Wednesday, November 30, 2011

30-Minute Apron

My friend and I were in Hobby Lobby the other day and found some adorable holiday cupcake fabric. We wanted (needed) to have it, but had no idea what to make with it at first. We finally decided on making some simple aprons to do our holiday baking in.

With Christmas coming up and all the projects I have going for that, I could use a quick and easy project! Here's a super cute--and super quick--apron you can whip together in about 30 minutes. Of course, this time will vary depending on your sewing skills, but seriously, it took me longer to put together this blog post than it did to make one of these aprons.

You will need roughly 2/3 of a yard of fabric (prewashed) and 2 packages of extra-wide, double-fold seam binding in a coordinating color. Make sure it's double-fold!

Cut the fabric so that it is about 22" long.(It doesn't need to be exact--after all, it's an apron). Next, to figure out how wide you want your apron, simply hold it up and wrap it around you. I'm an average-sized woman, and I made mine about 26 1/2" wide. I didn't measure it exactly; I just held it up to myself, saw about how much I needed to cut off, and chopped off the sides. The fit isn't really important, which is what makes this project nice.
Next, round off the bottom two corners. I simply folded my fabric in half and cut both corners at the same time.

Now you're ready to start sewing--already! I told you it was quick! You're going to put seam binding around the bottom and two side edges all at once. Starting at one of the top corners, sandwich your apron fabric between the layers of seam binding, and then stitch as close as possible to the edge of the seam binding.

Stitch all the way down the side, around the rounded corner, across the bottom, around the other rounded corner, and up the other side to the top. While none of this sewing is truly difficult, the rounded corners will provide the most difficulty to someone who is new to sewing. I recommend working around the corners a little at a time; don't try to pin the whole binding in place beforehand. Just stitch slowly and line up the next inch or so in front of the presser foot, stitch it, stop, and repeat.

When I do this I just leave the entire length of binding hanging off my project and cut it off when I'm finished sewing that part.
Your apron should now look something like this:

Next, we're going to finish the top and add the apron ties, all at once. For this part, open up your second package of seam binding. Yes, you probably have some left from the step above, but we'll get to that later. This step requires a whole package.

Unwind the binding and fold it in half, marking the halfway point with a pin.

Line this pin up with the halfway point at the top of your apron (just fold the apron in half, as well, to quickly find the center). Now for this step, I do pin the binding across the top of the apron, sandwiching the fabric between the two layers, because we are working with a straight edge and it's easier. I also do this to ensure that nothing shifts and my apron strings stay about the same length.

Starting at one edge of the apron, stitch across the top of the apron. When you reach the edge of the apron, keep stitching to close the open edge of the binding all the way to the end of the apron string.

When you reach the edge of the string, cut the threads, and then stitch the second apron string closed the same way. If you choose, you could start at one end of the apron string and stitch across the string, the apron, and the second string in one step. I just personally find it easier to start on the body of the project.

You now have an apron with finished edges and ties!

If you want, you can leave the apron like this and go start your baking right away. If, however, you want to add pockets, here's what to do. Cut two rectangles from a coordinating fabric (or the same fabric, whatever). Again, there's really no need to measure these. Just figure out a size that works for you and cut them both the same. Remember that leftover seam binding from the beginning? Use that to stitch across the top of the pockets--or use a different color, like I decided to do.

Next, fold under the remaining 3 sides about 1/4" each and stitch as close to the raw edge as you can. It helps if you press the sides down before sewing.

The wrong side of your pocket should look something like this:

Now it's time to pin the pocket onto your apron. I cheated and didn't really measure this, either. After all, the whole point of this project was to be quick and easy. Fold the apron in half and place one pocket where you want it, then pin it on.

Next, to make sure your other pocket is in the same place on the other side, I'll show you a little trick I use. I placed 4 pins around the edges of this pocket, catching both layers of the apron. I put one pin parallel to each side, just exactly on the edge of the pocket. You can just see the pin head in this picture, but I hope you get the idea.

After putting one pin on each edge of the pocket, and catching both layers of the apron, when you turn the apron over you will see four little silver marks showing you the outline of your pocket. This was nearly impossible to photograph--I'm pointing to one in the picture, but you can barely see it. If you look in the upper left-hand corner of the picture you can see another pin coming through the cookie jar. I promise that, in person, they are much easier to spot. :)

Line up your second pocket in the middle of these pin marks, and ta-da! Your second pocket is exactly symmetrical to your first pocket. Pin it in place and then remove the 4 pins going through both layers.
Stitch the sides and bottom edges of each pocket as close to the edge as possible. This combined with the stitching you did on the pocket a few minutes ago will give you a nice double row of stitches.

