In this post, you will learn how to hand sew a reproduction, early 19th-century apron. This apron is one of the simplest styles to sew. It’s also very quick to make up.
I recommend using a small checked homespun fabric for this project. It will make cutting the pieces easy and precise.
Step One: Decide how long you want your apron to be. Our historic site interprets the 1820s when clothing styles were still high-waisted. We measure from under the bust to mid-shin. Cut out a piece of fabric the full width of the fabric (selvage to selvage) and the length measurement (under bust to mid-shin). To make cutting easy and precise, follow one of the lines (rows) made up in the weave. An even easier method than cutting is to tear the fabric from one selvage to the other; this will give you a straight line all the way across to the other side. Mark where the tear will begin on one selvage edge. Using scissors, make a small cut at the mark then proceed to tear the fabric with your hands from one side to the other.
Step Two: Take one of the cut/torn edges and turn it over 3/4” and press. This will be the top edge of your apron panel. Try to follow one of the lines in the weave to keep it nice and even.
NOTE: If using homespun fabric (like we are) you will not need to finish the selvage edges.
|Step Two: The top edge is folded over and pressed.
Step Three: Using a strong thread (e.g., hand quilting or upholstery thread), sew a running stitch across the top about 1/8" - 1/4” from the folded edge. Be sure to keep your running stitches even and no larger than 1/4” wide (about two squares wide in this photo) Do Not Use A Wide Stitch!! Also, don’t tie off the thread when you reach the other end. It will be pulled to create gathers in Step Thirteen.
Step Four: Once you’ve finished the first line of running stitches, sew another line of running stitches 1/4” - 1/2” below it. Try to mirror the first line of stitches as closely as possible. These two lines of identical stitches will become ‘Gauge/Carriage Pleating” when you put the waistband on in Step Thirteen. Don’t tie off the thread at the end.
Step Five: Before putting on the waistband and working with the “Gauge/Carriage Pleating” you need to sew the hem. Press the cut/torn edge at the bottom of the apron panel over 1/4”. Fold it another 1/4”, press, and pin.
NOTE: Be sure to fold the cut/torn edge to the same side as the top edge.
|Step Five: folding over the hem edge 1/4" plus another 1/4".
Step Six: Using a whip stitch, sew the hem in place. Try to keep your stitches small; they’ll hold up longer.
|Step Six: Sewing the hem-stitch.
Step Seven: The width of your waistband will depend on how far you want the apron to extend to each side of your torso and how wide you want your waistband to be. Our waistband is 16 3/4” long by 3” wide.
|Step Seven: The waistband is cut out and measures 16 3/4” long by 3” wide.
Step Eight: Fold in both short sides of the waistband piece 1/4” and press.
|Step Eight: Folding the waistband's side edges in 1/4".
Step Nine: Fold the waistband in half, matching long edges, and press.
Step Ten: Open the waistband up and fold the top half to the center line and press. Repeat with the bottom half.
Step Eleven: Fold the waistband in half again and press. Now all the rough edges should be to the inside of the waistband.
Step Twelve: With right sides together, pin the center point and edges of the waistband to the center point and edges of the apron panel.
Note: Open up the waistband before pinning to apron panel. Pin only one edge of the waistband to the apron panel at this time.
|Step Twelve: Center points and outside edges matched.
Step Thirteen: With right side together, pull the ends of the running stitches to fit the apron panel to the waistband. Pin in place. Be sure the gathers are distributed evenly the length of the waistband.
Note: Wrap the ends of the gathering threads around a pin to hold the gathers in place until they are exactly as you want them. Knots can also be used to secure the thread ends.
Step Fourteen: Using a whip stitch, attach the apron panel to the waistband. Be sure to catch just the folded edges of both pieces. The needle needs to be inserted through the center of the ‘hump’ closest to the waistband.
Step Fifteen: Once one side of the waistband is attached, tie off your thread then gently pull the waistband up above the apron panel. Gently encourage the stitches to straighten out.
|Step Fifteen: Waistband and apron panel are sewn together. The waistband is now pulled to extend above the apron panel.
Step Sixteen: Fold over the top half of the waistband to meet the unsewn side of the apron panel. Using the whip stitch, sew the waistband to the apron panel. Be sure to catch just the folded edges of both pieces. The needle needs to be inserted through the center of the ‘hump’ that was not stitched in Step Fourteen. Once this side is complete, tie off the thread.
Step Seventeen: Insert a piece of woven tape into the open end of the waistband. Stitch the end closed while catching the tape.
Step Eighteen: You're done! Enjoy your new apron!