Aunt Sarah had turned a big long attic room into a sewing school where Nan and Mildred had full charge....Mrs. Bobbsey sat at the machine ready to do stitching while Aunt Sarah was busy "cutting out" on a long table in front of the low window.
"Now, young ladies," said Mrs. Bobbsey, "we have ready some blue gingham aprons. You see how they are cut out; two seams, one at each side, then they are to be closed down the back. There will be a pair of strings on each apron, and you may begin by pressing down a narrow hem on these strings. We will not need to baste them, just press them down with the finger this way."-- The Bobbsey Twins in the Country, 1907
Well, if a bunch of eight-year-olds a hundred years ago could do it...surely I could manage to put together a child's apron of the same era? (My first big TOS Review Crew challenge.)
And designer Jennie Chancey of Sense and Sensibility Patterns (well-known for Regency gowns and other vintage patterns) certainly does try to make it easy and cover everything you need to know...between the pattern (girls' sizes 2-14, available as a download or in envelope), and the e-class (same page, scroll down past the pattern), and four bonus video segments, you would think that there could hardly be anything left out. Plus there are advantages to sewing this sort of apron: there are few extra notions needed; no collars, sleeves, or facings; and the sizes are fairly flexible. The apron itself can adjust as the child grows (you just tie it looser).
So I watched about half the e-class, helped my going-into-third-grade Crayons pick out fabric, thread and bias tape at an outlet store, and spent most of a wet weekend working on it...for her rather than with her. There wasn't much I thought she could help with, this time around...particularly because I was just getting the feel of the pattern too. Bias binding is something I have never had much success with (though Angry Chicken's No-Swearing method helps), and this apron takes a LOT of bias tape.
Actually too much. More than the pattern called for, by my count. That might have been because I completely messed up one pocket and had to discard it, but even so I think I would have been short. [UPDATE: Sense and Sensibility has confirmed that there was an error in the amount of bias tape recommended for sizes 4 and up. This has now been corrected.] So I had to wait most of a week before we could get back to the outlet store and I could finish it. (The pattern gives you a choice of making your own binding, using the same or contrasting fabric, or buying double-fold bias tape. Instructions for making your own are included in the e-class, but I did find some alternative methods online. I might have tried it this time, except that the fabric we bought came from the end of a bolt, and there wasn't enough of it to make self-binding.)
This is what I came up with.
Cousin Ann--to switch books--would be doing her Look of Scorn). My mother was an impeccable seamstress; I am not. I have a medium amount of sewing knowledge, but my impatience with putting things together often shows in the end result. Especially if you look carefully at the ends of the straps (which go through loops on the back to become a bow). I went as slowly as I could around those corners, but they're still not perfect.
If you've never done something like this, I'd suggest buying (or making) even more binding, and cutting out a third strap just to practice on. (Another idea might be to make a potholder first, or two or three, until you've figured out how to get bias tape around corners as well as curves. Or cut some strap-sized rectangles and trim them for bookmarks.)
All in all, I'm pleased with the apron. It seems to be about the right size for Crayons (it was plenty long, and she is taller than average), although I think she could have used a longer strap length--it would have given a prettier bow in back. The pattern is attractive, and as you can see from the S&S page and from other reviewers' photos of their girls, it looks good made up in anything from old-fashioned prints to brighter colours.
I'd consider making another Sense and Sensibility pattern...actually, the one that interests me most (since I'm not planning on sewing any Regency bridesmaids' dresses) is the Girl's Simple Shift from Jennie's mom's site, Practically Pretty by Design. I think the apron and the dress together, made up in two pretty prints or a print and a solid, would be lovely together for little girls on special days...and then you might not mind spending forty to fifty dollars to make an apron.
Well, the E-class bundled with the pattern is U.S.$24.95. (The pattern by itself costs $12.95, plus shipping if you want a paper pattern instead of a download. If you're a good sewer or just like to figure things out for yourself, skip the e-class--the directions that come with the pattern are quite clear.) I bought three yards of fabric, at $4.50 a yard (half price), for a total of $13.48 Canadian. (I had to buy new fabric because I never have three full yards of anything in my scrap box, and unlike my friend the DHM I don't find entire bolts of fabric at yard sales.) I bought three-and-a-quarter yards of bulk bias tape at 50 cents a yard, for $1.53. The spool of thread was $5.50 (yes, even at the outlet store). And then I went back and bought four more yards of bias tape for $2. I used maybe a dollar's worth of that. So with tax, the materials came to $24.
That's a fifty-dollar apron.
I don't know exactly what comparable American fabric costs (a decent-weight cotton print that won't shrink too much), and maybe you can find a better price on thread, but I'd guess you'd still spend at least $15 on materials, if you have to buy new fabric.
That isn't a criticism of Sense and Sensibility, just the sad truth that sewing...unless you're using "found" materials and free patterns...costs money. But look on the package as a sewing class, for you and any younger people around you who would like to learn to sew. You'd pay that much for a real-life class anyway. Look on it as a pattern that you can use to make adorable toddler aprons for gifts. Look on it as part of your homeschooling, with the fact that you get an apron at the end kind of a nice bonus. Because otherwise that price might seem just a bit too steep for something to cover you while you cook.
Check out more reviews of this product (most made by much more talented seamstresses than Mama Squirrel) on the TOS Homeschool Crew site.
Dewey's Disclaimer: This pattern was provided free for review purposes, but no other payment was made.