A Vintage Apron Inspiration




About: I'm an artist, environmentalist, animal lover, gardener, recycling nut, a high school teacher, crafter, Mom, Christian and widow who reads a lot in between figuring out how to do things.

I'm an art teacher and I wear an apron at school almost every day. I have several. But I've always secretly loved the frilly retro aprons from the 20's to the 40's. And, I also love little girl crossover pinafores/swing tops. Now anyone who knows me would be puzzled by the frilly ruffles as I'm not that type-- I like to get messy and build things, but I do have this other side that loves this kind of apron.   Yet I'm not willing to shell out $35 for an apron because as anyone who knows me, I'm cheap. So I decided to make my own apron and use vintage fabric that I have from my mother/grandmother's fabric stash. And I'd use the "best" (in my opinion) designs.

Step 1: Retro-vintage Apron Copycat

First I searched through my "vintage" patterns and found a couple of patterns I could use. And I will use them too, but not what I really wanted. I have a vintage apron I bought and a couple from my mother/grandmother. But again, they mostly are half aprons, and I really prefer the full apron.

I searched on the internet and pinterest to find these inspiration pieces.

Step 2: Making the Pattern

To make my pattern, I found some free patterns on the internet (or actually patterns to make your pattern). I used this to help me and also my aprons that I wear daily at school. I measured each one as to how they fit (they are mostly free ones I got at conventions) and chose the best measurements for me as I'm not terribly tall and not terribly big around so most of the free ones are too big for me.

I guess now I'll have to modify those to fit me!
Steps to making a pattern:

1. Trace things that fit you and you like the fit. I traced the shirt that I liked the fit and had the neckline I thought was closest to my ideal.

2. Then add at least a 5/8 seam allowance. ALL THE WAY AROUND!!

3. As you cut out your pattern, add extra fabric as...you can always take away, but you can't add. What this means is that you can always cut smaller. But you can't make it bigger than what you have. I didn't remember this on the neck and I had to add some from a different fabric as I didn't have any left.

4. Test your pattern with fabric. Now some people do a test pattern with muslin. I thought about this and decided if I was going to spend the time doing a test pattern, I wanted to also do something that could be used. And I didn't want to use up my vintage fabric on the test model (I'm not that good of a seamstress), so I went to my fabric stash and found enough scraps to use for a test.

So I made my pattern and tried it on. This was my test apron and I can make modifications from here. I immediately found out the neck/yoke was too small.

I also didn't remember my picture well enough and did a round yoke, which was much harder than what I needed.  But if you want help on making a round yoke, this website is the one that helped me. I've asked for permission to post, but haven't heard back but I think it is ok as the author pretty much gives carte blanc: http://indietutes.blogspot.com/2010/02/yoke-assembly-la-revolutions-frock.html

And that overall my apron was too big-- but it is easier to make smaller. I also made the pockets bigger (because I'm an art teacher and need to put a lot in my pockets!) 

So off to using the vintage fabric and making the "real" copy.

Step 3: Vintage Fabric Version

I began making my vintage copy. Since I had already done this once and even though I will still further modify, I felt more comfortable cutting into my mother's/grandmother's fabric stash.

I chose 3 brown prints that are from my grandmother or mother and at least 50 years old? with a ruffle print that is a more modern fabric, but it went well with the main fabrics. True to my grandmother's habit, what I did was used some fabric that was "bought" and some fabric from a leftover-- a cushion cover that Grandmother had made. The main part of the apron is a brown seersucker like  striped print that was bought but not used- just folded and put away. The pockets and yoke were from a sofa cushion cover that my grandmother had made and the ruffle  a more modern print that coordinated.I lined it with another coordinating vintage fabric that was probably from my mother's stash.

The back of the apron ties and the neck buttons with a vintage button from my mother's "button" box.

Some may ask- why use this vintage fabric for something that will get messed up? (I'm an art teacher so often my aprons get smeared with paint and other messy things)

My answer: the fabric isn't doing any good in storage. By making something and wearing it I am being more respectful to my grandmother than if I were to leave it in storage. And making an apron with the fabric is something I think she would like. I also had some nice conversations (in my head) with both of them as I was making the aprons. They approved.

My finished version is smaller than the first one I made (so it fits my small frame better) and the pockets and yoke are more like my favorite version. I did add a ruffle, because because...I felt like it needed it to balance the project.

I will post soon the pdf of my "pattern". But I am happy with my vintage styled apron!

Step 4: Homage to My Mother and Grandmother

I was inspired to do this apron in part because of my mother and grandmother. Some of my fondest memories are learning from them or helping them sew. My grandmother made virtually everything: clothes for her family of 8, curtains, quilts, tablecloths, everything except the dungarees (jeans) or work clothes for the farm. As far as I know she had no formal training in sewing, but was very accomplished at what she did. She also was gifted in needlecrafts: embroidery, tatting and making lace.

My mother sewed our clothing too when we were little and while she was married, but after the divorce she didn't have as much time as she was raising her 4 children on a teacher's salary. She taught us how to sew, garden, fix things around the house and be self reliant and creative. My mother's legacy to her kids is that we are creative problem solvers.

When my mother died, I wanted her fabrics and sewing things. Her sewing machine she had sent to be cleaned and no one knew where it was, but I received boxes of cloth she had stored away. My mom was a "storer", I'm a "user", but I can use because she stored away. 

As a teacher myself,  I teach my students how to sew (boys and girls), as I believe everyone should know at least the basics. I am always surprised all over again at how much even technology raised kids enjoy sewing and making things "by hand".

Using instructables, it is fun to share my creative pursuits. I truly feel inspired by the creativity and the knowledge that is shared among this community. If my mother were still alive, I can imagine she would spend her days reading and writing instructables! So this instructable is dedicated to her and to my grandmother.



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    11 Discussions

    Dee Hovanski

    2 years ago

    I understood this was a free pattern, but when I try to download the PDFs, it tries to make me upgrade to premium. Is there a charge to upgrade to premium?


    3 years ago on Introduction

    Hi, you mentioned that you would post a pdf of the apron pattern, but I don't seem to see it.



    6 years ago on Introduction

    Our local general store has lots of these in the windows lately, and they cost $35-45 each!!! And they're not as nice as yours.

    I'm a saver who's trying to change.......
    I'll be making some of these for Christmas for my daughter and mother. Maybe one for me, too!

    Thanks for the inspiration.

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Please let me know how yours works out. They are a labor of love. I'm glad you're making for family.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    So pretty!

    I'm not a girly-girl either. but there's something really appealing about the retro styles you've showcased here.

    Very nice work Ann!!!!

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I added a few more picture my beam of sunshine. Hope you like it even better? Thanks for looking at my stuff!


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks so much for sharing! It would be fun to see your stash! Old fabrics have a great charm! I enjoyed the write up as well! Thanks