Tutorial #2: Apron with pocket and piping

Apron with pocket and piping
Reversible - look!

Hi everyone. I’ve managed to cobble together a tutorial for making a lovely reversible apron complete with a charming little pocket and piping all round the sides for that retro fifties look. This particular apron is for my mum, who’s just moved back into her house after a devastating fire last year. I like to think of her wearing this as she tootles about her new kitchen, whipping up Ulster fries and muttering Hail Marys, as Irish mothers are wont to do.

Apologies in advance for the quality of the images below: I left my camera lead in work so I’m taking these ones with my mobile. Hopefully you can still make everything out.

OK – so I’ve used three different contrasting fabrics for the apron but don’t worry – you don’t need three, or even two. You can do the whole apron in one fabric but then you might miss out on all that fun when you flip it to reveal a whole new look! I’ve used a floral print for the ‘front’ and a cute little strawberry print for the ‘lining’. I’ve used blue polka dot fabric for the pocket and the piping, plus some left over ready-made binding to frame the pocket.

Apron pattern

I’ve used a free pattern from the wonderful world wide web for my basic apron shape. Get it here from (gulp) the Martha Stewart website. Hey, it’s free. Don’t judge me.

You will need:
Fabric for front (26″ x 40″)
Fabric for lining (26″ x 40″)
Medium weight 1.5″ cotton twill tape approx 80″ depending on how long you want the neck and the waist straps to be.
Contrasting fabric for pocket (6″ x 8″)
Contrasting fabric for piping (120″ x 1.375″ – I cut three strips of about 40″ each and sewed them together to get this)
Piping – I used size 4 which has a circumference of about 0.375″
Binding – enough to frame your pocket – mine was roughly 27″

Your seam allowance for this project is 0.5 inch, included on the apron pattern.

Making piping

To start – let’s make our piping, which is the sweet little blue polka dot trim around the outside of the apron. Although I’ve given you the measurements above, if you’re using a different width of piping you’ll need to adjust this. So to work it out, wrap a tape measure around your piping nice and tight and make sure your tape measure then allows for half an inch (which is our seam allowance) on either side. If that doesn’t make sense – hopefully the picture will! The total measurement will then be the width you need your strips to be.

Secure piping in the fabric

Then just tuck the piping into the middle of the strip (right side on the outside) and stitch as close as you can to the piping itself. I use a piping foot for this but you can use your zipper foot as well. So that’s your piping done.

Now let’s cut out our apron. As you can see from the pic you’ve got to fold your fabric and place the edge of the pattern on the fold. So when you cut it out and unfold it you get a perfectly symmetrical apron! Cut one of your front fabric and one of your lining. Mark where you want your waist straps and neck strap to come out of. Don’t worry about the markings on the pattern – just do it where it feels natural.

Cutting out your pocket

If you’re adding a pocket you need to do it before you sew the apron together as then all your stitching will be hidden on the inside. So I just did a simple half square with a curved bottom like this, but you can do any shape you want. Cut it out of your chosen fabric, again on the fold.

Adding binding to the pocket

I used some leftover ready-made binding to frame it. I just folded the binding around the edge of the fabric and pinned it, pressed the corners and turned the edge under at the end to neaten the join. Then I edge stitched around the binding to secure it to the pocket, pinned the pocket to the apron and then stitched over my edge stitching so it was nice and neat. Obviously leaving the top open. Yes you may scoff, but I sewed a few inches into my opening and had to unpick it with a seam ripper. Durrr.

Inserting the pipingNext it’s time to put all your pieces together. So, lay your apron pieces on top of each other, right sides together. Your piping can be inserted as you go along pinning. So as you can see from the pic the raw edge of the piping lines up with  the edge of your fabric and is sandwiched in between the two layers. Pin as you go to secure it. I started at the bottom of the apron so any joining would be done in a less conspicuous place.

Clipping piping on a curveRound the curves it’s worth making snips in the seam allowance of your piping every couple of centimetres or so – just makes curving it so much easier.

