Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Child's Apron {Tutorial}

So now that you know how to embroider by hand.

Want something fun to put it on?

Then let's get started with my Child's Apron Tutorial!

A homemade apron would be the perfect addition to make baking with your little helper that much sweeter. Seriously, the cuteness factor of these is just too high to miss out on. And they are really quite simple to make. Even if you don't want to tackle the embroidery part, just find some gorgeous fabrics and you're good to go.

Finished size of this apron is approximately 10"H x 12"W

You'll need:
  1. Coordinating fabrics: 1/3 yard of white Egyptian cotton, or other fine white fabric for the top and lining. A coordinating fabric for the back that measures at least 12"H x 16"W (you can use a fat quarter for this). 1/6 yard of coordinating fabric for the sash (a strip of fabric 6"x the standard width of the fabric, about 44"). If you are having this cut at a fabric store, you better ask for 8" because sometimes they can be really off from the grain. but if you are cutting from your stash, you'll need to cut two 3" wide strips of fabric. It would be fun to choose a different print for each piece.
  2. Ric rac or bias tape (self-made or store-bought) for trim.
  3. Coordinating thread
  4. Wrapping paper to make a pattern. Of course any paper will do, but who doesn't have wrapping paper on hand?
Step 1 {Make a Pattern}

Here is my apron pattern. Lovely isn't it? It's been used a million and one times and has the pin holes to prove it. You could also use Swedish Tracing Paper, which I have since switched to. I love this stuff for tracing all of my pattern pieces on to. They are so much more durable and it sticks nicely to the fabric for less slippage.

I started by cutting a rectangle that was 13"W x 10"H. Then I used the lid of a gallon ice cream bucket (which aren't really gallons anymore, so sad) to draw the curved corner. I then folded it in half and cut the curves out so it would be symmetrical. That's it!

Step 2 {Cut your fabric}

You can either pin your pattern piece and cut out 2 pieces from your white fabric (one for the top to embroider on, and one for the lining to give the apron more weight and so that your backing fabric won't show through to the front) and one out of your fabric for the reverse side. Cut 3 total.

Or...you could just raid your pantry. Don't laugh, I know this looks strange, but it works.

My sewing buddy, Amy, showed me last week how to cut pattern pieces out using a rotary cutter. And here I thought rotary cutters were just for straight lines. Nope! Just use something to weigh down the corners. Keep cans/jars on the shorter side or you'll have trouble reaching around them. You can also buy pattern weights that are just large heavy washers wrapped in fabric (or make your own). Make sure you do this on your cutting mat. I thought it would be difficult to maneuver, but it was actually quite easy. You should try it sometime. Just don't forget when it comes dinner time, that what you're looking for might be in your sewing room instead of the pantry. Right Amy? ;) Hehehe.

Next cut two, 3" long strips (by the entire width of the fabric) of your sash fabric. Fabric is usually 44" wide and this is plenty long enough for a child's waist.

*If you would like to make this for an adult, just scale your pattern piece up. Make it a couple of inches wider than your body width (for gathering) and as long as you like. You can add length to the sash by following Jona's tutorial on how to make a fat quarter apron. I'm using her technique for attaching the sash anyway (my old way was much harder), so you might want to read her whole tute too.

Step 3 {Embellish}

Or not. You can hand embroider a design, applique a monogram, bring the top piece to a store that does machine embroidery to add a name or monogram, or add a pocket to the front of the apron. How about embroidery on the front and a pocket on the back? Or make some yo-yo's, stitch them on and then free-hand embroider the stem and leaves. The sky's the limit. Here are some photos for inspiration. These are all from my past creations.

Bias trim instead of ric rac.

My first apron, it wasn't gathered at all. I prefer it gathered a bit now so it doesn't make the dress lay so flat.

Step 4 {Assemble the apron}

Once you have added all that you want, to the front and back pieces, you are ready to assemble the apron. Start by laying your back piece right side up. If you'd like to sandwich ric rac between the layers start by pinning it along the edges of the fabric (or use my "no pin" method for adding ric rac, found here). Since jumbo ric rac is 3/8" to the center you will use a 3/8" seam allowance for sewing this portion together. This allows you to pin the ric rac right up to the edge of the fabric, no measuring needed. Love that! Of course you can use different sizes of ric rac, but then you'll need to measure so the center will end up on your seam line.

