Try This: Button-Down Apron Made from Recycled Shirts

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Photo Courtesy Lark Crafts

The following is an excerpt from Sewn By Hand by Susan Wasinger (Lark Crafts, 2011). 

A little creative cutting and stitching allows you to “borrow” seams and buttonholes from a pair of recycled men’s shirts to make a fetching and functional apron that gets down to business in the kitchen.


2 large or extra-large men’s long-sleeved, button-down shirts
heavy-duty white thread


For the apron: light- to medium-weight cotton or linen button-down shirts, preferably with pockets and sewn plackets. Oxford stripes, small plaids, or chambray solids. Flannel shirts in stripes and plaids could make a handsome–and cozy–apron too.


Nice quality men’s button-down shirts are a-dime-a-dozen at thrift stores and yard sales. Due to the relatively conservative color palette that is in favor, it’s pretty easy to find two shirts that look natty together. To make an apron as nice and functional as this one, both shirts should have sewn-down front plackets. The shirt for the top bib of the apron should have a generous breast pocket–preferably with a button.

1. For the apron bib: Cut out the entire front panel of the buttonhole side of the shirt (including the buttonhole placket). This side should have a pocket. Look for a buttonhole on the placket that is an inch or two above the top edge of the pocket. Measure about 1½ inches up from a buttonhole (this should be about 2 or 3 inches above the top edge of the pocket). Cut straight across to make the top edge of the bib. Then measure down about 12 to 13 inches and cut straight across to define the bottom of the bib. Now measure across from the edge of the placket 10 to 11 inches for the width of the bib. (You can fudge these measurements depending on the size of your shirt’s pocket.) On the top and the right-hand side edge, fold the raw edge in ¼ inch, then over ¼ inch more. Pin and sew with a running stitch to finish the edge.

2. To make the neck strap: Cut the button side placket from one shirt, cutting it close to the stitching on the finished edge. If you are using a loose weave fabric that threatens to fray a lot, cut the shirt front side of the placket with an extra ½ inch of fabric that can be folded over twice and sewn to finish the edge. (On a tighter weave, this will be unnecessary.) The bottom edge of the neck strap/button placket will already be hemmed. Attach the hemmed end to the top right corner of the apron bib (about an inch down from the top) with a double row of stitching across the top edge of the bib, catching the strap. { photo 1 } I added a little cross of stitching just to make it doubly secure. The actual neck strap is formed when you button the other end to the buttonholes on the left-hand side of the apron bib. The many buttons available on the placket make the neck strap length fully adjustable.

3. For the apron skirt: The apron skirt is made from the entire front of the second shirt turned on its side, so the button front creates a large pocket that runs along the bottom edge of the apron. Cut out the front of the shirt, removing the collar and sleeves, and square off each side and the top of the shirt front. Leave the bottom hemmed edge as is. Fold the top edge of the shirt front down ¼ inch, then a ¼ inch again, and pin and sew to hem.

Cut a rectangle of fabric from the back of the shirt or from the sleeve that is about 8 x 18 inches. This will be the back of the apron pocket. Fold all the perimeter edges back ¼ inch and press with an iron. Position the pocket back on the wrong side of the shirt front with its top edge running along the button placket of the shirt. { photo 2 } Unbutton the placket on the shirt front and with a tight running stitch, sew the pocket back into place along the bottom edge of the button placket. Extend this stitching out to the ends to close the button placket on the shirt. Now stitch around the entire perimeter of the pocket back to form the large apron pocket. One large pocket is a little unwieldy for holding tools, so break up the expanse horizontally by buttoning every other button, then sewing a line of stitching down from each closed button to the bottom of the pocket. { photo 3 }

4. To assemble the apron: From the back or sleeves of shirt 1, cut lengths of fabric about 2½ inches wide to make the waistband/ties. Seam these pieces together to make an overall length of at least 60 inches. (If you are using a shirt with a prominent stripe, try to match the stripes on the waistband so the seams won’t be too obvious). Fold the ends back ½ inch, then fold the long edges in ½ inch, then fold in half lengthwise to make the waistband about ¾ inches wide. Press to crease. { photo 4 } Center the bib on the apron skirt with right sides together. Pin to hold. Center the waistband over the top edge of the apron skirt and the bib. { figure 1 } Work down the length of the waistband/ties, pinning then sewing the folded edges together to make the ties and enclose the raw edges of the apron and bib. A running stitch, sewn about 1/8 inch in from the edge, works best here. Once the waistband/ties are attached, flip the apron bib up and sew a second row of stitching along the top edge of the waistband to hold the bib upright and finish the assembly of the apron. { figure 2 } Now that you have whipped up this delicious little apron, time to whip up a little something for dinner!