A (Dish)rags to Riches Story
Well, not exactly. Actually, this is the story of how half of a dishtowel became a cute hostess apron. I saw this dishtowel in Target and fell for it. The color is great and I love how I can’t decide whether the print is more Scandinavian contemporary or mid-century modern… pretty good for a dishtowel from Target.
The tricky part about transforming this dishtowel into an apron was the size– it was 18″Wx30″L, and the print ran vertically, meaning the apron couldn’t be any wider than 18 inches unless I added some trim on the side, which I didn’t want to do. I also didn’t want the apron to be longer than it was wide, so I decided to cut the dishtowel in half, leaving me two 18″Wx15″L pieces. I figured that I would add about an inch when attaching the trim to the bottom and the band at the top, leaving me with about a 18″Wx16″L apron. Yes, that’s pretty small. Perhaps too small– but I had a small person in mind for this apron, and I couldn’t resist the idea of being able to make an apron out of half of a dishtowel (leaving me to devise plans for the other half… another apron? Cocktail napkins? Coasters?) I envisioned this apron spending its days serving hors d’oeuvres and martinis on Saturday nights and looking cute while flipping pancakes on Sunday mornings, and not doing much in the way of protecting against giant splatters of grease anyway.
I didn’t add any pockets. I don’t really see the need myself, and when in doubt I’m all for taking the path of least resistance, so I haven’t put a pocket on an apron yet. Most aprons have pockets though, so am I missing something? (Opinions, please!)
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Want to try this at home?
If you’re starting with a dishtowel or napkin, there is no need to hem anything, and the dimensions of your apron have already been decided for you by the size of the dishtowel or napkin you’re using. I think 22″Wx18″L would probably be ideal, but go with whatever you have. Maybe you have a cool dishtowel lying around the house and you can upcycle it. Or, you could buy a really cool dishtowel. I got a Crate and Barrel catalog in the mail today and these caught my eye.
You can decide, however, how long and wide you want your apron ties to be. For the length, I wanted mine to begin as a band running across the top of the apron, then criss-cross in the back, and tie in a bow in the front. I tested this on myself and came up with an approximate measurement of 130″. Sounds like a lot, right? But the ties are actually running around the waist twice, and you want to leave plenty of room to tie a nice bow in the front. So I’d say 130″ is actually the minimum, and you should estimate based on the size of the person who will be wearing the apron. It’s better to have a little extra than not enough.
Next decide how wide you want your ties to be. I wanted mine to look substantial, so I chose a 1 and 3/4 inch width. (1 and 1/2 or 2 inches would have been fine too.) The strips you cut will need to be about 4 times the width you’ve chosen. This is NOT exact, but for the sake of simplicity, it’s close enough. So, for my apron tie strips, I needed 1 and 3/4 x 4, or 7 inch-wide strips. (If you love your bias strip maker, just use that. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding how wide your strip should be. Just keep in mind that when a bias strip maker’s package says that it makes 2 inch bias strip, that means 2 inch single-fold bias strips. That will only be a 1 inch double-fold bias strip. If none of that makes any sense to you, just ignore it! You can make your apron ties by hand, and that’s what I did here.)
Now that you’ve figured out the dimensions you need for your strips (for me, it was 7″Wx130″L), you’re ready to cut. You may not have a piece of fabric that’s 130 inches long (I didn’t), but that’s okay. You’ll just cut two or three strips and then piece them together. The homespun cotton that I chose for the ties and the trim at the bottom was 45″ wide, and 44″ after I cut off the selvedge. So by using strips cut from three lengths of my trim fabric, I get ties that are 132″ long (44″ times 3 = 132″: perfect!) Here’s how to piece your strips together: lay the pieces together, right sides facing each other, and sew a line 1/4″ from the edge. Press the seams to one side. Tah-dah! Now you have one long strip. On each end of the strip, fold about 1/4″ in, press, and hem. This will hide the raw edges on each end of your apron ties.
You also need to make one small strip for the trim at the bottom of the apron. You can make this the same width as your apron ties, or make it any size you like. I made mine the same width as my apron ties. The length should be about 3/4 of an inch longer than your apron is wide (so that you can hem the ends.) So since my apron is 18″ wide, I cut a strip 7 inches wide and 18 and 3/4 inches long. To hem this piece, I recommend actually lining it up with your apron fabric and folding the ends under so that the hemmed strip will line up perfectly. Fold and press the ends under, and hem just as you did for the other strip.
The ties of your apron, as well as the trim at the bottom of the apron are basically just continuous double-fold bias strips. The easiest way I can explain the process is this (but trust me, it sounds a lot more complicated than it really is): Fold your strip in half lengthwise and press all the way down the length of the strip. Press it well because the line you create by pressing is your guide for the next step. Unfold the fabric. Now fold each raw edge toward your pressing line in the middle and press. You want the raw edge to come close to, but not quite reach the pressing line you created. Continue folding and pressing the raw edges all the way down the length of your strip. When you’re done, fold the entire strip in half again lengthwise and press again, all the way down the strip. Now you have a long strip: it’s the same length you started with, but it’s about 1/4 of the width, and the raw edges are neatly hidden inside the folds. At this point, you should pin the fabric together all the way down the length of the strip to hold it exactly in place until you sew it together. If all that makes your head explode, you could just buy bias tape, but that’s no fun! It’s worth learning to make your own because you can make exactly the width you want, and you can use any fabric you like. It also has lots of uses.
Once you’ve finished folding, pressing, and pinning your strips, you’re almost done! Slide the top of the dishtowel into the fold of the long strip, making sure to line up the center of the dishtowel with the center of the strip, and pin in place. Now sew all the way down the strip about 1/4 inch from the edge of the open side. In the process, you’ll be sewing the tie to the top of the dishtowel. Next, use the same process to sew the short strip to the bottom of the dishtowel: slide the bottom of the dishtowel into the fold of the strip, make sure the edges line up straight, and sew a line about 1/4 inch from the edge of the open side of the strip.
Now you can embellish any way you’d like. I wanted to keep it pretty simple, but I did sew ric rac along both edges where the trim fabric met the dishtowel. You could also sew on some ribbon, or even do some embroidery. Last but not least, be sure to put on your new apron and frolic around your kitchen looking cute. Yes, that’s the most important step of all.