celebrate the boy: sewing for boys

In honor of Celebrate the Boy week over at Made by Rae, I thought we would spend a little time today talking about sewing for boys.

At Oliver + S, we make patterns for boys and for girls. Not all other pattern companies do, but we are committed to this. We don’t make as many patterns for boys as we do for girls because, frankly, there is a much greater demand for girls’ patterns. Whenever we release a new collection that includes patterns for boys and girls, the girls’ patterns always outsell the boys’ patterns. I would really love for that to change, however, and I would be thrilled if in the future we can justify producing more items for boys. If you will buy them, we will make them!

As you’re no doubt already aware, boys’ clothing tends to be a bit more restrictive in terms of creative options. Most boys don’t wear pleats or ruffles, and tradition dictates that boys stick with shirts and pants. That narrows the options considerably. But I think the beauty is in the details when it comes to boys’ clothing. Here are a few examples, courtesy of our customers’ photos.

The Sandbox Pants pattern was one of our early patterns, intended for boys and girls. It has an elastic-back waist and a drawstring at the front (more for decoration than for function) as well as front and back pockets. The larger size range of this pattern (sizes 4-8) is still in print, and if you search around you can probably still find the small size range somewhere too.

I love this version of the pants, with striped fabric at the inside waistband and a brown ribbon for a drawstring.

photo by Corinnea’s Chaos

The Bedtime Story Pajamas have been a very popular patterns. This style recently went out of print, but never fear: we’ll be introducing new pajamas with some great details for fall! This style has been popular for boys and girls, and I suspect the boys like it because it’s somewhat reminiscent of a karate costume. The fun details here are in the neckband, ties and waistband. You can select from contrast or complimentary fabric as the trim for a little extra interest and fun.

photo by small dark and handsome

The Sailboat Top and Pants is a versatile boys’ pattern. The Sailboat Top can be made in woven or knit fabrics, and you can have all sorts of fun with your fabric choices as well as with the buttons at the shoulders and with the facings. I like the red buttons and facings in this classic (and classy) striped version.

photo by LouGrace

The Sailboat Pants (the pattern also includes a matching skirt for girls) have four buttons at the front and a cropped beachy style. This is a stylish twist on classic pants for boys.

photo by little birdy 3 chicks

Or make the pants in a fun print. Who can resist green and white elephants?

photo by sascharomeo

When we expanded our size range a while ago we released the classic Sketchbook Shirt and Shorts pattern, which is appropriate for boys of all ages. The shirt can be made with short or long sleeves as well as a convertible or a band collar. And the pull-on shorts include front pockets and a faux fly. I love the dressy combination of this classic white shirt with refined, striped shorts from Spool Sewing:

photo by spool sewing

Or use the same pattern to make a more casual, sporty shirt and shorts like this one:

photo by NoodlesHandmade

One of our most recent patterns, the Nature Walk Pullover and Knit Pants, is a very easy pattern. The kangaroo pocket at the front of the pullover, the piecing (great for color blocking!), and the collar and facing all offer lots of creative opportunities. Here is a classic striped option:

photo by the lovely nest

Here is a very fun version of the pullover, with rockets:

photo by nightknitter

So you can see some of the details that make boys’ clothing interesting. You can also find more inspiration for boys’ clothing in our Flickr group. (Thanks to all our customers who contributed these great photos of their work!)

In our newly released book, Oliver + S Little Things to Sew, you’ll find all sorts of things for boys, too: messenger bag, backpack, quilt, bucket hat, mittens, scarf, bento box carrier, explorer vest, and plenty of other items that will appeal. At least three-quarters of the 20 projects in the book are appropriate for boys!

In honor of Celebrate the Boy week, we’re giving away a three-pack of Oliver + S patterns: the Sailboat Top and Pants, the Sketchbook Shirt and Shorts, and the Nature Walk Pullover and Knit Pants. You pick the sizes. To enter the drawing for all three patterns, leave a comment telling us about your favorite thing to sew for boys. We’ll pick a winner on the morning of Friday, February 18. Once the drawing is complete, comments will close down, and we’ll post the winner’s name. If you’re the lucky winner, we’ll contact you by email to get your preferred size ranges and shipping information. Good luck!


  1. February 17, 2011 at 9:19 am Link

    I love making bags and little cases (for lego, star wars toys, etc) for my boy. I have not yet ventured to make him any clothes, but would love to try.

  2. February 17, 2011 at 9:18 am Link

    Messenger bags–for boys of all ages.

  3. February 17, 2011 at 9:18 am Link

    OMG! Liesl, I can’t tell you how excited I am to see my Nature Walk Pullover on this post (I actually squealed)! What a great surprise! I adore your patterns — they are my favorite thing to sew for my son. Thank you so much for making boy patterns. I don’t know what I would do without them! Sewing for boys is fun. I hope more and more people realize this. Maybe one day a boy pattern will be one of your best sellers. Fingers crossed!

  4. February 17, 2011 at 9:16 am Link

    I really enjoy making fun shirts for my son, oh and warm winter jammies!

