A new vintage-style apron

Well, that was quick!

I started off with this:

The colors of the fabrics match my kitchen.

The blue, red, and yellow match my kitchen. The green is just for fun.

Three days later, I had this:

Gene is in a corner of my breakfast nook so you can see the colors I was drawing from when I picked the fabrics for my apron.

Gene is in a corner of my breakfast nook so you can see the colors I was drawing from when I picked the fabrics for my apron. She’s also wearing two other garments I made.

Honestly, it could have been done in one day, but I cut it out one day, did half the sewing the second day, then did the final sewing on the third day. What a nice, leisurely sewing pace.

And now I have a pretty new apron. And since I plan to use it, I’m sure it will be stained in no time.

The pattern has an unusual (for the modern day) construction technique. The seam lines for the scalloped fabric trim on the bottom of the skirt and the side parts of the pocket were stay-stitched. Then they were turned back, pressed, lapped on top of the main fabric, and edge-stitched down.

(Actually, before the pieces were lapped, rick-rack was basted onto the seam line of the main piece, so it ended up sandwiched in the seam.)

It was rather like a giant applique. While I haven’t made a piece of clothing with this technique, I have seen vintage reproduction pattern instructions that call for it along curves.

Pressing the seam allowances back was pretty tricky with an iron blasting full steam. I really need to get some ironing gloves before I burn myself.

The pattern didn’t specifically call for any seam finishes, but after I stitched pieces together, I could envision the ravelly mess that would ensue after washing. So, I pinked the edges. Because of the way the pieces were lapped and sewn, this little mishap occurred:

See the round hole and the little crescent shaped one next to it?

See the round hole and the little crescent shaped one next to it?

Well, crap. I didn’t spend too much time crying over it. It is an apron, after all. I just got out my Fray Check and treated both sides of the holes.

But did you notice the other problem? Look closely:

Stems. At the top!

Stems. At the top!

That’s right. The main floral is UPSIDE-DOWN!

Before cutting out the fabric, I quickly scanned it and noted that the blossoms were facing all directions, so I ASSUMED my floral was nondirectional.

Until I had already cut everything out and was placing the finished pocket on the skirt.

That’s when I was annoyed to discover the little grouping of stem ends facing up. UP? What?! I expect this in a home dec fabric, but why would anyone design a quilting cotton floral that’s (just barely) directional? Grrr. Truth be told, the upside-down bouquets are more annoying to me than the little holes courtesy of my pinking shears.

Deep breath.

OK. Well, regardless, I now have a darling little apron that I will actually use. One last look:

Despite the flaws, so cute!

Despite the flaws, so cute!

I like having a fancy apron so much that I’m intending to make another one from a different vintage-style pattern in my stash. I already purchased a darling reproduction 1930s quilting fabric from Country Sewing Center, the really nice quilt store here in town, but I still need to buy bias tape.

The pattern calls for making 7 yards of 1/4-inch bias tape from scratch, but I don’t want to get that up close and personal with my steam iron. Plus, that seems really narrow. So, I’m taking the lazy route and buying regular double-fold bias tape.

That project will be up next.


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Mood board: Stash-busting vintage-style apron

I discovered a couple of fun fabrics as I attempted to tidy my stash.

They were intended for a casserole tote that I had seen in a magazine, but by the time my fabric was (somewhat) organized, I didn’t know where the instructions were.

I had 1 yard each of two fabrics, so I checked my pattern stash for kitchen accessories. I found a pattern of vintage-style aprons, and the amount of fabric was perfect for one of them. I only needed to purchase some rick-rack and matching bias tape. Here’s the mood board:

The colors of the fabrics match my kitchen.

My kitchen is blue, red and yellow; and I bought the fabric (originally for a casserole tote) to coordinate. That would explain the purchase of yellow-based fabric to go with a floral with no yellow in it. 

The pattern is Butterick 4087 (out of print), and I’m making View C, the one in the upper-right-hand corner. Here’s a closer look:

This apron has a shaped waistband and hem and a cute little pocket. This looks like dotted Swiss was used for the main fabric and a cotton floral for the accent fabric. Impractical, but so cute!

The best part of this quick, fun, stash-busting project? No full-bust adjustment needed! In no time at all, I’ll have a pretty little apron that coordinates with my kitchen.

Sewing heaven in New York: Mood Fabrics

My family took our first vacation out of state; and we went to New York, which is quite a long trip for these Northern Californians.

It was a whirlwind tour of 5 1/2 days, ending (sadly enough) the day before Male Pattern Boldness Day. And I didn’t have time for the Charles James exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Our wish list of to-dos was far longer than we could accommodate.

But I made sure I went to Mood Fabrics.

I’ve read about Mood on various sewing blogs, and one of the sewing magazines recently had an article on fabric shopping in New York and listed it as THE place to go if you only had time for one store. And it was just a few blocks south of our hotel near Times Square.

So I went.

The entrance to Mood is on the third floor of its building, accessible by an old-fashioned elevator. And by old-fashioned, I mean it required an operator, who was wearing a uniform with a hat. He closed the door, then the flexible brass gate, before using a brass lever to engage the mechanism that lifted us to the third floor. Cool.

Once leaving the elevator, I stepped across a hallway and into Mood. A friendly woman at the door checks large bags and backpacks (but not purses).

Mood is 40,000 square feet of fabrics on three floors. There is amazing fabric everywhere you look. The fabric is on long tubular bolts, mostly stacked horizontally, with the ends sticking out of racks upon racks of industrial shelving.

Thank goodness I went in with a game plan. Otherwise, I may have been too overwhelmed to buy anything. And I may have fainted in the Suitings section, which was enormous and, well, dreamy.

