Quarantine Baking: The Perfect Apron
Updated: Jul 8, 2021
Do you remember what it was like going to the grocery store back when the pandemic first hit? There was no toilet paper, no paper towels, no milk, and no bread. For weeks. The paper products in my home lasted long enough to make it to the next re-stock cycle and the milk came back in stock pretty quickly, but the bread? That was an issue.
I started (finally) making use of my mother's old bread machine from 1980-something and realized that I like fresh bread (duh). More importantly, I like fresh bread enough to put in the effort to make it. A few months ago, I started baking for the holidays and baking bread by hand - turns out, not as hard as I thought and actually quite enjoyable. So. I've been baking quite a bit in the last few months.
But here's the thing: I am a mess. And I get flour everywhere. Ever gotten flour on your knees? I have. How? No idea. But my "I bake π" apron was clearly not sufficient for my tornado style of baking. Plus it has a burn hole in it from that one time I accidentally left it too close to the hot plate while doing a demonstration on the phases of matter (oops). Therefore: time for a new apron.
I whipped this up with some scrap fabrics I had hanging out in my stash - the whole thing took just a few hours and I'm kind of in love! There are a few adjustments I would make were I to do it again (included as notes below), but it's so far standing up to the tasks at hand.
This apron has been a great mid-winter pick-me-up and, more importantly, has protected several sets of clothes from being covered in flour. Follow the tutorial below (materials list included in step 1) to make an apron that fits you and your baking style!
(Step 1) Draft a quick design & choose your materials
Consider what type of apron you want:
How much of your body do you want it to cover?
Will you include decorations or are you going for utility?
Do you need pockets or loops for anything in particular (e.g. phone, towel, lapel watch, etc.)
Will it close with ties in the front or back? Or will you use buttons to fasten a front bib to a back bib?
Also consider the fabric type - you can really use just about anything you'd like, some common choices include:
Cotton or linen - safe to wash and dry, light, flexible, comes in lots of colors and patterns
Cotton duck - my personal choice - heavier weight, safe to wash and dry, not as flexible as plain cotton but very sturdy and mildly water resistant
Polyester and poly-blends - these come in every weight and pattern under the sun; some are washer/dryer safe and some are not, can be water resistant
Leather - heavyweight, heat resistant (great for cooking on large flames), tricky to clean
Vinyl and other faux leathers - heavyweight, less expensive than leather, typically spot clean only, depending on composition may be flame resistant or may melt at high temperatures - always check the labels!
For the home baker, cottons are the most common choice and tend to be the least expensive.
A rule of thumb: Wovens and non-stretch fabrics are the way to go for aprons. Knit fabrics have "holes" in them because of the way they are constructed (think about all those chunky knit blankets on Pinterest - same deal but smaller). These holes mean knit fabrics can let fine flour or liquids through more easily than wovens.
Note: If you plan to work with leather or any other specialty fabric, make sure you are using an appropriate needle and remember to check your tension!
Your fabric type should affect your design a bit as well - consider how the fabric will move (or how it won't) and how it will feel while wearing it on top of your regular clothing. Aprons can be needed for hours at a time so always think about comfort!
If you've chosen a thin fabric, consider using two layers of fabric to help increase the protection factor.
Once you have an idea in your head, sketch it out. Use your body or a dress form to get some basic measurements for width across the bib (the part of the apron above the waist), at the waist, and lengths both down the bib and from waist to wherever you want the apron to end (mine ends at the knee).
NOTE: The measurements shown in my sketch above are early measurements with errors. In the end, after making adjustments before the bias tape went on, the bib is 12 inches across with 5 inches of length before curving to meet the waistline.
Once your design is finished, you should be able to figure out how much fabric you'll need and assemble all of your materials. You will need:
Your main fabric
Secondary fabric for any pockets, loops, or other design elements
Bias tape to bind the edges of your apron (not necessary if you're working with leather or another non-fraying fabric NOR if you're using two layers of fabric)
Straight pins and/or hem clips
Snips and fabric scissors
Tailor's chalk / a pen / a pencil / fabric marker
Twill tape / garment tape / extra fabric to make the ties
(Step 2) Main Fabric: Draw your pattern onto the fabric & Cut
THINK: Does you design call for one layer of fabric or two? If it's two, remember to double the fabric before you cut and ADD SEAM ALLOWANCE!
Use your ruler and tailor's chalk to draw your design onto the fabric. Mine is quite basic, the bib is essentially a square which then flares out in a curve to meet the waistline. You can see in the photo here that I've used a french curve to get this flare the same on both sides of the apron. You could also use a piece of aluminum foil to "copy" a freehand curve to the second side.
Before you cut: Hold the apron up to yourself (or the dress form or for whomever the apron is being made) and check the sizing. If it's too big or too small, now is the time to adjust! Personally, I found that my bib was coming up too high, so I took some fabric off of the top and raised the waist a bit, adjusting the curve as needed.
Once you're happy with the sizing, go ahead and cut it out!
(Step 3) Secondary Fabric: Trace and make design elements
My apron is pretty basic so I'm only including one large pocket which I'll then split into two with a stitched line down the center. If you're adding extra pockets or loops or whatever will make your apron unique, remember to factor in your seam allowance before cutting!
If using two fabric layers, either only attach the pockets and designs to the "front" layer or wait until after you've stitched the main pieces together and turned it right sides out (step 4) and sew the pockets and designs to both layers.