Inserting the strapsWhen you get to where your straps go in, carefully tuck the strap inside the two layers and just have a centimetre or two peeking out. Make sure it’s between your piping and your lining fabric so that you get the uninterrupted piping all the way around. This will make sense when you turn it right side out, I promise.

Sew all the way around the apron except for where your piping overlaps – leave roughly 5 inches open. Again I used my piping foot and sewed right into the side of the piping so it was nice and snug.

Before fixing your opened piping, turn your apron right side out and admire your handiwork. Poke out any edges that haven’t fully turned.

To join your piping, finish your seam and make it all nice and neat, unpick some of the stitching on one side of the piping and open up the fabric. Take the other length of piping and trim it so it joins your first bit of piping inside its opened fabric case. Then just overlap one length of fabric over the other, turn the end under so there are no raw edges and then tuck it back into the apron seam, turning the upper and lower edges of the apron under to match the 0.5″ seam allowance. Press if you need to, then just do a tight edge stitch along the opening, ensuring you catch all three layers.

Press and you’re done!

Again – sorry about the misty dark quality of the images. Normal service will resume next week. Have a fantastic sewing weekend! x

Finished project: Log cabin baby quilt

I’ve been wanting to make a quilt for as long as I‘ve been sewing but it always seemed so intimidating, complicated and fiddly, until I got Modern Log Cabin Quilting by Susan Beal. This is a fantastic book for any quilting beginner. Susan breaks down each step so simply that it’s almost impossible to go wrong.

So, this quilt is for my darling baby niece Cara’s first birthday at the end of July. I really wanted to make her something she could keep and treasure – in other words – I didn’t want to make an embarrassing mess that fell apart after a few washes. It’s roughly 42 x 42 inches – just the right size for a crib. I used organic wadding and 100% cotton fabric. Here it is:

Finished log cabin baby quilt

I used the Sunshine Baby Quilt pattern from the book for this project.  Unfortunately I started the quilt before I started the blog so I can’t show you how I constructed the blocks and the sashing, but trust me – it’s so easy and addictive. You basically make a series of blocks according to the instructions and then sew them all together. You can add long strips called sashing in between the blocks to ‘frame’ the pieces and give it more structure. Then you sandwich together the quilt top, the wadding, and whatever you’ve chosen for your quilt back (I used the same material for the back as for the sashing) and either use basting stitches or quilting safety pins to hold it all together. Note: requires a bit of space to do this – I used the living room floor. Once that’s done you can add a quarter inch seam around all the sides and then you’re ready to quilt!

Drawing quilting lines then sewing 'em inFor this pattern, Susan recommended hand-tying the quilt – an old fashioned technique that requires tying little knots about every seven or so inches and leaving about an inch of yarn on show. I have to confess that I did that, and then found the effect quite messy so I pulled them all out again and opted for long parallel diagonal lines of stitching every seven inches across the quilt. I just marked them out with a quilting ruler and a tailor’s chalk. The tricky bit was rolling up the quilt to fit into the sewing machine!

Gingham binding from All the TrimmingsSo this is the gingham I bought from All The Trimmings. Look how it arrived – how sweet!

Pin the binding to the edge of one side of the quiltSusan gives very good instructions in the book on attaching the binding and neatening it at the corners.  Unfold the binding and pin it to one side of the quilt.

Fold the binding around the edge of the quilt

Then fold the binding around the edge of the quilt to encase all three layers.

Fold and press the corners and add a few basting stitches

Fold and press the corners and add a few basting stitches to hold it in place.  Then sew the binding down on the opposite side of the quilt, about a quarter of an inch from the inner edge, ensuring you catch the other side as you go. If you miss it in a few spots you can always go back and redo that bit then take out the errant stitching.

The finished binding

Ta daaaa!

Pacifier pouch

And since every good baby deserves to accessorize, I knocked up a ‘pacifier purse’ from the remnants using this free pattern from Sewing Republic. Maybe we can call it a dummy dock instead. Or if you’re from Norn Iron like me -you’ll call it a dody dock.

