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Tips and Tricks - Caring for your children's handmade clothes

Updated: Jun 19

Lizi is smiling at the camera whist holding up an orange needlecord pinafore dress with a foxes face sewn onto the bodice.

When you make the decision to invest in good quality clothing for your children, one of the first things you need to understand is how to care for them so that they always look their best, and therefore last longer!

I'm a mum too - I have 2 kids, 1 girl and 1 boy, and what I've learnt over the last 13 years of being a parent is... the washing never stops! Like NEVER!!! Even when you think you've got to the bottom of all the piles (yes, we have several piles of washing in our house!), clothes suddenly appear out of nowhere - particularly with my teenager who thinks that wearing something once means that it's dirty!

As a result of all this washing, I'd like to think that I'm now suitably qualified in the matter - I've learnt many a trick along the way when it comes to caring for your children's handmade clothes to keep them looking their best. I don't want to teach you to suck eggs - because if you're a parent too, you probably also do a lot of washing, right? But I do want to share with you everything that I've learnt to help you keep those special pieces that you've invested in looking great!!!

If you're short on time, here's a short video on my top 5 tips for caring for the animal designs in my Wild Wardrobe. For more detailed tips and tricks, please read on...

1 - I'm sure you know this one - wash similar colours together. I like to separate my washing into 3 main groups... Darks, Lights/Whites and Colours. The last thing you want to happen is for colours to run! As a small business selling handmade children's clothes I like to minimise the risk of this happening to you by pre-washing all my fabrics before I sew with them. This has several benefits... Not only does it allow excess dye to wash out to reduce the risk of colours running and bleeding, but it also reduces the risk of the finished garment shrinking in the wash. If the fabric is going to shrink (and most natural-based fabrics can shrink by 5%), it will happen in the pre-wash. It also washes away any residues from the factories the fabrics were made in. It's a win-win situation.

2 - Turn the garments inside out before putting them into the washing machine. This is an important one if the garment is made from a textured fabric. All my animal pinafores and rompers are made from a super soft 100% cotton needlecord. This type of fabric has small vertical ridges which gives the fabric it's texture. It's the perfect fabric for my animal designs as it adds to the tactile nature of the garment. Because these ridges are quite fine they can become 'bruised' if bashed around and rubbed up against other clothes in the washing machine. Turning them inside out also protects the appliqued design on the bodice - or any decorative designs on other pieces of clothing, such as screen prints, embellishments, rhinestones and embroidery. Or if your child's clothing contains bright, vivid colours, turning them inside out will also reduce the risk of colour fading. It's a faff I know because you have to turn them back round the right way after their washed, but believe me it's worth it! Want to know a top time saving tip for this - train your children young (and your husband/partner - he should know how to do it too) to help with the washing!!!

3 - Undo any fastenings before washing (such as buttons and poppers). As your washing spins around frantically inside your machine, pulling forces are acting on your clothes. If buttons and poppers are still attached, those fastening points can become weakened by being pulled about throughout the washing cycle. As a result, buttons can become loose and may need reattaching (and sewing buttons on is my least favourite sewing activity) and the fabric where the poppers have been inserted come under stress causing it to weaken the attachment. To strengthen the popper fastenings on all of my garments, I always use a piece of iron-on interfacing on the inside of the garment. This strengthens the fabric at the point where the poppers are attached - I'm good like that!

4 - Wash your clothes at 30 degree or below. Not only is this better for the environment because you are using less energy to heat the water, but you are also reducing the risk of any stains setting. When you wash clothes at a high temperature you may be thinking that this is good for removing common marks and stains. Unfortunately, this is not always the case - hot washes can set the stains into the fabric making them much harder to remove. With children, it's often food and drink stains that we're having to deal with and I would always recommend soaking them in cool water first (with your choice of stain remover) before placing them into the washing machine. This technique is also great for water based paints and blood - other common stains when it comes to kids!

5 - Do not tumble dry! I know what your thinking - in the winter it becomes absolutely impossible to dry everyone's clothes without using a tumble dryer! I've been there and I've spent many a morning frantically trying to dry school uniform with either the iron or the hair dryer! BUT... if you can air dry your clothes, not only is it better for the environment because your using less energy, but you are also not running the risk of shrinking your clothes due to the high heat exposure. I like to give my kids clothes a good shake after removing them from the washing machine before hanging them on an airer. Winter is hard because the clothes take soooooo much longer to dry inside the house (and I don't have the central heating on all the time either), so I am considering investing in a heated airer this year - if anyone has any recommendations then please drop them in the comments below!

6- Iron on the reverse on a cool to medium setting. Now I say this because I've had some absolute disasters with irons in the past - from melting fabrics because the iron was for too hot to dropping my iron onto my carpet and leaving a burn mark (side note: never try and catch a hot iron! It doesn't end well!). To be on the safe side, I always recommend turning the garment inside out (again, this will protect texture based fabrics like the needlecord in my animal designs), and I always suggest starting the iron on a low setting and then increasing the heat slowly if necessary.

A young boy sits on a green cartoon hill whilst wearing a black long sleeved top underneath an orange needlecord romper. The romper has a tiger's face sewn onto the bodice. He is smiling.

At the end of the day, we all know that kids go through a lot of clothes - why do they have to grow so fast??? And when you invest your hard earned cash on good quality items of clothing you want them to last (and get your money's worth!). And by following these 6 simple steps you'll be able to prolong the life or their clothes, because I really believe that clothes are for wearing. We shouldn't be holding back items for only "special occasions" because that really is not cost effective! Let your kids wear all of their clothes all of the time - yes, even the good quality ones that cost a fortune!!! Just make sure that you're caring for them in the right way so that they last!

And when they've done their job and your kids out-grow them, make sure you read my next blog post for ideas to give them another life!

I'd love to hear any other tips and tricks you've discovered for caring for children's clothes - please share your ideas in the comments below so we all benefit (because sharing is caring after all). Until next time... Lizi x


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