"If you are cold, tea will warm you; if you are heated, it will cool you; if you are depressed, it will cheer you; if you are excited, it will calm you."
–William Gladstone, British Prime Minister 1868-1894.
Mr. Gladstone has it right, tea time is always a good time. That's why we chose it as the theme of our latest kitchen series; a beautiful set of five projects with elegant teapot, teacup and teaspoon appliqué accents... everything you need for a lovely tea party. Linen base fabric ties everything together as do the delicate prints from Bunny Hill by Lily & Will and the splash of bright contrast fabric from Riley Blake Designs. So easy to do; let's make tea for two!
Our beautiful natural linen and the Sugar & Spice accent fabric (by The Quilted Fish for Riley Blake Designs) were both provided by America's Largest Fabric Store: Fabric Depot. We are so lucky to have this incredible resource right here in our hometown of Portland, Oregon, because they have such a wonderful selection of designer fabric, home décor options, traditional prints, specialty options and more. But, lucky for you, Fabric Depot also sells online and ships all over the world. Thanks also to our pals at Moda for providing our Layer Cake of Lily & Will by Bunny Hill; it's simply one of the sweetest sets of delicate prints we've seen. Originally heralded as a nursery fabric, as you can see, it works wonderfully in this application as well.
Sewing Tools You Need
Fabric and Other Supplies
- Five Layer Cake squares (we used just five of the forty-two 10" x 10" squares in a standard pack; if you choose not to use a Layer Cake, you'll need to cut five 10" x 10" squares from your selected fabric): we used Lily & Will by Bunny Hill for Moda Fabrics in the Aqua and Brown colorway
- ¾ yard of 44-45" wide linen: we used a medium weight natural linen from Fabric Depot
NOTE: Linen often comes in very wide widths. The linen currently available online from Fabric Depot is 55" wide.
- ½ yard of 44-45" wide coordinating print fabric: we used Sugar & Spice in Sugar Floral White by The Quilted Fish for Riley Blake Designs from Fabric Depot
- Fusible/transfer web: we used Wonder Under from Fabric Depot
- Pressing cloth
- All purpose thread to coordinate with fabrics: we used Coats & Clark Dual Duty XP in #6110 Celedon for topstitching
- All purpose thread to accent fabrics for appliqué: we used Coats & Clark Dual Duty XP in #8360 Summer Brown
- Freezer paper (optional)
- See-through ruler
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Small, sharp scissors for appliqué cutting
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Straight pins
- Download and print the Kitchen Tea Time Shapes Template. For this project you'll use the 'Large Teapot', the 'Large Teacup' and the 'Teaspoon'.
IMPORTANT: This pattern consists of ONE 8½" x 11" sheet. You must print the PDF file at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page.
- Select your five Layer Cake squares (or 10" x 10" cut squares) from which you'll create your four teacups, four saucers, two spoons and one teapot. Set aside.
NOTE: Follow our diagram shown below or pick and choose your own favorite combination.
- From the main apron fabric (natural linen in our sample), cut 24" wide x 26" high rectangle.
NOTE: If you use linen as we did, before you cut, lay it out flat and give it a good steamy press. Then decide if you need to trim off the selvage. Often, the selvage on linen is a tighter weave than the linen itself and causes the body of the fabric to be slightly gathered, right where you really want it to be flat. If your selvage looks tight, trim it off, press again, and then cut.
- From the coordinating print fabric (Sugar & Spice in our sample), cut TWO 36" x 5" strips for the ties. Keep the scraps on hand; from it, you will cut two small flower appliqués.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Cutting and placing your appliqué
- In our humble opinion, the easiest way to handle appliqué is with a fusible/transfer web, like Wonder Under (our first choice). You adhere the fusible web to the back of your appliqué design, then peel away a paper backing to reveal a heat-activated sticky substance. This allows you to temporarily adhere your appliqué design to its background fabric, making the stitching part of appliqué far easier.
- You should always follow the manufacturer's instructions for your specific fusible web, but here are our basic steps:
- It's important the Wonder Under goes all the way to the edge of the cut design in order for it to adhere properly. You will be stitching over the cut edge with a zig zag, but the Wonder Under helps prevent any fraying, especially where the design cuts get very narrow. Therefore, we applied the Wonder Under to the back of the entire Layer Cake square. Cut the Wonder Under into 10" x 10" squares and iron it to the back of the 10" x 10" Layer Cake squares (or your 10" x 10" cut squares).
