LOCKDOWN MASTERCLASS: The perfect pinny for messy time
This cute apron will keep you busy and the children a little bit cleaner during lockdown entertainment sessions. Here Stratford College fashion and textiles lecturer Louisa Figus tells Gill Sutherland a bit about her glam career as a children’s wear designer before offering step-by-step instructions on how to make the perfect pinny.
As a teenager Louisa Figus, 40, got the fashion bug and and went on to turn a dream into a reality after studying design at Leicester De Montfort University.
“My first job straight out of university was for Tu, the Sainsbury clothes brand, which had just started up,” explained Louisa. “I found my niche in children’s wear and went on the work for Next, Debenhams, Monsoon and also designed for French Connection and Firetrap.”
Although Louisa designed some women’s wear she mainly worked on girls clothes – her only regret is that she saved some of her favourite pieces looking forward to when she might use them for her own family. When she welcomed her lovely son, Henley, five years ago, her treasure trove was no longer required.
“I did have some baby clothes and a hoodie that I designed that he wore but I gave the girls’ stuff away,” said Louisa.
Sharing an insight into how the fascinating world of fashion design works, Louisa explained the work process.
“First you start with trend research. I used to go abroad to do that, go shopping in nice places, those were the days,” laughed Louisa. “Then you put your ideas together on mood, fabric and trend boards, and work out a colour palette for each season. For big retailers such as Next each season has eight phases and each one has their own colour palette.”
She continued: “I would then sketch the designs by hand before using illustrator and computer-aided design software for the final pattern. Then you send it straight out to your factory, which tends to be overseas, either china or India, but sometimes Europe.”
Louisa says the most thrilling aspect of her work was seeing someone wearing something she had designed either online or in a magazine. “It give you a little buzz,” said Louisa.
After having Henley, Louisa decided to step away from the demanding work which often required her to commute to London from her south Coventry home to become a lecturer at Stratford College.
Now she says the highlight of her work is passing on her skills and knowledge to the next generation of designers.
Louisa is still very into fashion, and lists her favourite brands as the “obvious ones”: McQueen, Stella McCartney, Preen and Dior.
Although while she still watches the catwalk fashion shows, she confesses like most of us she’s in joggers most of the time at the moment and laughs that her favourite item is currently her “mum jeans”.
While fashion is on hold during lockdown, Louisa reckons it’s a good time to embrace your creativity and start with a small sewing project like the apron.
She says you can hand stitch it but for those thinking about investing in a sewing machine she recommends you go for a reliable brand such as Singer, Brother or Janome.
Making your own clothes such as the apron is doing your bit for environment too reckons Louisa.
She explained: “You can use scraps of material and is a good way of helping with sustainability to counteract the waste involved with fast fashion. It’s better to have something you can wear time and again, and recycle where possible.”
How to make a child’s reversable apron for baking/messy play
You will need paper 1metre x ½ metre should be enough (you can even join a4 pieces together if you don’t have large enough paper at home).You will also need a ruler, tape measure, paper scissors, pins fabric shears/scissors, thread, sewing machine, sturdy cotton fabric, ribbon (optional-can be replaced with fabric) and Velcro. The Velcro is important at the neck and waist straps, as it makes your apron (child safe). As if the apron gets caught, the straps can be pulled free easily with the Velcro.
I have used left over scrap fabrics for this apron. Don’t worry if you don’t have enough of the same fabric, as you can patchwork your fabrics together in order to use up the smaller scrap fabrics. Helping to use up old fabrics that may ordinarily be thrown away. This helps to make your piece more unique and sustainable. If you want to make your apron wipeable, you can use a coated cotton. These make great presents for friends little ones too.
This is the easier ‘homemade’ way of making a pattern for your apron from home. We will use the child’s centre front neck to work from rather than the side neck point which would usually be the original starting point. As the apron is quite simple and not a ‘fitted’ garment, and will be simpler to explain how to make the pattern this way for those of you who are new to pattern making and sewing.
