It’s great to do Christmas on a budget and be frugal with gift giving, but I also want the gift to be special and/or useful — well received and liked. What’s the point of saving money on items that get stuck on a shelf or hidden away as soon as the wrapping is cleared away? There’s a difference between frugal and miserly or cheap. Making a gift, just so you can say you’ve given a gift is not my idea of having a giving spirit — or of being frugal, for that matter. How frugal is it to waste money on something that won’t be used? If I make a gift, I want it to say, I was thinking about you and I thought you would really enjoy this — I love you and I’m going to invest my time to do something special for you.
Okay, so it’s time to go through your remnants and scraps to make a quick and simple gift that all the little girls on your list are going to love. I know, because I’ve made five of them, now. My granddaughters and our soon to be nine-year-old are frequent visitors in my ( and my daughter’s) kitchen. They love to put their hands into what’s happening and to help. They learn; and they feel “big”.
One way to include them, and make them feel part of what’s happening, is to wrap them in one of my aprons. I have an unexplained urge to own lots of vintage aprons. I don’t own a single one, yet, but I love them. All my aprons are pretty much just utilitarian butcher-style aprons and really much too big, even wrapped a couple times for my favorite little helpers. They need some in their own sizes. I love how feminine vintage aprons can be and yet still be so functional. I decided that they would be adorable on the girls and that I was sure I could make some. (I need to make a few for myself, but that’s another post.) So, last Christmas, I made three — one for each of the granddaughters and our then eight-year-old. I was pretty new to blogging and definitely no good at step-by-step pictures, so I didn’t get anything posted.
The aprons were a hit. My granddaughters have a play kitchen where their aprons are always at the ready for their next “baking session” and our cutey-patooty daughter dons hers at every opportunity, whether cooking or cleaning. Also, for the toddler/preschool set, these are so much better than bibs for keeping Sunday and holiday outfits clean and stain-free. They’re just fun AND pretty. I don’t even have pictures of the little ones I made, last year, but you have seen this pretty purple number at least once, in my other posts.
Friday afternoon, I made two new little ones for my daughter to give as gifts to her nieces. They turned out adorable and I DID get pictures this time. (Although it’s definitely going to take me awhile to get up to speed on picture tutorials for sewing.) Like my aprons, my sewing skills lean toward the utilitarian. I am not an accomplished seamstress and especially not great at remembering to take pictures of my steps in between each one. But if I could pull this off, you can definitely do it! Here are the finished products and I’ll show you how I got here, a little later in the post.
The great thing about this project is that it doesn’t require a lot of fabric — less than a yard for the preschoolers and I think the purple one was around a yard and a half. I am always picking up remnants I find on sale, so I was able to pull things out of my fabric stash to put these together. You will be able to make these pretty little gifts inexpensively, even if you buy the fabric straight off the bolt.
Occasionally, I can “make” a pattern for something, cutting it from something I already have. For me, that only works on very basic things like bibs, or in this case, I think I could have done an apron, but didn’t have one to trace and cut. If you do, you’re already one step ahead. If not, you can check ebay and the thrift stores, like I did or you can try one of these cute patterns to download from the internet.
- This one is from Apron Girls. Too cute! They even show you how to make a coordinating chef’s hat! I like this one, because it’s even simpler than the one I’m showing you. By sewing and turning it, you avoid having to trim with bias tape and it would go together even more quickly. I may experiment with that using the pattern I already have.
- This next one is made from a dishtowel. You can find the tutorial at I have to say…
- Sew 4 Home is a great sewing blog sponsored by Janome (the sewing maching company). This is a full tutorial with a free, downloadable pattern. Perfect! You could have this made by morning!
Okay, here we go. My first attempt at walking you through one of my sewing projects. Be kind.
- I forgot to get pictures of the actual cutting out, but here are the apron pieces, cut from fabric. Each apron has 1 piece for the body of the apron that was cut on the fold of the fabric. There is also one ruffle, also cut on the fold and 4 strap pieces, because those will be sewn together to make two, lined straps. I cut the body from one fabric and the ruffle and straps from another. See the notches cut in the top of the ruffle? I’ll be matching them to notches cut into the bottom of the body a little bit later.
