The Apron Sisters, a 6-hour project

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The Story Behind the Project

I had a friend coming over for a Kitchen Day and decided it would be fun if we had matching aprons to wear while we played. With a $10 gift certificate to World Market burning a hole in my pocket I headed over there to pick up a couple of cute ones and be done with it.

If it were only that simple.

The only ones that really fit our personalities were $20 a piece and I didn’t love them enough to spend that much. Instead, I spent my gift certificate on a set of silver-wire napkin rings and decided I’d make the aprons myself.

Keep in mind that this was Thursday, noon, and Q was coming over Saturday at 2pm.

Even with working a day job, that would give me 2 nights and a morning to get this project done. Except that I wouldn’t have time to go to the fabric store until Friday’s lunch (nothing in my stash would work, I discovered) and we were going to Q’s dance recital Friday night (not to mention cleaning the house Thursday night and testing more recipes for the cookbook, too). Time was of the essence.

So I did what any 21st century crafter would do: I Googled.

I knew aprons were experiencing a bit of a revival but I had no idea how many similar-yet-different apron styles there were, all with free instructions. The criteria was pretty simple and straightforward:

  • a full apron–gotta protect our shirts!
  • simple construction–for time’s sake as much as anything else
  • interesting details–because otherwise I could just trace one of the ones I already have!

I found a denim apron with an interesting up-cyle feel but mostly I loved the grommets used for the neck and waist ties. Details! Then I found this great pattern that used 2 20″ napkins and some ribbon for a quick apron. This one was cute all the way around and has an inventive way of forming the pockets but I didn’t want to go hunting napkins. It takes a smidge longer (mostly because of having to finish the edges) but using a 20×40″ piece of fabric works just as well, too!

Friday at lunch I headed out to the fabric store (found a parking spot right in front of the door–it was a sign!), walked in a found some great fabric (on sale! with just enough left on the bolt to make 2 aprons) and some coordinating ribbon. I also picked up some bias tape to make the edging go faster, some fun trim, a set of large grommets and some black thread–it never hurts to have extra of the basics. I also had a 10% off everything coupon that had just come out that morning (timing, what can I say).

Assembled materials for 2 aprons

Step one is always shopping.

Materials for 2 Aprons:

  • 1.25 yards of cotton fabric, 43″ wide (if you plan to turn under the edges and hem them you’ll need a total of 44″ inches wide, if you’re going to use bias tape you can get away with 40″)
  • 2 spools of wide ribbon
  • 2 packages bias tape (skip if you’re going with a traditional hem)
  • 1 spool decorative trim
  • Black thread
  • Pins, scissors, sewing machine, needles, ruler or tape measure–the usual tools

1. Square off the fabric and then cut 2, 20″ wide pieces (22″ if hemming). If it’s a printed pattern, the selvedge probably features the manufacturer’s name, etc. so trim off about an inch on the end to take care of that. Since this fabric was 43″ wide, trimming the selvedge brought us to a nice 42″ long. A good length for messy cooks.

(all directions from here on out should be repeated for each apron in turn)

Pinning the Darts

Pinning the darts curves the apron and gives boob allowance.

2. Determine how wide you want the apron to be at the top of the chest. Q and I are both of a fluffy build, so I went with 12″ for both aprons–if you’re blessed with a slighter build, by all means adjust accordingly. In our cases, though, it meant taking in 4 ” from each side. Basically this is making a dart, but don’t get too worked up over it, trying to make it perfect, just pinch in a bit of fabric on each side and tuck it out of the way. Follow the dart down about a foot, letting it taper, and pin as needed. Sew this seam down.

3. Fip the fabric over and fold up from the bottom about 10 inches or so (if you’re fabric was longer–45″ or more, you may want to fold up 15 inches or more), wrong sides together, and pin a 20″ length of ribbon along the folded edge. Sew this down, along both the top and bottom edges of the ribbon.

4. Turning the fabric right-side-up again, lay it out flat  and bring the ribboned edge you just created (sorta like a giant pin tuck) to create a 6-inch pocket with the ribbon as the top edge, adjusting the depth to your personal preference, of course. Smooth it out and pin into place, matching the edges of your fabric. Find the center of the fabric and mark with pins and/or chalk the line you’ll follow to make 2 pockets. Even if you don’t want to separate the pockets, sewing at the center of the ribbon will keep the pouch from bagging open. Sew along the sides and center of the pocket.

5. Pin double-fold bias tape around the entire outside edge of the apron. The great thing about this method is that it leaves your edges perfectly straight, making this sort of binding a snap. Even so, the pinning does make this the longest step, but it’s still faster than doing a double-fold hem with the ironing and so forth. Depending on your choices, the bias tape frames the apron so nicely and makes it look very finished.

I like a zigzag stitch for high-stress spots.

6. Cut long lengths of the ribbon for the waist ties. The length is going to depend on your own measurements but keep in mind that a) about 20″ is covered of your front and b) having a good 8″ extra on each end to do the tieing makes it easy on your hands. Of course, I like to use a large safety pin to hold my ties together in back, especially if the ties are too short to easily make into a bow. Find the spot about midway between the end of the chest darts and the top of the pockets, and attach a ribbon to each side. Double-fold the free ends of each tie and stitch in place to keep the edges neat.

7. Whip stitch the trim along the bottom edge of the apron.

The Neck Strap

Here you can go 2 ways. You can use ribbon and attach it to the top edges of your apron and be done with it. I did that on my apron as I was running short of time and knew I could change it, later. Just drape the ribbon around your neck and figure out how long it needs to be and attach it. Simple.

Alternately, you can choose to dress things up a bit. This is where the details come in!

One thing that came to mind when I think of aprons are those images of the 50s housewife in her apron and pearls. As cute as it would be, I wasn’t in the mood to go 100% costume, but I did like the idea of the pearls. I really liked the idea of pearls. So why not use a string of pearls as the neck strap? Why not, indeed.

This was actually the part I started first: while watching some television Friday night I began stringing and knotting faux pearls on some waxed cord. If you want to skip knotting your own pearls, an off-the-rack piece of costume jewelry can be used, instead.

Once to the desired length (again, being very scientific and just draping it over my neck until if feels right), tie a final knot and then leave a long tail for attaching.

Now, the thing about faux pearls is that they’ll only stand up to so much and the washing machine isn’t one of them (at least not and keep their pearly finish). So the idea is that the necklace/strap needs to be removeable. This would be the point at which I show you adding the grommets to the edge of the neckline only the clasps I had weren’t big enough to fit around them. Some toggle clasps I had around, though, they would do the trick like a pro!

Attach the bar parts of 2 toggle clasps to each end of the pearl strand, passing the cord through as many times as will fit (three seemed to be my limit) before tieing it off once more for good measure. Sew the receiver end of the clasp (the circle, heart or whatever other shape it might be) to the top edge of the apron.

Hook the pearls through the clasp and, viola!


The Kitchen Day was great, Q loved the apron and we totally neglected to get a picture of us in them, together. We’ll have to remedy that on the next one!

The total cash outlay for this project was $26 and change–$13 per apron–so my mission to make something I loved for less was a success. If you don’t have pearls and waxed cord (or a suitable piece of costume jewelry) or the toggle clasps, it may cots you a bit more but you may be able to save elsewhere, too, by finding ribbon or trim on sale or using fabric you already own.

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