• Creating a ‘simple’ pattern for beginners. Measure down from the centre front (CF) neck of your child to where you want the the top of the apron to begin. Mark this point in the top middle of your paper.
• Measure down again from CF neck point down to where you want the apron to end (to get the length) and draw this CF line in with a ruler, from the top CF point to the bottom of your apron.
• Now measure your child from the CF neck down to the waist point of your child. Mark this ‘waist point’ on your CF pattern line.
• To find the waist measurement- Measure the child around their waist.Then add 4cm either side of the waist (8cm in total) for ages 6-10yrs, add 3cm to either side of waist (6cm in total for ages 2-5years.
• Half this measurement (this is your half waist measurement).
• Draw a line using this half waist measurement from the waist point, across to the left (at a right angle from your CF line).
• Then draw a line up and down from this line at a right angle. This the side of your apron.
• Remember-You will only need to make half your pattern, as you will be placing the centre front (CF) the pattern along your fold line of your fabric (if you are making your apron all in the same fabric), or can position this half pattern on your two different fabrics to (cut one pair) as I have done here for the front of my apron. As I wanted to show you how you can patch the fabrics, if you don’t have enough scrap fabric to make the whole apron size.
• Going back to the CF top point of your apron. Decide how wide you want the top part of your apron to be. Measure this length on your child, and half it. Mark halved measurement, at a right angle from the cf neck of your apron (working left). I have chosen to make the top of my apron 14cm for an age 4 years.
• Draw a line at a diagonal from the end point of your top apron line to 2.5cm above the waist seam point at your side seam, and join the lines.
• Curve this line inward as desired to get the curved look you prefer.
• Add 1cm seam allowance all the way round your apron pattern, except the CF fold line (if you are using one fabric to make the apron in).
• If you are using one fabric to make the apron, fold your fabric in two (along the straight grain) and position your apron pattern CF line to fold edge of your fabric.
• If you are using two different fabrics then cut one pair. You can also patch your fabrics as desired.
• Once you have pinned your pattern to your fabrics. Cut around your pattern with sharp shears/fabric scissors.
• Taking your front two apron panels, pin together at the cf, and sew 1cm seam allowance.
Making the neck and waist straps. You will need ribbon and Velcro for this part.
• Measure from the Centre back neck of your child to the top of where you want your apron to start. Then add on 5cm. This is the length of one of your neck straps plus extra for your Velcro and seam allowance.
• Double fold the end of you’re your strap, using 4cm of the ribbon and pin t hold.
• Cut off 1.8cm of your Velcro and stick fuzzy side up, to the end of your folded ribbon and stitch all the way around. Using a different colour thread to match your ribbon if desired.
• Repeat the process with the other strap this time sewing the loops part of the Velcro to the end of your ribbon strap.
• Repeat this process to create the waist straps. Ensure to measure your child beforehand from the waist position to make sure the straps reach nicely at the back.
• Then take your front and back apron pieces (position right sides together) and pin all the way round.
• Take your neck straps and place at the top corners of your apron remembering to account for your 1cm seam allowance. Position the straps inwards inside the apron as image shows. Repeat this process with the side waist straps and pin in place.
• Stitch all the way around your apron using a 1cm seam allowance, except for the hem.
• Cut the top apron corners and waist corners down to stop bulkiness, as the photo shows.
• Snip along the curve approximately 3 times, taking care not snip all the way up to the stitch line. This helps to create a smooth curve.
• Turn the whole apron inside out to reveal the right side. Your apron is now (bagged out) and should have a back and a front with straps now visible.
• Push into the corners with a sharpe object pencil or scissors to help to neaten and flatten the corners.
• Turn your hem inwards, pin in place as photo shown. Once pinned stitch hem depth of your choice. II have stitched a pin hem and second row 1.5cm from the hem.
Your apron is finished and ready for your little one to wear or send as a gift!