Have-it-Your-Way Craft Apron Tutorial

I’ve been getting together regularly with a few friends to do a little art-making. We’re all writers (though one of us–not me!–is also an accomplished artist) and it makes us feel better to dust off the right side of our respective brains together once a month.

We are all approaching a certain age–no complaints at all, but I’ve noticed that we spend a lot of time on these occasions hanging out around a long table saying things like “Did anyone see where I put down my bone folder?” and “Is this your hole punch or mine?” and “Where the hell have my scissors gotten to now?”

So I’ve been making craft aprons for us. Each one is different and I feel like each one has evolved a bit over the previous ones (to the point that I want to take back some of the earlier aprons and do them RIGHT). The first two have been rather short, like cafe aprons–I made them with paper crafts–not messy stuff–in mind. But we’ve got a painting day coming up, and I thought it was time to try a long apron. Et voila–it all came together today and I thought you might like to see what I did.

It was soooooo easy.

It was soooooo cheap.

Best of all, it’s totally adaptable to the wearer and their craft and the tools of choice, so you’ll end up with an apron that has places for all your bookbinding tools, and you’ll make one that will hold all your paper schnipsels and so on and you will remember where you put your glasses.

Here’s the finished product.

I must say that, like most aprons, it looks a little better when it’s actually on somebody. and the details (close-ups coming) are everything. And that already I can see little things I’ll do differently next time. But, overall? Very pleased. Want to make your own?

Course you do. Here’s how:

I made this crafter’s apron from two linen/cotton blend dish towels that were 50 cents each at the local odd lots store. My towels were 26-1/2″ by 15-1/2″–your results may vary depending on the size of your towels, but you can mad adaptations as needed–they do need to be rectangular, though. You can also substitute fabric of your choice, but it will need to be hemmed (take this into account when you measure your yardage).

NOTE: throughout this tutorial, the right side of the towel (check the hem if you’re not sure which is the right side) is the right side of the finished apron.

Besides your two dish towels, you’ll need:

  • a strip of contrasting fabric about 2″ wide and 2″ longer than your towels are wide
  • about 2-1/4 yards (a bit more or less depending on the size of the person you’re making it for) of woven cotton belting from the fabric store or sturdy cotton twill tape about an inch wide
  • a sewing machine, pins, a measuring tape, and scissors.

NOTE: this is a good sturdy apron but it won’t protect you from anything more than you’d expect a dish towel to do–no very wet stuff, nothing radioactive, no alien body fluids. If you work with a lot of liquid-y paint, you might want something denser than this. That said, the linen is nice–tight weave and not so absorbent that it simply transfers the mess to the other side of the apron–and your favorite shirt.

TO GET STARTED: Lay out one of your towels and fold up one end (not one side) about 6″. Cut along the fold line (across the towel), and set this small piece aside. See above photo–this piece you’ve cut off is henceforth to be known as “the pocket piece.” To avoid confusion, we’ll call the piece from which it was cut “the apron front.”

Now it’s time to lay out your pieces. You have four pieces of fabric: the long strip of contrast fabric (not seen in this photo–its time is coming soon) and three pieces of toweling.  In the photo above you can see that the whole, uncut towel is at the bottom of the assemblage above, laid horizontally beneath the other two. On top of that, arranged vertically (and centered over the bottom piece) is the piece that will be the front of the apron and–laying precisely over the bottom of this–the pocket piece. This pocket piece overlaps the bottom edge of the apron front. (If this is all a little murky, this photo might make things a little clearer.)

Take a really close look at the photo and you’ll notice three things:

  • the pins in the picture are only there because they helped me to find the vertical center of the bottom towel–they aren’t actually holding anything together
  • the pocket piece is laid right on top of the apron front such that its side and bottom edges match up with the side and bottom edges of the apron front–you want the pocket piece to just cover the apron front piece at the bottom
  • All three pieces are right side up–facing us (check the hemmed edges of each piece).

Got that? Okay, the hard part is done–now it’s assembly time.

First (and there’s no photo for this one, so you’re going to have to trust me–remove the pocket piece and set it aside, but don’t move the apron front on which it lay. In fact, pin that to the apron skirt (the underneath, uncut, horizontal piece) and machine stitch them together so they maintain their positions. This seam isn’t going to show but it’s structurally important–sew them together close to the top edge of the apron skirt.

