Aprons Big and Small

Size doesn’t matter when it comes to aprons.  I love them all, whether they would fit a Barbie doll or be in grown-up proportions!  This post is a combo of all of that – a few small sized, vintage inspired ones to decorate the tiny mannequins which stand on my sewing room’s wall shelf and one big 1940’s one which I made as gift for a friend of mine.

Firstly, I’ll start with the adult gift apron.  One thing I have learned from doing many projects for others is that your ideas and preferences can show but must take a backseat to the personality of the person you are sewing for.  This was a wonderful project to work on as a gift because I used a vintage pattern for both my own taste and also because this friend also sews past era fashions using old patterns just like me!  The print is a wonderful assortment of old style sewing machines which both she and I actually use to do some of our stitching.

As I have said before for my other tiny aprons (see here, here, here, and here), these are a charming and fun way to use of scraps of treasured, nice fabric and notions too small to seem useful otherwise.  If you don’t have small dress forms like I do, or don’t want these for actual Barbies either (like me), you can pin them up on a twine “clothes line” and decorate a wall or any other space that needs a little something!  This is what I have done for our kitchen under our spice rack.  Tiny aprons take up much less wall space than having lots of actual adult aprons and yet are every bit just as addicting.  It’s literally hard to stick to just one.  Now my mini apron count to date is brought up to 6 in total.  Yet, I have a few more I want to do still!


FABRIC:  The vintage sewing machine print is a 100% cotton, bought from the now-defunct Hancock Fabrics Store.  The fabrics for the mini aprons are true vintage material, found in scraps too small to do anything more with otherwise, but still amazing and killer cute!  I am supposing from the feel of the cottons, the white and green mini apron fabric is about 50’s or 60’s, and the yellow one about 1940’s or 30’s era.

PATTERNS:  Simplicity #1221, view A, a reprint of Simplicity #4939 from 1944, for the full-sized apron; and for the small aprons I used both Simplicity #2748, view F, and Simplicity #1957, view C

NOTIONS:  As the mini aprons are of vintage fabric, I used almost all vintage notion scraps (most from my Grandmother) on them for the details.  The full-size apron is all new materials, yet still stuff that came from what I had on hand.  These were stash busting projects!!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The gift apron was made in April 2015 and finished in 2 hours.  The mini aprons were made in January 2015 and each one took a few hours.

Aprons are relatively easy-to-make, so there is not much to say.  The adult apron was whipped up quickly so I spent extra time to make nice details, especially as this was to be a gift.  I was quite happy with the sizing too and made it as-is (according to the pattern) no changes, except for substituting ribbon ties for self-fabric ones as directed.  However, the small scale of the Barbie sized ones provided a big challenge in and of themselves.  I had to do more hand stitching on them so that they ended up taking longer to make than doing an apron for a real person…how weird.

As the vintage “gardening woman watering her flowers” print fabric was rather thin, I did the extra step of lining the apron with cotton broadcloth remnants.  I also had to add a center front seam to the mini apron’s skirt because I had such limited fabric…but at least I was still able to match up the print!  This by far my nicest mini apron made yet…not all of my own aprons get lined.

The yellow-red-black mini apron is a thick, feedsack style cotton so it was not lined, but it did get a lot of details.  I even added a tiny mini “handkerchief” folded up in the pocket for a touch of quaint realism.  I quickly realized that my idea of going with a fun contrast thread color for machine top-stitching the pocket edges was not the best idea, especially as I was trying to attach baby rick-rack, too.  I really should have chosen a matching yellow, and worked the stitching by hand.  But once it was done, my work wasn’t terrible enough for my own hardened self-criticism to have the heart to unpick.  This was a mini apron after all, was my thought, and one that was taking quite long to make in my opinion.  Oh well – I really want to try this design again, anyway and then I’ll do better for the next time! Not too many people see my nice sewing area, and even then no one will notice some tiny wayward stitching on a mini apron up on a wall shelf.

I’ll admit I did feel sort of bad actually using up my vintage scraps this way.  Perhaps I should have used these scraps for pocket linings in my garments?  Even then they would not really be seen the same way, and on a regular basis (as I am pretty much sewing every day).  Why shouldn’t my house’s decorations receive the same detailing, thought, vintage flair, and handiwork as what I wear?  What would I really do with a 12 inch scrap of lovely rayon seam binding otherwise?  Yup – sometimes I have to find legitimate reasons for my creative desires, because as the saying goes, “Of course, I talk to myself while sewing… I need expert advice!”

“1-2-3-4” …Things I Love in the Hue of Red

More often than not, St. Valentine’s Day has the tendency to be overdone commercially, but there is one thing right about it – love can come in the color red.  Just to show you this fact, I’d like to show you 4 of my favorite reds; 1) a tie neck knit dress, 2) a heart mini apron, 3) a re-fashioned dress, and 4) my streamlined beauty of a car, a Ford Probe.

