It's naptime here on Granny Lane, so while Nicole is sleeping, I'd like to talk about something I see people frequently asking questions about on the 'net--pattern sizes.
Pattern sizing and RTW sizing aren't related. I can see the skeptical looks now, but it's true. Just because they're in 24 month clothing doesn't mean they're in pattern size 2, and it does not equate to 2T. The same follows for pretty much every pattern size! For example, my sister, Sarah, is a size 4 in RTW, but a size 8 in patterns. Grace is in 5T and starting to get into 6 in RTW, but she's a pattern 3 on the cusp of getting into 4s. Ready-to-wear sizing differs by company and while to a certain extent, this is true in pattern sizing, due to the fact that patterns are all about measurements, it's slightly closer to universal. The Big 4 patterns are fairly standardized, and many independent companies use the same system for convenience.
here.) I'm only posting these because they do show some basic measurements--but I find them incomplete. Especially if you're using a vintage pattern.
My first vintage pattern had me laughing at the instructions. Grace was barely 2 at the time, and hated being measured. And they recommended a tissue fitting. Riiight. Like that's gonna happen! At that age, measuring her usually involved tantrums. Nicole is better about it, but that's because I learned from Gracie and started measuring her when she was tiny, so she's used to it! Another common instruction is "fit the sleeve to the child's arm" because in vintage at least, cuffs were meant to be custom cut and often don't have a separate pattern piece.
It all depends on what you're making. For shorts and skirts, it's incredibly useful (and necessary) to know waist to knee (or hip to knee depending on where your child wears it.) Neck is a good measurement to have too, especially if you're sewing vintage! Shoes size, well, if you're making slippers, I suppose it's good to know, but for the most part, unnecessary.
What to look for in pattern measurements
Most patterns have finished measurements on the envelope. These are very important for length! You have to know how long something is going to be to know if it's too long or too short for your intended recipient. I tend to follow the carpenter's rule--measure twice and cut once!
In vintage patterns, dresses were short. Right now, Grace needs a minimum of 16 inches in a shirt. Sixteen inches hits somewhere around her hip, which leaves a little bit of growth space. Most vintage patterns in her size have a finished length of 17 inches. Which means that if I made it without alteration, everybody would be able to see which pair of My Little Pony panties she wore that day! Pattern alteration, however, is a topic for another day.
If you're using an independent pattern company, the sizing may differ from Big 4 sizing. That means that you might need to measure the pattern itself to make sure of fit. For say, bodices and shirts, you measure the widest point and then subtract the seam allowances and 2" for wearing ease. Do it for the front and back, add them together, and you have a general idea if it'll fit. While not perfect, it's your best bet for guessing sizes! I would also recommend measuring shoulder seams and comparing them to shoulder measurement just in case they need adjustment, and to check things like cuffs and collars. The shoulder seam measurement is something I do with Big 4 patterns, too.
Grace won't wear clothing from vintage patterns unless I adjust the neck holes. As time has passed, necklines on children's clothing has gotten to be looser instead of right up against the neck. I think it must feel like it's choking her, because she'll tell you the whole thing is too tight if the neckline isn't adjusted.
As a seamstress/sewist the first rule is to ignore everything you know about RTW sizing because chances are if you make a pattern in the same size as RTW, the wearer will drown in fabric! Pattern sizing doesn't correlate with age, either--Nicole measures a size 1/2 (that's six months!) in patterns and she's almost 16 months old. Gracie was in pattern 2s until she was 3 1/2, and it's looking like she'll stay in 3s until she's 4 1/2! In short, it's the measurements that matter if you want your hard work to actually be useful clothing.