Wednesday 18 July 2012

Victorian Country Apron Giveaway and Tutorial

As promised, here are the three extra Victorian country aprons I've made this week to float around the garden in (if it's not raining) or the kitchen (if it is!).

I've emailed the first three people who expressed interest on my last post in receiving one of these: Sonia at FabricandFlowers, Lorraine at  FourHappyBunnies,  and Mrs H at TalesofMrsH so if you'd still like one, do send me your postal address, if you haven't already done so, and your apron will be on its way!

And, if you would like to make your own, here is my design and what I did. I've gone through it step by step, which seasoned sewers won't need, but for anyone who doesn't feel so experienced, I hope my instructions and pics will be easy and clear to follow. There's nothing more frustrating, especially when you are starting out on a project in unknown territory, to find that the pattern assumes you know stuff when you don't.

You need a metre (or about a yard and a quarter) of your chosen main fabric and a scrap of something contrasting to line the pocket with. I had some Liberty lawn off-cuts from a project some years back which made good linings for the pockets. These are the two main fabrics I used. One is a Tilda fabric and the other is a Tanya Whelan one.

First you need to draw out your pattern on paper. You need a large rectangle 19" wide by 32" long (the skirt of the apron), and yes, it will be big enough because you will cut it on the fold of the fabric thereby doubling its width! You also need a rectangle 19" across by 9" wide (the waistband) and a parallelogram 5" by 19" by 4" by 19"(the ties) and a pocket piece. For this, draw a rectangle about 8" long and 6" wide and round off the base so that it's pocket shaped. Or you can simply leave it rectangular if you prefer. 

Lay out your fabric in one layer and then fold in one side of the fabric by 19". Lay your skirt pattern piece with the long side aligned on the fold of the fabric, pin and cut out through the double fabric layer so that you end up with a rectangle double the width of your pattern piece. Pin and cut out one waistband piece, two tie pieces and one pocket piece from the main fabric and a second pocket piece from your chosen lining fabric. 

Here are my pieces cut out and ready to assemble

To begin with, you need to finish the side edges of the apron skirt. You should have a selvedge on one side and this you can turn in just the once, as the edge of the fabric isn't raw. The other side will be a raw edge so you will need to turn in a 1/4" turning and then another 1/2" turning to hide the raw edge away. Press your turnings in place ready for stitching.

Machine stitch along the pressed side edges as in the pics.

Now get the pocket sorted. To do this, pin your two pocket shapes (one from your main fabric and one from your lining fabric) together, with right sides facing. Machine stitch around the outside leaving a gap at the top edge for turning. You don't need a massive seam allowance - about 1/4" is fine. Clip the corners as in the pic and clip the curves also. You can just see my scissors doing their clippy stuff on the curves in the bottom right hand corner of the pic below. 

Now turn your pocket the right way out, using a blunt knitting needle or something similar to poke out the corners. Go gently or it's easy to poke a hole instead of just a nice sharp corner! Press the turned pocket including the gap, making sure the turnings in the gap sit nice and even as you press. 

Now stitch across the top edge of the pocket, sealing the gap and making a nice crisp edge. Stitch as close to the edge as you reasonably can, as in the pic.

Now pin your pocket in position on the apron skirt. Mine is about 8" from the top and about 6" from the left hand side as you face it, but put yours where you will find it convenient. Stitch along the edges of the pocket to secure it in place, leaving the top open of course, or you'll get a patch and not a pocket!

Take your parallellogram-shaped tie pieces and fold them in half lengthways as I am doing in the pic. Press.

Starting from one end with the fold at the top, stitch down the short end and then along the long open side of the folded tie. Leave the remaining short end open.

Clip the corners and turn the ties the right way out. Deploy your crafty knitting needle again to poke out the corners neatly. Don't forget to go gently! It's mighty easy to push a bit too hard and go straight through the fabric!

Now press the ties flat, using your fingers to winkle the seam flat as you go, so that you get the whole width of the tie as you press with the iron. This is what they should look like:  

Now for the waistband. You need first of all to fold and press the waist band in half lengthways. Then press under 5/8" on one of the long sides. 

Now turn the waistband piece so that the right side is facing you, with the pressed turning at the top, opening out the central fold. Take your ties and place them against the sides of the waistband, just below the central fold-line, as in the pic, with the rest of the tie facing towards the centre of the waistband. 

Fold over the top half of the waist band so that the ties are enclosed within and pin the side seams. The result should look like this:  

Stitch the sides of the waistband securing the ends of the ties within the seam. Use a 5/8" seam allowance.

Turn the waistband right side out and you should have something that looks like this:

OK, we're making progress! The end is in sight! You now need to gather the top edge of the apron. You can do this using a long stitch on your machine, which is nice and easy, or you can do it by hand. Whichever method you use, stitch long machine stitches or running stitches 5/8" in from the top edge and pull the top thread to create gathers. You want to gather enough fabric up to fit the apron skirt within the waistband and create the nice, romantic, full effect we are after. I gather using the longest stitch my machine allows and find that the fabric begins to pucker up all by itself as I go. In the pic I've pulled the fabric round a bit so you can see the beginning puckering even though I haven't yet pulled on the thread.

Pull up the thread so that the gathered fabric will fit within the waistband.