I have just one thing left to do on the quilt to make it really special but it’s a secret so I can’t tell you until it arrives. Hurry Ms Postwoman! (Really must do my nails. Hmph.)

A tale of two chairs… plus YOU get to pick the cushion

Fact: I can’t pass a skip without having a quick peek just in case there’s anything good in it. And I know quite a few people who feel the same way. So when I’m walking along the street and I happen to see a chair that’s obviously seen better days but is essentially structurally sound, I pick it up and I bring it home.

Chair that's seen better days

Last week I spotted this chair outside someone’s house, ready for the bin men. Unable to resist but a bit wary of just taking something from someone’s front yard, I knocked on the door and a lovely old lady answered and said of course I could have it. New project and meeting a neighbour = double win.

Last summer's chair

I’ve also got this old chair which I picked up off the street last summer but have done nothing with. So this weekend, I decided to give them both a makeover. I sanded them down with coarse and then medium grain sandpaper, applied a white primer and undercoat and then gave them a lick of paint.

Good time chairs!

And here they are! The paint was called Pigeon by Farrow & Ball, which has got to be one of the silliest paint shades I’ve ever heard of. I do like the colour but now I’m faced with a new quandary – what fabric should I use for my cushion?

Which fabric goes best?

Here are four different options. I think they’re all nice but the one that stands out for me is the pink retro squares. That’s from an old vintage pair of curtains I found in Bethnal Green.  That’s one chair sorted – but what about the other one? Drop me a comment and tell me if you think I should go for the blue, the green or the orange flowers because I just can’t decide, and I haven’t got enough pink fabric to do two matching pads anyway.

To thank you for helping me make my mind up, I’ll be doing a brand new tutorial very soon on making a seat cushion with piping (and little ties so you can attach it to the chair back). Watch this space!

It’s the sound… of sewing

The Walkmen at Glastonbury

One of my other great passions is music. I’m lucky enough to be married to someone who is obsessed with finding new bands and artists so we’re always listening to something new in our house and we try to go to gigs whenever we can, although that’s definitely decreased as we’ve got older. Gigs on a schoolnight? In my thirties? Nada.

I’m not a massive fan of festivals per se but I do like Glasto, even with the mud. This year I managed to catch Radiohead and Pulp doing ‘secret’ gigs at The Park stage. Very good indeed. But not as good as Janelle Monae – she was awesome. I caught up with my chum Simon (of the superlative music/running/geekery blog Minor 9th) and we danced our little socks off with our respective partners providing the attractive backing dancers on the Saturday night. Big Boi followed with a stomping set complete with overweight male dancers in matching green tracksuits. Fantastic.

Another band that blew me away was The Walkmen (pictured above). They’ve been going since the Strokes emerged onto the music scene and have often been compared to them, but there’s no comparison – they’re very different. The frontman Hamilton Leithauser (what a great name!) is a hugely passionate singer who often looks as if he’s about to beat you up or stalk off stage. Pitchfork describes them as ‘kings of dejection’ and I guess that’s mostly true, but there are some moments in their songs, especially off the latest album Lisbon, where they just transport you elsewhere. If you like listening to music where occasionally you have a tear in your eye and a lump in your throat, then listen to them. Recommended: The Rat and Angela Surf City.

Week after next we’re off to ATP’s I’ll Be Your Mirror at Ally Pally. Curated by Portishead it will feature PJ Harvey (which I’m very excited about), Liars, Caribou and Grinderman. Liars and Caribou will be particular highlights. Liars are punky little upstarts (recommended: The Overachievers) and Caribouhave taken up where LCD Soundsystem left off (recommended: Odessa). And it’s just around the corner from our house. Hooray!

Tutorial #1: Felt birdy mobile phone cover

Felt birdy mobile phone cover
This is a bit of a cheat tutorial as the project is not of my own making, but comes with Issue 1 of the fantastic new sewing and craft magazine Mollie Makes.