Actually, before you start pinning...you will need to measure to see that it starts 1/2" down from the top so that one of the scallops aren't sewn in half when adding the sash later. I say 1/2" because we'll use a 1/2" seam allowance when we attach the sash. Ric rac is somewhat easy to fudge with. When you get to the other side and it doesn't line up to be 1/2" down from the top just remove some pins (to about the halfway point) and stretch or scrunch it up a bit until you get the correct length. But it's not the end of the world if you have to cut it just short of the top edge and not include the scallop that would have been sewn in half. If you need to do this, then be sure to heat seal the ends so it doesn't come unraveled.

Heat sealing ric rac: Pass a lighter (I use the long handled kind) quickly along the freshly cut ends to melt them together. A little practice and you will become a pro at it.

Now sew it using a 1/4" seam allowance. This is just to keep it in place so you don't have to sew over extra pins when sewing all three layers together. You don't want to sew with the 3/8" allowance here or you might end up with stitches outside of the final seam and that can be unsightly and a pain to remove later.

Now you are ready to make your sandwich of apron pieces.
  1. First, lay down the plain white piece you are using as the lining. It's ok to not line your apron if you don't mind the print from either side showing through. Perhaps you've just chosen two bold prints, then you probably don't need a lining. It's up to you, this is just how I like to do it.
  2. Next, place the front of your apron, face up, on top of the lining piece.
  3. Finally, lay the back piece, wrong side up, on top of your front piece.
Line up the edges and pin all three pieces together. You may find that the top piece (the one you sewed the ric rac to) is slightly smaller due to the sewing we just did to it. Just trim the other layers a bit so you can accurately use this layer as your guide for a 3/8" seam.

You'll also want to check one last time to make sure you've layered them correctly. It's not fun to find out later that your front piece ended up as the lining piece. Yeah, I would know.

You'll notice that when I opened it up that you can see that the lining piece (which is on the bottom) will be directly adjacent to the front piece. This is so that the red ric rac has another layer of white on top of it so it won't be visible through the top layer.

*Of course you could finish you edges differently, like with store-bought or self-made bias tape. I did that in my Sweet Tweet finished apron above^. In that case you would layer your three pieces the way they will lay as a finished product and just wrap your bias tape around the edges. Be sure to put the side that is slightly wider, on the backside. That makes sure it gets caught up in the line you sew from the front side.

Now sew all three layers together using a 3/8" seam allowance and turn it rightside out.

Check to make sure that the ric rac looks good, not spots where it's not sticking out far enough or sticks out too far. You can adjust those now with your seam ripper and extra pinning in that one spot. Just undo as little as possible to be able to reposition the ric rac. It's a pain, but now's the time to do it.

Next you'll iron it so it lays flat. I gently pull on the ric rac to help it pop out and so I don't iron a crease into the edge.

Then you are ready to top-stitch it. Sew a line anywhere from 1/8" to 1/4" from the edge. Just make it even all the way around.

Step 5 {Add the Sash}

You should already have two 3" wide, long strips of fabric cut. You are now ready to attach them to the apron for a sash. This sash will just be long enough to tie in a loose knot behind her. It probably won't be long enough to tie in a bow, but if that's what you prefer you can add length by following Jona's Apron in an Hour tutorial for the sash. I use the same concept here, but with one length of fabric. With hers you can customize it to the length you need.

I start by finding the middle point of both the sash and the apron and use pins to mark those spots.

Laying the pieces right sides together and the sash so the print is upside down, I pin the apron to the bottom edge of the sash, lining up the center point pins. Ok, I'm sure that's confusing. Keep reading, I think it will make sense soon. I hope...

I only want a slight gather for the apron so that all of the embroidery will show. If you gather it too much, then you lose the ability to see all of the design. I slide the outside edges toward the center by one inch and pin it.

Then I find each center point from there on and pin it.

Flip the apron up so you have an idea of what it will look like when sewn together. Looks good to me!

Now go stitch down the gathered apron to the sash with a 1/2" seam allowance. Lay it back down so both the apron and the sash are facing up (like this next photo).

You can now lay your second sash piece on top of the first sash piece. Be sure it's faces right side down and that the print is upside down. In this next photo, the apron is already attached to the bottom edge of the sash piece that is underneath the top piece.

Now you can start stitching around the sash with a 1/2" seam allowance. You will start where the apron sticks out and go all the way around until you get to where it sticks out on the other side.

