Look, I'm a makeup artist. That means approximately 102% of the clothes I own have makeup on them somewhere. That I can live with. But I cannot abide by getting food on them too. So I have long been wanting to make myself an apron. I just needed the *right fabric.* Around Thanksgiving of last year, I suddenly remembered a fabric I had seen once that would be perfect if, say, I was going to invite the girls over for a Christmas cookie baking party and needed an apron. But when I looked it up, it was out of stock everywhere. Was it even still in production? I turned to my good pal eBay. (You know how I love eBay.) And I found it.
Waaaay overpriced. And then, I found one seller who had it for a decent price. Did she even know what she had???! I didn't ask questions. I just bought it. And then the next day, I realized that I may not be the only one who wants an apron like this. And I went back and bought enough to make two more aprons--Christmas gifts for my mom and my grandma.
But WAIT! You can't wear a Christmas apron all year long. (And I can't just do a simple, relaxing project like making an apron.) They have to be reversible! So I found an additional (non-holiday) hunky fabric for the reverse of my apron and a cute recipe fabric for Mom and Grandma's aprons. The non-holiday hunks I also found on ebay (while I was hunting for the Christmas fabric) and the recipe fabric was from JoAnn (bought online with a Black Friday coupon) and is the same designer as the hunk fabric.
So while I was waiting for my three fabrics to come in the mail, I started hunting for ruffles and making a pattern.
(As an aside that will matter later, when I posted pictures of the finished Christmas aprons on Facebook, I got a birthday apron request from my friend Maggie, who wanted a cat version. I'm telling you this because a lot of the pictures will be of the cat fabric since I had more time to take pictures while I was working on that one than I did for the Christmas ones...we'll get there. You'll see.)
MAKING A PATTERN
So it all started with a drawing (as usual, not a very good one...I swear, I CAN draw).
I had to do some measuring and some math. I grabbed a tape measure and held it up in front of myself in the mirror and came up with some numbers.
I used those numbers to make a pattern for the chest piece--that is, I drew a heart with the actual dimensions of the one in my drawing. (The ties and skirt don't need patterns because they're just rectangles...we'll get to that). I tested out the pattern by holding it up to my chest, and realized that it was pooching out in the, er, boob area--because the pattern is flat and my boobs...well...aren't. So I traced onto the pattern where it was pooching out and made a dart. Problem solved. You'll see this pattern is marked NSA--that doesn't mean it's listening to your conversations; it stands for No Seam Allowance. So we have to remember to add that later
You CAN buy pre-made ruffles, but they're like crazy expensive. And they all look a bit Little House on the Prairie for my tastes. I could have bought some trim from my beloved eBay, but I didn't think it would arrive in time (for Christmas) if I got it on the cheap from overseas. Only one option left: make the ruffles. (Plus, you know, I never like to do the simple thing when the complicated thing will do.)
So how much ruffle should I make? Watch me do some math, guys! The entire circumference of our heart pattern is 48 inches. The standard formula for ruffles is this: 1.5x or 2x the final length (here, x=48") is the length of flat fabric you need to start with. I want these ruffles to be pretty full, so I went with 2x. So we need a 96" long piece of fabric. I want the finished ruffle to be about 1.5" wide, so I cut a 4" wide piece, so that I can fold it in half and still have .5" left for my seam allowance. So in total, I need to cut a 96" x 4" piece of the ruffle fabric for the top of the apron.
Then, for the skirt of the apron, I measured the sides and bottom, which total 85 inches. I want this ruffle to be softer and less full than the one on the top, so I use the 1.5x formula. That's 130" (it's actually 127.5, but I rounded it--ruffles are very forgiving.) I want this ruffle to be about 3 inches wide so I cut a 7 inch width so that I can fold it in half and have .5 inch seam allowance (just like with the other ruffle) So, in total, 130" x 7" piece for the bottom of the apron.
NOW, because I want everything to be pretty (and not simple) I used two fabrics stacked together to make the ruffle. I used a regular tulle and a sparkle tulle.