And now, you're done! Pat yourself on the back for actually finishing a project this Christmas season!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Christmas Stockings!

As this is my first Christmas as a married woman, I wanted to make new stockings for me and my husband. We have decided to use snowmen as our main "theme" for Christmas decorations, so when I came across the Build-a-Snowman embroidery design pack from Embroidery Library (, I knew the designs would make some adorable stockings! This design pack comes with several individual snowman heads, middles, and bottoms for you to mix and match to create your individual snowman.

My husband designed his, picking a bottom with a kilt (which didn't surprise me), a middle with a scarf, and a head with a winter hat. He even picked out the thread colors he wanted. For my snow-woman I went with a bottom with a frilly tutu, a middle with a fur, and a head with a fancy hat.

The designs come with directions on how to make them, instructing you to embroider one piece, and then very carefully mark exactly where you want to place the next piece and embroider that, and the same for the third piece. While I'm sure that would have worked, that sounded way too complicated to me. With my luck, I would have measured very carefully and still ended up with one of my designs being slightly off, leaving me with a snowman with a floating head or something. Fortunately I have some nifty software called Embird (available at With this software, I was able to merge all of the designs together:

...and place them exactly where I wanted them. After that, I "locked" all three pieces together so that they now moved as one and became one big design, and there was no chance of me having a disconnected snowman. It also sorted out the colors, and, whenever possible, programmed the design to stitch out all of one color at once. This means that (as long as it works in consideration with layers and shading) it would stitch out, for example, the white in the head, middle, and bottom all at once, instead of doing the multiple thread changes as would have happened when using the original design. Love this software!

I didn't have a stocking pattern and didn't feel like going to the store and buying one, so I made one myself. I also didn't have any pattern paper on hand, so I used notebook paper taped together, on which I drew a large sock shape. It looks super ghetto, but it got the job done--and besides, who has time for a trip to the store when inspiration strikes and things you have on hand will work?

I used two different colors of fabric (1 yard of each) for the stockings. With the size I made the stockings, a yard and a quarter would have been much easier to work with, but I managed.
My husband's is green with a red cuff, toe, heel, and lining, while mine is red with a green cuff, toe, heel, and lining. I cut out 4 pieces of each color from the pattern above. Each stocking takes 2 of each color--the main color for the front and back, and the accent color for the front and back lining. I cut the 4 pieces for each, then chopped off 4-5 inches from the top to make into the cuff.

Here's where hindsight comes in. Had I been thinking through this, I would have only cut the cuff part off of the main fabric, and not off of the lining pieces as well, because, as it is a false cuff, this just gave me an extra (and pointless) step when I went to put the lining together, as you will see later.
I also decided to cut 1 front and 1 back (including the cuff pieces) out of quilt batting for each stocking, because the fabric I was using was very thin and I wanted a little more body to my stockings.

Next, I cut out 1 toe piece and 1 heel piece from each color (the patterns also made from notebook paper, because I'm classy like that).

At last, time for the fun part! I prepared the stocking front for embroidery by marking the center and hooping it with the stabilizer.

Then I stitched out the snowman design. These designs take quite a bit of time as they have roughly 27,000 stitches in each one, so you might want to have a book or a handiwork project handy as you babysit the machine for the next hour and a half or so. I love the finished design!

The next step was to embroider the name on the cuff part, so I, again, marked the center, hooped the fabric and stabilizer, and babysat the machine while it stitched out. At least the names take much less time! (Those of you who are observant will notice this is not the green fabric I was using for my stockings. I forgot to take a picture of this step, so I snapped this one while helping a friend make similar stockings for her and her husband). :)

After the embroidery was done, I pinned on the toe and heel patches...

...then stitched them on using a tight zigzag, much like a buttonhole stitch. I used embroidery thread for this step because I like how nice and shiny it is. I found it helpful to stitch on some scrap pieces first to get the stitch length and width the way I wanted it.

This step takes a little bit of time, but it looks so nice when it's done.

After this, I pinned the batting to the front and back stocking pieces. You may choose to baste the batting on at this point. I didn't because I didn't feel like it, and am used to manipulating multiple layers of fabric at a time. If you are newer to sewing, it's probably a good idea for you to baste it around the edges.

Next, I pinned the front and back together with right sides facing and stitched around the outsides, leaving the top open.

I then trimmed the seams and clipped the curves to eliminate bulk in the stocking. Why trim the seams, you ask, instead of just stitching them with a narrower seam allowance in the first place? That is an excellent question for which I have no answer. All I know is this is how I was taught to sew. :) Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that it's a little easier to work with a larger seam allowance.

