outgrown handmades

The clothing we wear is so much more than a covering for our bodies. Our wardrobe is infused with meaning; it speaks of us and, more importantly, to us. Our clothes are our wearable memory albums, reminding us of the moments of our lives and the relationships we have. A quick survey of what I am wearing right now is a topography of my associations, roles, and concerns. These pants I am wearing right now were pulled out of a friend's garage sale, a friend I now miss terribly since she moved to the other side of the world. I think of her every time I wear them. I also feel a bit of guilt as one of the pocket buttons fell off a month ago and I still haven't sewn it back on. My shirt was a promo from a crafting site. Smootch has a similar one, or had, rather, as she outgrew it long ago and is now worn by her little brother. Sometimes we both wear our matching shirts and have a laugh at our sameness. My poor, tired nursing bra is older than my son and is a direct announcement of my humility (cheapness) as well as to the sweet functionality of my body as a mother.

If we are fond of our own clothing because of their familar presence in our lives, we can become positively smitten with our children's clothes. We communicate with our children through their clothing. There is the subtle comfort in the warm pajamas, the encouragement in the rubber boots, the protection in the jacket. And there is the obvious communion. How many times have I put a particular blue sweater on first Smootch and now Birdie Boy without saying, "Your great grandmother made this for you." I say it because, of course, handmade clothes are physical manifestations of love and adoration. A handmade dress says nothing if it doesn't say, "You are loved."

Their clothes talk to us too. Their trousers and shirts and even their socks and diaper covers whisper to us about their first solids, their first steps, their dancing and singing and quiet naps. A single tee shirt can hold hundreds of memories, all the amazing and tramatic things that can happen in a single year of a child's life. How fast a small box of baby clothes can reduce a grown woman to a goopy puddle of sentiment now that the baby is gone and off to school! Or grown and has babies of his own. The outgrown clothes remind us to be mindful of who our children and we are now, and to savior this time because it will also one day be only a memory.

So what to do with the outgrown handmade clothes? I'm never sure what to do exactly when my handmades have done their tour of duty, particularly if the garment in question was made by somebody else. When is a handmade a keepsake or heirloom and when should we just get over it and send it to the thrift store?

Sometimes my handmades have gone through two or more children as hand-me-downs or passed along to friends with younger babies. I usually only pass along to friends who appreciate the connotation of handmade or clothing with stories (just because.) I have sent some to thrift stores, lacking anyone appropriate to pass along to or it's something I didn't like in the first place (it happens). I've picked up many items obviously handmade in thrift stores and appreciate them all the more for it. A couple of baby sweaters, made by loving grannies, are in storage and will be kept until my babies have their own babies. Some items I've made have been worn into rags and simply sent out to pasture. I've redesigned and reconned many of Smootch's dresses. Dresses are great because the skirt can be separated and it's wearability prolonged through another growth spurt.

I know of others who have sold their outgrown handmades on ebay, Kijiji, and such. Others have broken down the clothes into patches for blankets and pillows. I am interested in hearing your reflections on your outgown handmades - what do you do?


  1. I'm interested in knowing this too! I have many handmades with no home to go to.

  2. Oh! What a lovely post! *sniffles*

    I am no hope, I am afraid, for what to do with outgrown handmades - everything my Punk has outgrown, handmade or not, is being stored now "just in case" & being the shameless hoarder that I am, I do not doubt for a second that I will be storing said garments, with additions, until she is atleast 26.

  3. I agree that finding handmade clothes at the thrift store is extra special for me. I have a dress that someone made and then donated that I keep as an example of a smart way to simplify dress patterns. I don't know if that makes sense, but it doesn't fit either of my children anymore but it was made so well, but in such an easy way, that I decided I'd use it as a guide instead of the pattern guide I have for my dress pattern. I wish I could find that person who made the dress and thank her.

  4. I do so many things. I thrift from many a charity shop so when I haven't anyone to hand down too it is a logical step for me to fill a bag or box and drop it off. We get so many hand me down that I always look for someone to give ours too first. We have a cousin who is a year younger than Wednesday so she gets many of ours.

    But there are also things like Coats for Kids that get our in good shape snow suits.

    We have a box called Baby's First year and it has all of the outfits that we were positively smitten with, or the things she grew out of like her first sleeper she outgrew etc. It also has her shoes because my hubby just loved her little shoes.

    And sometimes I get greedy and keep some stuff for my fabric stash.

  5. Most of ours get passed down to the children of friends who don't sew.

  6. I keep my favorites to add to their memory boxes. My mom saved favorite clothes for us, and know my daughter wears them which is so sweet. So, I keep what I love and pass the rest on to a friend who appreciates them.

  7. My daughter has been able to wear quite a few clothes my mum made for me and saved which I love. My mum also incorporated fabric from some other old clothes of mine (mostly stuff she'd made me) into the amazing double wedding ring quilt she made for my husband and me as a wedding present. I imagine I'll do similar -- save stuff I'm particularly attached to, and with things that can't be worn again disassemble for scrap quilts.
    I have already passed along a few things I made for my daughter to friends (and actually when my daughter was born was given back several sweaters that I'd made for the children of friends which was lovely).

  8. My hand made items go to one of two places:

    1. The "special things to save" box in each child's closet

    2. Handed down to a good friend's daughter.

    How do I decide? I guess it all depends. How much did the child love them item? Was it a favorite of theirs? (Or mine?) If so, into the box it goes. If it wasn't a favorite, or it is something I know my friend will really love, it goes over to Grace. Her mom doesn't have time to be crafty yet she really appreciates homemade items.

  9. Love this post, how sweet! I was just thinking that the other day about the things I make for my girls to wear. Probably keep most of it and pass along what I can to family.

  10. as of now... there is someone to hand our homemades down to -with 3 girls, that happens. I think I shall keep some of my favorites... and maybe make a patchwork out of some that are too worn in places to be passed on. But mostly, I try to find a home that will appreciate them-or send to a thrift store. I may even research a reputable shelter to donate to. Thanks for your thoughts on this subject. I had not really thought about it before...

  11. I give them to a friend that covets DD's handmade outfits. :) I can't get anything for them at the local children's consignment store since they have no labels (besides the fact that they are so much more awesome than RTW). I don't have patience for Ebay. I do hold onto some of my favorites, but I don't really feel the need to. I have lots of pictures. :)

  12. We have a network of friends to pass things along, and it's so fun for the kids to see their besty or their cousin wearing and loving something that they have loved so much.
    Another option that I love it giving to a charity that will *give* the clothing (and other items) to someone in need (as opposed to selling it to them). Especially with handmade items, they are made with love and the recipient must be able to feel a little bit of that warmth and love, even if it they don't know the giver. Kind of like a big hug. Where I live, we have a wonderful charity, for example, that benefits women and children who have had to leave everything behind to escape abuse.

  13. I have a very hard time with this, too. I have the only girls in the family. So, they get the cutest handmade things. And I have no one to pass them onto. I held onto them long enough for my youngest sister (who is 12 years younger than me) finally started having children. But just like all my other siblings, she has boys! ;) So, for me I will just be giving these to a thrift store. That lucky girl that gets these things!
    Rebecca of the R&W Gals