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Tea-Time Half Apron with Custom Cup & Saucer Appliques

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"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 had it right, tea time is always a good time. That's why we chose it as the theme for this pretty half apron with its elegant appliqué accents of a teapot, teacups and saucers, and teaspoons... everything you need for a lovely tea party. So fun to do, you'll want to make tea for two!

We used a natural linen for the body of the apron, Lily & Will by Bunny Hill Designs for Moda Fabrics for the appliqués, and Sugar & Spice by The Quilted Fish for Riley Blake Designs for the contrasting ties and appliqué overlay accents. We're excited to tell you an updated version of Sugar & Spice is being released this fall from Riley Blake. Check it out here. Lily & Will (as well as the follow-up, Lily & Will II) are older collections by Bunny Hill Designs, but can sometimes to found from independent sellers on Etsy. You could certainly use any combination that appeals to you, but for a dramatic appliqué, look for a fabric collection that features both small, delicate motifs and well as a few bolder designs to fussy cut for the pretty teacups. 

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With Janome as one 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. We were able to stitch this apron's tiny side seams with no problem – even over the bulky points. This may not be the case on other models. We would suggest testing your machine with a multiple layer "mock-up" first. Or, better yet, we would recommend getting/using a Janome. Remember: the better your tools, the better the finished project.

Throughout the project, we used a lock stitch to secure the 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 at the back of the fabric to secure.

Our apron is an average, one-size-fits-all adult design and finishes at approximately 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.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

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  • Five Layer Cake squares (we used just five of the forty-two 10" x 10" squares in a standard Layer Cake 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 45"+ wide linen: we used a medium weight natural linen 
  • 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
  • 1 yard of fusible/transfer web: we used Wonder Under by Pellon
  • Pressing cloth
  • All purpose thread to coordinate with fabrics
  • 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
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Straight pins

Getting Started

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
    Diagram
  3. From the main apron fabric (natural linen in our sample), cut ONE 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.
  4. 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 them, you will cut two small flower overlay appliqués.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Cutting and placing your appliqué

  1. In our opinion, the easiest way to handle appliqué is with a fusible/transfer web. 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.
  2. You should always follow the manufacturer's instructions for your specific fusible web, but here are our basic steps:
  3. It's important the web 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 web helps prevent any fraying, especially where the design cuts get very narrow. Therefore, we applied the fusible web to the back of the entire Layer Cake square. Cut the web into five 10" x 10" squares and iron it to the back of the five 10" x 10" Layer Cake squares (or your 10" x 10" cut squares).
    NOTE: Always place the fusible web 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 fusible web, paper side up, then a pressing sheet.

Once you have adhered the fusible web to the back of the fabric, there are several methods for getting your appliqué design onto your fabric.

  1. You can trace the designs directly onto the paper side of the fusible web, 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).
  2. 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.
    Click to Enlarge
  3. Place the freezer paper onto the right side of the layer cake (you should have already applied the fusible web to the back of each 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.
    Click to Enlarge
  4. Lightly iron the freezer paper in place.
    Click to Enlarge
  5. Carefully cut out the image through the entire freezer paper-fabric-fusible web sandwich (remember... you already put the fusible web on the back).
    Click to Enlarge
  6. When you're ready to place the appliqués, you simply remove the freezer paper from the top, peel the paper from the fusible web on the back, and iron the appliqués into place on the base fabric.
  7. 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.
    Click to Enlarge
  8. Trace inside the ‘window' with a fabric pencil. The appliqué stitches will cover the pencil lines.
    Click to Enlarge
  9. Remember those scraps of print fabric you saved? Find them now and adhere some fusible web to the wrong side of a small section that includes some bold motifs.
    Click to Enlarge
  10. You need just enough to carefully cut one large star flower and one small rounded flower.
    Click to Enlarge
  11. These will become a second level of appliqué on the teapot and one cup. You can use the cut window technique to best determine their placement.
    Click to Enlarge