After trimming the seams and clipping the curves, I turned the stocking right-side-out and set it aside.
Next, I pinned the batting to the back of the cuff pieces (again, you may choose to baste at this point) and stitched the pieces together on one side only. I left open the side where I was going to put the hanging loop, which lines up with the heel side of the stocking.

I left this one side open because I chose to add a decorative trim between the cuff and the stocking. If you don't wish to do that, you can go ahead and stitch both sides together so that you have a little tube.
I pinned my trim along the bottom edge of the cuff and then basted it in place.

Then I folded the cuff, right sides together, to stitch the last side seam together, catching the ends of the trim and making the little tube mentioned above. If you look in this picture you can see I am stitching through the ends of the trim in the seam, which gives the trim a nice finish on the right side.

Leaving the cuff inside-out, I pinned it to the top of the stocking, lining up the side seams. Make sure you have the part with the name on the front of the stocking and going the right direction!

I stitched the two pieces together. The only tricky thing about this part is if you are using a trim. I just had to feel with my fingers to know where I should be stitching to be at just the edge of my little rope trim while not stitching through it. Unfortunately I don't have any better advice than that, but it's worth it when you turn it right-side out and see how amazing it looks.

At this point, I set the stocking aside and constructed the lining. I pinned the lining front and back together with right sides facing and sewed around the whole thing, leaving the top open. Then I stitched the lining cuff pieces together at the sides and attached them to the lining body just like I did above.

This is that extra step I was talking about in the beginning. There was absolutely no point in this, except that I had chopped my lining short and needed it to be the same length as my stocking body. Because you are brilliant and will have thought through this ahead of time, you will have a nice lining all in one piece and won't need this step.

I trimmed the seams and clipped the curves just like with the lining body, but I didn't turn it right-side out. I just stuffed the whole thing inside the stocking like so:

...until it was all the way down inside and the top edges were flush.

The only tricky part about this step is making sure that your lining doesn't get twisted around inside and you end up sewing it in such a way that the toe side of the lining is on the heel side of the stocking. You can see in the picture above one pin stuck into my lining. I put this on the heel side of my lining so that I knew exactly what I was working with once the lining was all inside and all I could see was the upper edge.

At this point I set the stocking aside to create the hanging loop. I decided to make this out of narrow double-folded seam binding, so I cut off about 4-5 inches of binding.

I stitched the edges of the seam binding closed, and then folded the piece in half and pinned it on the seam to the heel side of my stocking cuff, the raw edges lined up and the loop hanging down. Being careful not to catch the stocking lining, I stitched the loop in place.

Again, hindsight. There's really no reason I couldn't have attached the loop to the stocking before I stuffed the lining inside, which would eliminate the need to worry about catching the lining while sewing on the loop. However you choose to do it, though, the result is the same.

Finally, the last step! I folded down the edge of the stocking and the lining about 1/2" each, pinning them in several spots to keep them in place. If you want you can use an iron to press each edge down, which will help keep it in place. You could also choose to baste each one down, but you will have to remove the basting stitches at the end as they will show.

After both edges were pinned down, I lined up the folded edges and pinned both pieces together, hiding the raw edges down inside where they belong, lining up the seams, and making sure that top of the loop was not pinned down inside.

Then I stitched around the top, about 1/4" inside the folded edge. I chose at that point to run another line of stitches right on the edge because I wanted the two folds to be stitched together as close as possible at the edge. This also meant I was sewing through the loop a total of 3 times, so that it was really reinforced and ready to hold all of those Christmas gifts!

At last, the finished stocking!

Here's a picture of both mine and my husband's completed stockings. I love how they are individualized and reflect our personalities!


This hearty meal is one of my husband's favorites; it's become one of my favorites, too, because it's so quick and easy to make, especially if you brown the meat ahead of time.

You will need:
1 lb. ground beef, browned (I brown mine with onion)
1 jar of your favorite barbeque sauce
2 cans of jumbo biscuits
Shredded cheese

Brown meat and drain. Preheat oven to 350. Mix meat with jar of barbeque sauce and set aside.

Open the can of biscuits. Take each biscuit and smash it with your fingers so that it is nice and flat.

Place the flattened biscuit into a muffin tin so that it looks like a mini pie shell.

When you have all of your little biscuit shells, fill each one with some of the meat mixture.

Top each meat pie with shredded cheese.

Bake for 17-20 minutes (or according to the directions on your biscuit can) until cheese is melted and biscuits are golden brown.
Ta-da! Gremlins!