I originally designed this simple tea towel apron as part of a kit I created for my little sister to help her practice basic sewing skills. It's easy enough for the most beginner sewer to do, and can be stitched by hand or with a machine in under an hour.
Step 1: Materials Needed
To create your apron, you'll need the following items:
- Tea or dish towel (for best results, don't use terry cloth; look for a lighter weight fabric, such as this waffle knit I used, linen, or a cotton flat weave. If it has a pattern, check to be sure the pattern works sideways, as it will be hanging from your waist from the long end.). The towel should measure roughly 26"x16". You can usually find some cute ones at Home Goods or TJ Maxx!
- 2 yards of 1 1/2" wide grosgrain ribbon (I found mine at Hobby Lobby)
- All purpose thread
- Sewing needle if you're hand sewing, or a basic sewing machine if you aren't
- Tape measure
- Multicolored pins
- Iron and Ironing board (not pictured)
Step 2: Measuring and Marking Pleats
Your apron will have 3 mini knife pleats on either side of center. To measure and mark these out, begin by laying the tea towel out, right side of the fabric facing up (you may need to iron it beforehand to get any major wrinkles out). Choose a long side of the tea towel as the top of your apron, and measure the center of that edge using the measuring tape. Mark the center point with a pin (in the photo, I used a red pin to do this).
Next, you'll need to measure out the pleats. With your measuring tape starting at your red pin and running to the right, mark 3" from the right of center with a yellow pin. This will indicate the location of your first knife pleat. Then mark out the 4" point with a blue pin (still keeping the end of your measuring tape aligned at your red pin/center point). This blue pin marks the amount of fabric that will be folded up in the first knife pleat. Repeat the pattern of yellow/blue/yellow/blue every inch at the 5, 6, 7 and 8" points on your measuring tape.
Flip your measuring tape over so it now runs from the red pin out to the left. Repeat the same 3 pairs of yellow and blue pins, beginning at 3 inches left of center out to the 8" mark.
Use your pencil to make a light mark over each yellow and blue pin, being careful to stay within the hem of the towel. You have now prepared the pleat locations. Now to assemble them!
Step 3: Creating the Pleats
From the center point, grasp the first yellow pin to the left. Place it on top of the blue pin immediately next to it, and pinch the fabric, creating the first pleat. Ensure that the pencil markings are aligned, yellow on top of blue. While pinching the fabric with one hand, remove the blue pin with the other. Pin the pleat together using the yellow pin, making sure that you have stuck the pin through all fabric layers in the pleat.
Proceeding to the next yellow pin to the left of center, repeat the above steps. Repeat for all remaining pleats, ensuring that yellow is always on top of blue and the pencil marks are aligned.
Step 4: Pressing and Basting the Pleats
The next steps ensure that the pleats stay in place so you can attach the waistband with ease.
First, press the pleats with an iron on the highest setting your towel's fabric content will allow.
Once pressed, thread your needle and knot both ends together. Sew over the pleats with large stitches (about 1/2" - 3/4" long), staying within the hem. These are called basting stitches, and they will hold the pleats together once the pins are removed, and can easily be removed later if they show in the final product.
If you're using a sewing machine, set your stitch length to the longest setting and sew over the pleats, being careful to avoid hitting the pins. Making sure the pins are inserted into the fabric nice and straight and perpendicular to the direction you're sewing in will help you avoid hitting the pins head on damaging the sewing needle.
Check out this link if you need help learning how to sew!
Do not knot or back-stitch at the end of your basting; instead, leave 1-2 inches of thread dangling loose at the end and snip the rest off with scissors. This will make it easier to remove the basting stitches later.
Remove all yellow and blue pins (keep the red one in place!). You now have 6 nice, neat pleats for your apron!
Step 5: Prepping the Waistband
Taking the ribbon and folding it in half, align the edges and snip them off at an approximately 45 degree angle. This will prevent the grosgrain from unraveling.
Measure and mark the center of the ribbon length with another red pin (on the right side of the ribbon).
Align the red pin on the ribbon with the red pin on the towel, so that length of the ribbon covers the top of the towel to just below the hem stitches. Pin the ribbon to the towel as shown (pin colors no longer matter, just keep the center points aligned!).
Step 6: Sewing on the Waistband
Thread the needle and knot the ends again.
Begin stitching the ribbon waistband to the tea towel, staying approximately 1/8" from the edge of the ribbon and using smaller stitches this time (no more than 1/4" long if you're hand sewing, smaller if you're machine stitching). When finished, knot or backstitch the thread before cutting it. Remove the basting stitches by grasping the thread ends and pulling them out (or snipping the stitches first with scissors).
Give the apron a good press with the iron one more time. If your ribbon is printed like mine is, be sure to press on the wrong side of the apron so you don't melt the puff ink design.
Voila, you're done! Enjoy your new tea towel apron!