Start here.

When you get to the corners, measure 2.5" out and sew on an imaginary diagonal line. Or you could just sew them straight.

Clip your corner and trim the excess to make turning the corners easier.

Turn the sash ends right side out and iron them flat.

The front of the apron already looks like this.

But the back, needs to be stitched up. You need to fold under and iron, a 1/2" seam allowance along the opening.

Pin it lightly so the edge doesn't flip under when you sew. You'll want to remove the pins as you get to them though.

Now, go ahead and top-stitch a line all the way around the apron, about 1/8" to 1/4" from the edge. Just make sure it's even all the way around.

And you are done!

Now go bake a cake!

Angel Signature photo 1-Angel amp Amy Signature-001_zpsq3vngnq4.jpg

Monday, February 15, 2010

Hand Embroidery {Tutorial}

Want to learn how to embroider by hand and make your own pattern?

Then let's get started with my free tutorial!

*And here's my {tutorial} to sew the actual apron.

I personally love hand embroidery because I find it so relaxing. Sewing is fun too, but I have to sit at my sewing desk, away from my family to do it. With embroidery I can curl up on the couch and watch the kids play or watch a movie with my husband after the kids are tucked in bed. It's easy to travel with. You can fit it in a small bag (sewing machines, not so much) and pull it out to work on for even just 15 minute time slots. It's so easy to pick up where you left off. I hope you find it enjoyable too. Nothing does a better job of giving an outfit or a gift vintage flair, than hand embroidery.

You'll need:
  1. Embroidery needles - Sharp tips for most fabrics, round tips for working on knits.
  2. Embroidery floss - DMC is my favorite.
  3. Embroidery hoop in an appropriate size for your design and fabric size.
  4. Fabric or garment to embroider on - A pillowcase or flour sack drying towel for the kitchen would both be great pieces to start on. I used Egyption cotton from JoAnn to make my child's apron.
  5. Pattern - Either a kit or tracing paper, heat transfer pencil and picture/drawing to make your own. Aunt Martha hot iron transfer kits can sometimes be found in big craft stores (embroidery isle) or more easily on eBay (this is where I have found most of my kits). You can also find some unique pdf style patterns on Etsy, you will need tracing paper for these. ComfortStitching has some of my favorites. Check out her Little Red Riding Hood design. And here is another site that sells patterns from different designers. Here, I will show you how to make your own pattern from a picture and how to iron the design on.
  6. An arsenal of stitches. Embroiderers Guild has a great *free* on-line guide for you.
  7. Clean hands!

Step 1 {Choose a Design}

You'll want to either buy a kit, like Aunt Martha's or a pdf pattern on Etsy, or draw or find a picture of your own. If you buy a kit, then just follow the directions on the envelope. The pattern is already printed onto paper. All you need to do is iron it on. You will read about this in Step 3. If you buy a pdf style pattern or choose to make your own drawing, just follow along with me.

Here is the photo I used.

*Please note that Strawberry Shortcake is a trademarked icon, just like Hello Kitty, Mickey Mouse, or the Disney princesses, etc... It is illegal to reproduce their images for profit. The apron I made here was for a gift so that is just fine since it's considered "personal use."

I printed it in the size I needed for the apron. You can easily copy/paste a photo into a Word doc. There you can drag the corners in or out to the desired size, then print.

Step 2 {Tracing}

Next grab your pad of tracing paper...

...a regular pencil and your Heat Transfer Pencil. You can find these at JoAnn. Make sure you sharpen your pencil very sharp and do so often.

For this part you will use a regular pencil, not the heat transfer pencil. Because this is the side that your iron will directly touch and the heat pencil markings would melt onto your hot iron.

Go ahead and trace your design, the way you want it to look. Since my photo didn't start out as an outline, I paid attention to not include details I wouldn't be stitching. Like the polka dots on her red dress and the barely noticeable ones in white on her hat or the kitty. Polka dots are sure fun, but in this instance they would have looked too busy.

I also didn't include the greeting and I didn't want the cake to be decorated for Christmas. This will be used for a Birthday Girl at her 3rd Birthday Party.

Now, flip your paper over and trace the design you just drew, onto the backside of your paper. This time you will use your transfer pencil as this is the side that will be ironed onto your project. It's the reverse of your image. If you didn't care which direction your photo was placed, you could skip drawing it on the reverse side and just use your transfer pencil for your original tracing. Your ironed image will be the opposite of what you drew. Just make sure you don't do that if there are any letters/numbers involved, or they will be backwards.

