which I've been happy to share on my blog. So I would also ask that any ideas you get from my blog, or any lists of links, are not just taken and reproduced without any acknowledgement, and especially are not used for commercial purposes.
I'm planning to go gradually through ALL my favourite patterns and post links for them. As a starter, I thought I'd do a 'Top Twenty' of the patterns I've used most over the past three years since my elder daughter was pregnant with my first grand-daughter. Even then, I'm missing out so many great patterns. In due course, I'll do posts for each of the categories, either by age group or type of pattern (e.g. dress, pants etc.) In the meantime, you can find my 'Top Twenty' free patterns after the jump.
These are all patterns that I've found have WORKED - even though I do often make adaptations to suit myself. As a result, I've used these time and time again. Having now three grand-daughters, my favourite patterns now tend to be used at least three times, often many more. Many of my favourites are fairly girly - or at least I've made them up in a girly way. But there are some unisex or boys patterns too. At the time of writing, they are all free on the internet, though many of the authors now require you to subcribe (free) to their newsletters to receive the free PDFs.
THESE ARE NOT IN ORDER OF PREFERENCE, rather they are more or less in terms of the recency of the last time I used them.
1) Purl Soho's pattern for Summer Rompers. Used at least seven times with some adaptation, especially to make the pattern work even better for newly potty-trained toddlers (and those that aren't, yet.....). Purl Soho's pattern comes in sizes from 18 months to 8 years, and I envisage using it again, as the oldest grand-daughter has only just turned three. I've used it for rompers, separates, the top of a doll's dress, and I plan to use it also for a toddler dress version. Here are just some of the outfits I've made based on this pattern.
The first one is in the smallest size:
The next two are medium:
And yes, I'm sure I will use it again. Next time around, we're going to be on to the largest size.
3) My ' Mystery Pants' pattern, used multiple times. It comes in 0-3 months and 3-6 months sizes, but I've redrawn and extend it to 6-9 months and 9-12 months plus. This is quite easy to do as it's drawn in squares. I made the legs longer and the body slightly longer, but only added marginally to the width.
No pants pattern will get my vote unless it has a proper shaping with a higher rise and longer crutch seam at the back than the front. This one does. I called it my Mystery Pants pattern because for a very long time, I had no idea where I'd originally found it. I eventually found it again completely by chance, and I can now acknowledge the debt I owe to the pattern's author, Suzy, from the Netherlands. I used it first to make reversible winter trousers, in two sizes:
And later, in a larger size, for some pirate three-quarter pants:
You can also find elsewhere on my blog some of the ways I've used this fantastic pattern.
4) Jereli pants pattern. I put this one next since, for me, it has more or less taken over from the Mystery Pants pattern, for the larger sizes. I've used it again and again for pyjama trousers. It comes in 18 months to 5 years, so I can still get a few more pairs out of it!
I have mostly made PJ pants reversible, because I've been using thin material, but also I like having contrasting turn-ups that can grow with the child.
You can find details of some of the pairs I've made, and how I've made them reversible, here, here and here. I think this pattern would also make good loose-fitting trousers that are not part of a set of pyjamas.
5) Ice-cream social dress - Craftiness is not Optional. This is not so much a pattern, more a tutorial with measurements, since all the pieces are rectangular. It's pretty easy to make up, and I think it looks effective. I made one for my oldest grand-daughter when she was about 6 months old, and another in the same fabrics for my second grand-daughter when she was about 2. It's here on the right.
This photo is thanks to my daughter's friend Laura. The bottom frill on the dress was my own addition. I think it looks cute, but as it's doubled up and tacked inside, I can also let it down easily so it will probably fit next year as well. You can see more about how I made it, together with matching knickers and hat, here.
Here, I added in some pleats to the fabric before cutting out the pattern for the backs of these two pairs in 3-6 months and 6-12 months.
This pair have added bias binding to make finishing the legs easier (and to make them look cute). Dana gives instructions for making up the pattern with or without binding.
I've made these in a rather feminine style - usually to match a dress or top - but they work equally well as nappy / diaper covers for boys. They are quite roomy, so to use the pattern for knickers, (i.e. without a nappy underneath) I take the width down a bit.
