I have a male friend who I used to be quite close to, but haven't often seen since I met my husband almost a decade ago. We actually dated for around a year when we were both barely adults, but we were also good friends before that, and have been platonic ever since.
Now that we're back in touch, we've had lunch once and chatted over Facebook here and there - nothing like when we were in high school, but still quite comfortable with each other. Our second lunch together happens to fall on his birthday - coincidence, I'm sure, but when he suggested it, I didn't even think to check what the date was, just whether or not I was free.
Anyway, a few days later, I check my calendar again and realise it will be his birthday when we have lunch. I'm faced with a dilemma: to gift or not to gift?
Obviously I could just offer to pay for lunch, but given our history, that seems kind of lame. I used to give him what I now look back on and think of as epic presents. The amount of thought and care that Past-me put into those gifts puts Present-me to shame.
When we broke up, I was saving for his 21st to get him some specialist music gear that he'd been coveting since we were teenagers. I eventually attended his birthday bash a year later as a friend, and while I didn't splash out $5000 for the sound gear as I'd originally planned, I did get him a star-gazing kit (one of his favourite past-times) and an anniversary edition boxed set of his favourite movie. It was incredibly awkward, as he seemed to really appreciate it, and it completely outshone the gift from his girlfriend at the time.
Admittedly, I later went on to make that night waaaayyy more awkward, but that's a story best left off the internet.
Back to the point of this post: his gift for this year.
He's always been a bit of a culinary artist, way before the days of reality TV cooking shows and the like. Recently, he took some time off work to complete his first manuscript - a cookbook aimed at gamers.
With this in mind, what better to make him than an apron? I'd seen this apron around in the past and for some reason, the simplicity of it reminded me of my friend. Unfortunately, the link behind the pin I found it on went nowhere, so I have no idea who to credit for this.
Anyway, I used a pattern from Japanese Sewing Books and modified the front so it had a scoop neck, like in dee*construction's version. I made mine reversible and followed Dee's instructions (except the hand-stitching part - I just topstitched the whole way around instead). As it's a gift, I even followed the advice of Maggie from Smashed Peas and Carrots and pressed my seams before I topstitched.
Yes, that's right - I pressed my seams.
It might not seem like it, but that's a pretty huge deal for me. I haven't pressed seams since I melted my fabric in the third project I'd started since high school. I've been a bit afraid of the iron since then, and have managed to avoid it altogether by purchasing strategic fabric and garments, and occasionally bribing the husband into doing it for me when it couldn't be avoided.
I've got to say, this one project has made me rethink my non-ironing/pressing stance. It really does make the world of difference to the professionalism of a garment.
I forgot to take photos until it was all neatly bundled up, but mine looks a lot like the one in the picture, except neater (I pressed it, remember?).
It's dark grey-blue cotton drill on the outside (the colour reminds me of him) and heavy-duty calico on the inside. It didn't occur to me until I was pressing it that maybe a flammable fabric like cotton wasn't the best idea for a cooking apron, but I'm sure my friend is grown up enough not to set himself on fire. The two layers are very sturdy though. I love the texture and colour of calico for projects like this. It looks great against the lines in the weave of the drill, and I think it gives it a certain coziness. I don't even mind my wobbly top-stitching in places. I like to think of the little mistakes as a way of knowing the gift was hand-made with love. Or at least, that's what I like to tell myself!
My friend rides his pushbike most places, so the less packaging I wrapped it in, the better. To that end, I went minimal: fold in the sides, roll it up and slap something around it to keep it bound. I used scraps from both of the fabrics to make the strip, added a buttonhole to one end and a star-shaped mother-of-pearl button from my stash to the other end.
Voila - instant wrapping. Sort of.
It took about five minutes of sorting through my stash to find a button that was just right. In the end I went with the star because of the star-gazing thing, but I was also tempted by an adorable navy blue enamel button with two interlocked silver anchors on it.
Overall, I'm really proud of this. Husband tried it on for me earlier and it seemed to fit as it should. Apart from relatively small items (e.g. the toddler-proof dress, the baby bib), it's been a really long time since I've worked with woven fabrics, as I've tended to favour the forgiving nature of knits. I learned a lot from this project, and am pleased that I'm finally at a point in my sewing that I'm confident enough to give my friends things I've made as presents. I'm definitely going to have to start pressing my seams more often, as the difference is immense!
What dreaded task have you avoided, only to find it's not so bad? I'd love to hear about it, so I know I'm not the only one who does it :)