Friday, August 26, 2011

dress to apron, part 1

Although it had been nearly 9 years since I nursed a child, I'd held onto this linen dress because it was soft and comfortable. Over the years, it also became shredded and stained and no longer useful as a garment. I thought I might dye it to cover the stains, and then I thought I could at least rip it apart and make napkins...and then the idea of a linen apron hit me. I have had the same apron for over 25 years. A change might be good.

The first step was to dissect the dress into panels. I'll apologize in advance for the terrible photos in this post. They're just awful, I know.
Because this was a nursing dress, there was a nursing bodice under the front flap. I'd thought I could simply separate the two pieces until I realized that the binding around the neckline held both layers together. So instead I stitched up the nursing slits and made it double thickness on top.
At this point, I had to stop sewing for a bit.
When Miss Lava woke up, I impulsively decided to use the ruffler attachment* that had come with my old Singer 201. I've never had reason to try it out, and the idea of doing something completely new is always appealing. Plus, a completely flat apron felt kind of severe. I thought a little bit of gathering in the skirt might lighten it up a bit. Here's the ruffler:
And here's the skirt panel with the gathers on it. This was attached to the aforementioned double-layered bib.
With all the fabric from the back half of the dress still left, I was free to cut straps on the wide side: 4-3/4" before they were folded in half and sewn with a 3/8" seam. When turned inside out and ironed and topstitched, they became 2" wide lengths. A shorter length became the neck, attached to the ends of the bib neckline. Two longer pieces became the apron strings. These were attached as shown below, leaving enough width to turn the entire piece under and topstitch for strength.
To be sure the curve was consistent on both sides of the bib, I cut a simple pattern from cardboard—
—then marked the width of the seam allowance I wanted (1") and moved it over before trimming with a rotary cutter. When this side was done, the pattern was simply flipped and moved to the other side.
Then these last edges were turned under and sewn down—and topstitched again. I also shortened the hem a little. Before & after:
This is not a full tutorial, because it is unlikely that you'll have this same dress or want this same apron. It's simply about process, a process which is often the same from project to project: you start with an idea, dive in, realize you have to alter it a bit, take a break, try something new, improvise, and then finish it up before you get sick of the whole thing.

I'm still thinking of coloring it, since a pale apron is ridiculously impractical. That will be part 2.

*Pdf instructions for all the old Singer attachments, along with video clips can be found here. How I wish I'd found this page before I did this project!


  1. Oh but I do! I do want the same apron!
    It looks cozy and practical.
    Well done!

  2. Thank you, Natalie! And may I say, you are the fastest reader ever--I just barely posted that. :)

  3. I remember that dress! Great idea!

    And I know that apron will look wonderful when modeled. ;)

  4. I love your 'new' apron! What a great idea to turn a beloved old dress into a new piece of clothing. You're so smart!


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