Mollie Makes magazine

Each month you get a little package with the mag that has all the relevant materials inside plus directions and templates on how to put it together in the magazine. I thought I’d do my own version of the tutorial for anyone who isn’t subscribed as you can just buy a few pieces of felt and put it together yourself at home.

Felt supplies

What you need:

1 piece of 35cm x 10.5cm grey felt (or two pieces roughly 18 cm x 10.5cm each)

3 pieces of felt in assorted colours (here we have  pink white and yellow but you can use any colours you want), roughly 7cm x 7cm each.

Not pictured here but a rectangle of white felt sized 10.5cm by 3cm.

A pretty button

Not shown here but I added a sequin at the end for the bird’s eye. You could use a button or some stitching or leave it blank if you like.

I also used thread to match the colours so I used grey, yellow and white. You can use all one colour if you want, that’s absolutely fine, it’s kinda up to you.

Pin the templates to the material

You can download the templates for cutting out your shapes here from the Mollie Makes website. cut them out and pin them to your material. Don’t fret if you pin them a bit wonky – felt doesn’t have a grain so it won’t look weird at all. You will need a small sharp pair of scissors for this as cutting out the bits in the middle of the circle and the bird is a bit fiddly.

Shapes all cut out and ready

Now you’ve got all your shapes cut out you’re ready to rock. Note – you can do this entire project just with hand stitching but I used my machine for most of it. For tricky tiny bits I turned my hand wheel instead of using my foot pedal as I’m just a big clutz when it comes to tiny sewing.

Sew white rectangle to the grey front cover

First of all, sew the white rectangle to the grey front cover with the scalloped edge. Aim for two or three centimetres down. The idea is that when you turn the scalloped edge over on itself, a nice trim of white peeks out at you.

Sewing white rectangle to the grey front cover

Pin shapes to the front cover

Next, pin down your scalloped edge and pin the pieces of felt to the front cover and sew around the outlines. You can do this in stages if you like. I didn’t sew around my pink circle. I’d like to say this was deliberate but actually I just forgot. But that’s ok because the birdy keeps it locked down anyway.

All stitched up

So that’s your front done. If you want to add an eye better do it now, otherwise you’ll end up trying to sew on a sequin from the inside. That’s what I had to do and it was a whole ten mins of fiddling that I’ll never get back. It sucked.

Now you can attach it to your back. Just line ’em up. If the back is slightly longer then just trim it at the top so both sides match. If it’s shorter then I don’t know what the heck kind of drugs you were doing when you were measuring and cutting out my friend.

To attach both sides do a blanket stitch about half a centimetre in around the outside edges (obviously not the top bit – that would be foolish). Remember that from home economics? Nah, neither did I. I had to turn to Youtube to help me with that one.

Quick check on the catsA quick check on the cats to see if they’re ok. They look pretty ok to me. Think Keef is dreaming about his girlfriend. (That’s not Gracie by the way – they’re brother and sister. That would just be sick.)

Felt birdy mobile phone cover

And there you have it.

Hope this all made sense – it’s my first tutorial, so if you have any questions or if you’ve spotted that I’ve missed some vital part out just give me a shout and I’ll update it.

Thanks for checking it out and if you create one of these – pop it up in the comments section for everyone to see and marvel at! Don’t forget you don’t have to stick to the bird theme – anything is possible with a few bits of felt.

Welcome to sewing nirvana

Yesterday was a momentous day. I’m so excited. Yesterday, five years after moving into a two bedroom flat so I could have a dedicated sewing room, I got it. Check. It. Out.

My sewing room - yay!

It’s not big and it’s not luxurious, but it’s all mine. Previously we had a futon in here for guests staying over but we’ve moved it into the living room now. I love it so much. I’m going to festoon the walls with pretty pictures and postcards and I’m going to make a set of cafe curtains for the window. See that chair? I found it on the street. I think I’ll paint it grey and make a cushion for it. The laundry basket to the right has all my bulk fabric (the stuff I’ve bought metres and  metres of and never used plus linings, fleeces and calico) and just above the cupboard to the left is my special fabric, my fat quarters (an American term for a quarter yard of fabric – perfect for napkins and small projects) and my Liberty sale finds. It’s so nice having it out on display. Hang on, I have a better picture.