I cut out from sparkle tulle one 96"x4" (heart ruffle) piece and one 130"x7" (skirt ruffle) piece. *
Then from the regular tulle one 96"x4" (heart ruffle) piece and one 130"x7" (skirt ruffle) piece. *
*There's pretty much no way to get these pieces as one solid, uncut length, unless you want ot have waaaaay excess amounts of fabric. So I just cut the strips as long as possible and seamed them together (ruffles are very forgiving about this too).
(Oh, also, remember that I'm making 3 of these aprons....so yeah. That's a lot of ruffle.)
For the skirt ruffle, I nested the sparkle tulle inside the regular tulle and folded the whole thing in half lengthwise so the sparkles were enclosed. On this first ruffle, I tried to lightly press the fold in hopes that it would make it easier to work with but it didn't really do much so after this one, I gave up on ironing.
For the chest ruffle, I folded each piece of tulle (sparkle and non-) individually so that I had two lengths of ruffle, one of each fabric.
Now for the actual make-them-ruffley part. I got some fishing line--I used 10lb monofilament. (Honestly, I wasn't sure what the best gauge fishing line would be so I opened up a bunch of boxes in the store and touched all the fishing lines. It was weird. No one saw, though, so it's okay.) I scotch taped the end of the fishing line to the end of the first length of ruffle--on the non-folded side, about a half-inch from the edge, leaving a little tail of fishing line to hang off the edge.
Then I set the sewing machine to a wide zig-zag and and stitched over fishing line for the whole length of the ruffle. Each zig and zag lands on either side of the fishing line and creates essentially a draw string that we'll use to gather the ruffle into shape. Once that's done, I repeat the process on the other two ruffles (or because I'm making multiple aprons, the other eight ruffles...jeez.) Then I set my pile of ruffles aside for now.
THE APRON BITS
Okay, so the fabric arrived in the mail (painfully late on the Christmas aprons so that I was panicking just a little) and I could finally start cutting out my pieces. Usually, I would cut from biggest pattern piece to smallest, but in this instance, I wanted to position the heart pattern to capture a single, specific section, so I started there. (This matters for the hunk fabrics, not for the fabrics with smaller repeating patterns.)
I wanted the heart to have the cutest hunk front and center so I needed to be mindful of where I placed my pattern.
Once the heart was cut out, the rest of the apron was just various sizes of rectangle. I made this handy (again, super well-drawn) cutting guide.
The cutting guide assumes 45" wide fabric which I think most print cottons are anyway. All these pieces get cut from both of the fabrics. (The two cat fabrics I had were slightly different widths so I had to trim the wider one down to match.) The two inch wide strips will become a waist-tie and the thinner strips will become the neck strap. The big piece is the skirt of the apron.
I interfaced one side of the heart to give it a little more body. (I put the interfacing on the lighter colored of the two fabrics, but I'm not sure it really matters.) Then I pinned and sewed the darts and pressed them smooth. At last, it was time to ruffle.
I found the center of each skinny ruffle by folding it in half and then pinned that center point to the center of the dip in the top of the heart--this way I'd have the same amount of ruffle on each side. Once the first pin was set, I used the fishing line to draw the rest of the fabric into ruffles, adjusting them as I went to make them lay neatly and pinning frequently. I knew the bottom bit would take a bit of finagling, so I left some ruffle hanging off to fiddle with later. With all the pinning complete, it was time to stitch them down, which I did, working slowly to make sure the ruffles didn't shift at all.
Then I repeated the whole thing on the other side of the heart with the other skinny ruffle.
Now I had to make my neck straps. This was a pretty simple task of stitching the two strips of fabric with right sides together, trimming down the seam allowance, and then using my turn-outer to flip them right-side out. These were way longer than what I would actually need, but it gave me some wiggle room and saved me having to make a more complicated pattern.