  5. February 17, 2011 at 9:15 am Link

    Pants are my favorite, Little Mister has quite a big belly these days his pants are tight! =0) Thanks for the chance to win!!

  6. February 17, 2011 at 9:15 am Link

    I love making recycled clothes for my sons. I especially love making the 90 minute shirt from Made and recycled hoodie from lil blue boo. Thanks for the chance to win!

  7. February 17, 2011 at 9:14 am Link

    I love sewing pants for my little guy – I can make them cute and warm which is great for the canadian winter.

  8. February 17, 2011 at 9:13 am Link

    For my skinny boys, pants are the thing you have to sew for them.

  9. February 17, 2011 at 9:13 am Link

    I love to sew jammies for my little guys…in fact, they’d rather have mama made lounge pants and a tshirt to sleep in than anything else! (even those “cool” character pajamas) We like making costumes as well…out of all kinds of fabrics and materials.

    What a wonderful giveaway..thank you so much for the chance to win!

  10. February 17, 2011 at 9:12 am Link

    I love to sew pajama pants. They’re soft an comfy and always appreciated :)

  11. February 17, 2011 at 9:11 am Link

    My little boy just turned one and my favorite things to sew are pants to fit over cloth diapers! So easy to make and they always seem comfy to wear!

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  12. February 17, 2011 at 9:11 am Link

    I love sewing overalls for little boys and putting embroidery on the bib. Now that my grandsons are getting a little older, I am looking forward to sewing them more mature fashions and I particularly like the Sketchbook Shirt and Shorts pattern.

  13. February 17, 2011 at 9:10 am Link

    i love to make my son pants in fun patterns, while he’s still little enough to let me. i’m looking forward to making him the bedtime story pajamas for next winter as well. thanks for the generous giveaway!

  14. February 17, 2011 at 9:04 am Link

    My favorite thing to make for my son is PJ pants. He loves picking out the fabric, and asking every 5 minutes when they will be done.

    I haven’t seen the Nature Walk Pullover pattern before today, that is going on my list of things to sew.

  15. February 17, 2011 at 8:56 am Link
    Aly S

    Pants! Pants are my favorite simply because it’s so hard to buy them to fit my son.

  16. February 17, 2011 at 8:54 am Link

    I love your patterns!

  17. February 17, 2011 at 8:32 am Link

    My favorite thing to sew for my boys was the Bedtime story pj’s – I have 8 sons and I got the pattern in both sizes and then graphed up for my oldest sons and just made the pants. Your directions are so wonderful that even I a novice seamstress for garments (but quilter)easily figured it all out!
    Your book arrived day before yesterday and I’ve decided to make the messenger bag for one of my handmade Christmas gifts next year, thank you for including small and large sizes!
    I certainly hope to win this awesome giveaway!

  18. February 17, 2011 at 8:22 am Link

    My favorite pattern combo right now (it’s cold here!) is the Nature Walk pullover plus Sandbox Pants! And I recently purchased the Sketchbook pattern so I can sew more for my 2 year old nephew – I love hand made gifts!

  19. February 17, 2011 at 8:21 am Link

    I have 3 boys and am always looking for fun patterns for them. I love making summer shorts in wild prints, while they love it when I make super soft pj bottoms.

  20. February 17, 2011 at 8:10 am Link

    My favorite things to sew for boys are shirts. I tend to leave pants plain but shirts are another story. My nephews love to choose designs to applique and stencil on shirts.

  21. February 17, 2011 at 8:09 am Link

    I started to sew when I found out that I was pregnant. I wanted to make something with my hands as a welcoming gift for my son, so I sew him a welcoming blanket – a blue toned stripey blankie. It wasn’t perfect but it carried all my love and affections for the little boy.

    My son is now almost 2 years and I can say that dressing for boys is no less fun than dressing girls… and sewing for boys can be as fun as sewing for little girls. As a matter of fact, sewing boy items is more fun because it requires a little more creativity and eye for fabric choice.

    My most favorite item to sew for boys is trousers. The simplest piece of clothing is also the most versatile!

  22. February 17, 2011 at 8:04 am Link

    Would LOVE these patterns! I actually have a hard time coming up with things to make for little boys-though I absolutely adore these two blogs for dedicating a whole month to them!! I have 3 very close friends who’ve just had/are about to have babies-2 boys and one girl-and I make so many more things for the girl…I need to fix this!!

  23. February 17, 2011 at 7:59 am Link

    I love all of your patterns but the Sailboat Top and Pants are on the top of my list to buy. I always love a nautical look and they are so versatile…dressy, casual, short and long!
    Thanks so much for the great giveaway.

  24. February 17, 2011 at 7:39 am Link
    Stefanie Summerer

    My favorite thing to sew for boys are pajamas. So much fun and easy!

  25. February 17, 2011 at 7:24 am Link

    I’m so happy with the School Days coats I made for my twin boys this fall. They love them and they look so great in them! I also like to sew flannel PJ’s for them too. Would love a chance to win those patterns – thanks so much!

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