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Absence

I know I’ve been absent for some time. For shame. I haven’t posted much new to Etsy, nor have I written here. I’ve been consumed with personal projects and the excitement of having a high school exchange student staying with us!

She’s been here a month, and I already taught her to use the sewing machine to make a hello kitty pencil pouch. Now, I’ve been working on her Renaissance Festival costume every spare moment, as it consists of an overdress (the sleeves of which have like 18 pieces) and an underdress (the sleeves of which have 18 buttons!).

Promise to post soon, though. Here’s a picture of one of my cats to satisfy your visual needs until next time.

This is Max’s “what are you doing?” face.

So, I used to occasionally sell at markets and shows when I lived in Memphis. But the craft scene in the Twin Cities is much more competitive and hard to break into. Even most of the cool craft shows have a ridiculous entrance process and cost heaps just to enter. Out of my league? Sometimes.

I wanted to break into selling in shops, but honestly I’m not very good at marketing myself. About a year ago, someone I worked with mentioned my aprons to the owner of a small flower/gift shop here in St. Paul. As luck would have it, I met with her, she liked my stuff and I submitted a few aprons to sell on consignment.

I piddled about and it didn’t seem like the aprons were doing that well. Months went by. Finally, I contacted the shop owner to get my things back, apologizing for my lengthy absence. But lo, several aprons had sold and she asked for more! So folks, I now have a bunch of aprons over at Laurel Street Flowers in St. Paul, MN (in the Ran-Ham neighborhood, don’tcha know).

It’s an adorable little shop, with loads of craftsy goodies and gifts. Trinkets galore! And of course, she does some gorgeous flowers. Here’s some views:

The Front

The Sign

And of course, the interior, featuring my lovely aprons amongst all the other delights!

Two of my aprons are behind those dried flowers, draped on a mannequin.

Nothing of mine visible here!

 

 

 

And here’s the Black Eyed Susan Apron you’ve seen before, draped below a cute sunhat and hopefully awaiting a new home!

 

I’d love to hear other people’s advice about how they first broke into selling in shops. How do you market yourself? Where do you sell your wares?

 

 

 

 

 

So, I found this awesome-looking wrap around skirt tutorial that I just had to try! I’m always on the look-out for great wrap skirt tutorials and patterns, because they are my favorite type of skirt to wear. Unfortunately, I have mixed feelings about making them. They never seem to come out quite as I’m hoping.

This tutorial I found on Sew A Straight Line–a great blog to check out if your haven’t already. You can find it here. Anyway, I had reservations about trying yet another skirt I found online, but thought I’d give it a go. It’s not really a traditional wrap skirt, but more of a sack that you get inside, with flaps that come around and tie. Cool!

Here’s the finished product. Looks fairly decent, right? Fits okay. Not as super comfy as I’d hoped. All in all, her tute is a success, but for fitting me I had a few problems. The point here is not AT ALL to trash her tutorial, which is great and it’s an adorable skirt. I am extremely petite, and I had to make adjustments based on that fact and a few of my own errors (see below). So the point of this post is to walk you through the problem solving process when you’ve already got fabric cut, seams put in, etc–on the fly. Maybe this will help you, and maybe you will have suggestions for me on how to address such problems more efficiently in future!

1. For cutting out the pattern, I couldn’t see how having a straight line at the waist would work out well. So on faith, I added a slight curve, and of course tried to match that at the bottom edge. This does not seem to have had any terrible effect on the finished product, but since I haven’t made one with the straight-across waist, I can’t tell you how it compares.

2. I had read the comments about how the interior slips out. I wasn’t really sure this would be a problem, but I did see that the folded-over side panels really needed to be held in place somehow. I compromised by sewing a line down the side (ie. at the fold, along the outside of my leg), even though others said you’d be able to see it. I didn’t mind seeing the stitching and that solution worked okay. It’s still a little weird at the sides of my waist. I tried adding little bits of velcro at those points, but that SO didn’t work out. Of course it needs to be still wide enough to get your hips through.

3. I measured as suggested, but I gave myself a little extra seam allowance because I planned to do a french seam and make it all nice and neat. So I wanted a little extra allowance for those seams. Did I miscalculate? I don’t know. But I ended up with overlap at the front.

So, instead of barely meeting and tying with a bow, the two top corner bits overlapped! What to do? I didn’t want to tear out everything I’d sewn and start over. (Though that would’ve been smart in the long run probably). I therefore decided to allow them to overlap and to put in a button and a button hole. Wearing it in one direction, the button would show. Wearing it reversed, the button would be underneath. This worked okay, except one of the ties was left peeking out from underneath and didn’t tie right. *sigh*

Here it is the reversed way, and you can just make out the button near the top. I had to add “buttonholes” to glide the ties through so they’d both come out on the front and tie nicely. This was fairly successful and I’ve worn it twice now without any mishaps (ie. it inexplicably falling off or tearing a seam).


