Vintage Inspired Apron Tutorial

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Learn how to make a sweet vintage-inspired apron based on your own measurements with this step-by-step tutorial!

My mom and I watched many old movies together as I was growing up. She would sit and fold laundry and I’d either help with laundry or would work on some project of my own – usually crocheting. I always loved the women’s outfits in those movies and especially loved their frilly aprons!

Pockets are a must!

When I think of those aprons I particularly think of Marjorie Reynolds in Holiday Inn when she helps in the kitchen – she’s wears a gingham apron with pockets, trim, and buttons up the back. Of course with all those buttons, Bing Crosby has to help her unbutton it when it’s show time – terribly impractical, but also terribly cute!

Marjorie Reynolds in Holiday Inn

I’ve been collecting true vintage aprons for awhile now – mostly half aprons – but have always wanted a frilly full apron that would fit my modern day [read: not 1940’s petite] body.

One of my favorite places to purchase true vintage aprons is from my friend, Elizabeth Tuttle, over at Pretty Vintage Linens – she gets so many cute ones in her shop!

Apron back – I love a good floppy bow!

About a year ago I purchased some red and white gingham from Hobby Lobby. I didn’t know what I would do with it, but I loved it so much I bought it. I almost made it into Christmas throw pillows…now I’m glad I didn’t!

The thing is, though, I’m not big on sewing. My mom did her best to teach me when I was little, bless her, but I was not the most receptive or patient student. One time I tried making a teddy bear – the kind where you cut the printed pieces out of the fabric and just sew them together. That poor bear…I had to re-sew his head on so many times that it left a scar. We covered it over with a ribbon, haha!

My point in telling you this is that I’m not the world’s best seamstress nor do I even pretend to be. I know a few basics about sewing and that’s about it. I’m sure there are things I could have done differently or better if I really knew what I was doing, but here we are…with an end product that I am pretty proud of no matter how we got there!

Alright, so you’re probably ready for me to quit rambling and get on with it – I understand! Let’s hop to it.

Vintage Inspired Apron Step-by-Step Photo Tutorial

Supplies needed:

Packing Paper (or other large paper)
Pen or Pencil
Sewing Tape Measure
Yard Stick or Ruler
Scissors (for paper)
Fabric (how much you need depends entirely on your size and how you want your apron to fit)
Lining fabric
Sash Fabric
Lace/Trim
Fabric Shears
Straight Sewing Pins
Sewing Machine
Thread to coordinate with your fabric
1 Button
Sewing needle (for sewing a few stitches by hand)

1. I used several sheets of packing paper taped together to make my pattern.

Packing paper taped together into a large sheet

2. First let’s make the skirt pattern. You’ll need to take some measurements with a sewing tape measure. Measure around the narrowest part of your waist and write that number down.

Measure around the narrowest part of your waist

Loosely measure around the fullest part of your lower body. Write that number down. We’ll just reference this as “hip measurement.”

Make sure to leave this measurement roomy as this will determine how full your skirt will be and how much it will cover you. The bigger the number the looser fitting the skirt.

Loosely measure around the fullest part of your lower body.

Measure from your waistline (the first spot you measured) to wherever you want your apron to end (I chose right above my knee). Write that number down.

Measure from your waist line (the first spot you measured) to wherever you want your apron to end.

3. Cut a piece of paper at least as wide as half your hip measurement + 1 inch and at least as tall as your skirt length + 2 inches.

(We’re adding extra inches for seam allowance.)

Cut a piece of paper at least as wide as half your hip measurement + 1 inch and at least as tall as your skirt length + 2 inches

4. We’re going to make a half-skirt paper to ensure your skirt ends up symmetrical. You will fold your fabric in half when cutting which will result in a full skirt.

Starting at the top left of your paper, measure to the right half your waist measurement + 1 inch. Draw a straight line out to that point. This is the top of your skirt.

Now measure down the left side using your skirt length + 2 inches. Make a mark.

Measure out from that mark using your hip measurement + 1 inch – mark that point. This is the bottom of your skirt.

(You may wish to label them top and bottom to avoid confusion.)

5. Draw a straight line connecting your waist mark to your hip mark. This will be the gradual flare of your skirt out from your waist.

Here’s a diagram of what I mean by all that:

Cut out your pattern piece.

