Making and Selling Safe Handmade Children's Clothes
Like most parents, I like to make sure that the things I buy my children are safe.
When my children were younger, we baby proofed our house with stair gates, cupboard locks and making sure our home was a safe environment for them to be in.
Now they are older I might have removed the stair gates and I trust them not to pull all the plates out the cupboards but I am still responsible for my children and need to make sure that what I give them is safe.
In day-to-day life this means that I have to put a lot of trust in retailers that the products they are making and selling meet safety regulations and requirements.
*DISCLAIMER* This article is not legal advice. Please contact your own trading standard office to ensure that your own business complies with all regulations relevant to your business. This article focusses on handmade children’s clothing. If you want information on toy making or other children’s products please contact your local trading standards office.
Can Clothing Really Hurt My Child?
We out our trust in retailers that the clothing sold for our children is safe. But there are always risks and sometimes things go wrong.
Perhaps you have never thought of it before but there are numerous ways that clothing can hurt our children that we should be aware of.
Cords and drawstrings, particularly in the neck area can present a risk of strangulation. It is possible that fingers and other small parts can get caught in mesh fabrics and fabrics with holes in. Fastenings can come loose and if swallowed by the child are a choking hazard.
Whilst accidents are rare, they do happen and it is always good to be aware of them.
How Can You Tell Something is Safe?
It is really hard to know that something is completely safe and we often have to put our trust in the places we buy from that they have done their research.
We know that toys should be CE marked and we know there are stringent regulations for things that are sold for babies and children. They need batch numbers on the packaging so products can be traced if need be.
Recently Fred and Noah and Gummee have found cheap copies of their teethers available on website like Ali Express and EBay.
You know why these copies can be so cheap? They aren’t tested to the EU and UK safety standards that the originals are.
Jodine from Gummee recently wrote that getting her products tested costs in excess of £8000 a year.
Quality products cost more for a reason.
Raising children can get expensive and it is a good idea to shop around to get the best bargains. But we should be aware that cheap isn’t always best and that often that can compromise our children's safety.
Can Handmade Clothing Be Safe?
Handmade clothes and things from small businesses can be just as safe as things from bigger businesses.
Since starting my own clothing brand in 2016 I am more aware than ever of the importance of making sure things are properly researched ad safety tested.
Over the 3.5 years that I have been making and selling clothes for babies and children I have seen and answered many questions from other handmade sellers asking for safety and labeling information for their own businesses.
It is really hard to find that information in one place and so I have written this blog post to share what I know and direct people to further information if they need it.
This article focuses on handmade children’s clothing. If you want information on toy making or other children’s products please contact your local trading standards office.
How Is Tutti Frutti Clothing Safe?
In the 3.5 years that I have been trading, I have made several changes to my products and collections to make sure they are safe for your children.
Fabric – I use only fabric that is GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) or Oeko-Tex Certified. This means that it has been tested for harmful chemicals and is safe for babies. If I can’t find out if it does not have one of these labels I do not buy it and use it.
Thread – the thread I use to sew up your garments is polyester Oeko-Tex certified thread. Again, this makes sure that the thread does not contain harmful chemical or dyes.
Machinery – I use good quality machines that are regularly serviced. If a needle breaks when sewing I unpick that seam and start again.
Processes – I use sewing clips, not pins, to eliminate the risk of pins being left in a garment.
Designs – I have taken the decision to remove from my collection any garment which has a cord or drawstring – functional or otherwise – along with any garment that uses snap/popper fastenings. This means that I don’t sell dungarees. I used to and I get lots of requests for them but I am not happy that I can test the strength of the poppers in my home studio correctly and so I do not make them for sale.
[edited on 31.1.21 to clarify that Tutti Frutti own brand garments do not have poppers/snaps as I am unable to test them correctly in my home studio. However I do stock and sell products with snaps from other ethical manufacturers who have all the correct safety procedures in place]
Embellishments – I make simple clothes without embellishments or frills. Having spent a Friday evening in A&E with a child who stuck a craft pom pom up her nose (fun times!) I avoid pop poms and sequins at all cost.
Insurance – While not a legal requirement I am fully insured with both public and products liability insurance. This covers me for claims brought against me for damage to third-party property or bodily injury to any member of the public.
Labelling – I make sure that all the clothing I sell is labelled with KEEP AWAY FROM FIRE. As everything I make to sell is made with stretch fabrics I am happy that this covers me if your child decides to wear their rainbow leggings to bed!
Quality Control – Every single garment is check by me, inside and out, to make sure that there are no lose threads, hole, sewing clips or anything else left in the garment and that I am happy it is safe for your baby or child to wear.
