How to Make a Basic Apron
A good, basic apron can be a wardrobe-saving garment when cooking and cleaning around the house. This apron is made from a medium denim that I bought from a thrift shop for $2. Many aprons available for purchase often have only one layer of cloth; when splashed with water or other liquid, they do not provide the desired protection to your clothes. So, this apron has two layers of denim. The neck loop is single and large enough to slip over the head, and the ties are also double thickness. Ties are the first things to wear on a used apron, so you'll want good fabric that will endure the tying action over time.
How about that pocket? An apron without a pocket is an inconvenience when cleaning around the house. You'll want somewhere to put that lint you picked off the couch or maybe a place to carry your vinyl gloves and a few cleaning rags. This apron has a pocket for those purposes.
- A Sketch with Measurements
- Inches to Centimeter Table
- Constructing a Pattern
- Seam Allowance and Marking
- Procuring and Preparing the Fabic
- How to Tell Right and Wrong Sides of Fabric
- Layout and Cutting
- The Neck Loop and Ties
- The Pocket
- Placement of the Neck Loop and Ties
- Sewing the Apron Front and Back
- Apron Variations
A Sketch with Measurements
I didn't have a pattern, so I first took a few measurements and made a sketch (see right). The measures I used are summarized below:
- across the upper chest from inner shoulder to inner shoulder for bib width
- from the center base of the neck to the mid-thigh for the length
- the distance between the side of the shoulder and just below the armpit
- waist measure to figure the necessary length for ties
- left mid-thigh to the right mid-thigh of legs for base width of apron
- from upper left collar bone, around the back of the neck, to the right upper collar bone for the neck loop
I'm tall and slender, so these dimensions will not be the ideal ones for everyone. If a lady's medium doesn't fit you, you'll need to adjust these measurements for your own body. You can adjust the width of the ties to whatever you feel comfortable handling. Larger hands, for example, might find a two-inch tie width more convenient, or a 3/4" to 1" width for a slender hand; I chose a 1 1/2" width.
Inches to Centimeters Table
Constructing a Pattern
I like to make a pattern first, rather than trying to mark the measurements on the fabric directly. A pattern gives me a preview of the actual size and shape of the project so I can make adjustments. If you cut the fabric immediately, you won't have the chance to make such adjustments.
So, what do you use? Commercial pattern paper is available for purchase. Two sites online for pattern paper are nyfashioncenterfabrics.com and northhouse.org. You can also use freezer paper, which is fairly durable and waxed on one side. Unprinted end rolls from local newspaper publications can usually be obtained freely because your newspaper publisher can't use them. I chose to use two pages of printed newspaper, attached together, then folded vertically.
Seam Allowance and Marking
Many commercial patterns, such as Simplicity and McCall's, allow a 5/8" sewing seam. You don't have to use this much seam, but you may if you wish. A 1/2" seam is an easy figure to calculate, and it is what I used for my pattern. You will need to add a seam allowance wherever two fabric edges get sewn together.
Begin with the bib. In my case, I had a 12" measure, but I've folded the newspaper in half and will be placing the center vertical line on the fold of the fabric, so I only need half of this, or 6". I still need to allow for a seam, so I'm marking at 6 1/2".
Here I'm marking the armhole. I will still need to add a seam allowance. As you can see, it doesn't take an artist's perfection to sketch a pattern; just follow your instincts and do your best. By the time you cut the pattern, sew and trim the seams, the finished line will be smooth.
Procuring and Preparing the Fabric
You will need at least 3/4 to 1 yard of fabric, depending on your body size. Most commercial fabric is 44-45" wide, and remember there are 36" in a yard, so you'll base your purchase accordingly.
As I mentioned above, I happened to find some medium green denim at a thrift store. If you don't normally buy fabric, consider those never used bedsheets or that old bath towel with the worn edging. In any event, if the fabric is new, you'll want to wash and dry it before cutting it for your apron.
After washing, it's a good idea to iron the fabric for a smooth layout and trim any fringe and loose threads as well. Remove any selvage.
How to Tell Right and Wrong Sides of Fabric
If you use a commercial pattern for your apron, you'll always come across the term WITH RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER. If your fabric is a print, the right side is usually obvious because the colors and pattern are brighter and clearer on the right side. If, however, you are using a solid, the detection is a little tricky. The RIGHT side will look smooth and bright. The WRONG side will appear rough and dull. These unedited photos show my green denim fabric on the right and wrong sides. Of course, if you don't care how your apron looks, these won't be important, but, if you like a little aestheticism in your work, then study the photos and check your fabric. You can put a piece of masking tape on the wrong side of your fabric to help you remember which it is.
Layout and Cutting
At this point, you should have finished constructing the front half of the apron pattern. We'll save the ties and pocket for later.
Your fabric is washed and pressed, and you are ready lay down your fabric for cutting. You may fold the right or wrong side of the fabric to the inside; both ways will work because the pattern is symmetrical.
Fold the fabric along the grain (the line parallel to the edges where the selvages were removed) and place your pattern on the fabric so your fold edge lines with the fold of the fabric and you have enough fabric along all edges of your pattern for cutting. If you can save a little work by aligning a straight line, such as the bottom edge, with the matched raw fabric edges, that's great--just be sure the edges are MATCHED. You don't want to cut and later realize the underside doesn't have enough fabric for a seam!
To keep fabric and pattern steady, I like to pin baste through the pattern and both levels of fabric.
Note: If you are using commercial pattern paper, which is very thin, you can place the pattern paper directly onto the fabric without cutting the pattern first. The fabric scissors will not be harmed by the thin pattern paper.
