ask me: outgrown clothing

It’s been a while since our last “ask me” column! Here’s a great question from Marcy, and I’d love to hear from you too on this one.

Ask Me

“I’d love to know what you do with the clothes you’ve sewn for yourself or your daughter that have been worn out or grown out of. I know you can’t have much storage space living in NYC, so do you give clothes away that you’ve made or do you keep them? Personally, I find it very hard to let go of any clothes I’ve made, even the oldest pajamas that are totally worn out! I’d love to hear your thoughts.”


Music Box view b1


ice cream, View C


ice cream 1


Wow, she’s grown a lot!

I’ll tell you my solution to this question. I save only my favorite clothes that I’ve sewn for S, and I send them to my mom just in case one of my younger sisters has a baby someday. Like Marcy says, we don’t have much storage in our tiny apartment, so my mom generously saves these pieces for me. I don’t think the box at her house is very large yet–I should probably take a look one of these days–but I only save the things that are in really good condition and will still look classic in ten years. I guess I don’t make or buy a lot of trendy clothing anyway, so it’s probably not a huge concern that any of it will look out-of-date anytime soon, but I do think about that when I’m making or buying clothing.

Anything else that S outgrows is either given away to someone we know who is younger and might like it, taken to the Salvation Army in our neighborhood, taken to our local children’s resale store, or sometimes I bring outgrown school clothes to her school in case they can be used by someone who needs them. (S’s school has a dress code and includes in part of its area a low-income neighborhood.)

I’m actually not all that sentimental about the clothing that I’ve sewn. I’m sure there will be a few items here and there that I’ll want to save, but so far that hasn’t been a big issue for me.

What about you? What do you save, and what are your plans (if any) for those items? What do you do with the pieces you don’t save? I’m very curious.





  1. Karen Fuhrman

    For me (and I sew for my grandchildren), it is like giving away a part of me. BUT since the clothes are given away to my grandchildren it is up to my daughters. There are 5 granddaughters and I know that the clothes get passed around among them. My daughters also donate to their church, which has a “borrowers closet”. Basically you donate to and then take from the closet. As long as the clothes are worn (and loved by my granddaughters) it is okay. But a lot of love and work goes into making their clothes and I certainly understand the difficulty in not letting them go.

  2. Rosemary

    Well, I made complete matching crib outfits for two of my boys (quilt, bumper pad, sheets (!), dust ruffle, the works!). (The middle one got the oldest one’s gender neutral green gingham check). Of course, now bumper pads are a no-no. My oldest is 34 and the father of two little girls. It turned out they had no interest in my (their) old stuff and I made a new quilt for the crib I have in my house now that I finally have a little girl to sew for!
    About six weeks ago a tree fell on our house and a branch is impaled in the attic. We had to empty it to prep for the major repairs to the roof. I have finally “let it all go”, to the local crisis center, Goodwill and St. V de Paul, including the newborn and early infant clothes I saved for all three of my boys, which were clearly dated and not feminine enough for the grands. Thirty four and 25 years (my youngest) is long enough (actually too long). I must say it has been a very liberating feeling. I have also donated three large boxes of children’s books (and kept 3 boxes) only to find another three more boxes in this purge. Having just cleared out my elderly mother’s home, I have become concerned about all the stuff I am holding on to. To have someone (anyone) enjoy them is much better than having them stored all these years.
    PS – I also found a bunch of fabric in that attic! Oh boy!

  3. Melanie

    I agree the handmade clothes are harder to part with, but I do. I save only my favorites or really special ones. Each of my children has a box for baby keepsakes and when we outgrow something really special, it goes in the box. Every so often, I go through them and maybe purge a little. (Or beef up middle child’s box which is sadly bare.) Sometimes what seems important at the time is less so later. My daughter will likely get a second box for the super beautiful dresses.

    If I have someone to hand down to who appreciates them, it’s easier to let go. The less important ones get piled with the store bought and sold/donated by the bagful each season.

    Finally, I have a little box for my daughter where I keep the scraps of only the most special/favorite stuff I’ve made her. When she goes off to college or gets married, I plan to make a memory quilt. Recently it occurred to me that (though I don’t sew as much for them) the boys would like this too. All the special pjs mom has made for them. Maybe something like that would help let go?

  4. Janell

    I haven’t made any time to sew for my own toddler yet. I tend to sew for myself. I keep the things which reflect a particular pride or achievement in sewing skill.