Preparing the pockets

  1. 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" and press. Then, fold in an additional 1" and press again.
    Click to Enlarge
  2. Topstitch close to the fold. This full 1" double-turned hem will become the upper edge of the pockets.
  3. 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).
  4. Pin in place, making sure that your outside raw edges are flush with one another.
  5. Press the bottom edge to create a strong crease line.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 of the panel should be at the bottom. You should also be able to see your crease lines.
  8. Using pins or a fabric pencil, and following your crease, mark your center line. Measure 5½" to the right of center and draw a vertical line. Then measure 11" to the right of center and draw a vertical line. The lines should extend from the hem to the horizontal crease, or you can simply 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 appliqués and stitch your final pocket divisions.
    Diagram
  9. Find all your finished appliqué pieces from above.
  10. Peel the paper backing from the fusible web.
    NOTE: To remove the paper backing, it can helo to use  small, sharp scissors to make a small score line in the paper. Just a very light scratch. It gives you 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.
  11. Position your appliqué tea cups, saucers and spoons in the centers of each pocket section. Follow our diagram or create your own.
  12. If your follow our design, don't forget you need to overlay and stitch the small rounded flower appliqué on the the teacup to the left of center.
    Diagram

Stitching the pocket appliqués in place

  1. Thread your machine with contrasting thread in the top and bobbin. We used a deep brown.
  2. 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.
  3. Take the extra time to accurately set your stitch width and length, testing first on scraps. We ended up with a stitch width of 2.0 and a stitch length of .50.
  4. Good lighting is essential. Pull in an extra lamp for this project!
  5. Start your stitching on the straightest part of the design.
  6. 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 handy red arrow you can use as a guide to insure your stitching stays half in the appliqué and half in the base fabric.
  7. Don't be afraid to stop, with your needle in the down position, and adjust your fabric as you move around the curves.
  8. 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.
  9. 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 our Janome) so you can keep the appliqué's edge moving along the guide line at all times.
  10. 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 appliqué 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 appliqué, causing it to fray.
  11. If you are new to this technique, you can also find additional information in our article: How to Applique.

Place and stitch the teapot appliqué on the apron body

  1. Fold the finished pocket back up into position and re-pin both sides.
  2. 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.
  3. If your follow our design, don't forget that you need to overlay and stitch the large star flower appliqué in the center of the tea pot.
    Diagram
  4. Press all the appliqués one more time. Don't they look nice?
    Click to Enlarge
  5. 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.
    Click to Enlarge

Finish pockets

  1. Check to make sure you can still see pocket division lines (or pin marks). If not, measure and mark again.
    Click to Enlarge
  2. 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).
  3. 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. As recommened above, use a lock stitch or tie off your threads rather than back-tacking to lock your stitching.

Side hems and top hem

  1. 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 an additional ½" and press again. Pin in place.
  2. Stitch the hem in place, close to the folded edge.
    Click to Enlarge
  3. 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.
  4. Stitch the hem in place close to the folded edge. Just stitch straight across; do not stitch the ends closed. You'll be inserting the ends of the ties into those little openings.

Ties

  1. Find the two 36" x 5" tie strips.
  2. Press each strip in half lengthwise, right sides together, so it is now 36" x 2½".
  3. Trace a half arc onto one end of each folded strip, starting ½" from the raw edges and rounding into the folded edge as shown below.
    Click to Enlarge
  4. Lightly pin each tie strip. Using a ½" seam allowance,  stitch along the full 36" side, then follow your drawn line around the curve. The opposite end should be left straight and open for turning.
    Click to Enlarge
  5. Trim the seam allowance to ¼" and clip the curve.
  6. Turn both ties right side out. Smooth out the curve with a long, blunt tool, like a chopstick or knitting needle.
  7. Press each tie flat.
  8. Fold the raw-edged end of each tie into a pleat. The finished width of pleated end should reduce to about ¾".
  9. Slip the pleated end into open end of the top hem, one on each side. Pin in place.
    Click to Enlarge
  10. Stitch in place, keeping this new short seam aligned with the existing stitching.
    Click to Enlarge

Contributors

Project Design: Alicia Thommas 
Sample Creation: Kathy Andrews, What Sew Ever

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