How to measure a child for making their clothes.

Measuring up before starting to make a garment is one of those tasks that can sometimes gets ignored, its tempting to just get stuck into sewing, picking a size closest to what you buy off the peg from the shops. However just like sizes vary from shop to shop, sizes also vary between pattern brands. On the whole dressmaking patterns are generally one to two sizes smaller than some shop bought sizes in ladies clothing. Independent pattern makers tend to have a more realistic sizing strategy for the modern day figure than the long standing commercial brands. Most patterns will give you a size chart with bust, waist and hip measurements and usually actual garment measurements too. It really is worth studying the sizing and measuring yourself before you embark on your project. The same goes for making children’s clothing, in fact there is a bit more to take into consideration with children’s clothing because we also need to consider height. Most adult patterns will be sized for the same average height person and will require you to shorten or lengthen for shorter or taller people, however the natural growth of a child will be build into a child’s pattern.

In this post I want to share some tips for how to measure your child for making clothing. If you are a mum you are probably aware if your child is small or large (based on an average) for their age. This is an important consideration to start with because they are unlikely to slot perfectly into the size chart provided with the pattern. Just like when you are shopping you may find in one store your 6 year old child fits well into an age 6 size but needs an age 8 in another store. I am the mum to an eight year old that measures up as a seven year old on the size chart I use to create my sewing patterns and a six year old that measures up as an eight year old. Children do vary greatly in size.

The height of a child is a really important factor, if you look at the pattern size chart for example on my latest pattern release Mary you will notice there is only a difference of 2 cm on the chest width and pattern width of each size between ages 12 months and 7 years, thats only 0.5cm on each side seam. However the length increases by on average 3cm each size.

The other factor to consider when making children’s clothing is that they grow! If your child falls between two sizes or you are making a garment that they can hopefully get a lot of wear from I always recommend sizing up. Especially between the ages of 3 months and 3 years. The growth can be quite rapid in this time period. If you have finished a dress and its a bit big the changes are in 6 months it will fit perfectly. However if you are creating an outfit for a special occasions such as for a wedding you will need to get the fit accurate.

Lets get down to the nitty gritty of measuring a child. This can be a bit tricky if they are very little or not in the mood! It might work to turn the task into a game of statues or offer a little treat at the end….though this doesn’t always work, you can watch the progression of grumpiness as my little girl gets measured for these photos, despite the promise of a treat at the end!!

These measurements are the ones you need to check against the size chart marked ‘body measurements’ on your pattern, not to be confused with garment measurements. The body measurements will be the size of person the pattern designer has used to create the style for, measured in the same way as I am showing here. The garment measurements will have ‘ease’ appropriate to the style so will be a fair bit bigger than the actual body measurements depending on style.

It is best to measure your child either in their underwear or wearing close fitting garments. Measurements should be taken with the tape measure fitting snuggly to the body but not pulled restrictively tight.

Finding the natual waist on a child can be a bit difficult as generally they don’t have much defined shaping at the waist. The best way to find it is to tie a ribbon or piece of string around their tummy and let them wander around and bend wearing it. It should settle at their natural waistline.

You can then take the measurement around the waistline over the ribbon. Make sure the tape is not twisted and is in a straight horizontal line around the body.

While they have the ribbon in the right position take a back neck to waist measurement. This is from the base of the neck, feel for the knobby bone at this point and measure in a straight line from here to the ribbon at the waist.

It may also be useful to have a measurement from the base of the neck to the floor, this would be needed for full length dresses, or any other full length styles.

The chest measurement should be taken around the widest part of the child’s chest, this is roughly in line with the child’s nipples. Again ensure the tape measure is wrapped around the body untwisted and in a straight line.

This is an example to show the tape measure incorrectly positioned, the tape is dropped to low at the back, this sometimes happens when you wrap the tape around so its best to check at the back or from the side that the tape is in the right place before noting down the measurement.

The hip measurement should be taken from the widest part of the hips.

To measure the arm place the tape measure at the shoulder joint, with the child’s arm bent and rested on their hip measure from shoulder joint to the wrist.

This is not a forced smile in anyway!! Lastly …can you feel her pain? The child’s height, children’s height measurement is usually measured from the top of the head to the floor. An easy way to do this is to ask the child to stand against the wall, you could either place a chalk mark on the wall or simply hold your hand at the top of their head.

Measure from this mark to the floor for the height measurement. Then you can release the child from this agonising experience!

Check the measurements against the size chart on the pattern, you may need to make some amendments to the pattern depending on how the measurements fit into the chart and depending on the style.  Its worth considering things like movement and how the child will get into the garment. As an example say your child measures up perfectly as an age 6 but has hips of a 7 year old and you were planning to make the Mary dress which has no zips and relies on being pulled on over the hips. it will probably be worth making the age 7 to ensure they can get it on, the length can be reduced to the age 6 and the bodice being a bib is unlikely to affect the fit to much.

If the measurements are very varied and you are unsure it may also be worth making a toile first.



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Julia Claridge

I was about 6 or 7 years old when I had my first go on a sewing machine, it was an old hand crank machine that my mum used with her patients, she was an occupational therapist. I still vividly remember watching with amazement as the tiny perfectly formed stitches were created as I turned the handle. I Grew up in the 70’s and 80’s when buying clothes was less affordable and dressmaking was an answer to updating your wardrobe more regularly. My own mother was a talented dressmaker who made most of my clothes and my sisters clothes as well as a many for herself. I soon got involved with making my clothes, I loved the whole experience of picking out fabrics, trims and a pattern to create a new outfit, then going home to make a new garment or outfit. When it came to leaving school I visited a careers advisor who asked what I wanted to do next. My answer was ..Sew! Read more...

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