NOTE: Always place the Wonder Under face down, away from the iron or you'll be cleaning sticky gunk off your iron for the next six months! Remember this appliqué sandwich: fabric first, face down, then the Wonder Under, paper side up, then a pressing sheet.
Once you have adhered the Wonder Under to the back of the fabric, there are several methods for getting your appliqué design onto your fabric.
- You can trace the designs directly onto the paper side of the Wonder Under, and follow the steps from there. If you choose this method, remember the images will be reversed in the finished piece, so make sure you are tracing in the correct direction (ie. flip over the template piece and trace it from the back).
- Or you can do what we did for this project and trace the designs first onto freezer paper. This is a quilter's trick for keeping the edges clean and helping transfer the designs smoothly from the cutting table to the ironing board. Using the template you printed from S4H, trace the image onto the freezer paper (waxy side down) and cut loosely around the image.
- Place the freezer paper onto the right side of the layer cake. This step enables you to place the image exactly where you want it on the print of the fabric, important for the look of our Tea Time Kitchen Appliqué designs.
- Lightly iron the freezer paper in place.
- Carefully cut out the image through the entire freezer paper-fabric-Wonder Under sandwich (remember... you already put the Wonder Under on the back).
- When you're ready to place the appliqués, you simply remove the freezer paper from the top, peel the paper from the Wonder Under on the back, and iron the appliqué into place on the base fabric (the linen in our sample).
- As a third option, you can carefully cut out the printed design with an X-acto knife and use the resulting 'window' to determine your cuts.
- Trace inside the ‘window' with a fabric pencil. The appliqué stitches will cover the pencil lines.
- Remember those scraps of print fabric you saved? Find them now and adhere some Wonder Under to the wrong side of a small section.
- You need just enough to carefully cut one large star flower and one small rounded flower.
- These will become a second level of appliqué on the teapot and one cup. You can use a cut 'window' technique to best determine their placement.
Preparing the pockets
- Find your 24" x 26" apron body piece. Make a simple 1" double-turn hem along one 24" edge. To do this, fold in the raw edge 1", press. Then, fold in another 1" and press again.
- Topstitch close to the fold. This full 1" double-turned hem will become the upper edge of the pockets.
- Lay the hemmed apron flat on the work surface with the pocket hem wrong side up at the bottom of panel. Fold up the bottom 6" to form the pocket pouch (your top pocket hem should now be hidden to the inside of the pocket).
- Pin in place, making sure that your outside raw edges are flush with one another.
- Press the bottom edge to create a strong crease line.
- Fold the apron in half to find the center of the pocket. Again, press well to create a strong center crease... but ONLY in the pocket panel area; you don't need to crease the body of the apron.
- Unfold the pocket and flip the apron right side up. The pocket hem should be at the top, right side up, and the raw edge at the bottom. You should also be able to see your creases.
- Using pins or a fabric pencil, and following your crease, mark your center line. Then, measure 5½" to the right of center 11" to the right of center and draw a vertical line, from the hem to the horizontal crease, or place a pin at each measurement. Repeat to the left of center, drawing a vertical line or placing a pin 5½" to the left of center and 11" to the left of center. You will use these divisions to both center your appliqué and stitch your final pocket divisions.
- Find all your finished appliqué pieces from above.
- Peel the paper backing from the fusible web.
NOTE: I use my small, sharp scissors to make a small score line in the paper. Just a very light scratch. It gives me an easier place to lift and pull away the paper. Trying to peel the fabric away from the paper at the edges can cause your fabric to fray.
- Position your appliqué tea cups, saucers and spoons in the centers of each pocket section. Follow our diagram or create your own.
- If your follow our design, don't forget you need to place a 'second level' small rounded flower appliqué on the the teacup to the left of center.
Stitching the pocket appliqués in place
- Thread your machine with contrasting thread in the top and bobbin. We used Coats & Clark Summer Brown.
- Select the stitch for your appliqué. We used a loose zig zag for our design. We didn't want the traditional super tight satin stitch because of the intricate curves of our designs. The finished look is entirely up to you: use a loose to tight zig zag or choose a decorative stitch.
- Take the extra time to accurately set your stitch width and length. We ended up with a stitch width of 2.0 and a stitch length of .50.
- Good lighting is essential. Pull in an extra lamp for this project!
