All photos by Sam DeSantis.
I had no idea when I came up with this project that it would be anywhere near as difficult as it has been. This project has pushed me and tested me. A couple of years ago I was turned on to a site called Kickstarter. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but in retrospect I wish I had approached my funding differently. My plan was to raise funding to have 100 aprons manufactured, this would require more money than any previous artistic endeavor. I budgeted $20.00 per apron to have them fabricated and so set up my Kickstarter with a goal of $2,000 in 30 days. The response was astounding. My project was %116 funded in the first day. I couldn’t believe it, the support had me in tears. At the time it was still my plan to open a bakery in Orlando and the aprons were part of this vision. I won’t be continuing these aprons though. After these 100 that’s it. If the confectionery does have aprons they will be a new design. There were many design variations and several attempts to reach out to seamstresses. Though it didn’t seem like a good thing at the time, I’m glad hiring a seamstress didn’t work out. I was so naïve and completely oblivious as to how tedious and time consuming my design was. I could never have afforded to pay anyone to produce these. Around fall of last year I was feeling pressure to get this project out of the way since I knew I had to finish it before I could start something else. So I flew Sam down and we got to work expecting it to take a month. A month?! What was I thinking? I made a super rough mock up of the apron, refusing to make a clean and final version because I’m too stubborn, which eventually came back to haunt me and created multiple problems. I wish I had been journaling more throughout the process. We started last October so it makes it a little difficult to recall everything in the right order. And before I get started I have to put super extra emphasis on what an amazing best friend Sam is. I cannot possibly thank her enough. Her help on this project kept me sane. Best ever, seriously. (This thank you is not adequate, I could probably write a novel but I’ll spare you guys) So whenever I refer to we I’m referring to me and Sam (she flew down here multiple times throughout the last year).
Once it became clear how time consuming this project was going to be I became less focused on just making 100 aprons and more focused on producing something that I would be incredibly proud of and would be a staple item in my portfolio. Every detail mattered. Any complaining I do in this is to point out learning curves and the difficulties that go with doing your own thing and trying to run your own business. I never want to sound ungrateful or too picky, but when you’re putting out something that represents you then it’s important that it lives up to your standards and you’re proud to have your name on it. I’m beyond amazed at the support I’ve had so far. It has made things, like this project, possible. My expenses in this project came to about $8,000, I spent more than double my budget. After we had spent so much time I didn’t question spending money on details that mattered to me. I didn’t want to compromise on the aprons, the packaging or the photo shoot. It is such a blessing to be able to do what I do and I love that others are inspired by it. But sometimes I get messages that imply that what I do is easy or that it’s much better than a 9-5 desk job. In order to be a successful artist (which I don’t consider myself yet, still striving!) you will make pennies an hour, your body will ache and you’ll struggle to balance your work life and personal life. There is nothing glamorous about sitting at a sewing machine for 12 hours a day or using tools for such extended periods of time that even months later your wrist still hurts. I cannot thank my dad enough for allowing me to live at his house and turn one of his rooms into a studio. It took my dad quite a while to support what I do and understandably so. Parents worry about their children, they want you to have a stable job and there is nothing guaranteed or stable about a child pursuing an art career. It wasn’t until I had some strong sales that my dad was able to put his worry aside and since then he’s been unbelievably supportive. The photo shoot set was left set up for a few weeks because, well.. because I really loved it and didn’t want to take it down haha. And I sat down to apologize to my dad since it was kind of in the way and he started to explain the Yiddish term kvell and how every time he looked at the set up he would feel that way and he got teary eyed. It was adorable. Anyway, I just wanted to give some insight on this project. I know many people are going to accuse me of over charging and I can’t help but defend myself some. I’m hoping based on my previous price points people realize I’m not focused on having a huge profit margin, just trying to cover my expenses and some of my time. If you’ve read this far and keep reading thanks for listening to me blab haha.
If I were to make a list of my skills sewing would not be on there. I can work a sewing machine but I know diddlysquat about sewing techniques, fabrics, etc. My mom isn’t a seamstress but she knows a whole lot more than I do and she was a lifesaver with this project. I would tell her my plan and she would make suggestions that saved us so much time and trouble. And she was the first one I showed the photo shoot photos to because any art I ever do is primarily to share with my mom. Anyway, We made our first apron related Joanns trip (I wish I’d been keeping track, I’ve been there probably close to 60 times this year and I feel like that’s a low guess) to pick out fabric colors. I wanted to do four color schemes and after quite a while of pairing up colors I was finally happy with four sets. And the ruffling began. Oh my goodness gracious. This part of the process definitely took the longest. We would buy all the fabric left of the bolt, wash it, dry it, roll it back onto the bolt, cut it in 5” x “44” (width of the fabric) strips, fold them in half, create a ruffle stitch (which is a long stitch with loose tension) half an inch away from the open end and then ruffle them by pulling on the thread. I bought some 2’x4′ sheets of plywood and a bunch of pieces of pvc pipe to create some temporary ruffle shelving since I didn’t want them to get squished. A pretty big mistake we made while doing ruffles was not making a list of all the fabric color names. We’d go to Joanns to buy more fabric and not realize until we got there that we forgot to bring samples with us. It’s not even funny how many times we did this. Maybe a little funny. I’m not sure how long it took us to make 1,200+ ruffles but it felt like forever haha.
