Part 1 – Why am I sewing an apron?
This apron is made from an ungathered square of fabric with contrasting ties, trim and pocket.
- It’s easy. All you need is fabric, a ruler, a pencil, fabric scissors and a sewing machine.
- It’s practical. Forget about the damp kitchen towel lost behind the pots. Save your clothes from stains and strange dark blobs.
- It’s individual. Choose your fabrics with abandon. Make it yours.
What will I learn?
A simple apron requires overcasting, seaming, hemming and topstitching. All the pieces have square corners so it’s just straight sewing.
How do I begin?
Collect the equipment.
- Ruler (an ordinary 30cm or 12 in ruler will be sufficient but a longer one is better)
- Pencil (HB is fine, 2B is better)
- Fabric scissors (Rotary cutter works too)
- Sewing pins or clips
- Sewing machine. Any basic sewing machine can be used for this project but these instructions will be for the Brother NV950.
Although I have sewed on and off for years the Brother NV950 is new to me as well so we will explore its features together.
Select the fabric
Cotton or cotton polyester blends are recommended. For a more heavy duty apron try cotton drill. Definitely don’t use any fabric that is stretchy. Keep in mind that it will be washed frequently. Durable fabrics that soften with use will give the best result.
- 1 Fat quarter (21in x 21in or 50cm x 50cm). Depending on the original width of the fabric the fat quarter may be up to 54 cm wide. If your fabric is on the roll you need 0.5m. Cut that in half so you have 2 squares. Now you have 2 fat quarters. Use one and keep the other to sew an apron for a friend.
Note: A fat quarter is a square that results from cutting 1/2m fabric in two. It measures approximately 50cm x 50 cm.
- 0.7 m Contrast fabric
- Matching thread
Prepare the fabric
- Wash the fabrics.
- Trim away the selvedges.
Note: The selvedges are the uncut edges of the fabric. Draw a straight line as near to the selvedge as possible on the wrong side of the fabric and cut with your scissors or rotary cutter.
- Iron the fabric. Trim any stray threads from the edges.
Do I need a pattern?
No pattern is required, just a ruler and pencil. Long rulers or quilting rulers and tailor’s chalk are great if you have them but not necessary. All the pieces can be marked out directly onto the fabric with a ruler and a pencil.
Measuring and Cutting
Lay out the fat quarter and check whether the fabric design has a top and bottom. Measure 41cm from the top of the fat quarter in several places. Draw a line joining the marks across the fabric at this point and cut. Now the main apron body measures about 54 cm across and 41 cm deep. The width across will vary depending on the original width of the fabric the fat quarter was cut from and the amount of selvedge you have removed.
Lay out the contrast fabric so that the narrowest side (where the selvedge has been trimmed away) is at the top. From this fabric we will cut the waistband, the ties and the contrast band.
Measure and mark out with pencil 2 strips 62cm x 10cm with the 62cm sides running parallel to the top. These are for the ties. Underneath mark out 1 strip 54 ½ cm x 10 cm for the waistband and beneath that another strip 54 ½ cm x 13cm deep for the contract band. Now cut out the 4 pieces.
Cutting the contrast pieces this way is called cutting along the grain. This will stop the ties, waistband and contrast band stretching as they are sewed.
What do I need to know about my sewing machine before I start?
- Upper threading
- Bobbin Winding
- Straight stitch
- Overcasting Stitch (or Zigzag)
- Stopping and starting
If you are not already familiar with your machine read the relevant sections of the Operation Manual for the Brother NV950. Yes it’s a thick book but to get started you only need to read a few pages. One hot frothy coffee (and maybe a biscuit or two) is all it will take.
Don’t cram everything new into one sewing session. Read the manual, drink the coffee, munch the biscuit and peer closely at the machine matching all the labels shown in the Machine Parts diagram.
Next session (with or without another coffee, piece of cake etc) read the Getting Ready section. Have a go at winding a bobbin and threading the machine. Use the apron project thread so that when you have mastered this bit you are ready to start.
Part 2 – How do I sew the apron?
Sewing the Contrast Band
The contrast band is the piece that measures 54½cm x 13cm. It goes at the bottom of the apron skirt.
Sew the long edges with an overcast or zig-zag stitch to stop the edges fraying. The Stitch Setting Chart in the Operation Manual lists all the stitches on the NV950 and their uses. The first stitch in the Overcast section is number 11. (Read the section on Overcasting Stitches for instructions on locating this option.) This is the best one to use for cotton. (Pic of stitch) If you have another machine use the overcast stitch or the zig-zag stitch. Remember to change the presser foot if required.
Overcast the bottom edge of the fat quarter and the top of the contrast band.
Stopping and starting techniques
Read the section on Securing stitching. This involves sewing a few starting stitches and then backstitching and continuing forwards. The reverse procedure applies at the end of the stitching.
You will now sew the contrast band to the bottom of the fat quarter. Select a straight stitch. On the NV 950 this is stitch 1. Again, check you have the correct presser foot attached.
You can change the length of the straight stitch. The auto selection is 2.5. If this is a beginner sewing project for you then change the stitch length to 3.0. The apron will still be securely sewed but if you make a mistake, the stitches are easier to unpick. Setting the stitch length is covered in the Sewing Basics section of the manual.
