Introduction: Repairing a Workshop Apron
I needed to make some workshop apron repairs when its straps broke recently. The apron has immense sentimental value so there was no way I was just going to get rid of it. The only problem was... I don't know much about sewing or leatherwork. Oh well, no time like the present to learn!
- Utility knife (I like this incredibly sharp and well-built one from Olfa)
- Leather punch
- Sewing machine or a leather stitching punch for hand-stitching
- Seam ripper
- Scissors/knife for cutting thread
- Denim/Leather needles
- Cotton Webbing: 3 yards (I got this at my local fabric store)
- Scrap leather: 16" x 8" (4oz. or thicker)
Step 1: Removing the Broken Straps
I used a sewing tool called a seam ripper to remove the old straps. I am no pro with this tool, but I found that if you get under the broken material and place the seam ripper up against a stitch and pointing toward the line of stitches behind it, you can simply push it to efficiently rip the seams.
All of the strapping material on this apron was brittle and fraying, so I decided to replace it all. This meant I had to remove seams from all four mounting points of the straps.
You may be left with extra thread still in the material. This should be easily removable — if you can't get it with your fingers, you can use some needle-nose pliers or tweezers pretty effectively.
Step 2: Adding Hip Grommets
Originally, the apron had a neck strap and separate waist strap. However, the neck strap made the apron uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time, especially when it was loaded with tools. So I decided to make a change and route a single strap over the shoulders and around the hips. Adam Savage recently made a shop apron with this pattern and attested to its comfort.
This change meant I needed to add some grommets to the hip areas to protect the apron from the straps. For the grommets, I simply cut out a couple kidney shapes from the leather I had on hand: a scrap of buffalo hide. I used scissors because that's the tool I had on hand, but you could use leather corner punches, a knife, or whatever else works.
The shapes can be anything you want, but what's important is that you have enough space for the straps to go through them, then also to have stitching around it. My strap was about 1" wide, so I made my grommets around 2" long.
I placed the grommets on the apron by eye, then sewed them on using normal(ish) thread and a denim needle for my sewing machine.
Step 3: Dividing the Upper Pockets
Some of the upper pockets on my apron were a bit large and allowed my tools to fall out when I bent down to pick something up. I marked the new seams with a ruler and pencil, and simply stitched up the pocket from the closed bottom to the open top. I didn't need to worry about sewing all the way through the apron this time since there were no pockets layered behind. This created a few perfectly sized pockets for my small ruler, a carpenter's pencil, and a square.
I decided not to make any changes to the bottom pockets at this time — that might change later though.
Step 4: Attaching the New Straps
I bought this replacement nylon webbing at the fabric store, but it hadn’t been sealed to prevent it from fraying. First, I cut the webbing into two equal lengths, one for each shoulder.
Not having a lighter on hand, I used a match to seal both ends of each strap. Be sure though that your strapping is nylon though — cotton webbing will burn, not melt!
Once that was done, I sewed one strap to each shoulder point of the apron, leaving the other end free. I went around the perimeter of the strap end, leaving 1/8" around the edge, then sewed an X across the rectangle I'd just made. This will add much-needed strength to the straps.
Step 5: Adding a Decorative Leather Patch to the Shoulder Straps
In order to match the look of the grommets, I wanted to add decorative leather patch over the straps at the shoulder. I actually had thought about folding over a piece of leather before sewing the straps on, but ultimately decided that was way too much for my sewing needle to go through. So I finally decided a single square over the top for now would do.
I cut some small rectangles from the leather scrap, then carefully sewed the seams in the same manner as the straps. I think it looks really nice!
Step 6: Making a Strap Keeper
The final step is to create a keeper that will hold the straps in place in the center of my back.
I put on the apron and held the waist straps together with a clamp while someone slid a sheet of paper behind the intersection of the straps and traced it for me. I marked where the strap slots should go on the paper template, then sliced along those lines so I could place the template over the leather and mark it inside those slits with a sharpie. I like this tip because it allows you to get a perfect transfer to the leather.
I punched the end of each slit with a leather punch to protect the seams from opening up further, then cut the slit with my utility knife. Once I confirmed the straps would fit through, I drew a pleasing shape and cut it out with my scissors.
The last last step was to thread the straps through the keeper, then through the grommets. I sewed one side of the buckle in place, and left the other side adjustable, and with that the apron is done.