Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Child's Apron Sewing Tutorial

My 3-year-old daughter has been interested in cooking for awhile, but lately, she has been asking to help prepare every meal. Over the weekend, she helped my husband make a pancake breakfast, and when he posted a picture to Facebook, a friend commented that she needed an apron.

Crafty mom signal! Time to swoop in and start sewing!

So, I rummaged through my fabric stash and came up with this combination of materials to make a fun, kid-friendly apron for my little chef. If you want to sew along at home, here's what you need:

- 1/2 yard of primary fabric (you will use this for the backing as well)
- 1/4 yard of secondary fabric (for pocket and straps)
- two buttons
- thread, notions, etc.

Step 1
Cut out your fabric. You will need and apron front and back from the primary fabric, a rectangular pocket, and material for two straps. Honestly, I just held the fabric up to my daughter and eyeballed it. Once I had the basic rectangular shape, I folded the primary fabric in half length-wise to make sure the arm indents were the same size. Using the dotted fabric was extremely helpful because I used the dots to help line everything up evenly.

Once I had the main fabric in shape, I cut a rectangular pocket from the secondary fabric. The straps were also cut from the secondary fabric. They were 2" wide and 22" long. In retrospect, I would have liked the straps a bit wider. When I make this apron again, I would cut the fabric for straps 4" wide and only about 20" long. The extra width will not only look better, but it will provide a more stable field for the button holes.

Step 2
Prepare your pocket for the apron's front. This part has a few sub-steps:

a. I folded the top edge over and sewed it first.

b. Then, I folded and pressed the sides and bottom of the pocket (see photo, top left).

c. Next, I pinned the pocket to the front of the apron. This way there is only one seam showing on the outside of the pocket, but all of the edges still remain neatly tucked in (see photo, bottom left).

d. Sew the pocket down along the sides and bottom.

Step 3
Press the raw edges of the straps to the inside and press. Then fold in half (with raw edges tucked in) and press again. If you want to pin the straps at this point, it's optional. I tried it both ways, and I felt that pressing was sufficient to hold the shape of the straps while sewing.

Obviously, if you have a bias tape maker, you can just use that to form the straps rather than pressing and pinning by hand. (And I will be completely jealous.)

Once the straps are folded, sew them together.

Step 4
Pin the front and back of the apron together, insides out. Pin the straps in between the layers of fabric at the top.

Sew the sides and the top of the apron together, but leave the bottom OPEN. Once you are done, you will flip the fabric right-side out through the bottom, bringing the straps out to the top.

Step 5
Almost there! This thing is actually starting to look like an apron now. With your apron flipped right-side out, press the apron to make the edges stiff. Tuck the raw edges on the bottom inside and press or pin.

Then, sew the edges of apron along the bottom, sides, and top with a 3/8"-1/2" seam allowance. This gives the apron a little extra support and helps to ensure that that top ties are securely fastened.

Step 6
I didn't get a good, close up picture of this, but sew a button into each corner of the apron underneath the arm indents.

Next, make at least one button hole at the bottom of each apron strap. Since my straps were a bit long, I made three button holes on each strap so that the apron can grow with my daughter.

Put the apron on with the straps criss-crossed in the back, and button. Now your little guy or gal has an adorable, custom apron to wear while making a mess in the kitchen!

Happy crafting (and cooking)!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

There Be a Pirate Party (Part 2)... And Treasure Map Cake!

Ahoy, mateys! (Sorry, can't help myself...)

To quickly recap the first post of this series, my 3-year-old daughter just got potty trained and wanted to celebrate with a pirate party. I didn't have an opportunity to make a lot of things myself because the party planning all kind of happened at the last minute. One of the things that I did make was an awesome, candy-covered Treasure Map Cake. I am not a cake decorating person usually, but this was fun and easy to do. I thought I would go ahead and share the basic steps with my readers so that you all could do something similar for a child's birthday party or even Talk Like a Pirate Day.

- A cake (boxed or homemade... I used a box of strawberry cake and filled the center with strawberry jam at my daughter's request)
- Vanilla frosting (again, I used store-bought, but you could totally do homemade if you are awesome like that)
- Wilson's Royal Blue Icing Color or something similar
- Icing spatula
- 1 tube of Wilson's Lemon Yellow Decorator Icing (or yellow icing color)
- 1 coupler and decorator tip for the tube of icing (if you dye your own icing yellow, then you'll need a bag for piping as well)
- Dr. Pepper Jelly Belly candies
- Tropical or Sour Mix Jelly Belly candies
- Twizzlers or Red Vines
- Chocolate Twizzlers or Root beer flavor licorice
- Spearmint leaves
- Swedish fish or gummi fish (and/ or gummi sharks)
- Root beer barrels
- Pirate candles or decorations (these are optional, but definitely added some pizzazz to the cake... if you want everything to be edible, you could probably make these out of fondant)

Step 1: 
Once the cake is cooled, filled, and pulled together, mix a few drops of the Royal Blue Icing Color into the vanilla frosting. I used the icing spatula to cover the entire cake with blue frosting. Since it is supposed to look like water, the icing does not need to be completely smooth. I actually went back and added some texture to create "waves" in the icing.

Step 2: 
Pipe yellow icing onto the cake into the shape of an island. Fill in and smooth out to your desire.

Step 3:
Decorate with copious amounts of candy!

