How to Make Simple Handmade Aprons for the Ceramics Studio

Jazz up your studio with fun, handmade aprons

handmade aprons

We don’t really have a “pottery fashion” section on CAN, but perhaps we should considering all of the great handmade aprons I have seen potters wearing over the years. I have been wanting to make one of my own for a while (especially since there is a fabulous fabric store near my house), but I am not the most experienced seamstress, so I haven’t made it happen.

But in the Ceramics Monthly archive, Lindsay Scypta and Jeni Hansen Gard give a little apron making tutorial that has made me realize that even I have the skills to make myself a custom apron. In today’s post, Lindsay and Jeni share their approach to simple studio apron making. –Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.

PS. For some great tips on how to further accessorize your apron to make it even more useful in the studio, see the November 2014 issue of Ceramics Monthly!


We both love color and pattern and we have found every way imaginable to infuse our day with it, from our art to our wardrobes. One thing that was missing from both of our studios was the perfect apron to keep us clean. Lindsay has always preferred to protect her clothes from the clay and Jeni has ruined far too many washing machines with clay-laden cloths. So we set out to make handmade aprons for ourselves for cleanliness, practicality, and for a pleasurable studio accessory. Those first handmade aprons we made have long since been pushed to the back of the rack and each new season and discovery of new patterns and endeavors seems to warrant a new apron. This is a short guide to making a very simple apron using one you already have as a template. We hope you, too, will take to the adventure of apron making!

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Template

handmade apronsDo some investigation, decide what you like in an apron (longer or shorter, split leg, half or full, etc). For simple apron making, lay down your fabric on a flat surface, place the pre-existing apron on top, and trace the desired shape with a light mark using a fabric pencil (1). Cut around the edge, leaving an extra ½–1 inch of fabric around the outline to account for the seam line. Repeat the process for the inside or liner fabric (2–3). This adds thickness and durability and helps keep you dry.

handmade aprons

Making Pockets

Decide what kind of pocket you want and where you want it to be placed. Think about what tools you want to put in the pocket; this can help you in determining what size and where you chose to place it. Cut out two layers of fabric for each pocket. Pin the fabrics together (using the quilting pins) with the print side (right side in sewing terms) facing inward and sew along the edges leaving the top of the pocket open (like a pillow case). Flip the pocket inside-out, revealing the print. Fold under the raw edges of the fabric and iron to flatten. Pin along the edge and sew, containing the pocket in itself. Set aside the liner fabric and pin the pocket onto the top layer (4). Sew the pocket onto the handmade apron, making sure to leave the top of the pocket open (5–6).

handmade aprons

 

Waist and Neck Tie

For a simple waist and neck tie, you can use ribbon. For a more complex tie, you can use fabric. For the waist tie, cut two strips of the same fabric to approximately 3 inches wide and 20 inches in length. For a belt-style waist tie, use one strip of fabric that is 3 inches wide and 60 inches in length. This should be adjusted depending on your size and preference. For the neck tie, cut two strips of the same fabric to approximately 3 inches wide and 45 inches in length. Fold the strips in half lengthwise with the pattern on the inside. Iron flat and sew along the edge, closing off one end of the strip. This end will be used to tie the apron together. The open end will be used to flip the strips inside out using whatever means necessary. A wooden dowel can help do the trick.

Finishing

Lay both fabrics of the apron together with the print inside (right side). Place your waist tie appropriately and secure it with pins. Pin both the front and inside layers of the apron together, leaving the top of the apron open (7). Using your sewing machine, sew the apron together starting at a top corner and working your way down and around to the opposite top side corner. Make sure you leave the top completely open (like a pillowcase). Flip the apron right-side out. At the top of the apron, fold under the raw edges of the fabric and iron them to flatten. Place the neck tie and pin to hold it in place. Sew across the top, enclosing the handmade apron and securing the neck tie at the same time (8).

handmade aprons

**First published in 2014
Comments
  • Barbara P.

    As a beginner one did not realize the dangers of dust.
    Thank you, Geoff.

  • Geoff K.

    The last thing I wish to do is to be critical of others keen interest in our craft and in anyone who says I can do that! As a practising ceramist and teacher of well over 40 years I think I ought to make a comment on what you are doing.

    When I began I wore an artists smock, like everyone else but soon I began to learn of the dangers inherent in ceramic materials and changed my working methodology. Aprons are great but they MUST be wipeable. That is be waterproof or made of a mono-filament fibre like Nylon or Terylene. This is because natural fibres gather dust and release it into the air as you work.

    I now throw using a terylene lab coat and PVC apron, I also use terylene trousers. Sad? No! I stay clean and so do my lungs.

    I have seen too many clay workers suffering from the effects of dust to fail to comment here on this issue. School age kids don’t understand and don’t want to know. Older students are too busy to care. So it is our duty to ensure their safety and a clean apron is of top priority.

    So what to do? Use PVC coated or impregnated fabric, coat your fabric in liquid PVA. Use monofilament fabric; okay, I know it gets hot but you only have one set of lungs. Throw the cotton aprons away. Yes I mean don’t even allow them in the studio!!

    Think of this:- you work in your own studio and fail to wash your apron every day. Okay it’s your own health – up to you. As you move about dry clay particles are liberated into the air, you cannot see them (less than 5 angstroms) they accumulate in the lungs. Do you cough, do you have a dry throat? I wonder why? BUT you have students; the dust levels will rise considerably. You are there a lot, maybe years, and are breathing it in, the students are there for two hours or so and thus are not so affected. There are two problems here, one you have allowed a situation to exist where the learners are exposed to levels of dust which are illegal (MEL’s = maximum exposure limits – exceeded) and secondly you are shortening your own ability to work.

    So I am a fuddy duddy but I am a retired educationalist and I am still potting unlike others I know. Please, please, take what I am saying very seriously, it is your health and you have a duty of care to your students. Cotton fabric aprons, nice to look at, BUT – throw them away and never allow them in the studio. A few years ago I cleared out the studio of a founder member of the British professional ceramist society, she could no longer even clear out her own studio she was so short of breath. Don’t do it!

  • naomi p.

    I made 6 for my studio from Marshall’s colorful bags that they hang by the cash registers. I used a similar template and used the ribbon bag handles for the waist ties. I added matching ribbon from the fabric store for the neck ties. I discarded the sides of the bags that said Marshall’s on them.
    The bags were already waterproof and it was a $1.00 investment plus the neck tie ribbons.
    My students love them and match their outfits to them.
    Wish I could upload a picture of them for you.

  • Kathleen G.

    To make it more waterproof, you can take a thin shower curtain and sew it between the layers.

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