SO, the moral of the story is: never give up! That tutorial is fun and makes an interesting style of reversible wrap skirt. Go try it! And don’t fall into the mistakes that I made. ie. Measure carefully and think ahead once you decide to modify anything.🙂 Anyone have any (mis)adventures in sewing to share?

Remember I was talking about Nathalie Mornu’s great apron book? This one:

Here is one that is very versatile.

This one is called Lemon Meringue.

I have never made this one with the faux pockets or with rick rack all the way around the edge! Too much grief.

Here’s my take on the “Lemon Meringue. I really liked this retro McCalls patterns print and needed to put it to good use–something “retro” but never out of style. An apron!

And another…

I told you I like to do ruffles!

This simple pattern has been very useful, as it’s really on a circular bit with ties. Everything and anything else you can add and subtract based on your own whimsy. You’ll notice on the one above, the sides were made straight instead of rounded. Easy peasy.

Last one of this style, I swear!

Cats in Cupboards

So for this one, I decided to go with a mini-ruffle. I guess I felt like the print of the fabric was too busy already, with all the cats and curtains and cupboards (oh my!).

You probably can’t tell from the picture, but the ties are twill store-bought straps, rather than my usual (at the time) hand-made ties. Ties take a lot of work, really. With the ironing and folding and sometimes turning right-side out, etc. I used this twill tape at first for convenience, and found that for certain aprons I really like the sturdiness of it. I also like the simplicity and neutrality. What fabric could I have used for the ties of this apron that wouldn’t have distracted from the already distracting main print?

I was going to show you the two aprons that I made from this pattern:

The Mango Tango

But I can’t find the pictures! Perhaps there will have to be an Apron Extravaganza Part Three sometime. Suffice it to say that I only made this one twice. It’s tricky because of the attachment of the skirt portion, which has a curved seam. It’s also a pain because it takes loads of bias tape and there isn’t really a way around that.

Last but not least… well, yes least because I’ve only made this apron once. And I still have the one I made.

Supposed to be a more heavy-duty sort of apron.

Since this is supposed to be more sturdy, and the pockets have to stay folded like this, I used canvas. Luckily, I found some canvas chicken fabric to make it worth my while. Really this apron is just two rectangles. It’s all about the prints and the folding of the pocket area.

Maybe next time we’ll look at other styles of aprons, drawn from other sources. Maybe I’ll do a gallery of those. What d’you think?

I love Nathalie Mornu’s 2008 book A Is For Apron. I use it all the time. You should too.

Image

The following are a sampling of some pages from that book, with my own creations based on those designs. I hope that it’s a fun way to see how you can modify others’ suggestions and make them your own!

This one is called the “Fruit Tart” in the book. It’s a nice basic half apron.

Here’s my Winter Cats apron, with half of the pocket.

And the Ruffled Chickens apron. I gave it wider ties and waistband. I also gave it only a small front pocket and a black ruffle hanging down below the waistband. That’s one of the signature features of many of my half aprons and people really seem to like it. I think it adds a dainty touch, and gives in more character. It takes more time and work, so a lot of aprons lack ruffles and other handmade features. This one sold to a man whose wife loves chickens, and even though this was my favorite apron to date, I was glad to see it go to a loving home.

Here’s another from the book. This is my absolute favorite design. You’ll see other versions of it out there–I think maybe McCall’s has a similar pattern, which I’ve used. The one from this book is far superior!

This one is called the Lorelai. It’s very 1950s diner-ish, I think.

I won’t take the space to post all of my versions of this–I’ve done many. It’s very popular with customers and is easy to adjust for different sizes. That’s the drawback–you have to adjust the waist area and neck strap for very small or very large people!

You’ll note that this one basically follows the pattern, but I modified the pocket to make it round and give it a contrasting band along the top edge. This is another signature feature of many of my aprons–a two-toned pocket of some sort.

Cupcakes! (sorry for the picture quality–it’s an old one)

Again, you’ll see a two-fabric pocket. The picture quality isn’t so great, but the pockets and neckline do sport rick-rack. Not my favorite thing to work with, so sometimes I avoid it.

Black Eyed Susan

This one uses lace trim in place of rick-rack. I think it adds a nice touch to the pocket. Sometimes the two fabric prints need something in between them to make them look nice! Square pockets are so much easier than rounded ones. Be warned that this apron style takes a lot of bias tape.