- Use the chocolate or root beer licorice for palm trees and cut spearmint leaves to make the tree tops.
- Root beer barrels look like kegs of ... ummm... root beer (rum for grownups).
- Dr. Pepper Jelly Belly candies make great footprints.
- Twizzlers or Red Vines make an "X" to mark the spot.
- Use the gummi fish and sharks to decorate the water and add to the nautical feel of the cake.
- Decorate the bottom rim with the colorful Jelly Belly candies to look like pretty rocks

This is your chance to get really creative with the cake! I got most of my ideas just by going to the bulk candy aisle of the supermarket and looking around. It is pretty amazing to see all of the cool candies available now!

Step 4: (optional)
Add the candles or fondant decorations. I placed the pirate ship candle in the island's harbor, and I used the rest of the candles to decorate along the side of the cake. This can be left out or done to your taste. I found my candles at Party City though, if you are looking.

Step 5:
Enjoy that beautiful cake! This is an overall view of my finished product so that you can see how I laid out the candy decorations and candles. The overall effect is bright and whimsical, which is perfect for kids (or fun-loving adults).

Aside from baking time, I would say the cake took about 30 minutes to decorate. I only have two warnings about making this cake: 1) It is more difficult to cut than a cake decorated entirely with icing because you have to kind of maneuver around some of the candy and remove the candles before serving; 2) It is extremely sweet-- cut small pieces! But personally, I thought it was worthwhile to see my daughter's excitement at her "cool pirate cake."

I hope you found some interesting ideas here for the next time you want to have a pirate-themed party. This Treasure Map Cake is sure to be pleasin' to the eye!

(Please Note: I bought and paid for all of the ingredients myself. I know I mention a lot of brand names in this post, but this is just to give my readers and idea of what worked for me! There is no intention of endorsement here.)

Monday, July 11, 2011

There be a Pirate Party (Part 1)... Arr!

My 3-year-old was not interested in the potty (the link with pirates will be clear in a moment here... bear with me). She has the dexterity to dress and undress herself. She has the ability to communicate the need to go. She is perfectly capable of staying dry for extended periods of time. But whenever I tried to sit her on the potty, she would refuse to go and inevitably wet herself within the next 10 minutes.

We tried bribing her with dance lessons.

We tried bribing her with getting her ears pierced.

Then one day she announced that she needs to have a pirate party. I said, "You can have a pirate party when you start using the potty like a big girl." She said, "Okay." We made a "treasure map" with a path of potties leading to the promise of said Pirate Party. Each day she used the potty for the whole day, she could earn a check mark on the treasure map. Once all the potties had a check mark, then she got her party.

The first two days went okay with the exception of a few accidents. This was okay... at least she was trying! Then she decided to take a day or two off. I kept reminding her about the super awesome Pirate Party. She started trying again. After some more accidents and a few small breaks (usually a day or less), she finally started going to the bathroom. All. By. Herself. (If you have ever potty trained a particularly stubborn child, you can relate to my barely contained excitement at this point.)

The check marks were adding up. She was wearing underwear all day. If she did wear a diaper on a long car trip, it stayed dry. Finally, we reached our goal... Party Time!!!

So in the space of about three days, I threw together a Pirate Party. Very few things were handmade because of the time factor, but I was still really happy with how it turned out. We had a bunch of family in town from Florida, so the timing was perfect to make a REALLY BIG DEAL about my little girl's major milestone.

One thing I did get to make was this custom banner. I used my computer to print out the letters and pirate clipart. Then, I pasted the letters onto colorful scrapbooking paper and cardstock. I decided to go with the triangle shape this time to make them look like flags. The color theme was just kind of generic, tropical brights. If you thought pink dinosaurs were hard to come by, pink pirates are even worse!
(Obviously the banner is longer, but it included my daughter's name, and I want to give her some anonymity here.)

Since my 7-year-old nephew was in town to celebrate with us, I decided to set up an arts and crafts table for the kids. They had construction paper, markers, and stickers to make their own treasure maps. They could also use the paper towel tubes to customize their own telescopes. I found the wooden pirate and sea creature masks at the local JoAnn Fabrics for a dollar each. I was a little miffed that I could not find girl pirates anywhere. Really, people?!? This is 2011. Girls don't have to be princesses anymore!

 Anyway, I will get back off of my soap box now. To the left is a photo of the treat baskets I whipped up. They aren't terribly original, but I thought the little buckets were cute. The older kids got skull-and-cross bones bandanas, an eye patch, a ring pop, and some candy necklaces. My 15-month old got the cockatoo Beanie Baby since I didn't think she was big enough for the candy. All of the kids got some chocolate gold coins, play coins, a little harmonica, and a little spying scope. One handy hint my husband discovered: pick up medical eye patches from the pharmacy. They are much sturdier and less expensive than the cheesy, plastic, party patches!

I got a combination of solid-colored and pirate-themed tableware for the party. My daughter especially liked the pirate map plates. As you can see, I grabbed random Beanie Babies and shells to decorate the buffet station and the craft table. The floral patterned fabric is just a 1-yard by 1-yard drop cloth that I use under my daughters' chairs. I thought it looked fitting to the tropical/ pirate thing and used it to decorate here.

Most of the party was outside so we could play in the kiddie pool and the sprinkler. The water was a tad chilly for the Floridians, but my kids loved it anyway. We just set up a bunch of folding chairs and a picnic blanket under the shade tree in our back yard and let the breezes keep us cool. We even enjoyed our pirate-themed dinner (fish sticks, french fries, and "golden coin" carrots... daughter's choice!) outside.

Of course, the center piece of the party was the amazing Treasure Map Cake that I made. Check out There Be a Pirate Party (Part 2)... And Treasure Map Cake! for the tutorial.