Monday, May 13, 2013

A Birdy Apron Tutorial

I have been busy sewing away on Mother's Day gifts, as some of you may have seen on instagram. And thought I would show you how I made them. This is the first project that I have worked on since my sewing classes and it is amazing to actually use the skills I learned there. I hope to be able to impart some of that knowledge to you in this post and in tutorials to come. Below is a picture of the finished product.

The first thing I want to say is this is my first sewing tutorial so this may not be perfect but I am very open to suggestions and if you you have any question about any step PLEASE leave a comment below and I PROMISE I will get back to you. This tutorial will be broken up into two sections, first how I created the pattern for the apron, then cutting out, and finally the actual sewing of the apron. This tutorial will be directed for beginners, so I will try to be as detailed as possible.

Pattern Making
Pattern making is a delicate art. Every detail in a pattern is important and must be considered. Luckily, a pattern for an apron is pretty basic so it is a great place for those new to pattern making to start. Once mastered, the skill of pattern making can be a wonderful thing as you can see a cute dress in a store and create a pattern for it.

What you need
  • Tissue paper (I bought a pack of 1000 plane white sheets from Walmart, it is a little thin. So if you can find a roll of thicker tissue paper from a craft store that would be preferable)
  • A nice drafting pencil (as it is important to get good clean straight and curved lines)
  • Paper scissors
  • Removable tape
  • Tracing Compass
  • Ruler

Pattern Piece One: The main body of the apron
For this pattern piece I cheated a little and traced the below apron that had been given to me. I folded the existing apron exactly in half and centered the fold on the edge of the tissue paper to ensure a straight line and then carefully traced around the rest of the apron. You then need to mark the side of tissue paper that is on the fold with the words "Place on fold" it may seem obvious now but will not seem as intuitive when cutting out the pattern on the desired fabric. 

Made by Sheri Schloss

What you have created now is only a "sloper" (a pattern piece without a seam allowance). So next you add a seam/hem allowance around all sides except the side marked place on the fold. You can choose whatever seam allowances you want. I put 5/8ths" seam allowance on the bottom of the piece and at the neck seam, an inch hem allowance on the diagonal side, and 1/2" hem allowance on the curved pieces. The difference between a hem allowance and a seam is a hem is simply finishing the raw edge with some short of heming technique and a seam is sewing two pieces of fabric together. If you are confused by what goes where hopefully the below picture helps.

The compass and a clear ruler are great for marking seam allowances. The ruler is great for getting clean straight lines and you can simply set the opening of the compass to the desired seam allowance and trace around curves. To finish the piece you can write cut one as the piece will be placed on the fold.

Pattern Piece Two: Apron Ties
This piece is a lot simpler. All you need to do is create a rectangle that is the desired length and width you could even get fancy and make one end with a point. I just kept to a simple 29 1/2" by 3" 1/2 rectangle without hem allowance and 30 1/2 by 4 1/4 with hem allowance, giving a 1 inch hem allowance around the entire tie as seen above. You can also write cut two on this piece as you will need two ties.

Pattern Piece Three: Pocket
The pocket is another simple pattern piece that you create with a ruler. For my pocket I created a 7" by 7 1/2" (finished dimensions) rectangle with rounded corners at the bottom. These dimensions include a half an inch hem allowance around the entire pocket and a folded 1" flap at the top, giving a finished pocket of 6 1/2" by 6".

Pattern Piece Four: Contrasting Band
This was the most difficult pattern piece to create as it has a fullness ratio. The fullness ratio is what creates the pretty folds on the bottom. The piece that I created is an 1:1 1/2 unequal fullness ratio. To create this piece I started with a rectangle that is as long as the full length of the apron by 5" width. And then I drew and cut the sides of  8 triangles without cutting through the point and then figured out how much to spread each triangle by dividing the (length of the full apron times 1 1/2) by sixteen (8 triangles each with two sides) and then placed the cut piece on a fresh large piece of tissue paper and spread the triangles by the calculated amount and taped them in place. I then connected the spread triangles using a curved ruler and finally traced the entire piece on to a new piece of tissue paper to avoid dealing with a ton of triangles. The below picture is the triangles spread and taped to the larger sheet of tissue paper. Please ask if you have questions about this part, it is hard to explain!

Cutting Out
The layout for how I cut out the pieces can be seen in the tutorial for the pattern. I used two different fabrics for this project a basic green cotton for the main portion of  the apron and the ties and then a flannel with a birdy pattern. The flannel was used for the pocket and the contrasting band.