To make my pocket, I cut out a rectangle of fabric 13 inches by 8 inches. Next, I used a rolled hem foot to go around THREE of the sides.
A note here: if you're using a rolled hem foot, it's much easier to get started if you first sew a few regular stitches to establish a "lock" with the thread, then use the tails of the thread to maneuver the fabric into place and begin the hem.
If you don't have a rolled hem foot, just add 1/4 inch or 1/2 inch all the way around before cutting (or don't and have a slightly smaller pocket), press that seam allowance in, and topstitch in place.
Over at the ironing board, finish up the top of the pocket but folding and pressing the top side 1/4 inch and then again 1/2 inch. This will prevent the pocket from fraying when you use it. Topstitch across to finish the pocket.
Lastly, pin the pocket in place on your apron, paying attention to keep it parallel to the apron's hem. Topstitch around THREE of the sides (don't stitch your pocket shut!). I also stitched down the center of my pocket to divide it into two smaller pockets that stay tight against the main apron.
(Step 4) Finish the edges of your Apron
We'll get a bit tricky here, depending on whether you've used one or two layers of fabric. I'll first address the single layer as shown in my example and then address differences before we move on to step 5.
With only one layer of fabric, it's easiest to finish the edges with bias tape. You could, of course, plan for seam allowance before cutting and do a rolled or double folded edge, but I like the look of bias tape and it saves me from ironing hell. Don't have any bias tape? You can make your own using my tutorial on making bias tape quickly here.
Pin the bias tape in place around the apron, leaving enough extra to overlap at the ends by a few inches. When you reach the corners, create a mitered corner using the technique shown in the video (read more about this in my Baby Blanket post).
Beginning by leaving a few inches unstitched, carefully sew your way around the apron, making sure to catch both layers of bias tape while sewing. Stop several inches before completing the "circle" of bias tape.
At the end, press the outside end of the bias tape so there will be no raw edges. Then, finish the bias tape hem by stitching the overlap in place (More photos and detailed instructions are in my baby blankets post here).
A note on bias tape: If you find the idea of stitching both sides of the bias tape at the same time unsettling, no worries! Simply stitch one edge the bias tape with the right side of the tape against the back of your apron first, then fold it over and topstitch on the right side of the apron.
For those using two layers of fabric:
At this point, you'll want to measure and cut your ties for the waist and neck, including some seam allowance. Pin them to their correct locations on the front side of your apron so that the "tails" of the ties are going towards the center of the apron.
Pin the two layers of your apron right sides together, remembering to mark where you will NOT stitch so you can turn the apron right side out, and stitch around, again making sure to stop with enough space to turn the apron out!
Clip any curves, then turn right side out, press along the seams, and topstitch all the way around. You may wish to stitch over the spots where the ties are attached a few times for added security.
(Step 5) Add the ties
For the ties on my apron, I used 3/4 inch twill tape left over from my last batch of masks. You could use twill tape, bias tape stitched together, strips of non-fraying fabric, or tubes of any woven fabric.
Decide how long your waist ties need to be using a flexible measuring tape (or a string/piece of yarn which can then be measured by a ruler) and cut them out (remember to cut 2!). Some bakers like to tie their aprons in the front, others in the back. I prefer to tie in the back so my ties were 27 inches each, including seam allowance. To make a fabric tube, cut out a rectangle measuring the length desired plus seam allowance by the desired width times 2 plus seam allowance.
For example, to make a tube to replace my 27 inch long 3/4 inch wide twill tape, I would cut a rectangle measuring 27 inches by (3/4 * 2 + 1/2) = 2 inches wide. This uses a 1/4 inch seam allowance on both sides of the rectangle. Fold the rectangle in half hotdog style, then stitch along the short side and down the long side of the tube, leaving the other short side open. Turn right side out and press.
Before attaching to the apron, roll or fold the end of your tube or twill tape twice and topstitch to create a finished edge. Stitch to the inside of your apron, going over the ties several times for strength. If you've used twill or garment tape, remember to roll and topstitch the other end of your ties as well!
Lastly comes the neck tie. Put your apron on and pin the bib in place. Use a measuring tape (or piece of string/yarn and a ruler) to decide how long you want the neck tie to be. Make sure the tie will fit over your head after sewn on to the apron before cutting! Also be sure to mark where on the apron the ties will connect.
Measure and cut your neck tie using the same method as for the waist ties. Roll/fold the ends and topstitch to finish. Pin and sew onto the back of the bib of the apron, sewing over the seam a few times to reinforce.
Note: If you have a high-rising bib as I do (remember I am messy) and also have a giant head, again as I do, make sure you leave enough space for your apron to easily go over your head. My neck strap measured 16 inches including seam allowance, which makes for a bit of a tight squeeze. Were I to make the apron again, I would probably use an overall buckle or button to create a neck strap that can be attached after the rest of the apron is on, negating the need to go over my fat head.
(Step 6) Relish in your accomplishment
You did it! An apron! Time to get in the kitchen and make a mess so it can protect you.
By the by, for those curious, in the leading picture for this post, I am baking 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread from King Arthur Flour. The weird thing in my hand is a Danish dough whisk which helps quickly bring the dough together while not getting flour all over myself for once. Do recommend.
That's all for this post friends, if you give it a try, I'd love to see your creations! Please post your photos and tag me @craftematics or send me a message to share!