100_1066a      This tie neck knit dress was the easiest sewing project I have done in quite awhile, and I really feel so comfortable and dressy in it.  I covered my behind (to use a phrase) before starting this pattern, Butterick 5794, by checking PatternReview.com, finding most comments saying view C and D run quite big.  Pattern review was the only guide I had to go by, since the pattern pieces were completely devoid of any finished measurements, any ease info, or anything to let someone know ahead of time how it would fit.  Very strange, indeed!  However, I merely cut a half size smaller than I normally wear and made big seam allowances (about 1 in.) and I had, for once, a dress that fit as finished, with no lengthy adjustments or alterations.butterick5794

There were only some minor changes I made to this pattern for my dress.  The tie neckline goes together very well, but there is a gap of a few inches that ends up between the ties in the center front of the neckline.  Being small chested and considering the neckline to already be generous,  I sewed a very cute, but small, inverted pleat out of those front inches between the ties.  This brought the ties together in front (making them easier to form a bow) and prevents the neck from gaping open.  Also, I did not like the pattern’s self casing idea for the bottom of B5794-drawingthe sleeves.  Folding the sleeve ends under to make a casing for elastic doesn’t give the sleeve extra room to ‘bubble’ out like the drawing shows.  To fix this, I merely cut 2 rectangles, sewed them on as separate 5/8 in sleeve casings, running 1/2 in. elastic through, and hand sewing them closed.  Doing the sleeve casings works out much better for achieving the cover drawing’s look.

The back gathering detail of this dress really makes this dress look neat and special even from behind.  Otherwise most of the details would be concentrated in the front view.  Front and back together make this a very flattering dress.

100_1073     Maybe in my close-up at left you can now see the red in the print.  The fabric’s design also includes a dusty blue, and some white, but, besides the black and red background, the scroll work is scattered everywhere.

The printed cotton knit of my dress is lined in a black jersey knit both for substance and also to hide its white underside.  The print and the finished weight of this dress makes it a perfect multi-season clothing item.  I wore it for these pictures with a tank under for warmth, but worn alone and with the sleeves pulled up, I expect to get more use out of my tie neck dress in the warmer spring and fall days.

100_1074a     Posing with my red Probe for these pictures was supposed to bring out the red in my dress, but whether it worked or not, my car always brings a smile to my face…and that’s always a good thing, right!?!  My ‘Mustang wanna-be’ car is such a minimalist when it comes to causing problems, it always is great, much like how my tie neck dress was to sew and put together.  But, unlike my dress, my Probe frequently brings out the Speed Racer in me, the way she jumps forward in a burst a power when I shift up gears and let go of the clutch.  I thought about doing a “Back to the Future” pose just for fun, but as much as I’d LOVE to talk about my car (having only 60K miles for being a ’93, handling turns so well, etc.) I will keep to sewing for now.  Then I will pop up my Probe’s eye lights and go flying along a lonesome curvy highway somewhere!100_0472a

Now I will show you my #2 red item…my patriotic/Valentines mini apron.  It is view C of my much used Simplicity 2748 pattern, with different styles made for this post and this post.  Even though it is pretty basic with just the front, the pocket, and the four ties to make, it was time consuming on account of the rick-rack and the pocket being sewn solely by hand stitching.

This is my only mini apron that was not made from scraps of previous projects.  I really do not feel guilty though because I bought the quilting quarter at a cheap price, and plan on using the leftovers for a purse.  I don’t know if you can see it, but I picked out this fabric all on account of the tiny Fleur-di-lis in white across the red.  Anything with Fleur-di-lis is hard for me to pass up!

Now to #3, my refashioned modern dress.  The way we figured it, a modern dress needed modern art.

100_1113     I picked out this red knit number at a local upscale resale shop a few months before baby came as a ‘goal’,  something to fit back into.  The whole dress fits very well, but the original bottom of it was this silly tight band with the bottom gathered around it to make a ‘bubble’ look which was plain weird.

100_0543I cut the tight band off the bottom, undid the gathers, and made a plain band instead. I really was hoping to lengthen the dress a bit and add some interest so I made strips of black ponte knit, leftover from this refashion, to sew between the dress hem and bottom band.  Not too big of a refashion, but I think what I did was a good save, and I really like wearing the results.  At left is a pic of the original ‘before’ dress.

Just a few FYI tidbits before I end this post with my The Facts. 100_1108

The modern painting in the picture with my back to the camera is “Bucolic Landscape”, 1913, painted by Heinrich Campendonk, while the second painting is a self-portrait of Max Beckmann, painted 1950.  Pretty neat, right?