Step 3 {Iron your pattern on}

Now that you've got your drawing traced with the heat transfer pencil, you are ready to iron it on. Lay your paper down on the fabric in the place you want it. I measured to be sure it was 1.5" from the left and bottom edges, to allow for my seam allowance and a visually pleasing placement. They say to pin the paper to your fabric so it doesn't slide around, but I don't like trying to iron around the pins.

Lay your hot iron (I use cotton setting with NO steam) on the design. Hold for about 8 seconds and gently slide it to cover the rest of the design. Do this while holding the paper in place, tightly. While I'm ironing the second spot I gently lift up a corner of where I started to make sure it has transferred. If it's not as dark as you'd like, you can slide back to that spot again and iron another 5 seconds or so. It might be best to do a test run on a scrap of fabric for your first try.

Here is my apron piece with the design ironed on to it. I have the lining of the apron behind it just so you can see the design, since my ironing board cover is awfully dark. You'll notice that the corner with the kitty didn't get as dark. I decided it was dark enough since I could still see the lines. And actually, it probably would have been better if it was all that light.

Step 4 {Hoop}

You are now ready to add your hoop around the design and begin stitching. The hoop is very important for even stitches. It holds your fabric taut and creates a nice flat surface to work with. Without one, it would be too easy to pull some stitches tighter than others, thus distorting your final product.

Start by choosing a hoop that will hold all of your design and still fit on your fabric. My hoop size actually cuts off a bit of the wood floor section so I will move the hoop when I get to that portion. But if I had chosen a larger hoop, it would have been off the edge of my fabric, and wouldn't have been able to hold all the fabric taut. You'll also want to untighten the hoop when you aren't working on the project. This will help make it easier to iron out the wrinkles it creates.

I like to have the screw on the top of the fabric. The directions for the hoop say to put the other piece on the top, but then the screw would be on the bottom and I always manage to get my threads snagged on it since I'm not looking at that side. Sometimes it's OK to do things backwards if they make more sense for you.

Step 5 {Floss & Needles}

You'll need to buy sharp point needles when working with any fabric that isn't a knit. Round tips are for working with knits so you don't cut through the actual fabric, leaving a whole. Here is what I buy. Don't ask me what those numbers mean. I was just looking for a size that had the needle eye big enough to not annoy me to death when I thread it.

Embroidery thread is called Floss. It's a thick thread, made up a six strands. Pick your colors and get ready to thread your needle. I usually pull out about 4 feet of length or longer. I don't like having to re-thread my needle, so for me a longer piece is better. You might find you prefer working with shorter lengths because you will be less likely to get it in knots while stitching.

Separate the 6 threads and pull off a group of three. This is completely up to you, but it's how I like to do it. Since my thread will be knotted at the end, it will be twice this thickness when on my needle. I use all six strands when stitching words, and I will use just one strand when making tiny outlines like you'll see on her shoelaces later.

Now thread it onto your needle halfway and even up the ends and tie a knot.

For embroidery that won't be worn and washed, you actually never tie a knot. You leave a tail when making your first stitch and then make sure that later stitches cover it on the backside and then you trim the excess. You end you stitches by weaving your needle under other stitches on the backside and then trim the excess. But, since this apron will be worn and washed, it's imperative that you knot at both the beginning and end of each thread, or it may wiggle it's way out with wear.

Step 6 {Start Stitchin'}

Now you are ready to stitch. If you can trace, then you will have no problem tracing with thread. It's really simple. Look at your design and decide what colors you want each line to be. Make your first stitch by poking your needle up from the bottom and inserting it back down, about 1/8" away from where it came up at.

Let's talk stitch length and tension for a minute. Just like on your sewing machine, you need to pay attention to both of these. You want to have an even tension so that the fabric isn't gathered up in your stitches. You want the fabric to lay flat without puckers anywhere. You also want your stitch lengths to be as even as possible. You'll need to do this by eying it, but it will come with practice. I like my stitches to be about 1/8" in length. But be careful to note that they may need to be shorter as you follow a line that curves. You don't want your stitch line not to cover your pattern line, so shorter stitches along curves will allow you to follow the curve more closely.

