This is a guest post by Meryl of My Bit of Earth


I love seeing my little son run around in handmade clothes, but I rarely have time to sit down and sew him something completely from scratch. Fortunately, I’ve discovered that it’s often more fun to take existing clothes and add a handmade element to make them unique. Not only is this an easy way to make original looking clothing, it’s also a great way to rescue clothes that would otherwise have to be donated or thrown away. Here are four of my favorite techniques for modifying toddler clothes. I hope they inspire you to make some creative additions to your own little one’s attire!

Cover Up Stains and Boring Logos With Fun Shapes

I found this sweatshirt at a yard sale for 25 cents—a steal! But while it was objectively in good shape, it just wasn’t my style.

So, armed with the material from a few old t-shirts, I cut out a big circle and a smaller star. I sewed the star to the back of the circle, with the right side of the star facing the wrong side of the circle. Then I carefully clipped within my stitched line on the front (so, the right side) of the circle, to make a reverse applique. Then, using a big, sloppy, zig-zag stitch on my sewing machine, I sewed the whole circle over the top of the logo on the sweatshirt.

While this was great to cover up the logo, it would also be a great technique to cover up a stain.

Monograms Get Clothes Returned From Pre-School

If you’re child is in school or daycare, you’ll understand the need for this next one. No matter how carefully clothes get labeled, my son inevitably ends up bringing home other kids’ clothes and losing his own clothes at school. So I decided to put some big, bold monograms on his most often worn pants.

While you could sew the letter on with your sewing machine, I found it was difficult to do so because my son’s pants are so narrow. After experimenting, I decided I liked a hand-sewn look better, too, so that’s what I ended up doing.

To make these, cut the first letter of your child’s name out of fabric that matches the pants. Then, pin the letter to a conspicuous spot on the pants. I used the back pockets and the bottom of one of the legs. Next, using an embroidery hoop if you want, stitch around the outside of the letter several times to attach to the pants. Be neat if you must, but, again, I liked the more slap-dash look.

Fix “Too Plain” Shirts With Stencils and Paint

In the months before my son was born, so many people generously gave us hand-me-down baby clothes. I was grateful, but I found we got a lot of plain t-shirts. To make them more fun, I decorated several with freezer paper stencils.

To freezer paper stencil onto a shirt, you’ll need freezer paper, an exacto-knife, an iron, and some paint. First, draw or trace a shape onto the dull side of the freezer paper. Simple shapes are best, because they’re easier to cut out. (The shapes pictured here came from Lotta Jansdotter’s book, Simple Sewing for Baby.)

Next, carefully using your exacto-knife, cut out the shape to make a stencil. Then, putting the shiny side down, iron the freezer paper stencil to the shirt and allow it to cool for a minute.

Depending on the thickness of the shirt, you may want to put a barrier inside the shirt—a piece of a paper grocery sack works great—to keep paint from bleeding through onto the back of the shirt. Once you’ve done that, it works just like a regular stencil. Just dab paint on the shirt until the stencil is filled in. Let the paint dry over night, gently pull off the freezer paper, then run your iron over the paint to heat set it before washing.

Contrasting Cuffs Stretch Too Short Pants a Few Months Longer

My little beanpole-of-a-son quite often grows out of his pants lengthwise before they get too small in the waist. Instead of getting rid of these high-water pants right away, I’ve found that I can make them last a few months longer by adding a cuff to the bottom.

To make the cuff, cut a piece of contrasting fabric to a little more than double the width of the pant leg, and 6-8 inches long, depending on how much length you need to add to the pants. It sounds technical, but you’ll be better off if you just eyeball it.

Next, stitch up the vertical side of the cuff to make a tube, and press the seam allowance apart. Then, turn the tube inside out, and line the seam up with the seam of the pants, pulling the tube up over the leg of the pants so that the right sides of the fabric are together.

Working carefully so that you don’t inadvertently sew the pant leg together, carefully sew around the pant leg to attach the tube. Then, pull the tube back down the pant leg, turning it right side out. At this point, you should have what looks like a regular pair of unhemmed pants. All you have to do is hem them to the right length for your child, and you’re good to go!

How do you extend the life of your little one’s clothes?