I like to label pattern pieces – “Skirt,” “Top,” & “Bottom”

6. Now to make the upper portion of the apron pattern.

–> Let me take a moment to comment that you can certainly make the front of your apron all one piece if you choose. I did it this way because my fabric was not wide enough to cut it all out in one piece. <–

Loosely measure around the fullest part of your chest, stopping halfway under your armpits. Write down that number.

Measure how far it is from the middle of your armpit to where your shoulder strap will begin. Write that number down.

Loosely measure around the fullest part of your chest, stopping halfway under your armpits.

Loosely measure from the top of your shoulder, over the fullest part of your chest, stopping at your waist (where your skirt will meet up). Write down that number.

Decide where you want your neckline to be. Measure to that point also from the top of your shoulder. Write that down too.

Loosely measure from the top of your shoulder, over the fullest part of your chest, stopping at your waist (where your skirt will meet up).

Decide how wide you want your neckline to be. Write that down.

Decide how thick you want your straps to be. I wanted mine wide – roughly 4 inches. Write that down.

Decide how wide you want your neckline to be.

7. From the edge of a large piece of packing paper, leaving yourself room both up and down, measure out half your chest measurement + 1 inch. Make a mark.

Go back inward the length of your armpit-to-strap measurement (+ 1 inch) and make a mark. Then draw a straight line upward the length of your strap. Draw a line inward the width of your strap, then another straight line down the length of your strap. It should look like, well…a strap!

Now draw a straight line back inward to the edge of the paper.This will be half the width of your neckline.

Measure out from the edge of your paper half your chest measurement + 1 inch.

Shame on me for forgetting to take photos in-between, but here’s the gist of it. (Ignore the squiggled out lines – I was experimenting.)

The bottom of your front panel should be one quarter the width of the waist of your skirt + 1/2 inch. (In other words, the bottoms of the front and back panels will add up to equal the width of the waist of your skirt.)

A front panel pattern not all the way cut out.

Here’s another diagram:

The general idea

Before completely cutting out my front panel I traced it onto another piece of paper to make my back panel. They will be the same, except I personally wanted the back neckline higher than the front, so I adjusted that measurement as you can see in the photo below.

Front panel on the left and back panel on the right.

8. Here is your friendly albeit annoying reminder to always iron your fabric before cutting out your pieces. It matters in getting accurate measurements – really it does.

(I don’t enjoy ironing – that’s why I said annoying. Haha)

Always iron your fabric before cutting! It makes a difference. Really, it does.

9. Carefully fold your fabric in half, ensuring that it is straight and there are no ripples on the bottom layer.

If you are working with a pattern be mindful of orientation.

Place your pattern flush along the folded edge and pin it in place with sewing pins.

Carefully fold your fabric in half and place your skirt pattern flush along the folded edge.

Carefully cut it out (if you’d prefer to trace it and then cut it out, by all means do, but I’m impatient I guess…)

Do the same with your front and back panels.

10. I wanted my apron lined as my gingham is not a very heavy weight. I didn’t want it to cling to my clothes as I moved about.

I found this old sheet from my childhood – the elastic had crumbled from age, so I cut out the elastic and ironed the whole thing.

Used an old fitted sheet from my childhood to line the apron.

11. Lay out your pieces on the lining fabric. I just cut it out directly, but if you feel more comfortable tracing & cutting, do that.

Lay out your pieces on the lining fabric and either trace and cut or just cut it out – feelin’ lucky? Haha

Allow me to introduce you to my favorite sewing shears!

They’re awesome. I do have to wear work gloves when I use them, though, as my hands are wimpy and get sore after awhile.

My favorite sewing shears and work gloves.

12. Pin your fabric pieces and lining pieces together, wrong sides facing.

Before sewing your back panel, cut it exactly in half. This will give you the split back of the apron.

Sew along all sides of your pieces EXCEPT the bottom.

Pin your fabric and lining together, wrong sides facing, and sew along all sides EXCEPT the bottom.
Before sewing, cut the back panel exactly in half.

13. Turn all pieces right side out (be sure to get all those little corners popped right side out).

Press them all with an iron.

Turn pieces right side out and press with an iron.

14. Pin front and back panels together along the armpit seams, wrong sides facing, and sew.

Pin front and back panels together along the armpit seams, wrong sides facing, and sew.

It should look like this when spread out.

[Notice my bottom lines don’t meet up perfectly. It’s fine – no big deal. The skirt will cover it.]