Start in a corner, not the middle of each section. That way you don't have to backtrack and waste any of your floss in long stretches on the backside. I'm all about conservation, in fact I look at a section and figure out how I can cover it with as few stitches as possible. I think "if I go up, this way, will I be able to come back down this side to reach that point over there?"

Here is what your backside will look like.

In the next photo, you'll see that I started skipping stitches. This is because if I had gone all the way up to her sleeve I would have a big "jump" on the backside. So instead, I skipped every other stitch so I could fill them in on my way back down. Make sense?

When you do that, the backside will look like every stitch is filled in, instead of every other one like the last photo of the backside.

Step 7 {Tying Off Stitches}

Once you are finished filling in a section, or your thread becomes too short to keep working with, tie it off. On the backside, place your needle under the stitch next to your last stitch.

Gently pull it until you have enough thread to go through the loop you just made.

Pull the thread tightly through, creating a knot. I repeat this so I have two knots.

Next, I slide the needle under some adjacent stitches, to anchor the tail.

Then trim, for a neat looking backside. I later trimmed the tail from my beginning knot too.

Step 8 {Fancy Stitchin'}

I mentioned earlier that the Embroiderers Guild has an easy-to-use stitch guide. It's a great place to learn how to make a french knot, chain stitch, bullion knot, seed stitch or satin stitch.

Here are some of the more special things I did with this design.

Rather than just outline the strawberry stems, I also filled them in with a final stitch that extends from the top to the bottom of each leaf (inside the outline).

And for the berries, I outlined and then filled them in with staggered stitches.

I enjoy just making things up as I go along.

For the berries on her hat, I stacked the stitches to make them looked raised and add dimension to them.

Look at the berry in the middle. I started outlining the sides and filling in as I worked my way to the top. Then each stitch that came through along the top line, ended at the bottom point. All going in to the same hole.

This is also a good close-up of the satin stitching I used for her yarn-looking hair. I realized that it would just look like a stringy mess if I had only outlined it. That's part of the challenge of taking a colored in photo and turning it into a vintage looking outline.

For the dots on the frosted cake, the polka dots on her sash, the pom-pom fringe on her hat and the dots on her shoes...I made french knots. I love the added texture they give the finished product.

I also decided that after outlining all the white portions in black, that it wasn't obvious that those were white. At least it wasn't obvious to my husband. :) So I decided to make white stripes on her pinafore. Who's to say she's not wearing a tonal white striped fabric? Not me!

And for her socks, I wanted the stripes to stand out and after only outlining them, I realized tat they were getting lost in the over all picture. So I filled them in the same way I did the berries. The little girl who is going to wear this apron is pairing it with an awesome pair of green striped knit pants. So the tights were an important part of this piece and they needed to stand out.

For her shoelaces, I outlined them in white because I had to cover up all those pencil lines. Then I used one strand of brown to make it look like more like yarn. If I had it to do over again, I would probably not have drawn on the laces with the pencil, but just free-hand stitched the bows with brown floss. You know what they say about hindsight...

Step 9 {Say Something}
Next, I wanted to stitch the words "berry sweet' on the apron. But I wanted to do it using the Strawberry Shortcake font. I had no idea what that was called, but a google search led to me to this link which was just what I needed. After trying to copy it by hand (not so pretty), I turned to a more exact method. I copy/pasted it to my paint program and cropped the other words off. Then I pasted it into a word doc and made it larger by pulling at the corners. Then printed it out and re-drew the letters with a marker.

Then I traced the words onto tracing paper and laid it on the apron to make sure I liked the layout. Then I followed Step 2, above, and ironed the pattern on.

And got busy stitching. I used all six strands, so when it was folded in half on my needle, it was actually 12 strands gong though each spot, several times. I like the chunkier look for all six strands, for words. It gives them more presence.

In the above photo, I was about to pull the thread down into a whole that already had 24 strands in it. It's hard to do that, so I placed my thumb on top of where the thread had just come from. This anchored it, which allowed me to pull as hard as I needed to, to get the eye of the needle through.

For the "y" below, I did a running stitch and then backtracked down the "y" so I could finish it off.

Step 10 {Finish 'er up!}The stitching is done, now all that's left is to sew the apron together. Follow my apron tutorial {here}.

Need some inspiration?
Here are some of my past designs with hand embroidery.

Here I combined applique and embroidery.

Angel Signature photo 1-Angel amp Amy Signature-001_zpsq3vngnq4.jpg