This school year, my Drama Club sold balloon animals at a festival at our school. I had to come up with a way for my students to carry their hand pumps, balloons, and store their money. I came up with the idea of using 3-pocket, short aprons, much like what a waitress or a vendor would wear. They were very successful and the students had plenty of room to store their materials. These aprons would be useful for anyone who wants to move around a selling space freely, such as at a flea market or craft show.
Please note: I am an amateur sewer, so some of my terminology might not be correct. I hope it's easy enough for anyone to follow. This is also a pretty forgiving project if you make a few mistakes in measuring and if your lines are crooked (as several of mine are)
Step 1: Gather Your Materials
Fabric: You will need a sturdy fabric, something heavy-weight or canvas-like. Obviously, a flimsy fabric would not be a good choice. The exact size of your fabric piece does not matter, but you would want to start with a rectangle around 30” x 15”, give or take based on your own measurements. All of my fabrics were patterned because these aprons were part of my students’ clown costumes.
Apron ties: I found loops of t-shirt fabric on clearance at a local craft store and that is what I used for my aprons. However, you could use bias tape, cut your own t-shirt loops (by trimming a 1-inch section off the bottom of a t-shirt, cutting it into one strip, and tugging on it so that the ends curl in), ribbon, yarn, or any other material that would function like apron strings. A drawstring threader is also helpful if you have one. If not, you will need a safety pin.
Measuring and cutting tools: A rotary cutter and cutting mat are not necessary, but they are extremely helpful. When I originally made my aprons, I did not have a cutter and mat, so I used a good, old-fashioned yardstick and scissors. You will also need a ruler and a marking pen or chalk.
Sewing tools: I used a sewing machine, but I imagine the project could be hand-sewn as well (although it seems like it would be tedious to me). I also recommend using straight pins to pin the fabric before taking the piece to your sewing machine. I used matching thread, but if you wanted your stitches to be visible, you could use contrasting thread.
Embellishments: I did not use any embellishments on my aprons, but you could add buttons, flowers, or any other decorative elements as you see fit.
MIsc: I use an iron and ironing board to help create some of the folds when sewing my hems. If you don't feel it necessary to press your folds, then you will not need an iron or ironing board.
Step 2: Measure Your Fabric and Cut
As I said previously, the exact size of your fabric is not important. My pieces were generally 30" x 15". This is a great place to use your rotary cutter and cutting mat, if you have one. If not, a yardstick and scissors work too. If you have any kind of pattern, pay attention to it while you are cutting.
Step 3: Fold, Press, and Sew the Top and Bottom
I complete this step on my ironing board. Flip your fabric over so that the wrong side is facing up. Fold the top down 1/2". Press it flat. The fold it another 1/2" and press it. Pin it in place. Repeat with the bottom edge.
Note: for some fabrics, it might be easier to do this step in smaller sections as you go, instead of trying to fold, press and pin the entire edge. The fabric I am using has some stretch to it, so it is easier to fold, press, and pin as I go.
After you have completed this for the top and bottom edges, take your work to the sewing machine. The folds should be about the width of the presser foot, so I sew a running stitch down the center of the folds. Make sure to do this for both the top and bottom folds.
Step 4: Fold the Bottom to the Top
Your fabric should still be laying with the wrong side facing up (make sure you have removed all of the pins). Take the bottom edge and fold it towards the top, leaving about 1/2" between the top fold and (formerly) bottom. You have now created the main pocket. Pin this in place (you don't want it to shift in the next step). I place a pin about 3" from each outer edge and 1 pin the middle, just to help hold things in place.
Step 5: Fold, Press, and Sew the Sides
Maintaining the distance between the top and bottom that you just created, flip your apron over so the back of the apron is showing. Return to your ironing board and use the same, fold, press, and pin technique as you used on the top and bottom to fold, press, and pin the sides. I recommend using 1' folds this time instead of 1/2" because you are working with more layers of fabric.
Once you have folded, pressed, and pinned both sides, return to the sewing machine. This time, you are going to make two lines down each fold, creating an inner casing through which you will later thread your apron strings. Use the outer edge of the presser foot as your guide. For each side fold, sew once with the outer edge of the presser foot lined up with the outside edge of the apron, then flip it around, remove the pins, and use the outer edge of the presser foot lined up with the inner edge of the fold. Your lines should be approximately 1/2" apart (mine are father apart in the photo).
Step 6: Meaure Thirds and Create Pockets
With your apron lying face up, measure and divide it into thirds. You will be sewing two parallel lines to create three pockets. Draw chalk lines from the bottom to the top along each of your thirds (see picture). My apron was 27" across, so I drew my chalk lines at 9 and 18 on the yardstick.
Note: if you want two pockets, or more than three pockets, divide your apron accordingly.
Once you have drawn your chalk lines, take your apron to your sewing machine and sew a straight stitch up each line. This will have created the divisions for your pockets.
Step 7: Add the Apron Ties
Take the material you have chosen for your apron ties and thread one strip, approximately a yard in length (if you are using a t-shirt loop, just cut it into two pieces), through each small pocket created by sewing your side folds in step 5 (see picture). If you have a drawstring threader, this is the perfect opportunity to use it. If you do not have a threader, attach a safety pin to one end of the tie and slowly work it through the pocket. Make sure the tie runs from the bottom to the top through the small pocket so that the excess runs out through the top of the apron.
Return to your sewing machine and stitch the tie into place with a running stitch between the two parallel lines that created this pocket. Repeat for the other side.
Feel free to add any embellishments as you like.
Step 8: You're Finished!
Now you can take your vendor apron with you to a craft show, flea market, etc. and have a hands-free way to carry your change, profits, and other materials with you, keeping you mobile about your space. Enjoy.
Note: if your ties are on the shorter side, tie your apron only in the back. My ties are on the longer side, so I loop them around the back and then back to the front and tie in the front.
Also, don't worry if any of your folds or edges aren't perfect, no one will notice once you are wearing the apron.