Once you've cut the fabric, remove the pins and pattern. You may want to mark the wrong side of the fabric with a piece of tape or chalk at this point. Set the cut apron front aside. You are going to need to cut another one for the lining. If you have enough fabric, you can use the same fabric or something lighter in weave and weight. An unused bedsheet, for example, will work with the denim.
So, use the same method of cutting the first piece for placing and cutting your lining. Remember, if you opt for a new fabric, it should be washed and pressed first. Washing and pressing helps prevent shrinkage from future washings.
The Neck Loop and Ties
These are the most time-consuming part of making an apron because these pieces need to be turned inside out. You can save yourself time by purchasing a good, wide manufactured ribbon; however, you may not always find exactly what you want.
So, here's how to make these pieces:
- double the width of the desired finished width and add twice the seam allowance
- measure the length and add twice the seam allowance
- cut out the rectangles (3 pieces: 2 ties and 1 loop, which will be smaller than the ties)
- with RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER of the loop, sew the LONG SIDE ONLY
- with RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER, sew ONE END and the LONG SIDE for the ties
Tip: It helps to back stitch at the end of tie and at least one end of the loop because you don't want the stitches separating when you begin to turn these pieces out to the right side.
Once you've sewn the seams, you'll want to trim them to a narrow 1/4" or a little less. At least 1/8" fabric beyond the stitching is recommended to allow for some raveling through normal wear and washings.
The video below shows an easy method of tube turning with a long rod. This requires a sewn end, however, so if you use it for the neck loop, you'll need to add a little extra fabric to the length (a 1/2", for example), sew the seam, and then cut the stitching off to continue constructing the apron. The rod is also handy because it helps work out the ties' end corners, which are trimmed back before turning.
Using my method, which takes a little bit of effort and time (once you get the feel of the method, it goes rather quickly), you need to roll out part of the loop's end and place a finger inside the tube.
The picture at the right shows how I've used my small finger to put pressure on the fabric as I begin pulling out the right side.
The free hand firmly pulls the raw edge as the tube is being pulled right side out with the finger working inside the tube.
Once you have the ties and neck loop right side out, you'll want to press them with the iron so they are nice and flat. You'll need to work the pieces a bit with your fingers just ahead of the pressing so each seam is wrinkle-free.
Set your finished neck loop and ties aside.
This an optional piece for your apron, but at least one pocket is desirable because of its convenience.
I've made a rather large, rectangular pocket without much thought about exact measurements. Any large rectangle will work. So, cut one from your fabric.
Next, fold the top of your pocket 1/4" so WRONG SIDES are together. This little hem will serve as a finish for the inside of the pocket. Now fold the same edge again, same direction, but this time make the hem about 1". Press.
You can open the fold now and fold the remaining sides of the pocket with a 1/4" hem, similar to the first one you made for the top of the pocket. The picture at the upper right shows the folding process in progress. Remember, you're going to be making all folds toward the INSIDE (wrong side of fabric) of the pocket.
The bottom two corners of the pocket are miter folded for a professional finish.
First fold the tip of the edge where the raw edges meet at a 45° angle so the base of the triangle meets the crease where the edges join. Press.
Fold in each side 1/4" so the corner is clean, with no raw edges showing. Press.
The photo above shows how the inside of the pocket looks with all the folds in place and secured by a few straight pins. Notice that the wide hem at the top covers over the smaller hems on the sides.
Now you are going to place the pocket onto your apron front. To do this, you'll perform the following steps:
- Crease by pressing the pocket in half vertically to show the middle.
- Crease the apron in half vertically to show its middle.
- Fold the bottom edge of the apron horizontally up to the base of the armpits. Crease.
- Match the vertical creases of the pocket and apron.
- Move the pocket upwards (or downwards) until the bottom of the pocket rests on the horizontal crease of the apron. Pin the pocket into place.
Edge stitch the pocket into place with a straight stitch (photo below).
Note: Edge stitch means that the stitching line is within 1/8" of the outside edge.
Placement of the Neck Loop and Ties
Remembering the 1/2" seam allowance, each end of the neck loop gets placed near the outer edges of the bib. The ends are basted into place to avoid slippage when sewing the front and lining of the apron together.
Next, pin the main part of the neck loop onto the apron front. This only takes two or three pins and holds the rest of the loop away from the seams when you're sewing together the apron's front and back pieces.
Now pin the ties to the apron front. The raw edge of the ties will be FLUSH with the apron's side raw edges. Remember to drop each tie down 1/2" just below where the armpit meets the side. In other words, the finished side of the tie is lower than the raw, armpit-side tip.
Sewing the Apron Front and Back
WITH RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER, match the raw edges of the apron all the way around. The pocket, neck loop, and ties will no longer be visible because they are on the INSIDE of the front and back pieces. Pin baste all around. Begin sewing at the base of the apron, about 1/3 of the way (in this case, 6-7") in from the apron's side.
Sew all the way around, but STOP about 1/3 the bottom width from the opposite edge (again, about 6-7"). This allows you to reach in and turn the apron out to the right side.
BEFORE turning the apron out to the right side, trim the entire outer seam line, EXCEPT THE UNSTITCHED AREA, to about 1/4".
Turn the apron out to its right side. Press the apron flat for easy handling. The loose, 1/2" seams now get turned inside the apron, and you can match the unsewn folded edges and press them for easy sewing.
Use a blind hem stitch to close the bottom opening of the apron. The blind hem stitch is similar to a running stitch, except each new stitch begins with the OPPOSITE edge (see photo with explanation below).
There are many different styles of aprons, and they make great sales bazaar items or gifts. I made 25 patchwork aprons once for a fall crafters' sale. Although I didn't sell all of them, I had fun making them using the basic style, known as a bib apron, presented here. Once you've made one, the rest come easily and quickly. Use and enjoy your apron! ***
© 2014 Marie Flint