Now leave the apron body for a few minutes and get the pocket piece.  Lay it right side up on a smooth surface and get ready to unite it with the contrasting edge strip. Here are my pieces, laying on top of my ironing board (I have really got to get a different color ironing board cover).

See the bottom edge and sides of the pocket piece–all nicely hemmed? Good. The top edge of the pocket piece is the part you cut off right at the beginning, and that cut edge is going to be finished with the contrasting strip.

Take the contrasting strip and flip it so the wrong side is up.  Arrange it over the very top of the pocket piece. See–two fabrics right sides together getting ready to be sewn together just like in a normal project. Make sure the contrast strip sticks out about an inch on either side of the pocket piece–this will make it look nicer soon.  Pin ’em if you’ve got ’em, but I managed just to hold them together with my fingers as I sewed them together.

Now, machine stitch along the top edge of the pocket piece/contrast piece using about a 5/8″ seam, like so:

I know, I know–my picture shows me sewing this strip much closer to the edge. One of the things I decided after the project was finished is that a wider contrast edge would look nicer, so I’m telling you to stitch yours rather further from the edge–just do it. Ahh, the power! The power! BWAAHAAAHAAHAAA . . .

Now flip that edge strip so it’s right side up (see, mine looks a little small and mingy–wider is better, really) and topstitch at the lower (pocket) edge of the strip, like this:

Now fold the top edge of the contrast strip behind the top edge of the pocket piece. Don’t fold the pocket fabric along with it, just encourage the contrast strip to cover it neatly. Remember that this part you just tucked away won’t show, so don’t worry about the rough edge you’re folding back, but do try to fold back the sticky-outy pieces jutting out at the ends of the strip–finesse these so thee ends look pretty and neat, then topstitch again, this time quite close to the top edge of the contrast strip-covered pocket piece.

When you finish this step, your pocket piece will look like this:

See how I’ve laid it back where it was before, on top of the apron front? Now we’re going to bring it all together.

Make sure the pocket piece is lined up so it lays on top of and corresponds with the bottom of the apron front piece.  This time I do recommend pinning–use pins to stabilize the whole thing–you’re going to be sewing through all three layers along the sides and bottom edge of the pocket piece.

OPTIONAL: as I pinned, I added two things (remember–have it your way?).  First, my own tag, which I love:

And second, a strip of the belting about 8″ long, folded in half and pinned in at an angle. Sometimes when I’m bookbinding a have need of a small hammer, and this should hold it right by my side so I can’t lose it:

Think as you go about how you’d like to customize your own apron. Can you add a hook for keys or a tool you use a lot? An elastic loop for a wiping rag? A special pouch for the different cutters that come with your screw punch? It’s your apron, so make it so that it will be useful to you.

This is also the time to think about that big pocket you’re about to sew on. Do you need one big pocket? Three small ones? Eight skinny pencil holders? Decide how to allot the pocket space you have and stitch accordingly

Now stitch around the sides and bottom of the big pocket, making channels in it as you go. You can see from this picture (here’s  a larger view) how I stitched mine, starting at the red circle at the top left and pivoting the machine needle as I went to make pockets for the things you see–scissors, glasses, a little bottle of Nori paste, my bone folder, a pen:

The last two steps are simple: cut your neck strap and waist ties to the desired length (my neck strap is about 13″ long and my waist ties each about 30″). Sew the ends of the neck strap (make sure it isn’t twisted in a way that will hurt your neck) to the top corners of the apron front. Mine are blue and sort of pretty, so I just folded the fray-able ends of the strap under to hide any rough bits, and sewed them to the front side of the apron, but you could put them on the back side if you like. I handled the waist ties in a similar way, attaching them to the top corners of the apron skirt:

I’m thinking a little Fray-Check on the tie ends would be a good thing–will have to get some next time I’m out.

But for $6 (look for those 50 cent towels–or, even better, look in Goodwill or thrift stores or your grandma’s cupboard for some) and an hour’s work, I’ve got . . . the craft apron of my dreams. At least, until I figure out how I could have made it better.


2 responses to “Have-it-Your-Way Craft Apron Tutorial

  1. What a great idea, Nancy! And so simple. I wish I could join your group of writer/artists – I long for such community. Must be fun!

  2. Wow, Christine, we’d love to have you. How about an exchange–you come and make art with us here in New England and I’ll pop over to Japan for a visit!

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