If you saw my recent YouTube video about some of my unfinished projects, you’ll know that I have a few shirts lying around, waiting to be refashioned into something new. And then this week, while cooking a sunday roast, I realised that a simple project would be to make an apron from a man shirt, and in the process stop my clothes from being ruined with cooking stains.
When I was a very young girl, my gran and I made an apron together. It was cute. I still have it in fact, tucked away in a drawer at my parent’s house in the UK as a memory now that my gran is no longer here – she’d have been 100 in April this year!
In fact, my whole childhood was filled with either my gran or my mum making aprons. If me or my brothers were ever helping with the cake making, out would come an apron – usually the half ‘pinny’ version with a bit of lace trim on the hem – to protect our clothes while we mixed up the cake batter. And yet it has taken me until the ripe old age of 41 to make one for myself!
Anyhow, for this recycled men’s shirt apron, you could of course use an apron sewing pattern and piece together an apron from the different parts of a shirt, but I’m going the DIY apron route and making it up as I go along – because it’s way more fun that way!
What You’ll Need To Make An Apron From A Man Shirt
To complete this chef’s apron refashion project you’ll need:
- A men’s dress shirt (though any old shirt with buttons will do)
- Sewing machine
- Fabric scissors
- Tape measure or ruler (if you don’t want to wing it as much as I did!)
Once you’ve gathered your supplies, we’re ready to crack on!
Step 1: Cut Up The Side Seams And Underarms
Make sure that the front of the shirt is buttoned to begin with. It makes it easier for step 3!
Then, start by cutting up the side seams of your men’s shirt and continue past the underarm and to the hem of the sleeves.
The plan is to use the hem of both the front and back as finished edges which will limit the amount of sewing needed to finish the raw edge.
Step 2: Cut Across The Back Yoke
The back section will be the lower part of the apron, so we need to cut this length to cover you from about the waist down.
I eyeballed it, but you can use your tape measure to measure from the hem up towards the back yoke, and add on a little for seam allowance too.
Cut across and put this fabric piece to one side.
Step 3: Cut Across The Front
We now want to create the upper section of your upcycled apron. To do this, I used the front of the shirt, keeping the button opening as part of the apron design.
Again, I eyeballed this length but you can again measure – place you tape measure at the hem and measure up towards the shoulder seam making sure to allow extra as seam allowance!
Cut across from one front armhole to the other and then pop this piece of fabric with the first.
Set aside the remainder of your man’s shirt for now.
Step 4: Creating The Apron Length
You now have two fabric pieces and they both have a finished hem. Lay what was the back of the shirt on the worktable, and then overlap the buttoned section. I placed the hem of the buttoned section on top of the raw edge of the lower section so that I would be able to sew a lapped seam.
Pin to secure in place, and sew along the existing stitched line of the hem to connect the two pieces.
I used an orange contrasting thread to add a little pizzazz to my apron.
Step 5: Creating Some Shape To Your Cute Apron!
You’re apron is starting to look cute right? But you may feel that you need to add a little shaping.
I left the lower section as is, as I wanted the width of the fabric to protect the hips / thigh area. I have a habit of dusting off my hands on my thighs when baking – not great for any clothing I’m wearing – and my hope is that the width on the lower section will lessen that.
For the upper section though, I cut away about two inches either side (again, I eyeballed it) to bring it inwards and shortened the length to remove the front pocket. Even though it is just an apron I wanted it to fit somewhat OK, and by bringing in the width of the upper section, it lessened the amount of gape around the boob area.
I also undid the top button, and overlapped them to created what amounts to a centre front dart.
Step 6: Cleaning Up The Raw Edges
Next up I cleaned the raw edges of the fabric by hemming with quite a narrow double fold hem on the sides of the lower piece.
I then sewed a slightly wider double fold hem on the top of the apron; up the left side, along the top and back down to the bottom of the right hand side.
I have this sewing tutorial on how to sew a double fold hem if you need help with this!
Step 7: Adding The Straps
Now that the main section of the apron is complete, it’s time to add some straps!
We need a strap to go around the neck and then straps for the lower section too so that we can tie it up behind the back.
As my original man’s shirt was not a long sleeve version, I couldn’t use the length of the sleeves for this. Instead, I cut three 2.5cm / 1″ wide strips from what was left of the shirt back.
The Neck Strap
For the neck strap, I folded two separate lengths into three, and zig zag stitched down the length of them both. I didn’t worry about finishing the ends.
I then placed one end on the left hand upper corner and the second end on the right hand upper corner. Don’t forget to test that the strap length is long enough before tying in a knot!
Pin in place with pins and then use a bar tack width zigzag stitch to secure in place.
The Waist Strap
I ended up sewing just one longer length and attaching it to both sides of the apron rather than having each strap loose to tie up at the back.
The reason is that the apron is easy to pop on over my head and I don’t run the risk of the back tie coming undone and the apron flapping about.
To do this, I took the remaining two strips and connected them on the shorter edge. I then folded this in three lengthways and zig zag stitched down the centre.
I then stitched one end to the left hand waist and the other to the right hand waist, creating a fixed waist strap.
Final Step – Small Pleats!
My final step was to add two small pleats at the top of the apron. This is because it still gaped aobve my bust area, and I wanted it to fit better.
To create the pleats, I took in about 4cm / 1.5″ of fabric on both corners, and stitched in place to secure. And voile, the fit was immediately much better!
Now that the main apron is complete, I stitched through two of the empty button holes to prevent the fabric gaping open.
And I have enough of the original mans shirt remaining that I could had pockets and frills if inclined. Which I might still do.
Or perhaps a baker boy cap from the remnants? For the giggles?
So what do you think of my ‘men’s shirt apron’? Will you be having a go yourself? I think it’s one of the cutest upcycles that I’ve made yet, though you may disagree!
I have a page full of projects on refashioning clothes into something new if you need some inspiration!
Eve Tokens (aka The Creative Curator) is a fashion designer, creative pattern cutter and sewing pattern designer.
Eve graduated with a 2:1 in Fashion Design from the University of The Creative Arts in the UK, has a BTEC diploma in Creative Pattern Cutting, a Foundation Degree in Art & Design from Wimbledon College of Art and gained extensive experience in the fashion industry by interning and freelancing for London based fashion brands – Hardy Amies, Roland Mouret, Peter Pilotto and others.
As well as running her own small sustainable fashion brand, Eve has more than 25 years experience sewing and making clothes for herself and family members.