I’m all for recycling and reusing, me. And unisex clothes – that’s my bag [in my bag?]. I don’t want Frida to grow up thinking she needs the latest Disney princess gear in order to be a heroine. Far from it.
And yet… there’s something a bit difficult about passing a beautiful little dress in a shop window and looking down and seeing my little girl in her brother’s old blue dungarees. Again. And so it was that I decided to pay a visit to Kimberley at Mini Magpie. The original upcycling Queen, she was making beautiful, colourful, unisex, brilliantly bizarre kids’ clothes out of old jumpers and charity shop finds before Pininterest and Etsy were even a twinkle in your crafty eye.
I took along an old jumper of mine, a nice green wool one that I accidentally managed to hot wash (the fate of all my best woollens) and became just an infuriatingly tiny bit too small and an infuriatingly tiny bit too felty to wear. And here’s where I get a bit evangelical because: Lo! What miracle did she perform? Three, totally free, absolutely lovely, beautiful soft (the material having had all its bothersome new-item-itchiness pre-worn out of it), unique pieces of kids’ clothes for the baby. Like all the best afternoons spent in the company of inspiring women, I came away determined to do better. I need to dust off my sewing machine again, because really, what’s more empowering than doing it yourself?
There is one down-side. My kid now looks far, far trendier than me. Or any of the rest of us. It now looks a bit like we stole her in Hoxton from some hipsters.
ITEM ONE: THE SNOOD
“First choose your jumper,” says Kim. “Hopefully you have one or two past their best already waiting to be re-purposed! Choose one with plenty of natural fibre content, ideally over 80%. Examples are wool, alpaca and cashmere. This will ensure the warmth of the finished garment and it will also be more thermal than synthetic meaning the change from cold to hot will not overheat your baby. Please remember some babies are allergic to some animal furs or wools so check your favourite baby is safe!
The jumper – Kim shows me where to start cutting for the first item – a baby snood.
“Choose as large a jumper as possible for your first one,” says Kim. “Men’s sizes are best as they are less fitted.
“Check the jumper for holes or areas you wouldn’t want to show up on the clothes. Don’t worry too much about holes on your first one though, best to use the scruffy jumpers first in case you make a mistake.”
“You will need thread, scissors and some pins.”
The snood section of the jumper is cut out
a short run of stitches is added to create a space through which the baby’s face will fit
The trim is added, to go around the baby’s face
With the addition of a pompom… TADA! Done and dusted.
ITEM TWO: TROUSERS
“Turn your jumper inside out,” says Kim. “Cut the sleeves off straight across the arm at the top as shown. These are the trouser legs.”
“Cut down the seams of the trouser legs about 1/3 of the way down. Put them together to make sure they are equal.”
Arms cut off, like so, then…
“Put the trouser legs one onside the other so that the good sides face each other on the inside, says Kim. “Sew the length of the crotch. It looks like a U shape, but as you sew around, it appears to be a straight line.”
“Go back to the body of the jumper, or another jumper if you would like to have a contrasting colour,” says Kim. “Use one side of the flat tummy of the jumper to make a longways or horizontal rectangle. Fold in half and check with your trousers’ waist size then trim the excess. Sew the folded over part with good sides facing in into a tube. Peel out into a doubled-over ring shape, then place facing down on the outside of the trousers. Sew around the ring.”
Let the kids go wild with the scraps…
“Now your trousers have a warm and cosy waistband and should be stretchy enough to fit your child’s tummy without elastic,” says Kim. “Experiment with different weight wools, different length trousers and different sized waistband. Enjoy!”
ITEM THREE: HAREEM PANTS
With the remaining fabric from the body of my old jumper, Kim suggested some harem pants… Largely following the instructions for the trousers above but cutting the pattern from the sides of the main jumper body, rather than its arms, like so…
She runs classes, you know. And she’s on twitter where you should definitely follow her.
She also generously shares patterns for free on her website, so if you fancy giving these a go, you can find more complete instructions than mine on her website. What a woman…