The cutting out of the main portion of the apron, just involves centering the "place on fold" side on the fold. As the piece is centered on the fold you do not have to worry about grainline. But for the ties you do have to worry about grainline. Grainline is important as fabric is created with two different threads (warp and weft) and it is important the pattern piece is aligned with one of these threads so the fabric will lay correctly.To ensure that a pattern piece is cut out "on grain" you simply measure from a grian line on the pattern or a straight line on the pattern to the edge of the fabric and ensure the entire pattern piece is equal distance from the line to the edge of the fabric. If you are measuring to the salvage edge you are measuring lengthwise grain line which is the most commonly used grainline. The pocket was also cut out on length wise grain. The contrasting band was more difficult as it is curved, I wanted the pattern to be correct, and I had limited fabric. I centered the middle of the piece with length wise grain and hoped for the best and it turned out great this is not the best way to do it but when fabric is limited it is often the only option.

Gingher Scissors are some of the best cutting sears out there and make cutting out so much easier!

What you need
  • 1 yard of the main portion of the apron fabric (Green for this project)*
  • 3/4 yard for contrasting fabric (Bird patterned fabric)*
  • 1/2 yard of Rick Rack
  • Scraps for applique birds
  • Thread to match each fabric, the Rick Rack, and appliques
  • Bobbins
  • Heat N Bond 
  • Iron
  • Sewing Machine
  • Seam Gage
  • Pins
* The fabric yardage is liberal but I feel it is better to have too much than not enough.

Step One: Pockets
  • Fold edge of pocket 1/2" with wrong sides together, measuring with a seam gage and then pressing.

  • Stitch at 1/2" around the entire pocket

  • Fold the top of the pocket down one inch and stitch an inch from the top.
  • Figure out where you want the pocket to be placed on the main apron piece and pin the pocket to the apron and then edge stitch around the three sides except for the top.

Step Two: Seams (Neck and contrasting band)

  • Pin right sides of the curved neck piece together and stitch across at 5/8ths
  • Press the seam open and saem finish the raw edges, I used a zig zag stich 

  • While pinning the band to the apron there are a few things you want to check. First lining up the middle of the band to the middle of the apron, making it so there is not to much fabric on one side or the other. Then pin the two ends of the fabric making sure that the pieces line up both length and width wise.

  • Stitch a 5/8ths seam across the entire apron
  • Press the seam allowance up towards the apron portion and finish the raw edge, I used a zig zag stitch again, except the two seam allowances were together.

Step Three: Embellishments (Rick Rack and Applique Birds)

  • Pin the Rick Rack to the seam of the band ensuring that it is centered on the seam and that the seam allowance stays up toward the apron. Pinning my pins diagonally helped me center the rick rack better.
  • Stitch the rick rack using matching thread by stitching down the center of the rick rack ensuring that the seam allowance is up towards the apron

  • For the applique birds I used Heat N Bond that I bought at Walmart for a few dollars. This was the first time I had used it and it is pretty neat stuff. The package has pretty great instructions but I will explain what I did. First iron one side of the Heat N Bond to your fabric and then you trace and cut out your design. Then when you are ready to attach it to your project you peel away the paper and press it to your project. Sorry I do not have more pictures for this part!

Step Four: Heming and Ties
This last step is the most tedious part for me, but knowing that it is my last step to a beautifully finished project gets me through it and a good movie always helps too ;)

Single Fold Hem: For the neck hole, the arm hole portion, top of the neck hole, and the bottom of the band.
  • Finish the raw edge with a zig zag stitch or other seam finish
  • Put in a basting stitch at 1/4" on particularly curvy places like around the neck hole (Both top and inside) and the bottom of the band due to the fullness ratio.
  • Measure and fold the finished raw edge 1/2" pulling the basting stitch as necessary to get the fabric to lie flat, and press. Tip: Using a pin pull at the basting stitch every inch or so.
  • Stitch at 1/2''

Double Fold Hem: For the straight edge of the apron and three edges of the ties
This is the hem I prefer as it encloses the raw edge giving a nice finished look, but it does not work well with curves.

  • Fold over the raw edge 1/2" and then press and then fold over another 1/2" enclosing the raw edge and press again.
  • Stitch at 1/2" after ties have been inserted (See below instructions)

  • Once the ties have been hemmed using the above instructions insert the raw edge of the tie into the double fold seam allowance with WRONG sides together (This will mean the majority of the tie is laying next to the apron) then stitch at 1/2". Then fold the tie back so that RIGHT sides are together and edgestitch.

Finally: Press
Pressing is the secret to any good looking piece. So make sure to press the project while you are sewing and to finish off your Apron!!

Thank you for reading and I hope it was instructive and useful! If you have any questions at all feel free to comment and I will get back to you!!


  1. I am glad you liked it and found it useful! There will be more tutorials soon!

  2. Wow you did an awesome job on this! I am a new from southern charm! I would love for you to check out my blog and hopefully follow me back! Nicole

  3. I was just browsing and saw your blog on the VMG206 blog. Your apron is just adorable. You really did a great job with the tutorial. I have never seen anything quite like this, I love it.
    I would love it if you would link up with us at my weekly Clever Chicks Blog Hop this week!