  5. Debbie Rines

    My solution to the problem of giving away or throwing away things I have made, that I just can’t seen to let go of is: TAKE PICTURES OF THEM. You won’t believe how much this helps because you can always go to the album and look at them. Of course save just a few of the precious things but toss the worn out things and I know there are many places you could find or donate to, where children would love them just as you do.

  6. I’m not very sentimental so I have no problem letting go of most of the clothing that I make. My daughter, on the other hand, cries whenever she outgrows something. We’ve had to compromise — save some of the very best things, let go of those that are clearly worn out or too basic. I’ve managed to keep it to just a small box for seven years.

    My favorite place to donate is the local hospital charity shop. They are so happy when they receive nice children’s clothing and my daughter can even “visit” her things, at least until they sell. Then she knows they’ve gone to someone who needs them. Any profits the shop makes goes to the hospital to help offset medical bills for those who can not pay. It’s the hospital where my daughter was born, so she also knows that it’s going for a good cause to help people in need.

  7. Janice

    Well, so far, I’ve kept every garment I’ve sewn for Julia (my 4th kid).

    This is because I gave away pretty much every stitch of clothing I sewed for my 3 older kids, and now I’m regretting it. Time has passed so quickly, and I’d love to be able to hand down some of the sewn garments to their children (when they have some). But, silly me, I gave them all away.

    What I may do (at some point) is sort through them, and give away the play clothes, but keep the ones that I’ve got really good photos – either by me or professional photos. Then, someday, she will have the photo, and the article of clothing.

    I don’t know – maybe I’m overly sentimental about this because she’s my last kid?

  8. DianeY

    I made lots of clothes for my 3 granddaughters and my daughter & DIL saved all of them and then started running out of room. They really didn’t want to give any of them away, so last summer we deconstructed all of them and I made quilts for each girl, who are now ages 11-13. I’ve made quilts for each of them before, but no quilts are as loved as much as these made from their clothes. It’s cute to see them going thru the quilts remembering each dress they had of each fabric. I was really surprised with how much fabric I had to work with and cut squares and strips to utilize it best. It was a fun project, once I got over that horrible feeling cutting into the first one.

  9. Jill

    I make or buy clothes big so they last several seasons. My girls are hard on their clothes so by the time they grow out of something, it is worn out or stained. I cut off the buttons and trash or compost the rest. I don’t get to sentimental about it because there is always something new to make.

  10. Sandi Ludwig

    I keep a few things, have given the rest away. My mom made my sister and I quilts out of the scraps of the clothing she made for us growing up. It’s very special to me.

  11. Sarvi

    Not sure if it was here or elsewhere, but I recall reading that you can still donate unwearable clothes, and the fabric will be sold to a recycler and can still bring a bit of income to the charity shop. I’m now trying to find a charity shop that has business practices in line with my values. A bit bummed that it’s harder than I thought.

  12. Jenny

    I save a piece here or there that holds a special memory. I then hand them down to another mother. When my friend went through the pile and saw that it was mostly my handmade stuff, she was afraid. I told her that the rules are to use them, wear them wash them. If they get destroyed, they have lived a great life. If they are still good when she’s done, find some other mother who has a little girl and tell her it is the same rules.

  13. Love your philosophy! So far I’ve saved everything I’ve made my daughter for her younger sister. I’ve taken lots of pictures, would love to make a quilt some day, and plan to only keep favorites in good condition. We’ll see how it goes!

  14. We have a lot of little girls in this family so the clothes get passed around. We have boys too so the same goes for them. If it is something I made, everyone knows they are to come back to me when no one needs them anymore. I will put them away for the next group of children. Anything that is worn out will be used for quilts or doll clothes. RTW hardy ever makes it far so they will often be given to Goodwill or some other charity. The lady at the Goodwill said that a lot of the things they can’t sell in the USA will be shipped to third world countries where they will still be used. Some things they sell in big lots to recyclers. The fibers can be recycled and made into new fabric. I see clothing recycle boxes all over this area. I don’t know how reputable they are and I guess I should find out for future use. I really try not to let anything end up in a land fill.

  15. Of the clothes I’ve made … some things, I just can’t let go of. Yet. Maybe someday they will get passed to another family, or to my grandchildren, but for now, I’m holding onto them. Other things get completely trashed because my kids play outside in the dirt all summer.

    From 4 comments up: you can COMPOST clothes? I hate throwing worn out things in the trash and would love to find a way to recycle the fabric – our locality does not include worn out fabric in the recycling pick-up.