Front and back panels sewn together.

15. Pin opposing shoulder straps together, wrong sides facing, and sew. This forms the arm holes.

Pin opposing shoulder straps together, wrong sides facing, and sew.
Shoulder straps sewn together to form arm holes

16. Line up the waist of the top piece with the waist of the skirt, wrong sides facing.

Line up waist of top piece with the waist of the skirt, wrong sides facing

Be sure to leave enough seam allowance that there will be no gaps between the two, especially if your top piece didn’t have a perfectly straight bottom edge.

Pin and sew.

Be sure to leave enough seam allowance that there are no gaps between the two pieces!

17. Try on your apron and decide how much to hem the bottom.

Fold under the edge, pin, and sew.

Fold the bottom of the skirt under – pin and sew for the hem.

It’s looking like an apron! Let’s add some details now!

It’s looking like an apron!

18. Choose your trim – this was some vintage lace my mom had given me a long time ago. It’s off-white, just like in my gingham fabric.

Vintage lace from my mom – off white like in the gingham

Sew your lace right along the outside edge of your straps.

Sew the lace right along the outside edge of the shoulder straps

Like this.

Lace along the shoulder straps

19. Let’s make pockets!

Cut two identically sized squares of your fabric, making them a little larger than you actually want your pockets.

I would have liked my pockets a little larger but I was almost out of fabric.

I purposely made my pocket fabric line up with the skirt fabric, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to.

Figure out size and placement of pockets.

Pin and hem all sides of your pocket squares to give them nice, clean edges.

Pin and hem all sides of your pocket squares to make clean edges

Make sure to keep your folds uniform so your pockets remain the same size!

Nice clean edges

Sew a piece of trim to the top of each pocket square.

Sew trim to the top edge of the pocket square.

Sew pockets to the apron skirt, only on the bottom and sides – don’t sew your pocket shut!

Lift the lace as you sew, so as not to sew over the lace.

Sew pockets to apron skirt – don’t sew the pocket shut!

20. Time to make a sash! I made mine from some vintage linen I bought at a rummage sale – it was a whole box of vintage fabrics for $3!

Again, the off-white color of the linen goes with the color in the gingham.

Sash made from vintage linen

Decide how wide you want your sash. Double that number and that’s how wide your strip should be.

Now decide how long it should be – long enough to go around your waist, tie a generous bow, and leave some hanging.

Cut a strip long enough to go around your waist, tie a nice bow, and leave some hanging.

Center your sash strip on your apron.

Center the sash on your apron

Tuck the top and bottom edges of the sash strip under, so that they meet in the middle under your strip (hidden). Pin.

Tuck the edges of the strip under and pin to the apron front

Sew along the top and bottom edges of your sash, only from one edge of the front panel to the other edge. Leave the rest hanging freely.

I decided to do it this way to allow for more flexibility in how tightly (or not) I tied the apron.

Sew along the top and bottom edges of the sash, only from one edge of the front panel to the other

I wanted a big, flowy vintage bow in the back of my apron, so I purposely left the linen unhemmed, knowing it will probably fray a bit more over time.

Leaving the linen sash unhemmed creates a light and flowy look.

21. To close up the back, I sewed a short, straight line (maybe 2-3 inches long) just at the top edge, overlapping the back pieces about 1.5 inches. Then I sewed a decorative button over the top.

To put the apron on, I slip it over my head. I decided I didn’t want to mess with having to button and unbutton the apron every time. You are welcome to put in a real button and button hole if you wish!

A simple stitch to connect the back pieces at the top and a non-functioning button sewn on.

22. Finally, to avoid the neckline looking too boxy, I created a pleat from the chest up to the corner of the neckline on each side, as you can see below.

It’s helpful to be wearing the apron when you decide where to make a pleat.

Pleated from the chest to the neckline

Just a gentle fold of the fabric and a few stitches by hand.

Hand stitching the pleat at the neckline

And there you have it! Was that clear as mud? I hope it made some sense…

Thanks for reading through my little tutorial! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to drop a comment or send me a message and I’ll do my best to help out!

I’m rather excited I got this done in time for Valentine’s Day. I guess that means I have to make a nice dinner now, eh?

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Please note that this page contains affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission from qualifying purchases. I truly appreciate your support! Click here to learn more.

4 thoughts on “Vintage Inspired Apron Tutorial

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