Fabric stash shelf

Do you like the vintage Japanese paper flowers? I got about 20 of them from a vintage fair in Bethnal Green. Myself and my friend Tanya of Strikk Handknits screeched our way through an afternoon of retro bliss. I planned to use them for wedding table decorations but it never happened. The decorations that is, not the wedding.

So this weekend I think I’ll mostly stay in this room. In fact last night I just sat in it with a large glass of wine and a cat, thinking about all the stuff I’m going to do here. I need a radio, for one thing.

Any suggestions on how to make it more homely? What have you got in your sewing space that you just couldn’t live without?

P.S. I think I’m becoming addicted to blogging. I’m sure I’ll calm down after a while but for now I can’t seem to stop. Apologies for overloading you with information at the moment!


Paperwork? What paperwork? Oh that paperwork…

How do you organise your sewing projects? Do you keep a list and a timetable of what you want to do, approach it methodically and with plenty of prep so you have everything to hand? Or do you do what I’ve historically done and arrive at your sewing desk on a Saturday morning in your pyjamas with no breakfast in your belly (just a cuppa tea) and no preparation, throw everything from the dining table onto the floor and start an ill-thought out project only to find halfway through that you haven’t got the right thread, needles, fabric or skills? Cue tiny tantrum and a stomp back to bed for a pity party with the cats.

I’ve started trying to get a grip on what I want to do, so I don’t start a million projects at once and so I know what I need beforehand. And I’m a sucker for a nice notebook so I got this little Liberty fabric-covered beauty to try to organise myself and get inspired.

My sewing notebook

I’ve written a series of ‘sewing resolutions’ on the inside cover – I’m not going to share them all because they’re a bit naff. But one of them is not to spend more than £50 on fabric in a month. That sounds like a lot doesn’t it? But if you’ve ever been browsing through sites like Backstitch, Fabric Rehab or even Ebay then you’ll know what I mean when I say £100 can go just like that. Poof. Gone. Oops. Plus I work on Regent Street so I’m right by Berwick Street’s plethora of cloth emporiums and not far from John Lewis’ haberdashery and textile floor. I don’t even need to watch my step on the escalators anymore. And it’s four floors up. If I’m quick I can make it in six minutes.

What I have found though is that when I take the time to write up a project before I start, it begins to take form and structure in my imagination, and I start to think about how it will look, feel, what embellishments I might add, how can I adapt the pattern I’m using etc.

For example, I’ve promised my mum an apron for her new kitchen. Previously I would have just rifled through my fabric stash, pulled out something that vaguely suited and got down to it, probably stopping along the way because I’d run out of something or other and casting the unfinished project back into  stash, doomed to wait until another moment of inspiration struck. This time I’ve noted where I’m getting the pattern from (online), how much fabric I’ll need (so when I’m out and about and spot the perfect match I can get the right amount instead of buying too much), what notions I need and how I’ll go about adding little touches like the pockets or the neck… string? What’s the right term for the thing that goes round your neck on an apron? Neck strap? Sounds dodgy. Anyhoo, back to pockets.

Apron project page

Is a wide across-the-hip pocket the best way to go? Would my mum prefer two wee pockets either side? What about a touch of rick rack or contrast piping to jazz it up a bit? I’ve got Bend the Rules Sewing by Amy Carol (of Angry Chicken) which has a whole section on apron pockets so I’ve put a note there to remind myself to check it out.

I still think I have a long way to go before I hit these sort of standards in planning and productivity, although eventually that’s my plan.

Project list

In the meantime I’ve started this list so I can see what’s ongoing and what’s been finished. (Another resolution is to make one thing every week, no matter how small. We’ll see how that goes.) I’m also going to start snipping little bits of fabric and adding them to each project page so I remember what I’d earmarked for each item.

But for now, this works for me. What works for you? Have you got any tips for a beginner in sewing admin?