As regular readers will know, now and again I get the urge to do something for charity. Together with Sally, we’ve raised around £950 for Yorkshire Air Ambulance across the two Sew Up North events, so sometimes it pays off.
I’m fortunate to work for a FTSE100 company that now and again puts its money where its mouth is and gives all staff a volunteering day each year (you may be as cynical as you like about their motivation 😉 ) Ordinarily this is done as part of a team event, which generally involves some kind of heavy manual labour. I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of these, but I genuinely couldn’t take part in my team’s event this year as it wasn’t a day I’m normally in the office and I didn’t have childcare. So I asked my manager whether I could take the day to do something for my daughters’ school, and he was quite happy for me to do so.
(Incidentally, if you’re a line manager, here’s a tip; this kind of response to someone who works for you asking a favour is likely to get serious loyalty points!)
When I asked school what they needed me to do, thinking of the nativity costumes they’d mentioned longingly a week before Christmas last year, what did they ask for?
35 of them, to be precise.
And of course, they need to fit all of school, from Foundation up to year 6. That’s everyone from the smallest 4 year old to the tallest 11 year old.
Oof. Not exactly what I had in mind, but I was committed now!
I’d originally thought we’d have to buy the fabric, and Minerva Crafts had very kindly offered me a discount; however, between the denim I picked up on The Foldline’s stall at the Great British Sewing Bee Live and another mum’s sack of offcuts from upholstery projects, we managed to assemble just about enough reasonably sturdy stuff in a vast range of designs to do this almost cost free.
The only thing I did have to buy was the tape for the straps; however, two 50m rolls came in at slightly over £6, so not too bad really.
I spent some time thinking about how to get these things to fit such a wide range of sizes. I could easily envisage the staff spending half of a cookery class trying to unpick the knots in neck straps previously fitted to very small Foundation aged children and wanted to avoid that if possible.
Instead, I decided on a design which involved buttonholes being placed at the waist of the apron through which tapes from the neckline would pass, right shoulder to left waist and vice versa. The straps could then be pulled tight to fit any size of child.
I have to admit that I wildly underestimated how long it would take me to make these things. When my day out of the office dawned, I had cut out all the aprons and cut all the straps to the right length too. I started around 8:30 after dropping the girls off, went through to 5:30 at which point I took a couple of hours to feed the girls and get them to bed and then picked up again from about 7:45 and gave in at 10:45. And I still hadn’t done any of the buttonholes!
By this point I was SO fed up of the sight of these aprons! However, I was determined to finish and thankfully my machine played ball. It has been known to throw hissy fits over the one step buttonhole function, but out of all 80 buttonholes (bear with me on the maths) I only had to unpick one and start again. Another 3 hours on the following day and I was able to dump all 40 aprons on the headteacher and run for the hills before I was asked for more.
Yes, I did make 40 aprons. No, I have no idea why. I would swear up and down that I counted those bloody things carefully repeatedly whilst cutting out, but clearly the sheer volume of pinnies got to me and I lost the ability to count!
Anyway, the Head was absolutely thrilled, which was lovely, and the school are now one step closer to being able to provide all the children with proper cookery (as opposed to baking) classes which are definitely an added extra and a key life skill. And hopefully the next time I forget to send something vital in to school (say, Katie’s goats milk which is still in the fridge this morning and not on its way to school with Daddy to get round her allergies) I’ll be forgiven.
I was quite pleased with the design on these so I’ve included notes below on what I did to make them.
Have you ever volunteered to use your sewing skills for charity? And did it end well?
Step 1: create the pattern
- Draw and cut out on some form of paper a rectangle measuring 50cm by 70 cm
- Fold it in half lengthways so that the two 50cm sides meet.
- On one short end, mark 11.5cm out from the centre point each way, so you end up with a 21cm line centred on the 50cm line. This is now the top of your apron
- Working from the bottom, mark 47cm up on each of the long sides
- Either freehand or use a French curve to draw down from the 21cm mark on the top to each of the 47cm marks on the side (you may wish to do this for one side and then trace that curve across onto the other side to make sure it’s even) – this is you armscye.
- Cut the two curves out and should have something that looks like an apron shape
Step 2: cut out
- Place your pattern piece onto your fabric (single layer if you’re only making one, stacked as high as you think you can cut through if you’ve got eleventy billion to make)
- Cut around it
Step 3: attach the straps and finish the edges
- Cut two 1m straps of tape / webbing / ribbon / whatever you’re using for straps
- Finish one end of each (I folded them over twice and stitched with my machine; you could do this by hand and it would probably look nicer!)
- Place the other raw edge onto the raw edge of the top of the apron, against the wrong side of the fabric. The strap should be lying down the length of the apron and should be around 1.5cm in from the sides.
- Overlock all around the edges of the apron, catching the fabric straps as you go. I did this on my overlocker, but you could zigzag around on your sewing machine. The point is to fasten on the straps and stop the raw edges of the fabric from fraying.
Step 4: hem the apron
- Press the edges of the apron in all the way around, turning the fabric once towards the wrong side.
- Turn the straps back up over the folded edge so that they are pointing upwards away from the apron.
- Topstitch all the way around the apron, securing the straps in the proper place as you go
Step 5: Buttonholes
- Sew a button hole parallel to the edge of the apron at the point where the bib bit meets the side. I eyed these up (way too tired for measuring at that point) but they probably sat about 1″ in from the side and 1″ down from the curve
To wear the apron, pass the strap from the right shoulder through the button hole on the left hip and vice versa for the other side, pull until the apron sits as you desire and tie in a bow.