Monday, August 27, 2012

Apron Tutorial

Whoa there, Nellie! Where has the summer gone? I wrote this post back in mid-July, intending to publish it after I gave the present that is described below... but then I forgot... I guess I was busy at Orford and then Lake George, and then I plumb forgot. But never fear--I shall post this tutorial and then shortly one for the cutest little baby dress you ever did see, which I made just since coming home after my long peregrinations, and maybe that will be enough to get me back in the swing of things.

So, here goes!
The finished apron with the spoils of apricot picking.

Recently it was Comrade MM's birthday. When I was home in California I was trying to find her a birthday present, but I couldn't come up with anything that seemed right. I did remember her admiring an apron a little while back, though, and she has been spending even more time than ever in the kitchen, cooking up a storm, so I thought that I might be able to make one for her.

I did my customary search for free internet patterns and came up with this one for a "retro/vintage-style" apron. I really liked it, but thought that it might be a little bit involved for the amount of time I had at home. Still, the pattern and tutorial seem really easy to follow and the product is super cute! Someday... Anyway, that afternoon I poked around the Davis SPCA thrift store, hoping I might find an interesting garment to modify into a cute apron. I only had a few minutes before they closed so I only had time to pick out a blouse. That evening I went up to Jo-Ann's, shirt in tow, to try to find some complementary fabric. I purchased two yards of a green ruffle, some extra wide double fold binding tape, and 3/4 yard of a twill-like heavier weight fabric.

I had initially planned to double the fabric for the apron skirt in order to make it sufficiently heavy duty, but the fabric was heavy enough already that I decided to cut it in half, making it 3/4 yard wide and a half bolt high. If I had chosen a lighter weight material I think I would have doubled it. Using my colorful binding tape I put a border on the sides and bottom of the skirt. For some really helpful tips on how to do the corners, see this tutorial.

Look at that nice corner!

Next, I determined the length of shirt material I wanted based on my approximation of MM's height and the placement of the darts from the shirt. I decided to keep the shirt doubled up, sewing the front and back together, in order to give it enough heft. I cut off the bottom of the shirt with a few inches to spare and used the iron to mark the desired hem (about a half inch). I next removed the sleeves using a seam ripper and cut off the top of the shirt in a straight line a few inches below the shoulder so that it would hit above the bust. I then straightened the edges of the shirt, folding in the seams until there was a relatively straight line from the waist up. I pinned and ironed everything and then sewed down the sides of the shirt to keep the front and back together, leaving about a half inch at the bottom in which to insert the skirt.

In order to make sure that the apron skirt would be roomy enough when worn, I wanted to give it some gathers. Using my machine set on the lowest tension and widest stitch size I sewed two parallel lines over the unadorned top part of the skirt. Then, I knotted together the two bobbin (bottom) threads on one side and gently pulled the bobbin threads from the other direction until it reached the appropriate width. I wanted the skirt to be almost the same width as the bottom of my shirt, with a few inches on either side of straight fabric to extend the skirt a little wider. Positioning the skirt so it was centered to the shirt and inserted between the front and back, I sewed the sandwich together, tacking the edges with some vertical stitches (to keep the gathers from coming apart). I then opened up the two inches of material I left on either side to extend and prepared to sew the ruffles on top.

I had purchased this pre-made green ruffle that was attached to binding tape but didn't have a use for the binding tape material, so I wound up sewing two parallel lines with a contrasting thread, one to close the tape and the other along the preexisting seam, from one end of the two yards of tape to the other, including over the front of my apron. Later I hand-tacked the extended side of the skirt to the ruffle so that it would all lay flat and no stitches would show.

Requisite hand stitching.

The only thing remaining was the top! I remembered I had a ruffle from a skirt I modified a few years ago, so I cut off a piece long enough to run along the top, folding the edge back behind the ruffles to hide it. I also took the remaining piece of binding tape, sewing it shut as I had with the ruffle, to use as the neck strap. Not knowing how long to make it, I left it very large; Comrade MM will just need to a tie a knot to make it the correct length. Like the skirt, I inserted the top ruffle and the neck strap ends (being careful not to twist the material) in between the two layers of shirting and then sewed one seam to close the sandwich. Because of the placement of the button on the shirt I was not able to sew completely across the front; I later went back and handsewed that little segment.

Last, but not least, I wanted to have a pocket. I think what had inspired me most about this entire project was the idea to have a pocket made out of a sleeve. So, taking one of the sleeves I removed earlier, I cut it to a hand's length and, after ironing the seams, I pinned it to the skirt to attach. Because I used a blouse, I was able to unbutton the sleeve and open it wide enough to sew along what became the back of the pocket, and then sew on top of the other three sides. I made sure to reinforce the upper corners.

The sleeve-pocket.

Et voila! That's it! It was so much fun I made another one that someone among you readers will be getting for Christmas. At least I hope she reads it! And if she doesn't, it will be even more of a surprise...

Next up, a suuuuuuper cute and easy baby dress!

But first, a really beautiful rosewater tart (also made by me, perhaps with recipe to follow. It's easy but requires a lot of eggs):

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