During the ruffle process we were also working on other apron aspects. I knew I wanted the skirt to be black and off-white stripes. I could only find one type of fabric that had wide enough stripes and was the right colors, it happened to be an outdoor fabric. This fabric is great for body but for some reason when I washed it the black came off in some areas. I wasn’t happy about it but there wasn’t much I could do. I bought 54 yards, washed, dried it and cut it to size. I then took the pieces to a local screen-printing company to have my deer doodles printed on the white stripes. There was some miscommunication and instead of printing four different color schemes all 100+ pieces were printed pink and orange. Yikes. I enjoy supporting local small businesses so even though the mistake was their fault it was hard for me to complain, but because of the cost and not being able to work with the mistake I had to. They were very easy to work with and they fixed the problem. They replaced the fabric but it was sent to me before hand so I could wash, dry and cut it. There are some inconsistencies in the printing but for the most part I’m very happy. I think the type of fabric and printing on a size they haven’t printed before made it difficult for them. Some of the deer aren’t centered on the stripe (some even overlap onto the black) and some of the skirts have paint smudges. You never order just the right amount of anything since you have to leave room for these little errors. I was able to take out most of the messed up ones. I’ve always been a huge fan of custom woven tags, they have a little pack of the cutest ones you’ve ever seen at Joanns and I admire them every time. This was finally my chance to splurge and get them made. I designed them and ordered them through Stadri Emblems. Often times when ordering in bulk you don’t have the option to order a few more than you need since they usually increase by 50 or 100. But most of the time companies will add a few more anyway. Thankfully this was the case with the woven tags because quite a few of them weren’t folded in the middle and they cut off the graphic. It became an ongoing joke that with every step there was either something wrong with a product or I would make a mistake. I don’t think any step of this whole process went without some sort of minor problem. We double folded the edge of the skirts, ironed them and hemmed them while sewing the woven tag into the hem. Then we created two ruffle stitches across the top to ruffle them to the proper size so they would attach to the tops more easily.
One of my biggest regrets of this whole project is not creating a finalized mock up in the beginning. Because of this I didn’t realize that due to how we were creating the ruffles I was limiting the size of the apron. Fabric generally comes 44 inches wide, so when we created our ruffles we only made one cut, using the 44” as our length. When we ruffled the fabric it shortened it to roughly 15”. And from that a few more inches were lost by the time they were sewn to the top piece and trimmed down. This forced the aprons to be a certain size. I would have liked them to be a bit bigger and I was so discouraged when I realized I couldn’t do that. I’m super against companies like American Apparel making little clothes and labeling them as one size. I think that’s so insulting. So when I found out I was guilty of doing that I was so disappointed and embarrassed. So, to continue with the process, we cut rectangular panels that the ruffles would be sewn to. I would work with one color at a time so I wasn’t constantly changing out the thread color. Then I created a stencil for the top piece, traced it onto the panel side of the ruffle top pieces and stitched along the lines. Once the shape was created I trimmed them down. The next step really tested me. I spent 7 hours one day working on one top. I would try to sew the bias tape along the edge, not like how it turned out, take the stitch out and try again. This was another time when I was regretting not having made a mock up. I wasn’t sure where to go from here. I couldn’t imagine getting it to work and I couldn’t come up with any other solutions. I stepped away from it feeling defeated and then tried again the next day with a better attitude. I was able to make it work. It is the least clean stitch on the whole apron. I don’t think I’m 100% satisfied with the bias tape on any of the aprons. It was difficult to get the bias tape to wrap around thick, uneven layers of fabric and if it looked good on one side then it wouldn’t look good on the other. Even doing it 300 times (3 pieces of bias tape per apron) I would mess up one in every 5 or so and have to start over. There was a bit of celebratory dancing that happened once that step was over. Since I didn’t want to use ribbon the straps were a bit of a challenge, they weren’t so much difficult as just time consuming. We cut them the same way we did the ruffles, only a bit smaller in width. Stitched them along the open edge, used some string and safety pins to turn them inside out then ironed them. So here we were, with all the elements, and no clear way to assemble them all together. There’s no easy way to describe how I attached the skirts to the top. Stitched this to that and that to this, flipped this that way, tucked that there, pinned that ruffle to that ruffle, color A on the top, color B on the bobbin, zig zag stitch and voila. Added the four straps and that was that. Difficult difficult lemon difficult (not claiming that as my own though I wish I could). There’s still a bit of apron process blogging I’d like to do but not until everyone has received their apron. I don’t want to spoil the packaging. Novelty in packaging is in my top three favorite things and I had so much fun with it! I’ve always wanted to focus more on packaging but never been able to justify the costs.
And a huge thank you to Madison, Vanessa and Ruth for helping! And also to Lea and Keira for sewing advice.