I owe the title of my post to the music the CD “Big, Bad World” by the Plain White T’s.  I listened to their music while doing my tie-neck dress, with the “1-2-3-4, I Love You” song as my and My husband’s favorite.  Please click here to watch the Plain White T’s perform the song live on Jay Leno’s show.  “1-2-3-4” is so relaxing, happy, and the lyrics are very sweet and loving.


FABRIC:  for #1 dress-cotton printed knit with poly/cotton jersey knit for lining;  for #2 mini apron- one 70 cent cotton quilting quarter;  for #3 dress-scraps of thick ponte knitSimplicity2748 cover

NOTIONS:  had everything I needed, which was mostly thread

PATTERNS:  for #1 dress- Butterick 5794;  for mini apron- Simplicity 2748;  for #3- none

TIME TO COMPLETE:  for #1 dress- spent about 6 hours, finished Jan. 28, 2013;  for #2 mini apron- maybe 5 hours or less, finished in Aug. 2012;  for #3 dress- 2 1/2 hours of work, finished in early Nov. 2012

THE INSIDES:  As you can see below, I am proud of my french seams, done from the waist down, in dress #1.  The bodice part of dress #1 has zig-zag seams, which are still nice.  This mini apron has neatly covered or enclosed seams (which I can’t say for some of the other mini’s).  Dress #3 is made of a tight knit that doesn’t ravel, so seams actually look nice unfinished (see pic below)


‘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 another interesting dress to wear.  It’s just perfect for bringing a bit of spring with me when I wear it in chilly weather!

100_0975aTHE FACTS:

FABRIC: 100% cotton gauze in a predominantly pink floral design, 4 something yards @ 99 cents a yd.;  100% cotton quilting fabric for lining and contrast neck and cuffs;  poly cling-free scraps for sleeve linings

NOTIONS: 2 spools of thread; had interfacingSimplicity2748miniaprons

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 softer fabric.

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.  Secondly, this was the very first sewing project that launched me back into sewing garments (and other interesting things) after a several year hiatus of sticking to altering, tailoring, and small projects.  I did put this dress off to the side before completion, and my “Happy in the Navy” Sundress ended up becoming my first ‘finished’ dress project since I’ve been sewing more frequently (spring of 2012).  In my mind, my flowered pullover dress is still “the first”.  Now I am actually glad I didn’t finish this dress in 2010 because I would have been disappointed then…luckily my navy sundress was a ‘wow’ project to start me out. 100_0987

Simplicity 3557 was not exactly a hard pattern, it was in fact really simple with no big tricks, easy to understand, and straightforward.  But, I 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 it how it goes…

The cool contrast neckline is the saving grace, otherwise the pattern would end up just blah!  Following the directions to make the neckline produced a very stable, sturdy support for the rest of the bodice, and it was very fun and a different technique to do-it was the best part of my project. Even my corners came out so perfect.

100_0979a     As a pullover dress, the ease was quite generous, but I assumed it was needed to get into it and, 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 the Mumu-like appearance.  I eventually sewed the sleeves slimmer by several inches, and this alone helped immensely towards making my dress lose some weight.

What worked wonders for this dress was sewing in a strip of bias tape on the inside, just below the bodice seam in the center back, and sewing down a small piece of elastic that runs through that channel.  Wow..perfect!  I hope you can see a little of what I did in the picture at right.  I can still pull the dress on, but it looks much slimmer, and the gathers pull the dress back for me and are cute 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 – it’s lighter in weight than the rest of the dress.  My ‘make-do’ 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 stitch.  X-shaped back ties were also small work to get to come out right.  Here again, the finished product makes my efforts worthwhile 🙂

100_0986a      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, but 70 something warm temps one day turning into 20 something cold weather does too much havoc on many Mid-Westerners’ sinuses like mine.  Yes, in my state, we can have all the seasons’ weather in one week – quite crazy!  At least, in the bottom picture, our dachshund was enjoying sniffing around for one afternoon with no cold ears!

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

By the way, I’m not really flying in these pictures.  I was just balancing on a skinny piece of concrete.  Hey, it might be strange, but I like to practice my coordination, and, besides, it’s hard to figure out something to do for a photo shoot sometimes.  Doing silly stuff is a good way to bring out a smile!


The “It’s About Time” Apron and Matching Mini

These two projects for the week of the ‘Apron Challenge’ have certainly been all about time. My first creation is a vintage half apron, found at an antique mall back in 2005 or 2007. I bought it with the intention of turning it into a refashioned full apron, and only recently have I completed my goal after all those years. My second project is a mini apron, made with the leftover scraps from refashioning my vintage full-size half apron. The matching mini apron was completed in exactly 2 1/2 hours of straight no-break sewing – a one evening project. Apron #1 was the longest UFO to date that I have yet worked on and finished, and apron #2 (the mini) was the only project so far that I’ve ever started AND finished in one short stretch. Wow! Both #1 and #2 projects were done so close in time together…no wonder I fell sick the next week!

