Hi friends – reporting from day 38 of self-quarantine. How are we all doing? I am here with my first COVID-19 project, which doesn’t mean a whole lot except that I refused to go to the store to acquire new materials. I’ve included step-by-step instructions below in case you want to draft your own cross-back apron, but first – THOUGHTS AND PHOTOS:
Where a past Miranda would have looked at her mountain of fabric and then gone shopping anyway, a post-COVID Miranda said, let’s make do! And this apron was born.
I don’t know if it’s the abundance of time, or finally being caught up on all of my Minerva.com projects (free fabric is powerful but distracting mistress), but I’m finding myself less interested in my own garment projects and more compelled to work on other sewing projects. Like curtains for my kitchen! Or quilting! Or in this case, things for Ian (woo boy am I overdue in this category).
Considering that Ian has been keeping me alive for several years now with his culinary skills, it made sense to start with an apron. Luckily, when I asked him about design preferences, he knew exactly what he wanted:
I searched the internet high and low for an appropriate pattern – but have you ever tried finding an apron pattern online? There’s not much. And once you add “cross-back” to the search term – forgetaboutit. The results give you a lot of Japanese-style cross back aprons (which Ian pointed out look like dresses, and hey! that’s cool too), but not the kind you see on Bon Appetite videos.
I’m now assuming that this is probably because aprons are pretty easy to draft. Not that I was happy about having to take my first steps into the world of self-drafting! But as with most things, my fear was unfounded.
Plus, it was fun getting creative on the details. I had some leather scraps left over from Dopp kits we made over Christmas, so I decided to use it to accent the straps and anchor them on the back of the apron. Leather on an apron makes it classy, right?
The square pieces at the end of the strap are purely decorative, while the carriers that support the apron in the back are functional and secured with leather rivets (Ian had to re-hammer these rivets because I was not aggressive enough the first time). Over Christmas I also acquired a leather stamping kit, which I didn’t get to use because we ran low on time. However! I was not going to be denied another opportunity to try it.
My original concept for the text on the carriers was “HUBS THAT I LUBS”, but as you can see I didn’t quite have the space. Oh well! That’s what your imagination is for.
The fabric I used was already floating around in my stash, given to me by my grandma while she was cleaning out her own sewing closet. They are both some type of canvas (probably upholstery?), and a little too heavyweight to be much use for a regular garment. However, perfect for an apron!
So, that wraps up the generic thoughts portion of this post. There are more detail shots below, as well as my best attempt at explaining how the heck I did it.
You will first need a tape measure to determine the desired dimensions of your apron (please note that you are not actually taking measurements of the body, just how big you want the apron to be relative to your body).
- Measure the width at the top part of the apron (A to B).
- Measure the distance from the top of the apron to the bottom of the armscye (B to C).
- Measure the distance from the top of the apron to the bottom of the apron (B to D).
- Measure the total width of the apron around the waist (E to F). On Ian’s, I think I went a little too wide here. Somewhere underneath the arm or just behind the arm would be preferable, since this fabric will be inclined to fall towards the front.
Using a L-square and a french curve, use these measurements to draft the base of the apron. If you don’t have an L square, a regular ruler will work fine – just be careful to make sure that all your corners are at 90 degree angles.
Since aprons are generally symmetrical, this piece can be drafted on the fold (although if asymmetry is your thing, don’t let me stop you!).
- Use the distance from B to D to draw a straight line vertically. This is what will be cut on the fold.
- From the bottom of this line, draw a horizontal line that is half of the measurement from E to F.
- From the top of the line you drew in Step 1, draw another horizontal line that is half of the measurement from A to B.
- At the other end of this line you drew in Step 3, draw a vertical line toward the bottom of the apron that is the measurement from B to C.
- Here, draw a horizontal line that runs the width of the line you draw at the bottom of the apron.
- Draw a new vertical line from the bottom that meets the line we drew in step 5.
- You should now have corner where you can draft an armscye with the french curve. This isn’t an exact science – just try to make sure that curve isn’t cutting into the corner at all.
At this point you will have a basic draft of what the apron will look like once it’s finished. If you are unsure, you can cut it out in paper and hold up the tissue to your body to make sure you are happy with the size. Considering that this is an apron though, there’s a good chance that what you’ve got is good enough.
The last step is to add seam allowances to every edge except the one that will be cut on the fold. How much you add will depend on your preferences and how you decide to finish it. For me, I opted to do a bias binding and added 1/2″ to each edge.
When you are happy with your pattern, you can go ahead and cut it out in your main fabric. Finish all seams in your preferred method.
Optional: I recommend adding a hanging loop before you finish your seams. Since the main straps are designed to slide, they aren’t great for hanging the apron when it’s not in use.
To do this, cut a 3″ x 1″ rectangle, and fold in each long edge 1/4″. Press. Fold and press again so the total width is 1/4″. Topstitch to secure. Baste each end about an inch apart on the inside of the center front of the apron (or where you want to hang it from). It will be secured in place when you finish these seams.