- Start your stitching on the straightest part of the design.
- Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to appliqué. We like the Janome Satin Stitch foot, which is see-through and has a very handy red arrow you can use as a guide to insure your stitching stays half in the appliqué and half in the base fabric.
- Don't be afraid to stop, with your needle in the down position, and adjust your fabric as you move around the curves.
- Hold on to the base fabric from both the front and back to keep it moving smoothly. Don't pull or force it through the needle, but be an active participant, guiding it at all times.
- Watch the edge of your appliqué as you turn, turn, turn. Pick a point on your presser foot (if you don't have an arrow like mine) so you can keep the appliqué's edge moving along the guide line at all times.
- Use a lock stitch or tie off your threads rather than back-tacking to lock your stitching. Much neater.
NOTE: If you need to remove stitches for any reason, always slip your seam ripper under the stitches on the back; you don't want to risk picking up the edge of the applique and making it fray.
- If you are new to this technique, you can also check out our article: How to Applique.
Place and stitch the teapot appliqué on the apron body
- Fold the finished pocket back up into position and re-pin both sides.
- Position the teapot appliqué so it is centered over the rightmost pocket division and approximately 2" from the top of the pocket. Adhere in place.
- If your follow our design, don't forget that you need to place a 'second level' large star flower appliqué in the center of the tea pot.
- Press all the appliqués one more time. Don't they look nice?
- Below is a close-up of the front and back appliqué of the teapot to show that we did the outside stitching as well as the 'second level' stitching at the same time.
- Check to make sure you can still see pocket division lines (or pin marks). If not, measure and mark again.
- Switch back to your topstitching thread in the top and bobbin and switch the machine back to straight stitch with an increased stitch length (topstitching looks better with a longer stitch length).
- Stitch each of the three pocket division lines (center, 5½" to the right and 5½" to the left), starting at the top hemmed edge and ending at the bottom fold. Use a lock stitch or tie off your threads rather than back-tacking to lock your stitching.
Side hems and top hem
- Take the apron to your ironing board and place it WRONG side up. Turn and press a ½" double fold hem along each side. To do this turn in ½" and press, then turn in another ½" and press again. Pin in place.
- Stitch the hem in place, close to the folded edge.
- Back to the ironing board one more time. This time to press the remaining raw edge into a ¾" double-fold hem. To do this turn back ¾" and press, then turn back another ¾" and press again. Pin in place.
- Stitch the hem in place close to the folded edge.
- Find the two 36" x 5" tie strips.
- Press each strip in half lengthwise, right sides together.
- Trace a half arc onto one end of each, starting ½" from the raw edges and rounding into the folded edge.
- Lightly pin each tie strip. Stitch, using a ½" seam allowance, along the full 36" side, then following your drawn line around the curve. The opposite end should be left open for turning.
- Trim the seam allowance to ¼" and clip the curve.
- Turn both ties right side out. Smooth out the curve with your finger or blunt chopstick.
- Press each tie flat.
- Fold the raw-edged end of each into a pleat. The finished width of pleated end should reduced to about ¾".
- Slip the pleated end into open end of the top hem, one on each side. Pin in place.
- Stitch in place, keeping your seam aligned with the existing stitching.
Hints and Tips
Make sure you have the power
With Janome as on of our sponsors, we are lucky to always get to sew on Janome machines, which are known for their powerful motors and precise needle penetration. I was able to stitch the tiny side seams described above with no problem even over the bulky points. This may not be the case, in fact I KNOW it won't be the case, on other models. In fact, I didn't add my usual 'other machine' options at the end of this article, because, although I'm sure there are other machines out there that will work just great, I'm not 100% confident to make a recommendation. I would suggest testing your machine with a multiple layer 'mock-up' first. Or, better yet, I would recommend getting/using a Janome. Remember: the better your tools, the better the finished project.
Clean starts and stops
Throughout the project, I used a lock stitch to secure my seams rather that back tacking. This creates a clean knot and looks better when topstitching. Use your lock stitch if you have one on your machine. If you don't, that's okay, just be very careful when back tacking to keep the stitches exactly in line. Or, do not back stitch at all, leave your thread tails long, and make a hand-tied knot.
Our apron is an average adult size and finishes at 23" wide x 16½" high. To go up or down in size, measure hip-to-hip for width and hip to mid-thigh for height, then adjust the starting measurements accordingly.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Kathy Andrews, What Sew Ever