She has also upgraded the pattern - I've used the new improved one as well (which is the one I've linked to).
7. Ikatbag's Boy shortalls / rompers: I must confess that I'm cheating here a bit - I haven't actually finished these yet, nor blogged about them, but I wanted to make sure I did have some boy things in my list. And I do plan to make some! It is a really good tutorial with lots of tips to make the finished garment look professional. Note that the PDF pattern doesn't include seam allowance, unlike most of the on-line patterns. The pattern is for a small 3 year old I believe,
Actually, though, the real reason I haven't made any as yet is that the girls are potty-trained (or two of them are). The recency of this means they need to be able to get lower garments off quickly. and I'm not sure that all-in-one shortalls will work for this. I'm still considering how to make them very easy to pull off. In a smaller (or much larger) version, they would work, for a child used to undressing him or herself fully, or a baby / toddler in a nappy.
There is, however, a version for a pinafore dress using the same pattern, adapted - so maybe I'll make that instead!
8. Izzy top - Climbing the Willow: Oh, this is so pretty, and it comes in sizes from 18 months to 5T. Both of the girls I've made them for really love their tops. I made them as pyjama tops, but one of the girls likes hers so much it's a favourite top for daytime wearing. It's an easy to make pattern. The only modification I make is that I prefer to trap the skirt part in between the outer bodice and the lining so you don't have the raw edges inside (I don't possess a serger, which might make it a bit neater. But prefer the skirt enclosed anyway.)
I will definitely be using this pattern again. IThe Climbing the Willow web site doesn't seem to have this pattern any more, but it is still available through Craftsy (free) and that's the link I've given above. Teri has produced one also in age 6-12 years.
9) Melly Sews Faux Peter Pan collar dress (based on her Fiesta frock)
and Cottage Mama Party frock
I've linked these two because they are similar designs, in the sense that each has a yoke and a gathered skirt. But also because I used some combination of them to arrive at the final patterns for my grand-daughters' Christmas dresses. I love the idea of the faux Peter Pan collar on the Melly Sews version, but I needed three different sizes. (Melly Sews does also sell other sizes of the pattern, but for the purposes of this post, I'm only covering free patterns.) The Cottage Mama pattern comes in many sizes (provided you sign up for a free subscription) but it's sleeveless, and I wanted a sleeved version for Christmas.
These dresses were all made with some slightly stretchy velour for the bodices, and satin for the skirts. They are fairly roomy (deliberately so) and certainly the two larger ones will probably still fit this Christmas. They are all a lot taller, but not much wider! Unfortunately, the baby's will probably be much too short. But as she'll be spending Christmas somewhere very hot, she probably won't want a velvety dress anyway.
10) Quick bias tape bib from Purl Soho
The reason this has become one of my favourite patterns for a bib is that it's so quick and easy, and it looks pretty, with its little pocket. Of couse, you could make it with more of a boy theme. I liked to provide a matching bib to some of the dresses I made during the dribbling / slurping food period, so this one matches a dress in the same fabric as the pocket.
11. Wrap around bib, Vicki's Fabric Creation: I called this our Happy Hare bib, as I modelled it for the blog on on my my daughter's much loved old soft toy by that name - yes, he still survived, and made a good model. This is a nice little wraparound bib that fastens round the back with Velcro, hence I prefer it to similar wraparound bibs that tie with strings.
I even made a larger version by re-drawing and in particular extending the overlap at the back, to make a painting overall for the baby last Christmas. This one is plasticised stuff with a towelling backing.
12) Stitching Scientist peasant dress for 6-9 months
and Sew Much Ado peasant dress 0-3 months
As with the Christmas dresses above, I'm linking these two patterns. They are a very similar idea, but in two different sizes. There are several peasant dress patterns available, I could do an entire post on them one day! But these two patterns both work well, and can be adjusted to work for other sizes in between, or larger.
The first dress below was made from the first pattern, but I double layered it leaving the bottom layer longer so it peeked below.
The next two were both made (I'm pretty sure) using the first pattern, though I modified (as I nearly always do). The little lion dress I made a little wider at the hem:
And for the donkey dress, I also extended the length a bit. (As you can see, both had matching knickers made from Dana's diaper cover pattern above.)