What Regulations Should Handmade Clothing Follow?
There are a number of relevant regulations that handmade clotihng must adhere to.
Small handmade businesses are still classed as a manufacturer and need to comply with the relevant guidelines that the larger companies comply with.
The regulations that I have found relevant to children’s clothing are:
- The General Product Safety Regulations 2005 - covering ALL products
- BS EN 14682: 2014 - Cords and drawstrings on children's clothing
- PD CEN/TR 16792:2014 Safety of children's clothing - Recommendations for the design and manufacture of children's clothing - Mechanical safety
- The Nightwear (Safety) Regulations 1985
Let’s look at them in a little more detail.
A "safe product” is any product which under normal or reasonably foreseeable conditions of use presents no risk or only the minimum risk compatible with the product’s use and which is consistent with a high level of protection for consumers.
This regulation covers all products that are made and intended to be sold to consumers. It also covers the products packaging and labeling.
General safety things to consider when making children’s clothing might include:
Fabric – mesh or crochet (has holes in!) Could fingers get trapped?
Thread – don’t have any loose threads in any garments. Take time to make sure these are timed and finished properly.
Buttons – don’t use sharp buttons and make sure they don’t look like food! Sounds silly doesn’t it but if it looks like food a child is more likely to put it in their mouth so maybe avoid these altogether?
Poppers/Snaps – did you know that some large retailers insist that if a jersey garment has snaps then they are not the plastic prong type but are metal prong type. And that they are not used on uneven fabric thicknesses. This is so they do not come loose easily.
It is also good practice to look at your entire manufacturing (sewing!) processes from start to finish. Where can you eliminate risk? Maybe use sewing clips rather than pins, are you sewing needles stored securely away from the pile of finished goods? Do you turn each item inside out and check the item in its entirety before you post it out to a customer?
Cords and drawstrings on children's clothing
Have you ever wondered why small kids’ clothes don’t have functioning draw strings?
I have always found it really frustrating that my slim children didn’t fit clothes and the drawstring was just for decoration so I couldn’t pull the trousers tighter!
Frustrating as that it, that drawstring isn’t real for a reason. And that reason is that it can be a chocking and strangulation hazard.
There are different regulations depending on the age of the child and you can find brief guidance on the Hampshire County Council website.
If you do want to make a pattern to sell that includes a cord them please do read the BS EN 14862 regulation guidelines.
You can usually arrange to get a copy sent to a library near you. It is well worth taking the time to do this to ensure you completely understand your responsibilities as a business and are able to minimize the risk of accidental entrapment by cords or drawstrings on children's clothing intended for children.
Mechanical Safety in Children's Clothing
When designing children’s clothing, it is essential to take into consideration the behaviour of children, whose need for exploration and challenge drives them to use items in new and different ways. One common factor children share is that they are unaware of cause and effect and are therefore substantially less cautious than adults in relation to hazards.
You can guarantee that at some point in life your small child will do something unexpected. Perhaps they will cut their own hair (surely not just mine?!) or draw on the walls of their room (again, I can’t be the only one?) and so when making things for children we must always expect the unexpected!
The EU standard CEN/TR 16792:2014 – Recommendations for the Design and Manufacture of Children’s Clothing, which was introduced in 2014, covers the mechanical aspect of kids clothes.
It covers risks associated with penile zipper entrapment, injuries from sharp objects, chocking and suffocation. It also gives information on testing the strength of other fastenings – buttons, snaps etc.
I have not found this standard available to read in full online so please contact your local trading standards office to find out where you can view a copy.
The Nightwear Safety Regulations 1985
This regulation is really important to know about – especially at Christmas time when customers ask for Christmas pyjamas and nighties!
In brief, it prohibits the sale of children’s nightwear - nightdresses, nightshirts, dressing gowns, and bath robes and other similar garments - that do not meet the strict flammability requirements.
It does not apply to pyjamas but it worth noting that any item of one piece clothing with legs made for babies under 6 months is classed as pyjamas.
It also covers garments made with stretch fabrics that might be worn as pyjamas. Now, as a maker of leggings and t-shirts I know that people often think they are pyjamas. I have lost count of the amount of times someone at a fair has asked if my stall is just nightwear. With this is mind I label everything I make as if it might be used as nightwear.
You MUST include a label that states KEEP AWAY FROM FIRE in red, 10pt ariel font in a permanent sewn in label.
You can read more about selling children’s nightwear here: https://www.businesscompanion.info/en/quick-guides/product-safety/new-nightwear#Childrensnightwear
Isn’t this all a bit much?