To determine the total length of the straps, I threw my measuring tape over Ian’s shoulder, wrapped it across his back, and brought it around front. We decided that the total length of my measuring tape (65″) was about right for the straps. I added another inch to allow for two 1/2″ seam allowances at the end, bringing me to a total length of 66″.
For reference, Ian would fall into a medium in ready to wear sizing. If you are taller or typically wear larger size, you may need more length here. If you’re unsure, make the straps longer than you think you will need. They can always be shortened later.
Here are the steps I took to draft and construct two 65″ x 1″ straps*:
- Determine total desired length (65″), add 1″ for seam allowance. Total length: 66″
- Determine total desired width (1″), multiply it by two (2″). Add another 1″ for seam allowance. Total width: 3″
- Because the straps will need to be very long, I recommend dividing the total length and cutting at least two pieces that will be sewed together. Divide the total length from step 1 (66″) by two: 33″. Add another 1″ for seam allowance: 34″.
- Take the measurements from steps 2 and 3 and draft your final pattern dimensions: 34″ x 3″.
- Cut 4 pieces of your strap fabric.
- Sew the short ends of two pieces right sides together with a 1/2″ seam allowance. Trim seam allowance Repeat for the other strap.
- Right sides together, fold the long edges together. Sew each edge with a 1/2″ seam allowance, leaving a 5-6″ opening in the middle to turn the straps out. Trim seam allowances, except for the opening. Repeat for the other strap.
- Turn the strap right side out and press. Press the remaining seam allowances (where the strap is still open) toward the inside. Topstitch 1/8″ all the way around the strap. This will close the open seam. Repeat for the other strap.
*Alternatively, you skip this entirely and purchase 1″ canvas strap. This is what I would have done in a pre-COVID life.
Now the straps are ready to be attached! I placed them underneath the top corners of the center front of the apron. Whether they go on top or bottom is up to you – I knew I would be adding the leather trim later, so I put mine on bottom. However, if you want to use the straps for a contrast detail here, feel free to put them on top.
Don’t be shy about stitching when you are attaching them to the apron. This is where everything is held together, after all. I recommend stitching a square around where the strap attaches the apron, and an X of stitching to add reinforcement.
You will need to add some sort of carrier that allows the staps to hold up the apron around the waist. I used small pieces of leather and leather rivets to do this, but if you don’t have any leather scraps on hand you can construct carriers out of fabric. The final size should be about 2″ x 3/4″ (longer if you made wider straps).
- Cut out two pieces of fabric that are 2.5″ x 2.5″.
- Fold two ends of one piece right sides together, and sew shut with a 1/2″ seam allowance.
- Trim the seam allowance.
- Turn right-side out, and press. You should now have a strip of fabric that is 2.5″ by 3/4″. Repeat for the other piece.
- For both pieces, turn the raw edges under 1/4″ and press. Turn under another 1/4″ and press again.
- Topstitch the carriers in place on the far right and left corners of the apron, behind the armscye (I placed mine diagonally, but you can place them horizontally or vertically if that’s your preference).
Once the body of the apron is finished, you can draft and place the pockets. I found this easiest to do after the main body of the apron was done. I did the top pocket first, then added the bottom pockets.
For the top pocket:
- Take a ruler and measure the width and height of where you want the pocket to be on the body of the apron.
- Take these measurements and draft that size on paper.
- Cut out what you’ve drafted, and hold the paper up against the apron to make sure you’re happy with the size. It may take a couple of iterations to get this part right.
- Once you are happy with the final size, add a 1/2″ to the sides and the bottom of the pocket square for seam allowance.
- Add another 1.5″ to the top of the pocket for hem allowance.
- Cut one piece of fabric in this final size.
- With your fabric, fold the sides and bottom of the pocket under 1/2″. Press.
- Fold the top of the pocket under 1/2″. Press. Fold the top of the pocket under again 1″. Press.
- Topstitch the top of the pocket in place (6/8″ is ideal).
The pocket is now ready to attach. You will do this just like any other pocket by topstitching the side and bottoms of the pocket to the apron itself. I used pins to hold in place, but Wonder Tape is another good option.
The last step, which is optional, is to sew down any extra channels you would like. For Ian’s, we wanted to add a pen pocket, as well as two slightly larger pockets. I don’t have a precise way to do this – I just drew a straight line of chalk where I wanted the stitch line to be. If you do want any of these pockets to hold something specific, go ahead and put that item in the pocket before determining where the stitch line should be.
Once you’ve stitched the top pocket in place, add bar tacks to the top of your stitch lines to reinforce the stress points.
For the bottom pockets, you follow the same basic steps as above. I used the size of Ian’s hand to estimate the rough size of the pocket, and went from there. To place the pockets, I had him try on the apron again, and then tell me where the pockets needed to be (this is the best way to do it because ideal pocket placement will vary by your own anatomy). I then double checked (with a ruler!!) that both pockets were even in height and symmetrically placed on the apron before stitching them down.
And that is it! Now you have a fully-fledged apron.