Gift Sewing: A Reversible 1940s Apron

My most common item I create as a gift for someone is a really cute, finely detailed apron…and if not self-drafted, there is one pattern that I use for all of them.  It’s a vintage re-issue, Simplicity #1221, originally Simplicity #4939 from 1944.  This is a true winner of a pattern, with one cut piece needed to make it and a good design that has a complimentary fit.  Not every apron is so good at being fashionably waist slimming yet with full coverage for food stain protection, too.  Neither are all aprons so good at being a one yard, two hour project!  One of these days, I need to get around to making a version for myself, especially after making so many for others.  Here’s the post on my first gift version of this same apron pattern.  This particular one was going off to my hubby’s godchild as a present.   

This is the first time I had made a reversible apron, and I love how it turned out.  I wanted her (the recipient) to have something she would not find otherwise, something fun, and ultimately useful!  Just one layer of material (printed cotton) alone was too thin to be a useful against food splatters anyways.  As the apron design is so simple, it was easy to merely have the backing fabric become an optional, yet wearable, second side.  The entire raw edges are encased in ¼ inch bias tape so they look the same on either side, too, besides being an easy and colorful finish. 

The sizing is good for gifting, as well.  It is in loose, general blocks of measurements as small, medium, and large gradients rather than precise numbered sizing.  As long as I can estimate the recipient’s body as compared to my own, I can find the right size.  The waist of the apron should just about cover the front 2/3 of the wearer’s waist, so that always gives me a good way to choose what size to make after measuring the pattern in comparison.  The godchild is actually a 20-something who is my size body (or slightly smaller) so I made the apron to fit me.  However, it is always harder to let something go to someone else once you try it on for yourself, you know what I mean?

I made the ties as long as the pattern calls for, which is short enough for only a knot and not a full bow.  The neckline has no closures and flips over the head to lay on the neck and shoulders like a collar, so I feel the shorter ties complement the overall simplicity of the design.  At the base of the ties, I added a small name tag to credit me, the maker, so the recipient can remember who gifted it to her!

What is your go-to for handmade gifts?

‘Flowers Out In the Cold’ – Pullover UFO Dress and Mini Apron

Here is a project which is a happy relief to have it finished.  I saved it from languishing in my “Unfinished Objects” (UFO) pile and now have yet another interesting self-made dress to wear.  It’s just perfect for bringing a bit of spring with me when I wear it in chilly weather! Then, I whipped up a cute little something extra out of the bits of scraps leftover for a happy, easy bonus project.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC: 100% cotton gauze in a predominantly pink floral design, 4 something yards @ 99 cents a yd.;  100% solid magenta purple cotton quilting fabric for both dress body lining and the contrast neck with cuffs;  100% polyester cling-free scraps were used for sleeve linings

Simplicity2748miniaprons

NOTIONS: All I needed was 2 spools of thread and a bit of interfacing – all from on hand!

PATTERN: Simplicity #3557, year 2007, for the dress; and Simplicity #2748, for the mini apron

TIME TO COMPLETE: Too long!!!  I spent a number of hours in the Fall of 2010 to cut out the floral cotton.  Then, several more hours were spent in mid-October 2012 just to figure out what I had done and cut out the pattern pieces for the lining/contrast cotton.  Finally, in late October ’12, I took many hours to finish the dress.  After a little more time in January 2013, eventually it was perfected and I was happy.  So, in total,…at least 12 hours?  It’s so hard to count time on UFO’s.

The see-through cotton gauze fabric was probably not the best for this pattern (since it required a substantial lining) but, when it was so soft and so cheap, what seamstress could resist?!  I think this dress would have had better drape with a rayon or chiffon-like fabric. The more I sew, the more I learn.

This is the “toes out in the cold” picture!
I’m wearing Charilie Stone shoes’ “Athina” suede sandals and also showing off my dress’ lining.

However, I am quite glad to be able to finally wear this dress for TWO big reasons.  Firstly, it is nice to have a fall, winter, and spring dress that is not a dark color, like many conventional winter RTW clothes.  Something about wearing flowers cheers me up a bit at a time of year when everything outside looks dead or dormant and dreary.  Secondly, this was the very first sewing project that launched me back into making garments (and other interesting things) after a several year hiatus of only sticking to altering, tailoring, and crafting small projects. 