There is so much to consider when making sure that the clothes we make are safe to sell that it can feel like its all a but over the top.
But imagine it was your child or grandchild that was injured by an item of clothing – you would expect the make to have take reasonable steps to make sure this didn’t happen. So whilst it might feel a but too much it really is important to make sure you follow the guidelines and make safe clothing.
Where to Find Out More
If you are thinking of starting your own childrenswear brand then it is always best to get information from your own local Trading Standards office.
Trading Standard will be able to advise you an all sort of legal requirements for your business and give you information tailored to you.
My local office was super helpful providing information and directing me to further reading and sources of information.
You can find your nearest office here: https://www.tradingstandards.uk/consumers/support-advice
Phew…Is That It?
That’s quite a lot to take in isn’t it!
There is much more to running and handmade business than just sewing nice things. And whilst I totally understand that this might look like a bit of a faff it is really important if you are running a childrenswear business that you do your research, talk to you trading standards office, and are happy that your product is safe.
I hope you have found it useful – please do remember that this article is not legal advice. Do contact your own trading standard office to ensure that your own business complies with all regulations relevant to your business.
If you have any useful information or links to add, please leave a comment. It would be great to share our knowledge with other makers.
Hi Susie, I am afraid I don’t know about velcro fastenings for aprons – your best bet would be to contact your local trading standards.
Hi Linda, Thanks for your comment.
The best people to contact about licenses for the wash care symbols are UKFT – I don’t have any more information than that which has been shared in facebook groups – I suspect you have seen the same info?
On poppers/snaps – the bodysuits that are for sale on my website are not handmade by me at Tutti Frutti but by an ethical manufacture who has all the safety testing and certification in place. That said, I wrote this article before I stocked them so I will go back an amend the article to reflect where I am with this now. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!
Great article summarising relevant product guidance. I wonder whether you know if velcro fastened neck strap foe a child’s apron would be covered under this? I can see specific guidance for waist ties but unsure quite what the rules are for a strap that goes around the head and fastens with velcro..
Very interesting article, thank you. I have no plan to start selling children’s clothing, I only make for my grandchildren but it is still useful. As for anything to add – I found a pattern for a child’s adjustable apron a few years ago which sturck me as having a seriuos problem if not used with care, so I wrote it up in my blog. I thought you might find it of interest. The apron has a single string that goes all the way round including around the neck. https://newgrandmawantstosew.blogspot.com/2015/12/toddler-and-baby-aprons.html
Thank you for this post, it’s really helpful to have all the information in one place. Have you found anything about whether we need a licence to use the care symbols for sales in the UK? I know they are trademarked by Ginetex, and ukft states that all manufacturers need a licence to use the symbols. I have seen conflicting information though.
Also, I am curious, you say you do not sell any clothing items with snap/popper fastenings? However, I see that you have bodysuits for sale with poppers in the crotch? Could you clarify your thinking on this?
Thank you :)
Hi M Williams – if you’re looking for good insurance cover I’d advise going through a broker as they have access to more option.
Hi, I buy Uk based organic clothing online and heat press with vinyls, my biggest concern is the vinyl being a choking hazard as I do label all to wash on 30 degrees but if the parents/guardians wash mistakenly on 40 degrees + the vinyl might start to peel. I’ve been looking for a public liability cover, but can’t seem to find a company to do so, who do you have or do you have a recommendation? Thank you.
Hi Nyla – thanks for your comment. I buy my fabrics from so many places. Etsy is a great place to start -type “organic cotton jersey” in the search bar and lots of shops come up.
Baby clothes would only need a lining if the pattern called for it. My clothes – leggings, t-shirts etc – are all unlined.
Ali // Tutti Frutti Clothing
I have 2 quick questions. 1. Where do you buy your fabrics? Can you recommend a place? I only found a few that sell ‘organic cotton’
2. Do baby clothes need lining?
Thank you in advance!!
Hi Diane – I am not sure of button testing I am afraid as I don’t make anything with buttons on! Sorry not to be more help, Ali
Hi Kim – don’t be discouraged! If you are in the UK then contact your Trading Standards department for help. You do not need special fabrics or thread either. I use fabrics that are Oeko Tex certified – which means they do not have harmful chemicals in them. There are lots of rules around length of draw strings or cords, buttons and poppers but these can all be found online or by contacting your local Trading Standards Department.
Hi Sue – thanks for your comment. My Trading Standards department did not require me to get items tested before selling. It is best to contact your Trading Standards department to ask.