- I set my sewing machine on the largest stitch possible and stitched a gathering thread 1/4 of an inch from the edge along the top edge of the ruffle. I left the thread ends long, so I could easily separate the two threads and pull one of them to gather the ruffle.
- I gathered the ruffle, laying it out across the width at the bottom of the apron to get it about the correct size, before pinning it.
- Once the ruffle was gathered, I needed to pin it to the body of the apron. With right sides together, (front of body fabric and front of ruffle fabric facing each other), I laid the ruffle over the body and pinned the two ends. Then I matched the notches in the ruffle and body and pinned it in those two spots. Now, I was able to see whether I needed to loosen or tighten my gathers to get the correct fit and adjust the gathers to be spread evenly across the width of the ruffle, pinning along the length of the ruffle as I went.
- Once I have everything pinned in place, as I want it, I wrap the ends of my gathering threads around the two pins at each end of the ruffle. This keeps the gathering thread from slipping and loosening my gathers while I am stitching.
- I used a 5/8 inch seam allowance and stitched a seam over the gathers. It is much easier for me, personally, to remove the pins as I go, so that my machine isn’t running over the top of them. Some people leave them in until the seam is complete. It is more a matter of personal preference. I double-stitched the seam (sewed it twice), to make it stronger and to straighten out any less than perfect stitching. You can still see my gathering stitches at the top edge and then the two seams, which should be directly on top of each other, if I had sewn a straighter line. The second row of stitching did straighten any dips in the first, however, so I did not have to tear it all back out. Phew! See, you can definitely do this, too!
- Working with cottons and even some poly-cottons, you will have problems with fraying, unless you finish the seams. I don’t own a serger, so I used a tight zigzag stitch to finish off the seam edge.
- Next, I trimmed the seam close to the zigzag stitching, making sure not to cut the threads.
- Press the finished seam allowance up, toward the body of the apron.
- Once the seam is pressed, turn the apron over and top stitch the seam in place.
- Encase the sides and bottom edges of your apron and ruffle in bias tape to finish the edges. I used single fold biased tape on the first two aprons I made from this pattern, because that’s what I had on hand. The pattern calls for double fold, which is narrower and which I purchased to use on these two aprons. Next time I will use the single fold, again. I prefer the wider trim for looks and also for ease of stitching. Biased tape is a long strip of fabric, folded in half down the center. You slide the raw edge of a piece of fabric into its fold and stitch close to its edge to give a nice finish to the edge of a project. However, the tape is not always folded in “perfect” half. Working with the narrow tape, it is easy to be stitching along and then look at the back side of your work only to find that your stitches did not catch the tape on the back side of your project. I elected to use a wide zigzag stitch to eliminate this problem. Next time, I will definitely use the single-fold biased tape, again.
Next finish the top edge of the apron with biased tape, leaving 14 inches at each end, to create the ties. I apologize, that at this point I got so involved with the sewing, I forgot to pick up the camera to snap pictures. I measured 14 inches along the biased tape and pinned it at that point to one side of the apron top. I then continued pinning it around the top to the opposite edge and then measured another 14 inches for that tie, and cut the biased tape. Again, I used a zigzag stitch to attach it.
- The next step was sewing the straps and I didn’t even get one picture, but it is simple to do. You have four identical pieces cut. Pin two of them together with wrong (back side of fabric) sides facing each other. Baste around the edges in a 1/4 inch seam to hold the two pieces in place. Do the same with the remaining two pieces. Now use the biased tape to trim around the strap edges, leaving 10 inches on the end of each for the tie. Stitch the straps to the apron body. I zigzagged again, for extra support.
I hope these steps don’t seem complicated because of my poor photography skills and inexperience at explaining sewing project steps. This is definitely something you can do, for very little cost and in a small amount of time. They make the most precious gifts and I’m sure the little “women” in your life, will have great fun wearing them and working with you!
Thanks for being patient with my “tutorial” skills and for not laughing at my “straight” stitching. I will try to make improvements in each of my next posts. Have a great Wednesday! Make something special for someone special. Frugal, handmade gifts can be treasures, if you take the time to think about the interests and likes of the person you make it for. Invest your time, not your money, learn a new skill or polish an old one and put a smile on the face of someone you love!