100_0269100_0270     You can see on the left the original apron as I bought it. To the right, I am pointing to a pitiful tear in the fabric, due to old age and over washing, I am sure.

However, the wear and washing had made it super soft, but this apron was in need of a pocket and some TLC before I would wear it. I had bought some fabric years ago (why I bought only about 1/3 yd. strip I don’t remember) that was exactly the same aqua color stripes in a similar soft cotton. I apparently never got to sew on my apron because I folded it up and packed it in such a great spot in my room, it became mistakenly forgotten. I found this again in early 2011, going through old stuff, and left this apron out, so as to work on ideas for the top half and for the pocket. I was stumped for a good while on account of such a small amount of fabric to use for bodice. Early 2012, I actually started putting this project together, using McCall’s 5643 as my base idea for the bodice. I kept with the circle theme for the pocket when my husband found this quilting scrap big enough to cover the tears in the fabric. I am proud of how I went through the trouble to line both bodice and the back of the original half (using leftover cotton from my denim and plaid dress), making for a very stable, and still modernly fashionable, apron that should last many more years of home duties.

100_0738     It must have been at least three times this year I was ready to throw this away, or at least banish it back to the UFO pile because I wasn’t sure the bodice, pocket, and trim looked o.k. together. I had to sew the bodice straps smaller and wear this a bit to fall in love with the way it now looks.100_0744

My matching mini apron, from Simplicity 1957, uses up the very- I mean the very- last scraps of the bodice material, together with some discount fabric and leftover rick- rack from another mini “red, white, and blue” apron. This tiny blue confection is the easiest mini apron I’ve done yet and makes me want a full size one, just like I said for my first polka dot mini apron. I am glad I used Wrights’ lace trim instead of solid bias tape, like the instructions wanted. The lace is more feminine and not as overwhelming. For the picture, I felt my newest mini apron seemed to match the pretty blue dressed lady crocheted to the corner of my handkerchief.

100_0739     Not only was it ‘about time’ that I FINALLY finished this project, but I also believe aprons are all about time. They are symbols of a past time, a part of history-both culturally and fashion-ally. There are aprons that range from religiously ceremonial to multipurpose (i.e. an apron that transforms into a sunbonnet), from glamorous home couture inspired by designers to a utilitarian work apron (for x-ray techs or carpenters).
Aprons are a very individual piece of clothing. They stand for different things to different people, such as a time past, a time to work, or a time to take control and be efficient, and are as unique as the wearer. Sometimes even aprons that clash or contrast with the wearer’s personality are the cutest!
There are the ‘full protection’ aprons, a decent covering of the above and the below. Then there are the fun ‘half story’ waist and below aprons. Both kinds can mix-up, combine, hint at, or plain old state-out-loud in so many styles that aprons are so intoxicating! They can be delicate, confining, liberating, rugged, handy, showy, obnoxious, feminine, glitzy, sexy, basic, fashion-wise, cultural, historical…but always fun!  They can show case your skill, but still look just as great if you are lucky to get this much put together.100_0740

So many women seem to fall into an “aprons are not my thing” trap. There may be a certain self-assurance needed for some to wear aprons, or maybe just the right appeal to taste, similar to ‘the wearing of hats’ for many people. I believe that both hats and aprons can be worn by all women. Aprons perhaps need a bit more understanding by the populace.
Now all this might be way too much to put into a mere yard or two of fabric that is meant to be used hard and dirty. But…maybe it’s all true after all because aprons are really the only fashion item that has versatility adjusted to fit every requirement of human necessity for most of human history.
So…when it comes to something handmade – especially an apron – please wear it with pride!!!

RetroapronpatternTHE FACTS:

FABRIC: 100% cotton; I had everything already except for the body of the mini and that only cost me 60 cents

NOTIONS: had thread and left over rick-rack; bought the tape trims for both aprons

PATTERNS: McCall’s 5643, view C for bodice top, year 2008, and Simplicity 1957 for mini

FIRST WORN: finished full apron on Oct. 22, Simplicity1957miniaprons2012, and I have and will get plenty of enjoyable use; finished mini apron Nov. 8, 2012

TIME TO COMPLETE: for refashioned full apron, who knows??? How can I gauge hours put into this when it goes back maybe 7 years? Probably 9 hours were devoted to my apron re-fashion this year; for the mini, it took a 2 1/2 hour marathon