With right sides together, pin the gathered top of the apron skirt to the long edge of the waistband which has not got the turning on it. You can see the seam where I have pinned but not sewn it, with the turned in edge of the waistband folded back a bit, to keep it out of the way in the pic above. You can baste the gathers in place if you feel nervous about just pinning it. Either way, then machine stitch the apron skirt to the waistband. Make sure that you keep the long side with the turning on it free from getting caught up in the sewing. As previously minuted in these pages, I am not a great baster and didn't bother here, but purists would say you ought to and if you are inexperienced I would say, go the extra mile and save yourself potential trouble. But if you think you can wing it, go ahead! 

At this point you really are on the home straight. Fold the waistband back over the top and pin the turned edge over the seam securing the gathers, hiding all the raw edges tidily from view. You can now  try on your romantic apron in front of the mirror and admire the effect (mind the pins though)! All that remains is to hand-stitch with hem stitch the turned under edge of the waistband over the seam securing the gathers as I am in the process of doing in the pic below.

Finally make a hem at the bottom. For this, fold up 1/4" turning and then another 5/8" or so and press and stitch in place either by hand or machine. 

Cut the threads and knot them off and don your apron to go out in the garden and pick raspberries, blackcurrants, sweet peas, roses or whatever your heart desires. Or (if it's raining again) go in the kitchen and give new life to a Victorian recipe for an old-fashioned cake or scones!

Talking of which, here is my great-grandmother's recipe for the lightest scones I've ever tasted. The original recipe goes back at least to the time of the First World War and more probably the 19th C. I have tweaked the original just a fraction by substituting half live yoghurt in place of just milk to mix the dough but, if I may say, this tweak is with good effect. It's foolishly easy too, especially if you have a food processor to hand, in which to perform the first half of the operation.

8 oz self-raising white flour
2 oz unsalted butter or a pure vegetable margarine
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
1 tbsp caster sugar
c 1/4 pt milk (or half live yoghurt and half milk for best effect)

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Whizz the flour, cream of tartar and bicarbonate of soda in the food processor or mix by hand. Whizz in the butter (cubed) or rub in by hand. Tip mixture into a bowl if you've been using the food processor. Using a blunt knife mix to a softish dough with the milk / milk and yoghurt mixture. Tip onto a floured work surface and press gently into a round about 3/4" thick. Cut into fluted rounds, triangles or hearts and place on a baking sheet lined with non-stick silicone paper. Brush the scones lightly with milk and bake for about ten minutes until risen and golden. Cool on a wire rack. 

They are as light as a feather the day they are made but they go stale quickly so freeze any you don't need immediately and defrost as required. (They freeze beautifully.) They are wonderful with homemade jam and clotted cream or just the jam. And if you're worried about calories, make the scones on the small side and remember that scones are low in fat and sugar compared with other cakes and as I say, you don't need to load these with cream to enjoy them.

E x


  1. Superb tutorial, exactly what I need as a novice sewer . Please enter me into your giveaway if possible. Now onto the scones....I've wrote this down as I just cannot seem to get the 'right' sort of consistency. I'll be baking this at the weekend. My Nan used to bake the most delish cakes Heather xx

  2. I have only recently wandered into your blog via Lucy's at Attic 24. Have enjoyed it so much and read back through all your postings. From now on i will be sure to check in here often. The apron is lovely and i look forward to making several soon. Thank you for sharing such lovely photos and thoughts.


  3. I can't wait to make one of these for myself. Once I get my sewing machine .... roll on september the 2nd!!!


  4. Your are a fine seamstress! My mother always says, 'It's all about the pressing!"
    The scones look fantastic, too!

  5. Eeepp!!! My first time to be lucky in a giveaway! So exciting! And such a wonderful tutorial too. And those scones have got my tummy rumbling - I had two wisdom teeth out today so it's soup and yogurt all the way at the moment. Maybe tomorrow when I've recevered! Thanks so much x

  6. I do like a lining using different fabric - a sort of secret that only the user knows about. I shall try your scone recipe this weekend though I'm too lazy to cut out rounds and just divide the dough into squares with a sharp knife.

  7. What a thorough, clear tutorial, thank you. I do like that rose fabric very much. And those scones look dreamy. x

  8. Ooooooh those aprons are beautiful, you have such an eye for beautiful fabric. Well done to the lucky winners. You are such a generous lady.

    And a H-U-G-E thank you for the scone recipe, I will be adding it to my bookmarks and my list of recipes to try in the coming weeks as I am bitten by the baking bug and your scones look delicious!

    Oh and a big thanks for the tutorial, another project added to the list!

    Helen xx

  9. A tutorial and a recipe in one post!! Very well done, and your fabrics are gorgeous. I'm going to have to look up this caster sugar to make sure I know what it is. I'm going to have to try one of your aprons, although I don't have your willowy figure so I'm not sure it will have the same effect on me;)

  10. Victoria Brewer20 July 2012 at 15:35

    I've so very much enjoyed your blog this morning! What a lovely apron, and I've some sweet fabric I may employ for one of the sweeties. Gonna give those scones a go too. Thanks for the sharing. You've a lovely blog, Ms. Mouse. ;) I'll be back for more.


Thank you so much for taking the time to visit me at Mrs TT's and comment. I love to read what you write.