Okay, I’m getting tired so that’s the last one for today. Tune in for Part Two and we’ll look at a couple more designs from this delightful and useful apron book! Hope you like my take on them, and feel inspired to get out some patterns and the sewing machine to begin work on your own springtime creations!

Just thought I’d pop in and introduce you to my new friends. I bought some soft pastel green and ivory flannel, intending to make something totally different. Instead, these two resulted.

This is Mr. Bear. I’m not 100% keen on how he came out. I wish he looked more skeptical. I went through a “skeptical bears” period a few years ago, and I really became fond of their less-than-convinced facial expressions.

This bear just looks vaguely surprised. I also attached his arms a bit differently.

Now what do you think of Mr. Frog? I’m pretty fond of him. He looks happy, probably because he just ate a huge fly for breakfast! I’m really getting into adding bellies with food in them to my stuffed creations!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this preview of my spring critters. I’d love to hear what other people are working on as the weather turns nice and there are buds on the trees.

It’s another “wah!” moment here, as a new doll has reached completion. Her name is Mathilda Esmerelda, Queen of Krill.

Mathilda Esmerelda

DOLL CONSTRUCTION: I thought you might like to know a little about how she came into being…

She began with a silly SKETCH done on a piece of scrap paper at work. It looked like this:

Next, I rifled through my envelope of PATTERN pieces I’ve made for previous dolls. There are two I use often. For M.E. I chose one in which the head and body pieces are separate. I’ve been leaning toward that method more and more lately, because I feel like it gives the neck area more stability. I’m hoping to have a pattern / tutorial coming soon. Super basic pattern pieces, they are.

I CUT the pieces out of muslin, beginning with the head. The FACE is the best part, as that is what gives the doll her special character and personality. I don’t always do a sketch and sometimes I modify it, but it’s nice to look at it now and see what sort of face I had imagined. I cut out the EYES and other necessary facial features out of felt and begin to hand sew them on. Many dolls need embroidered mouths and eyelashes too. M.E. has a felt mouth enhanced with embroidery. (Oops, she’s just informed me that she hates it when I call her M.E. and prefers Esmy. *sigh*)

So, here is Esmy’s unstuffed head, with her face intact.

You may note that I simply set her “seaweed hair” behind her head to see what it would look like. I also arrange all the doll’s pieces out on the table to get a sense of what the completed critter will look like and if I like the proportions. Here she is, before sewing and stuffing.

By the time I took this photo, I had also already hand-sewn her heart on. I like to give most of my dolls a heart (or some sort of other bodily feature). The nice thing about having this separate body piece is that you can make it out of a different fabric, either just to be cute, or to simulate clothing without having to bother dressing the doll later.

You’ll notice that the tops of her arms are rounded, while the tops of her legs are not. That’s because I planned to attach the ARMS on the outside of her torso after putting her together, so I want them to look nice and neat. Her LEGS will be attached so that their tops disappear into the seam at the bottom edge of her body.

In this case, I sewed her HEAD TO her BODY on the front and back sides with 1/8th to 1/4th inch seam. Then I placed her seaweed HAIR and folded it over her face, matching up the raw edge of hair to raw edge of head and basted it in place. Next, I matched the front and back sides of Esmy, right sides together, and sewed all around except for the bottom edge where her legs would go. Turn her and stuff. Voila!

This is when the dolls begin to take on their own (often unusual) personalities. This is also when they become demanding, wanting their arms and legs to be attached as soon as possible, so that they can feel complete.

You’ll note that at this time the legs and arms also need to be sewn, right sides together, and then stuffed. For the legs, I leave an opening at the top. For the arms, I’ve recently begun to round out the tops and leave the opening on the side. The side opening can be hand sewn up when the arms are stuffed.

I stick the legs into the body and hand sewn the opening, catching in the tops of the legs. For the arms, I use the button “axle” method much of the time. I will post about this elsewhere, but basically it’s what it sounds like. There is a button on the outside of each arm. A long thread goes through the button and arm, through the whole body and out the other arm/button combo, back and forth a few times. This also the arms some range of motion.

Esmy demanded a pretty dress, similar to the one that Wacky Deb wears. Making doll clothes is a tricky business, I find, and so I’ll leave that discussion for another day. She also is wearing tiny crocheted leg warmers!

Here she is sitting on the bookshelf with her friend Wacky Deb. Hope this has given you a bit of direction if you are new to making dolls! I’d love to hear comments about your own techniques or trials and tribulations.