I figured out how long they should be by pinning one end of the neck strap to the heart and "trying it on" by holding the heart up to body and putting the strap around my neck. Very scientific. On me, this measurement is about 20". I think if I were making these again, I would make the strap detachable one side so it could fit more snugly, but that's not what I did here....
Anyway, once I knew how long to make it, I pinned the neck strap so that same fabrics were together and the loop went inward so that when I do the next bit, the strap will be on the outside.
I pinned the two chest hearts right-sides together (making sure not to catch the neck strap in the pins). I used the stitch line from when I attached the ruffles as a guide to pin through. I also left the bottom ~6" open because that's where the skirt is going to attach later (and we need an opening to flip it out).
Once it was all stitched, I flipped the heart right-side out and pressed the edges while tugging the ruffles outward to smooth the whole thing out. It still wasn't lying flat enough so I top-stitched the whole thing about 1/4" from the ruffle (again stopping six inches from the bottom).
At this point, I set this chest piece aside and move on to the skirt. (Halfway done!)
I laid one side of the skirt flat and pinned the center of the ruffle to the center bottom and repeated the ruffling process in much the same way I did it earlier, gathering the ruffle along the bottom and sides of the skirt fabric.
I stitched the ruffle into place along the fishing line then took the other piece of skirt fabric and pinned it, right-sides together, to the skirt piece with the ruffle. I had to be careful not to catch the ruffles in my stitching around the corners. Once it was all stitched, I trimmed the corners down and flipped the whole thing. I put a quick basting stitch along the top to hold the two fabrics together and ran a gathering stitch (same business with the fishing line that I did for the ruffles).
Now for the waistband. I took those two 2" wide strips of fabric I cut earlier and seamed them together into 90" long strips of each fabric. Then I pressed the seams.
I pinned the strips together, matching the seams at the center. At the ends of the waistband, I decided to taper one side into a point. I just marked a point 4" from the end and drew the tapered shape on with a straight-edge.
At the center bottom of the waistband, I left open a 22" wide section (11" on either side of that center seam I made earlier). This is where the skirt will slot into the waistband. I stitched all sides of the waistband, flipped it out and gave it a good press.
Then it was time to put the skirt on. I found the center of the skirt and pinned it inside the waistband opening at the center.
Then I gathered each side of the skirt until it fit into the opening I had left for it, pinning as I went, and making sure the gathers were fairly evenly dispersed.
Once the gathers were in place, I slip stitched the waistband closed through the skirt pieces to effectively hold it all together.
At this point, I actually could have stopped and had a cute half apron. But that wasn't the plan. So now I had to put the top and bottom together.
I got the heart piece and lined it up with the center of the skirt, carefully pinning through so that both layers of the heart were lined up with each other on either side of the skirt so that when I top stitch the heart closed, it will look neat and tidy on both sides. It took a bit of finagling. And still didn't turn out perfect on all four aprons....my bad.
So after the imperfect top stitching, I still had to do a bit of hand stitching to make everything lay neatly and tuck away some excess rufflies that were sticking out. (Which I was sitting up doing the night before I went out of town for Christmas. Yikes.)
That done, I gave them a quick steam, wrapped them up, stuck and bow on it and called the whole thing done.
All told, I made three versions of this apron, and four aprons in total.
Version 1: Hunks and Baking. I made two of these--one each for Mom and Grandma for Christmas.
Version 2: Hunks and More hunks. I made this one for myself. (I was hoping to finish all 3 Christmas aprons before the holiday so we could wear them together, but because of a shipping delay with the fabric, mine had to take a backseat so I could finish the two that were gifts.) (I also put a different hunk front and center on this apron because he's my favorite. I call him Daddy Christmas. Yes, I nicknamed them all. Don't judge me.)
Version 3: Cat Lady. Maggie requested this one for her birthday when she saw the hunk aprons on Facebook. And I was happy to oblige. (Her birthday is in May, which is why I waited to post this blog. Didn't want to ruin the surprise! Related: Happy bday Maggie!)
Now let's all go bake something!