Tips for unpicking
You are going to make mistakes and you will need to unpick stitches at some time. This is all part of the fun of sewing. Everyone has their favourite technique. Most sewing machines include and seam ripper in the utilities kit. I prefer to call it an unpicker. A seam ripper sounds so violent and final, whereas unpicking is a gentler and more manageable task. Sew a scrap of spare fabric and practice unpicking. The larger and simpler the stitch, the easier it is to remove. Unpick any back stitches. Gently open up the seam by pulling the two pieces apart. The seam ripper option is to use the ripper with the pointy bit at the top and the ball end at the bottom and gently push the ripper through the threads of the seam. Be careful to only rip the thread and NOT the fabric. I prefer to break threads periodically long the stitch on both sides and pull the threads out. There is less chance of damaging the fabric.
Align the bottom edge of the fat quarter with the top of the contrast band along the long edge with the right sides together (RST is an abbreviation often used in patterns) and pin in place. Sew with a ½ inch seam. Remove the pins as you go. Never sew over a pin as you may break the needle. The seam allowance markings are on the footplate of the sewing machine.
Note: Both metric and imperial measurements are often used in sewing. Quilting famously uses a ¼ inch seam. Many sewing machines only have imperial measurements shown on the footplate. European patterns may specify 1cm seams and other patterns may use 5/8 in. Becoming accustomed to both ways with patterns, rulers and sewing machines will be necessary.
Trim the threads. On the wrong side of the fabric iron the seam towards the bottom of the apron. Now turn the fabric right side up and iron the seam flat again.
So far we have covered overcasting and seaming with straight stitch.
Topstitch the Band
Straight stitching on the right side of the fabric also holds layers of a seam allowance together. If you are feeling confident a decorative stitch could also be used. On the right side of the fabric align the presser foot on the contrast band close to the seam and straight stitch. Use the features of your machine to control the stitching. Reduce the sewing speed. Use the transparent presser foot to align the fabric. Select the needle down option. Pause during sewing to straighten the fabric. The needle down option holds the fabric in place.
The wrong side of this seam will show two rows of stitching.
Hemming the Apron Skirt
The same principal is now used to hem three sides of the apron skirt. Fold in 1 cm of each side of the skirt and iron. Fold again and iron. Pin in place. Now each side has a 1cm hem ready to be sewed. Turn the apron skirt to the right side and simply topstitch the hems in place.
Repeat the process for the bottom of the contrast band and the apron skirt is now hemmed on three sides.
Now you can get excited. Hold the apron up to your waist and admire your work.
Waistband and Ties
Apron waistbands and ties are constructed and attached in many different ways. This method suits most aprons but requires a row of topstitching. The waistband and ties are made from three pieces of the contrast fabric. The waistband is 54½cm x 10cm and the ties are each 62cm x 10cm.
The first task is to sew the pieces together along the 10cm edges. There is no need to overcast these seams as they will be inside the finished ties. Sew one short edge of a tie piece to the waistband piece using a ½ in seam and a straight stitch. Attach the second tie piece to the other end of the waistband making sure both seams are on the same side. Iron the seams open.
With right sides together, fold the long strip in half along its length matching long edges and iron and pin.
Lay the strip horizontally across a table. Mark a point about 2cm to left of the left hand seam and 2cm to the right of the right hand seam.
You are going to sew the ties together. Start at the short end of a tie at the fold and using a ½ in seam and straight stitch sew along the short end stopping ½ in from the end with the needle in the fabric. Lift the presser foot and turn the fabric ready to sew the long side. Replace the presser foot and sew up the mark. Finish off and trim the threads. Repeat this for the other tie. There will be a section of the strip in the middle that remains unstitched.
Clip the corners of the ties close to the stitching.
Turn the ties right side out and iron, folding the loose edge on both sides in towards the fold. Be sure to push out the corners at the end of the ties.
Joining the Skirt to the Waistband
The apron skirt slides into the open section of the waistband. Lay out the turned and ironed waistband and ties horizontally Lift the open section and with the apron skirt right side up push the top raw edge up into the waistband, positioning it in the centre of the opening. Make sure the top of the apron skirt goes all the way up to the fold of the waistband.
Pin the apron skirt in position.
To secure the skirt, topstitch the whole length of the ties and waistband along its bottom edge using a straight stitch. Don’t sew too close to the edge as the sewing may not catch the back of the waistband.
The main body of the apron is finished. If you are impatient to show off, it is ready to wear.
Part 3 – Pockets
Traditionally aprons are decorated with a pocket. I’ve worn many aprons and I haven’t actually found a lot of uses for a pocket but they look naked without them.
We are going to add a simple, lined patch pocket using the leftovers from the fat quarter and the contrast fabric.
From the fat quarter scrap cut a piece 15cm x 8cm. This can be cut from anywhere on the fat quarter scrap. Choose a piece that shows off the fabric design. From contrast fabric cut a piece 13cm x 15cm.
The raw edges will be enclosed by the lining so there is no need to overcast. Sew these two pieces together along the 15cm side with a ½ in seam. Iron the seam open. Cut another piece from the contrast fabric 15cm x 18cm. The fat quarter fabric will be upper most on the pocket front. Lay the two pieces right sides together matching edges.
Leaving about 4 cm open along the bottom edge of the pocket sew all the way around the pocket sides. Clip the corners as before with the ties and turn the pocket right side out. Poke out the corners. Iron the pocket with the open seam allowance folded towards the inside. Don’t sew the opening shut. Stitching the pocket to the skirt will do that for you.
Now try on your apron and decide on the best place for the pocket. This may depend on whether you are left or right handed. Pin the pocket in place. Lay the apron out and check that the pocket is pinned square to the sides of the apron. (Of course you can purposely put it off angle for a decorative effect).
Use a straight stitch and sew about 4mm from the edge of the pocket. Overlap a few starting and stopping stitches onto the apron skirt at the beginning and end to give extra security to the top of the pocket.
Trim off any loose thread. Iron the apron. Voila! Done!