But my plan was to come home with three cotton prints (which I expected would be among the least expensive fabrics), so I was able to concentrate on just a few hundred bolts in one section. And that area did not include shirtings, which was across the aisle and down a bit. There were a few hundred of those as well.

The salespeople are only too happy to cut you a swatch or pull out a bolt that’s toward the bottom of a pile. In my case, I was looking at a blue and coral paisley (my go-to colors) when a salesperson suggested I look at the other colorways as well. He pulled out the same print in blue and green and said, “Feel this. It’s like butter.” And it is. Green is a little outside my usual color palette, so I thought I should go for it and buy 5 yards. That’s enough for a dress with a full skirt. Here it is:

Paisley from Mood Fabrics — 56 inches wide.

Paisley from Mood Fabrics — 56 inches wide.

There was also this pretty patchwork print that I immediately fell in love with:

Patchwork from Mood Fabrics, 50 inches wide.

Patchwork from Mood Fabrics, 50 inches wide.

I kept trying to walk away because I had no idea what I’d do with it, but it kept calling me back. It has a home dec look about it, but it’s dress weight. I bought 3 yards (50 inches wide).

The final fabric I purchased was this heavier brushed cotton:

Faded damask from Mood Fabrics, 58 inches wide.

Faded damask from Mood Fabrics, 58 inches wide.

I could see this as a dress with my tall riding boots, a great skirt-and-jacket suit, or a fantastic coat, so I got 5 yards of this also. Although I do think it would be smashing on (and heavy enough for) a chair slipcover.

As a memento of the trip, I bought this little ruler:

Ruler from Mood Fabrics.

I’ll keep this on my sewing desk with my seam gauge and seam ripper.

And they put my purchase into this:

Mood Fabrics shopping bag

They placed my fabric in a nice Mood plastic bag with handles, then put everything inside this really nice bag that’s stronger than a typical reusable grocery bag.  I’ll be keeping it forever as a badge of honor.

The fabrics I bought were all in the $12-$15-a-yard price range. Yes, it’s more than I’ll probably ever pay per yard at Jo-Ann’s, but how often will I get to go fabric shopping in New York? And, as an unexpected bonus, garment fabric (as well as clothing) is tax-free in New York City.

By the way, Mood has just opened a store in Los Angeles. I’ll be taking my daughter to Southern California next year to look at colleges, so I’ll have to see if I can sneak in a side trip.

I wanted to keep my focus on buying fabric, so I didn’t take photographs of the store; but this video is an excellent representation of what Mood Fabrics is all about.

I recommend a visit if you are ever in Manhattan.

Sewaholic’s Belcarra Blouse is a winner

After all the alterations (I needed to do two muslins of the front bodice piece), I cut and sewed Sewaholic’s Belcarra Blouse in a day.

I love it!

Here’s the completed top on Gene:

Simple lines and easy to make. A great basic top.

Simple lines and easy to make. A great basic top.

It’s an easy-to-sew top that has nice details and is very comfortable. I was hoping I could substitute tops made from Belcarra for the cheap knit Target tops I buy every year, and I think I can.

But the sewing wasn’t smooth sailing all the way through.

The neckline is finished with a bias band that is folded wrong sides together the long way, then sewn to the right side of the neckline, flipped to the wrong side and sewed down. Somehow, I REALLY goofed this up. The band piece ends up 1-inch wide when folded, and you’re supposed to use a 5/8-inch seam allowance. That would leave a 3/8-inch flap to turn to the wrong side all the way around. I used my 5/8-seam allowance pressure foot and still ended up with an uneven flap. It varied from 3/8 of an inch to 1/8 of an inch. Rather than rip it out and start again, I trimmed the seam allowance close, folded the flap to the wrong side, and used a decorative topstitch on the right side that would be sure to anchor the flap down no matter what the width.

It looked OK.

Until I attached the sleeve bands. Here’s how one looks:

These look nice and clean.

The pattern refers to this as a cuff, but I’d call it a band. The fabric is more interesting up close. You can really see the detail of the fluffy pindots here.

The bands looked so clean and nice that I decided I hated the topstitching. HATED IT.

So I ripped out all the topstitching and attempted to rip out the neck band seam. Well, I had trimmed the seam allowance so close that I was just ripping the edge of the neckline.

So I cut it all off as close as I could. Ugh.

I had some single-fold bias tape in my stash, and I’ve always liked the clean look that makes when used on a casual neckline, so I sewed right sides together, flipped it to the wrong side and sewed it down. Here it is, inside and out:

This looks SO much better than the topstitch I had before.

This looks SO much better than the topstitch I had before.

Nice and tidy inside.

Nice and tidy inside.

Clean and pretty. And still done in a day.

Eliminating the neck band would reduce the fabric needed by a decent amount, so I may skip it in the future and just use bias tape. Or, I might see if I can actually execute the neck band properly. I think I’d take a smaller seam allowance next time.

Here’s the completed top on me:


It’s very comfortable, and I’m happy the fluffy dots are straight across the fabric. The dart looks a little droopy. I think that’s because it’s a smidge too low. Perhaps I should press my darts up instead of down. (Photo by teenage daughter Maddie.)

As well as this fits, I will make a few adjustments next time around:

  • I’ll raise the darts another 1/2 inch.
  • I’ll lengthen the top 1 inch so I can do a more substantial 1 1/4-inch hem instead of a 5/8-inch double fold hem.
  • I’ll straighten the side seams. I don’t need hip room. At all.

With these adjustments, I’ll have a perfect top that sews up quick. I’ll keep it in mind for any nice cottons I see at Jo-Ann’s. I’ll be looking to the great Belcarra Blouses I saw on Sewaholic’s site (I particularly like the ones in eyelet) for inspiration on other ways to use this pattern.

It’s so satisfying to sew up a quick project here and there. Now I want to make a full denim or chambray skirt to wear with this top.