At my April Smocking Arts Guild of America meeting, our program was a discussion of our favorite children's tried and true sewing patterns. The ladies that were at the meeting started sewing for their children when they were little and have been sewing ever since. There was quite a bit of collective sewing wisdom sitting in that room and I am going to share that wisdom with you! I should also explain that the world of children's sewing patterns has been one of indie designers from the late 1970s. Some of the patterns I am going to recommend are no longer in print, but they are classic styles and you may want to keep your eye out for them on ebay or a facebook destash sight. Some of the companies haven't updated their covers in years and so initially can look quite dated (a reason I don't have them in my shop because they don't sell well because of the dated covers) but again, the patterns are classic styles that fit well and have good instructions, so use your imagination!
So first up are the patterns that have great instructions! My friends noted that patterns can differ dramatically on this front although there has been quite a bit of improvement over the years. Companies that consistently have good instructions are Primrose Lane, Ginger Snaps Designs, Oliver + S, and anything by Michi Moony or Chery Williams.
Michi has announced that she is no longer having the patterns printed and that they will only be available going forward as PDFs. I still have her Jon Jon pattern in stock.
My friend Jill especially likes Primrose Lane Reagan and Gingersnaps Button On Knickers for boys. But her favorite boys pattern that incorporates smocking is Johnny by Children's Corner.
Jill noted that the pattern goes together easily, is fully lined which gives a great inside finish, and fits well. My friend Kelli also likes Johnny but finds that the 1/4" side panels seam allowance that attach to the smocking difficult to work with. She notes you may wish to widen the seam allowance when you cut it out to make assembling easier. She also wants you to know that the size 24 month side panel pieces and smocking inset height don't match up and are off by an 1/8" of an inch.
Both Jill and Julie said their "go to" pattern for a smocked square yoke dress and smocked bishop were Chery Williams patterns. Linda likes the Chery Williams smocked baby bubbles. Chery Williams patterns are still around, but as far as I can ascertain, no new ones are currently being printed. Jill and Julie did note that the fit of the Chery Williams patterns was better for a slimmer child. Also for girls, everyone sang the praises of a classic Mary De - which is my most popular selling pattern! This pattern had a problem with one of the pattern pieces that has been corrected in the newer version, so this probably isn't the pattern that you want to purchase from a destash sight!
For classic, non-smocked baby clothes, Jill recommended The Old Fashioned Baby's Summer Baby Clothes and their Sweet and Simple Bubble. She did note that the directions were not as clear, but she liked the cut and design.
Julie wanted to recommend Gail Doane's simple jacket from her book Sew Cute Couture. The jacket goes together quickly and easily, and if you live in a cooler climate as we do, makes a quick and simple transition garment for over the top of a smocked short sleeve bishop. Julie has even removed the pleat in the back so that it has less of a swing to it so it is appropriate for a boy. Kelli also recommends Violet Field Threads for their wonderful directions and tutorials but feels their sizing is all over the place; typically they run very small.
What have we missed? What is your classic children's sewing pattern?