The one I've linked to is the envelope neck long-sleeved version which is the one I've used most so far, but there are other versions with different sleeves and necklines. Sizes range from newborn to 8T, so this will be used again and again.
The last thing I made with the envelope neck long-sleeved version was actually a little dress (by lengthening the bottom and flaring it a bit). But it obviously works perfctly well as a T-shirt! I did also make a T shirt using this pattern, of this same velour stretchy fabric, which you can see later on.
14) Toddah leggings: Great tutorial and PDF pattern in several sizes up to age 2, Easy as pie to make from knit fabric. I've only made the ones below so far, but I know have a heap of knit fabric so I'll hope to knock up a few more pairs soon (and before the girls outgrow the pattern! not that that ever stopped me before.)
These were from some lovely reindeer stretchy velour, and you can find out more about them and the outfit they formed part of, on my other post, here. The pattern would work for boy or girl leggings.
15) Tulip hem kimono dress - BloomsnBugs: I'd had this in the back of my mind for some time before getting round to it, then I liked the first so much I made two more. In each case, I doubled up the bodice part (i.e. gave it a lining) and used a fastening with strings rather than buttons. (I don't like making button holes much anyway, but I thought strings would give more flexibility size wise.)
I've written up how I've made these, on this post.
16) Small Dream Factory onesie: I guess I've stopped making onesies for now, all the girls are no longer wearing them. However it does come in multiple sizes from newborn to age 4. I did use this pattern, for at least one onesie, and a couple of onesie dresses (based on the top of the onesie pattern). I made a little circle skirt to go with each of these onesies, using the T shirt fabric for the wasitband.
UPDATE JULY 2018: Last year, I wasn't able to recommend the Widi Mela dress, as the free pattern was no longer available on her website. For a period at least, it was back up and running, so it's is still worth a try. If you can't find it, I still have hard copy if anyone is interested. It's very sad when patterns once freely available are no longer free, or not there at all. This one, for one of my grand-daughters, it was her all time favourite dress, and she'd still wear it every day if she could. I've even widened the elastic at the back so it fitted her a second year.
However, more recently I found this pattern from Baste and Gather, which is a similar shaped yoke. It would be easy enough to use the same three-tired idea from the Widi Mela dress. I'll blog about it if I get round to making something from the multi-size Baste and Gather pattern.
19. Small Dream Factory's A-line dress
This is so simple, and so adaptable, and also comes in sizes new born to 8T. Here's an example of how I used it. The T-shirt is from the same pattern I referred to at #13. (And the leggings are at #14.) I love the side openings on this pinafore dress pattern. You can see how I adapted it in this post.
20. The Small Dream Factory sleeping bag
Well, I'd said this was my Top 20 Baby and Toddler Sewing Patterns, and I hadn't really intended to put in this sleeping bag, as it more or less comes under my heading of Baby Accessories, rather than clothing. I suppose it's half way in between, really. But I have made it two or three times, adapted to my needs. (Larger sizes - as published it is supposed to be suitable for 6-14 months; and different opening options.) So as it's a pattern, and it's free, and a baby can wear it, and it works - it must count towards my Top Twenty!
I've changed the front zip to a much longer side zip, added quilting to the fronts, and enlarged the pattern especially in length.
The smallest one I made, with quilted front and pre-quilted back. This used 4" or 10 cm quilting squares diagonally. I wrote a post about how to make this here:
And here's a larger version, made for Jane when she was about 2 years old:
This had 6" or 15cm quilting squares as the basis of the front.
I promised I'd stop at 20 - I could go on. As I said at the outset, this is not a Top Twenty in terms of preference, it more reflects the recency of use of these patterns. All of them, with the one exception I've indicated, have been tried and tested, I've referenced my posts showing how they make up, and I can recommend all of them.
Some time soon, I will also list more of the websites and blogs who have been the most useful to me (and the most helpful), and I will add further posts on more specific topics, for example, sleeping clothes, or summer dresses, rather than a quick rush through all the free patterns I've used most. There are some great patterns I've never used (as yet), because when I found them, the time wasn't right.
I'd really like to know what others think!