Friday, 29 April 2011

ABCs of Sewing: A is for Applique

Applique is a wonderful, wonderful thing. For a year I resisted it because I thought it sounded complicated and scary when in truth, it is easy as pie and can look great. There are lots of different ways you can applique, but for me, this method is the best.

(This is my first attempt at applique, done on a baby's quilt)

You will need: 

- Fabric scraps
Bondaweb, or a similar product, which acts can be ironed on and glues the two pieces of fabric together
- A sewing machine with a zig-zag stitch
- A pattern, which can be drawn, cut out, or printed off sites like Free Applique (ignore the cheesy look - of the site - there's a lot on there!)
- Scissors
- An iron

Now cast your mind back to your early school years. This is basically just cutting out and glueing. Cut out the shapes you want from the fabric you want. Cut matching pieces of Bondaweb. Piece and layer them together as desired and arrange where you want them to go. Now, just iron them down (follow the instructions on your bondaweb or bondaweb substitute!).

You can finish here, but to make it look good and last, you now want to sew around the edges of your applique. Set your sewing machine to a zig-zag stitch and make your stitches quite small and tight, as though you were sewing a button hole. Stitch around the applique: individual pieces, the whole thing, whatever you like.

And now, you really are finished! It takes no time at all and looks brilliant. Try adding a name to a child's shirt, an embellishment to a plain coloured t-shirt, or a flower to a cotton shopping bag. The possibilities are endless, and the more you sew the larger your bag of applique-worthy scraps!

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Child's Tool Belt Apron

This Bob the Builder inspired apron can be used for art supplies, cooking, or gardening tools. It fits a 2 year old, but because of the super long ties it can be borrowed by any age. Total time: 30 - 40 minutes, including cutting out

You will need:

-a rectangle of fabric (Fabric A), 40cm x 23cm. Go for something sturdy; I used brown corduroy.
-another rectangle of contrasting or complimenting fabric (Fabric B), 23cm x 40cm to be used as backing and lining. You want this one to be quite light. I used blue cotton gingham.
-2 pieces of Fabric A, 65cm x 10cm
-1 piece each of Fabric A and Fabric B, 42cm x 14cm

(You will also be helped by an iron and a sewing machine!)

Now I'm afraid this tutorial was an afterthought so I didn't take pictures as I went along. Hopefully this will make sense.

STEP 1: Making the ties

Take your two long, 65 x 14 strips and iron them in half lengthwise so you now have two 65 x 7 strips. Open them up and tuck the raw ends in a bit (they don't have to go right to the centre crease). Press the raw ends, and then fold the whole thing back along the original crease and sew it together. The ties are quite long, but I find it easier to wrangle a toddler into them if there's room to spare.

Variations: You don't have to do it this way: you could also fold the piece in half with the right side in, sew up the long side, and turn the whole tube right side out. Then press flat. This has a very neat finish, but it takes ages to turn the tube right side out and drives me nuts. If you're pressed for time, you can also use ribbon, or simply fold your fabric in half once and sew. It's just a child's tool belt; we're not going for perfection here!

STEP 2: Making the apron back

Take your two 23cm x 40cm rectangles and place them with their right sides together. Sew around one long side and up two thirds of both short sides (I used about a 1/4 inch seam allowance, but this isn't rocket science. Whatever you like.) Take your two finished ties and put them into the pocket you've made. Pull out the edges so that they're sticking out and finish sewing up the short sides. Your ties should mostly be tucked inside the apron and only a little bit of one end should be showing as you sew.

(This is probably common sense to most of you, but I can't count the number of times I've neatly sewed ties on the wrong way around. Stop and check before you sew. It's really annoying to get it wrong, and makes you feel not so clever.)

Sew up two-thirds of the remaining long side. I like to leave the open third in the middle - it makes corners easier - but again there are no real rules here. Snip the points off the corners (this gives you sharper corners when you turn it right side out, which you will do... NOW!)

Turn the apron right side out. Give it a quick press to make the edges nice and sharp and while you're pressing, tuck the unfinished edges of your opening in and press them down, too. You'll sew them in a minute.

Topstitch around all four sides, making sure you catch those unfinished edges mentioned above. Topstitching means that you sew over the layers as close to the edge as possible, just to secure the two layers and keep them from shifting about. This isn't an essential step, but it does make everything look nicer and hold together.

STEP 3: Make the pockets

Take your two remaining triangles of Fabric A and B, and sew them together as above (leave an opening, turn them right side out, press and topstitch around the whole thing).

Step 4: Sewing on the pockets

Position your rectangle across the apron where you want the row of pockets to go. The rectangle will hopefully be a bit bigger than your apron. This is so that there's a bit of give for little hands to fit in to the pockets. It does mean that you might have to do some adjusting as you sew because you don't want to just sew the two pieces flat together. Make tiny little overlapping puckers at the edges of your pockets as you sew across the bottom. Just have a bit of a fiddle - you'll see what I mean. It helps to pin them in place so that the give is spread across the whole row of pockets and you don't end up with just one very loose one and three quite tight!

You can make however many pockets you like. Just pin the fabric in place, and then sew across the bottom and up where you want your pockets. These stitches will get a lot of pull on them so it's worth going over the stitching again and securing the top and bottom of your stitches.'re done! Fill with tools, gardening supplies, spoons and whisks, or pens and paintbrushes. Decorate with buttons, badges, iron on appliques, or ribbon if you have the time and inclination.

Cheat's variation:

For the ultimate in simplicity, use coloured felt. There's no need to line the pieces; just cut out one big rectangle, one small rectangle, and two 65cm x 5cm ties. Sew as above and enjoy - start to finish this should take you about 10-15 minutes.