Back-to-School Pencil and Paper Outfits


Hey! It’s Sarah from Sew Salty and Free!

Back to school definitely looks a lot different this year for a lot of families. Whether we’re doing virtual online, homeschooling, doing a hybrid schedule, or going back face to face full-time, keeping with the tradition of making a special back to school outfit can be one really fun way to give our kiddos a little bit of normalcy during this time. For the past few years I’ve seen pictures of these adorable pencil and paper dresses and have been wanting to make one for my daughter. I decided this was the year! I have a son going into Kindergarten as well. And I usually make them matching outfits. So I had to get thinking about how I would turn this pencil and paper concept into something that wasn’t a dress. 

I really wanted to do the paper on top, but with the boy/shorts version of the outfit, it just really wasn’t looking right no matter how I laid it out (see concepts below). And I really wanted the kiddos to match. 
 

So, these are the concepts I came up with… And I think the finished results worked out really great!

I had to decide which patterns would make my vision come to life! I already had my eyes on The Great Adventure Tank for my son’s shirt. But I needed a dress for my daughter and a pair of knit shorts for my son. So I started searching through my pattern stash and found the Sunday Morning Sweats (since we live in hot South Florida, I opted to use just the shorts portion from the pattern and leave out the pants) and the Take Me To Tea Dress

Now that the patterns were picked out and squared away I had to start gathering the supplies needed. 

ERASER: I found this really great color from Sew So English fabrics in double brushed poly. It was labeled as coral, but definitely has more of a mauve/ dusty rose look to it. But any dusty pink would work great!

PENCIL YELLOW: For the yellow of the pencil I found a really great pale yellow from Sly Fox Fabrics looks and feels great!

PENCIL LEAD: Any black 4-way stretch knit will work just fine for this portion. 

LINED PAPER: The last of the fabric you’ll need is some fabric that mimics the look of lined paper. I was having a hard time finding what I was looking for in a knit fabric. It seems most of these prints come in woven, but my kiddos prefer knit. I ended up finding this Baseball Uniform Striped Athletic Jersey online from Walmart. It seems to have done the job great! 

Aside from fabric, there are a few other items I needed to gather.

METAL ERASER: For the metal portion of the eraser I picked up some metalic medium sized rick rack. I bought tow packages, but one was enough to with just a little leftover after completing a size 8 dress and size 5 tank.

TRANSFER PAPER: Lastly, you’ll need some transfer paper if you’d like to have your child write their name on the paper and then transfer it to the lined skirt or shorts. Or just a black permanent or fabric marker to have your child write his or her name onto the garment themselves.

Now we need to prepare our pattern pieces. The Great Adventure Tank is already color-blocked, but the top portion we’re using for our eraser was a little bigger than I’d like. So I actually used the non-color-blocked pattern piece to cut out my tank top pencil pieces.  I cut a line at 1 ½ inches down from the armpit and then another 2 ½ inches from the bottom of the pattern piece. I wrote “ADD” on each cut line to remind myself to add a little extra fabric (whatever amount you prefer, I went with 1/4”) while cutting to account for your seam allowance. I also marked each pattern piece with the color I needed to cut out of it. 

The Take to Tea Dress was also pretty well color-blocked for this project, so there weren’t many modifications needed. I left the top bodice piece untouched and just modified the bottom bodice and the sleeve. I choose to use sleeve bands for this pattern instead of the simple hem. So I labeled the sleeve bands as YELLOW. I cut the sleeve pattern piece an inch from the bottom and labeled the bottom portion as YELLOW. I labeled the top portion as ERASER. I also added the word ADD to each cut line again to remind me to add my seam allowance. 

The skirt of the dress and the shorts for my son I left untouched. These will be cut from our paper looking fabric.

From here, we cut out our fabric according to our new pattern pieces (this is where labeling the colors on the pattern pieces comes in super handy!). The first thing I chose to sew were the shorts because they were the easiest and didn’t require any modifications (aside from leaving off the pants portion of the pattern).  

Next, I worked on combining all my color-blocked pieces of the bodice and tank top. Lay each piece in order right sides together and sew them together (for the top portion of the dress, you may need a little assistance from the pattern instructions to attach it). Next, we need to sew together the portion of the sleeve that we color-blocked. 

Our next step is to add the rick rack to our eraser pieces. I added it along the seam line of the eraser and the yellow pencil and I think it looks great! You’ll need to add it to the front and back of the tank and the front and back of the dress as well as long the sleeve where we color-blocked it.

Be sure to leave a little extra hanging off the end just in to be sure you have enough to cover your piece when you go to sew it on (sometimes the fabric may stretch a little as you sew and you need a little extra to cover it).

Now that we’ve completed putting our color-blocked pieces back together and our rick rack is sewn in place, we can simply follow the pattern instructions to finish up our outfits. If you’ve chosen not to add your child’s name to your garment your finished! Congrats!

If you’d like to add their handwritten name to the shorts and skirt you’ll need to get out your transfer paper or markers. After fiddling with a few different transfer papers (translucent back and white back) and having some difficulties getting the look I was going for, I chose to have my kiddos write their names strait onto the garments with black permanent marker. Using the transfer paper with the translucent background didn’t seem to hold the marker great. The white backed transfer paper didn’t match the white of the skirt like I was hoping it would (although I had the thought that it could be like a name tag, but my kiddos didn’t care for that. You can see an example of the different papers below. So we went for the handwriting strait onto the garments and the kiddos had a blast doing it! (Btw, my son’s name is Notley, but as he was writing his N, he said, “I’m going to add some support so it doesn’t tip over!” And drew an additional line coming down from the N… So now it looks like his name is Motley, lol! But, that’s one of the sweet things about having the kiddos do it themselves, right?!)

Once you’ve decided how you’d like your names added to your garments and successfully added them, you are finished and now have the cutest back to school outfits for your little ones! Congrats! I hope everyone stays safe and has a wonderful school year!



(Written by: Sarah Lewis)

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