Quilt industry hops aboard children’s clothing craze


Designer’s profile

• Lives in Manhattan.

• Founder and chief designer of Oliver + S, contemporary sewing patterns for children’s clothing.

• Designs classic clothing with contemporary feel.

• Received degree in fashion design from New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology.

• Worked for fashion brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren.

  • Her advice for choosing fabric for her patterns: See the child before the outfit. Certain prints, when used for clothing, overwhelm the child wearing them — causing people to notice the outfit, rather than the person wearing it. (From American Quilt Retailer).

  Liesl Gibson

A line of clothing patterns for children reminds me of sweet little girls on playgrounds jumping rope and singing silly songs to stay in rhythm.

The patterns produced by a company called Oliver + S conjure images right out of a Norman Rockwell illustration.

One of the patterns is even named “Jump Rope Dress,” and what’s more, the pattern front features a 5-inch paper doll and a miniature copy of the pattern design, in which you can dress the doll. The child pictured happens to be holding a jump rope in one hand.

Other patterns include a tea party sundress with bloomers and play suit, a swing set tunic and skirt, a puppet show tunic and shorts.

Little boys are included, too, with bedtime story pajamas, sandbox pants and starfish stencil shirt, and a sailboat top and pants. The pajama paper doll holds a storybook and wears bunny rabbit slippers.

This clever marketing idea caught my attention the first time I saw the patterns locally. Oliver + S is the brainchild of a young mother, Liesl Gibson of Manhattan. She trained at New York City’s Fashion Institute of Technology and worked for brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren.

When her daughter was born in 2005, Gibson wanted to sew some of the child’s clothing. When she couldn’t find any patterns that inspired her, Gibson decided to create her own, which led to founding her own company, Oliver + S.

The name is a combination of her daughter’s playmate, Oliver, and her daughter’s nickname, S, which ensures the little girl’s privacy.

Contemporary yet classic, Gibson’s clothing designs are meant to be “sophisticated and timeless and something that can be passed down to grandchildren,” she says.

Children’s clothing patterns are becoming one of the quilting market’s largest growth segments, Gibson wrote in a recent trade publication, American Quilt Retailer. Her article gave advice to quilt shop owners on how to select fabrics for kids’ garments.

The patterns are designed for today’s quilting cottons, so they’re a natural in fabric stores and quilt shops.

Other companies are offering such patterns as well, and you’ll probably be seeing even more as this trend continues. The boutique patterns sell for about $15.

The PBS television show “Sewing with Nancy” recently aired a two-part series titled “Sew Boutique for Kids.” Patterns are sold by Indygo Junction, http://www.indygojunction.com.

One of these patterns, “Uptown Tops & Trousers,” offers a trio of separates, such as a wrap shirt or trapeze top over crop pants with contrasting binding on the legs, circle designs to be added to the tops, including a pattern for an embroidered bluebird and cherries as embellishment.

Gibson, who also teaches contemporary sewing classes in New York City’s West Village, says, “If New York is any indication of how hot the art of sewing is becoming, then we are on the cusp of the next huge crafting trend.”

When Gibson started this endeavor in 2005, her intention was to design patterns while her daughter napped or attended school — a small business she could run from their Manhattan apartment.

She and her husband, Todd, joke about that plan now. The company grew so much, he quit his Wall Street job in March 2008 to be business manager of Oliver + S. They had to move the company into its own building and studio.

Last August, when their fall collection of patterns arrived at their Brooklyn studio, it was loaded on four pallets and weighed 1.5 tons.

Gibson has about 13 designs available at this time, with three new collections coming out this spring for boys and girls.

“We’ve had many requests for larger sizes,” Gibson says, so they’ll be selling them in sizes up to a children’s 12.

On the company Web site, http://www.oliverands.com, Gibson offers an innovative program for enterprising seamstresses and sewing enthusiasts. With the purchase of a license, individuals are allowed to make and sell garments from the company’s copyright patterns. Ready-made garments are sold on some individual Web stores; other contacts are listed for custom-made outfits.

I don’t need to hire a seamstress, and I don’t have a need to make children’s clothes. But these patterns are so irresistible that I may have to buy some cute fabrics and try one of them.

Hmmm, I do have a niece who will be 4 in February.


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