Lacking full motivation, I did put this dress off to the side before its final completion. Thus, my “Happy in the Navy” Sundress ended up becoming ‘my first finished’ dress project since I’ve been sewing more frequently (spring of 2012) and sharing what I create here on my blog.  In my mind, my flowered pullover dress is still ‘the first’.  Now I am actually glad I didn’t complete this posts’ dress back when I started it in 2010 because I probably would have been disappointed with it. Luckily, my navy sundress was a ‘wow, I LOVE this’ project to start me out. 

Simplicity #3557 was not exactly a hard-to-make pattern. It was in fact really simple with no big tricks, easy to understand, and straightforward.  But, I do have a problem with the pattern saying “easy-to-sew”.  To me, ‘easy-to-sew’ means it is not only easy to understand how it goes together, but also comes together in a flash. ‘ Easy to understand’ can be different for every seamstress, but this pattern had so many long seams, and it was almost at my limit as a tiresome and time-consuming dress.  All the gores, and there were a lot, had to be stitched together, the seams stitched to finish the edges, then I top-stitched the seams down.  All this stitching quickly ate up 2 spools of thread, and it was oddly hard to find a color thread to match.  Isn’t that how it goes…

The cool contrast neckline is the saving grace to this dress, in my opinion. Otherwise the pattern would end up just blase due to the busy print!  Following the directions to make the neckline produced a very stable, sturdy support for the rest of the bodice. It was very fun being so precise with curves and points besides being a different technique to do. This was the best part of my project. My corners turned out just as precise as I wanted them to be!

As a pullover dress with no closures, the ease was generous. I assumed that was needed to get into the dress – for the most part, I was correct.  The side ties help pull the waist and bust in a bit, but even the large bell sleeves added to what I saw as a Mumu-like appearance.  I eventually sewed the sleeves slimmer by several inches, and this alone helped immensely towards making my dress’ appearance ‘lose some weight’.

What worked wonders for this dress was a small addition I made to bring in the fit, yet still keep this a pullover. I sewed down a strip of bias tape on the inside, at the bodice seam in the center back between the center panel. Then, I ran an even smaller piece of elastic through that channel and tacked it down inside the bias strip.  Wow..perfect fix!  I hope you can see a little of what I did in the picture at left.  I can still slip the dress on over my head, but it looks much slimmer, and the gathers pull the dress back for me while being a cute detail from behind.  There is still too much extra skirt fabric, especially below the back gathers, but I top stitched all my seams, so…(as Tempest from Sew Weekly says) “done is beautiful”!

As a side note, the only reason I lined the sleeves in a different material is for the basic reason of simply running out of fabric.  I actually like the sleeves being lined in poly lining – this way they’re lighter in weight than the rest of the dress.  My ‘make-do’ step turned into a nice design element that no one but me (and all of you) will ever know…

100_0535a

I hardly had much of any scraps leftover, but it was just enough to make yet another mini apron.  Simplicity 2748 was unfolded again.  This mini apron pattern was already used in my post for the “Polka Dot Challenge: 3 for the Price of One”.  A different view was made this time, one that is a shrunken version of a vintage style.

100_0537

The mini ‘shoulder’ ruffles were so frustrating, tedious, and nearly impossible for my machine to handle.  I had to make several attempts at the ruffles before my machine make a decent looking tiny stitch.  X-shaped back ties were also small work to get to come out right.  Here again, the finished product makes my efforts worthwhile 🙂

We took my dress pictures on a blustery day, with a cold front blowing in after some crazy warm days. It is nice to have a chance to get outside and run around, yet 70 something degree warm temps one day that turn into 20 something degree cold weather does too much havoc on the body.  (Yes – in my state, we can have all the seasons’ weather in one week. It’s quite crazy!)  Yet, it means I don’t have to always bundle up in winter but also wear semi-lightweight, in-between garments like this posts’ pretty floral dress!

Do you have a favorite ‘out-of-the-ordinary’ seasonal print, like my taste for a floral in the wintertime?