  16. I crossed this bridge just over a year ago when my daughter outgrew some of the first items of clothing I made for her. It really was hard to know quite what to do with hand made clothing but I hate to see useful items sitting idle; also I started making almost all of my daughter’s clothes and her wardrobe was getting a little full.

    I have kept some of the very first items I ever made for her and the rest I have given to a friend who has two little girls to wear and love all my handiwork again.

    I try not to be too sentimental since storage space is precious and better used for more fabric 😉

  17. If I had kept everything I’d made right from when I started making clothes I think I’d be horrified (somewhat of a joke) by my early sewing!
    I photograph everything then pass it on with no conditions or donate to charity (with the same ethical struggle as Sarvi I suspect).
    I’ve been pleased to hear that some of my hand-me-downs gave been handed on again.
    I may one day have regrets (I kind of wish I’d kept some of my late father in laws hundreds of business shirts as the soft colours, stripes and plaids would have made a beautiful quilt for my kids)
    But, I have no room, either in my cupboards, nor my mind for storage like that!

  18. Oh, Liesl! Way to bring all my sentimental feelings surging to the top! Ha!

    It is so interesting from me to read what you do with the clothes you made for S. And refreshing, because I have a hard time ‘letting go’ of the handmade items Eleanor outgrows. I make her an O+S dress each year for her birthday and another at Christmas. E was followed by two little brothers and now that we’re sure we’re ‘done’ I will admit to being sad that I won’t see those dresses worn around our house again.

    I have a box on the top shelf of her closet and have saved each of the dresses I made her. I think in my heart I’m hopeful that she will have a daughter or niece one day who will want to wear them. I have been careful to select colors that are (hopefully) fairly neutral and timeless.

    She’s starting to talk about what she wants her birthday dress fabric to be this year and I’ll be sure to share when we finish!

  19. Ann

    I sew for ten grandchildren with two more on the way so things get passed down or worn out. I do upcycle clothing if possible. Sometimes favorite pieces can be remade or added to so they can be worn longer.

    This is not too unusual and I’m sure many have done the following. One granddaughter became attached to a pair of pajama pants I made for her. As she grew up but not out the pants became quite short, but fit in the waste so she clung to them. So I added a fabric that matched to the legs making them longer and giving more wearing time to those pants. That was an easy and practical way to extend the wearing life of a favorite piece of clothing.

    I love to recreate torn items to give them new life. I have made worn jeans into skirts by cutting the legs off at the knees, ripping out the inseam and adding colorful fabric to make the jeans into a jean skirt. Adding ruffles to the bottom as well makes them longer if necessary and a new skirt is created from old jeans.

  20. Mary

    This is a great question. I too put a lot of love into my creations. I often do a lot of embellishment and consider the things I make “child couture”. It seem like, as you are sewing something, you have good and happy thoughts about that person and it seeps into the garment. I have one DIL who doesn’t like “homemade” and the clothes I have made for those 2 granddaughters get very little wear. I have told her that I never want to go into a thrift store and see something I’ve made. I have asked her to give things back to me when they are outgrown to give to cousins and nieces. Her idea was to cut them up for a quilt that will very likely never be made and that was very unacceptable to me. I offered scraps for her future quilt.
    If my DILs want to pass things on to other relatives or even close friends I want them to first ask me if it’s ok. Maybe I have someone in mind that I’d rather have the garment. I’d also like the recipient to know that it was made by me and that it is special.
    I do take pictures of most things and, if the garment has won a ribbon or award, I do want it back eventually for my collection.

  21. I is absolutely impossible that I keep all the outgrown clothes, I give them to my cousins, who can use them for their own children. But if I had no one in my family who could use them, I think that I would probably keep them as I do not feel very comfortable either giving things I made away. Making clothes is something I enjoy a lot, but as any hand made item, it is not perfect sometimes, and not everybody understands the hard work and time investment behind any piece of hand made clothing.

  22. Oh man, so many emotions about this! I also sew with a lot of emotion and heart, sewing things that match my kids’ personalities and tastes at the time, and it’s super hard for me to let things go because certain garments feel like markers of parts of their childhood almost. Yes, taking photos helps, and I can let go of simple skirts and things pretty easily, but I keep the vast majority of it. Within the last couple months, my sister’s daughter has shown a love of my handmades and dresses (I made her a dress for Christmas and have passed on some of Em’s clothes down to her) and seeing her wearing them makes me sooooo happy, since I won’t have another little girl to pass them to, so I now want to send more her way! I also have started to kick around the idea of sending some outgrown handmades to other sewing mamas with kids younger than mine – I know they’ll be appreciated and worn that way, for sure!

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