By DIY Contributor Kristina Strain
Everyone has ill-fitting, unworn clothes languishing in their closets. With a few snips and clips, a turn with the seam ripper and a few stitches, you can turn that misbegotten frumpy button-down into something fresh and useful. Beyond creating a great gift for mom (or with mom), here are a few advantages of refashioning:
- Ecologically speaking, it’s much better for the planet to make your own rather than buying new. Even making an apron from scratch, out of brand-new fabric and thread isn’t as green as re-purposing an old item.
- Refashioning is a lot faster and easier than sewing from scratch, too. Details like hems, collars, and buttonholes can often be left intact, which means less fuss and effort for you.
- The price is appealing, too. For this project, I picked up a few thrift store items for $4, and finished out the projects with maybe another two dollars’ worth of thread and notions. Four dollars would barely buy a single yard of new fabric.
- Lastly, there’s the knowledge and satisfaction that comes along with doing things yourself. It’s creative and empowering, and the only real way to make something just the way you like it.
Easily transform a large men’s button-down shirt into an apron using these instructions.
Materials: 1 large button-down shirt, preferably with a straight bottom hem. Also scissors, pins, a fabric marking pen or pencil (a colored pencil works in a pinch), and coordinating thread. You also need a sewing machine, and an iron. A seam ripper might also come in handy.
First, lay your shirt out flat, and draw a line from just under the armpit to up under the collar. Try to make the lines even and smooth, but it doesn’t matter too much if they wobble a little. As you can see, my shirt had a pocket in the way of one of my lines. To get around this, I simply removed the pocket (using a seam ripper), pinned it down where I wanted it (away from the cut lines) and sewed it down. Of course, if you wanted to do away with the pocket altogether, you could—but personally, I think aprons are best when they have a pocket for a recipe card or wooden spoon.
Once the lines are to your liking, cut about a half inch away from them up towards the collar.
Note that I didn’t cut directly on the lines, but left a half-inch border along them. This is called seam allowance, and it will come in handy later.
The next step is to cut straight down the side seams of the shirt, separating the front from the back.
Open the shirt out.
Using your fabric-marking implement, draw a line about a half-inch from the back of the collar, and cut along it.
Set aside what used to be the back of the shirt—you’ll use part of it later.
The next step is to finish the collar by tucking the raw edge (where you just cut) up so it’s sandwiched between the folded-down part of the collar and the bottom part.
Pin it in place if you want, and sew it together. I did this part by hand, but a machine would work, too.
Now you should have this:
(Note the relocated pocket!)
The next step is to finish the raw edges where we cut away the sleeves in step one. Take your shirt over to your iron. Flip it over so you’re working with the back of the shirt. Using your fingers, gently turn about a ¼” to the back of the shirt, and press with the iron.
Repeat this once more, so the raw edge of the fabric is no longer visible.
Thread your machine with coordinating thread, and sew along the rolled hem you just created, keeping as close to the inside edge as possible.
Repeat these steps with the other side of the shirt, so that both sides are tidy and finished.
Now you have this, and it’s time to make your apron ties.
Set your apron-in-progress aside, and pick up the back of the shirt that you cut away in step four. Cut two long strips that are four inches wide. Make them as long as you can—they are going to be your ties, and it’s good for them to be long.
Trim the ends to make them even. Fold each strip in half, so the wrong side of the material is on the outside, and press. Sew along the edges where you just folded, making sure to leave one short end open.
Make yourself a cup of tea, settle down, and gently turn each piece right-side-out again. You can use a ruler, or some other long skinny object, to help you pop the corners out again. Press both pieces.
Sew along the three finished edges of your ties, about ¼” from the edges. This will make the finished apron look nicer and more polished.
Bring your finished ties back to your apron piece.
Position one like this, on the back of the apron at the top of the unfinished side edge. We’re going to turn these edges over and press, just like we did for the curved edges in step seven.
Turn over, making sure to catch the unfinished edge of one tie in the fold.
You can add a few pins to help it stay in place. It should be as perpendicular as possible. Press and sew this edge closed.
Repeat for the other side, attaching the other tie.
Last step: fold the tie out from the side and press. Sew a short seam right along the edge. This will keep it in place, and strengthen the seam.
Repeat for the other side, and you are done.
Now, get thee to the kitchen!