Polka dot challenge: the “3 for the price of 1” green dotted aprons

100_0539ap-comp,w

These three projects were made through the stretch of the end of last year (2011) and April of this year (2012).  None were really for myself either yet all three projects share the same fabric…a mere 1 1/2 yards from Wal-mart.  How is that for being economical!?  Two full size aprons, one made from scratch and one re-fashioned, together with a mini-sized apron, make up my trio of creations for this week’s “polka dot challenge” at Sew Weekly. There are polka dots in the print – just look hard in between the bugs and daises on the fabric.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:   all cottons; the fabric was from Wal-mart’s fabric dept. except for a utility apron bought off the shelf

100_0552a-comp,w

NOTIONS:  all I needed for finishing was bought on a 50% notions sales @ Hancock Fabric

PATTERNS:  Simplicity #2748, view E  for the mini apron, and Butterick #5474 view A for the full apron made from scratch

TIME TO COMPLETE:   ??? altogether a couple hours on each apron maybe

WORN:  Hopefully, the two moms will enjoy wear their gifts; as for the third apron…well, maybe Barbie will fit in it when it’s not hanging in our kitchen

picture of m-in-l in apron, cropped pic,w

APRON #1:  FOR CHRISTMAS GIFT TO MY MOTHER-IN-LAW:     This apron was made form scratch and followed most of Butterick #5474, view A, but I wanted something other than a tie pulling at the back of her neck.  So I used a 40’s/50’s true vintage apron I bought at the St. Mary’s, Mo. Antique Mall as the patterning idea base for the neck piece.  It’s just a simple ‘large-collar’ type that pops over the head and lays nicely on the shoulders.

I centered the border print (which says “All Things Grow With Love”) at the bottom of the apron and raised the pockets so as not to interfere with the border.  I am glad I remembered (almost didn’t) to sew on the pocket and crossed rick-rack in an X on the front BEFORE I sewed on the batiste backing, using bias tape to finish the raw edges.  The pockets and the ties were cut with a contrasting yellow checkered cotton (also from Wal-mart).  Making the ties was the most time consuming and bothersome part of the apron, as ties always are for me.

When it was done, the neck collar was a bit too big for me (hung too low) so my very accommodating husband put it on so I could pin it down where I wanted.  I just sewed the center in a few inches.  The hubby is always happy to help my sewing projects, but there are limits, too…

100_0538ap-comp,w

APRON #2:  MOM”S GIFT FOR HER B-DAY in JANUARY:   My mom’s apron was a UFO (unfinished object) floating around my sewing area.  It’s a refashioned green utility apron, also bought from Wal-mart.

First of all, the ugly, oversized, basic square shape got cut into something more form fitting, keeping the original ties (Yes!).  The bottom was cut into a wide cloverleaf type design and the top portion I made identical to the mother-in-law apron (apron #1 above).  I used the border design that was left over from the previous apron to hand-sew it onto this aprons existing rectangular pocket, with the same bias tape to finish all the edges.  I even used the same yellow rick-rack  for the decoration but varied it a little with some added brown lace, with a bow to boot!

APRON #3:  MINI APRON TO DECORATE OUR KITCHEN AND CHRISTMAS TREE:   This is basically a mini version of apron #1.  I used Simplicity # 2748 view E for the pattern, applied the yellow rick-rack (again) for the edging and finishing in one, and used a daisy from off of the print for the right pocket and a tiny dragonfly on the left pocket.

Guess what?  The waistband and ties were made from the leftover linen-look, cotton-rayon that I used on my brown vintage 1949 dress, made last year.  I finished this – my first of several mini aprons – in April of 2012.

What works great is a box of mini clothespins that I bought years ago at Target from the dollar-a-pop sale bins. It now seems I was supposed to find a use for them eventually!  Tiny aprons call for tiny clothes pins to display them properly!  This will look great in our kitchen.

Matching my mini apron is an antique hankie from collection of vintage handkerchiefs.

These mini aprons are very tedious and time consuming since they are such small scale work – there’s not much room for mistakes!  I wouldn’t recommend anyone sewing these at all unless you’re in the mood for needing some extra patience.  I would almost rather sew full size aprons but these are sooooo cute.

Believe it or not, I still have this fabric leftover.  After making all these projects using it, I don’t want to see it for quite awhile.