Keep your tots tidy with this adorable apron for art projects and more. We used laminated cotton for a easy, wipe-clean finish. We give you some tips for sewing with it (it's really easy), and a full toddler-sized pattern is free to download below. Depending on the child's build, it's meant to fit a toddler up to about a 4T to 5T. Whip one up, then whip out those poster paints.
Laminated cotton is simply a regular cotton coated (laminated) with either vinyl or a clear polyurethane on one side, which means the back is still soft cotton. It's widely available online and in-store; we found a nice selection at Fabric.com.
This substrate is quite nice to work with, but you do need to remember a few things. We've listed an overview below. For additional detail, check out our tutorial: Successful Sewing with Laminated Cottons, Oilcloth, (And Other Sticky Stuff).
- Do NOT iron the laminated side. You can iron from the back on a lower setting, but even then, we recommend a pressing cloth between your iron and the back of the laminate. You can also try a hairdryer to blow out the wrinkles, and some people claim setting the fabric in the sun helps wrinkles fall out.
- Be careful with any pinning! Pins can leave visible holes behind. We used pins for our sample, but kept them within areas that wouldn't show and didn't use very many. Clips are a good option.
- If you're sewing from the cotton side or, as in this project, sewing on top of binding, your regular presser foot will be fine. If you're sewing on the laminated side, a Teflon® type foot (try Janome's Ultraglide foot) is helpful. We had just a few short seams to topstitch on this project, and our regular presser foot worked fine. You can also try covering your needle plate and the bottom of your presser foot with a blue painter's tape. We haven't tried this, but it seems like a good idea. Another foot option is a Walking foot (try Janome's Even Feed foot). This type of presser foot is designed to keep multiple layers feeding smoothly and evenly.
- Start with a new needle in your machine. This should be a rule of thumb for every project, but is an especially good idea with laminates. We recommend a denim/jeans style needle because its point penetrates the tight surface nicely. Our project also requires some hand sewing for which you'll want a nice, sharp needle plus a good ol' thimble.
- Laminated cotton can be machine washed in cold and tumble-dried on low.
Sewing Tools You Need
Fabric and Other Supplies
- ½ yard of 54"+ wide laminated cotton fabric: we originally used Hop Dot in Cherry from the Nicey Jane collection by Heather Baily for FreeSpirit Fabrics
NOTE: This is an older collection that is no longer readily available but, as mentioned above, there are many beautiful laminated cottons available online and in-store. Fabric.com has a nice selection - especially in kid's prints.
- Two 3 yard packages of extra wide double fold bias tape in a coordinating color: we used Wright's bias tape
- FIVE 1" buttons: we used pink flower buttons, purchased locally
- TWO ¾" sew-on Velcro® dots; we used white
- All purpose thread to match the bias tape
- All-purpose thread to match Velcro® dots
- Scissors or rotary cutter and cutting mat
- Iron and ironing board plus a pressing cloth
- See-through ruler
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Fabric pencil or marking pen
- Sharp hand sewing needle
- Straight pins or clips
Getting Started & Pattern Downloads
- Download and print the Project Apron Pattern.
IMPORTANT: This pattern consists of SIX 8.5" x 11" sheets plus ONE Pattern Assembly diagram, which have been bundled into ONE PDF to make the download easier. You must print this PDF file at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page.
- Cut out the pattern along the solid line.
- Butt the pattern pieces together as shown in the Pattern Assembly diagram to create the full pattern. Do NOT overlap. Tape in place.
- Lay your fabric flat on your work surface, right side (laminated side) facing up. The front and back of the apron will fit easily side by side across the 54" width. You'll be using the same pattern piece, with some modifications, for both the front and back.
- Lay the pattern piece on the fabric, printed side facing up. Pin in place. Cut out around the solid line. This is the BACK of the apron... almost.
- Remove the pattern piece. Use your ruler to mark a straight line across the width, just under the seam allowance and side tab cut outs. Cut along this line. We simply used our ruler and rotary cutter to measure and cut in one step. Now... this is the BACK of the apron.
- The bottom piece you cut off will become your front pocket. Set it aside for now.
- Trim both the 'shoulder tab' and 'side tab' extensions from the paper pattern piece (see the drawing above).
- FLIP OVER THE PATTERN PIECE and pin it to the remainder of your fabric (the laminated side should still be facing up).
- Cut out what will now become the FRONT of the apron.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
- Open one package of bias binding.
NOTE: To create the smoothest look, you will be working with the binding as one continuous length. Do NOT cut it until the directions say to cut it. It might seem awkward working with the long tail, but it's actually easiest to do it this way and the finished appearance is so much better.
- Find that pocket piece you set aside. Starting about ¼" beyond the side edge, slip the binding over the top raw edge of the pocket. Pin in place.
- Use a zig zag stitch to stitch the binding in place. The swing of your needle should be about ⅛" from the edge of the fabric. We found that aligning the edge of the foot with the edge of the fabric worked well as a guide; test to determine this works for your presser foot. As you remove your pins, make sure the laminate is seated all the way into the bias binding – so its raw edge is resting right against the fold of the binding.
NOTE: We used a scrap of laminate and bias binding to play around with both the width and length adjustments for our zig zag stitch to get the look we wanted. This also allowed us to test where to place the presser foot on the bias binding to get an even stitch.
- Secure the end of your seam and remove your bound pocket from the machine. Cut the ¼" head of the binding flush with the laminate but do NOT cut the long binding tail.
- Return to your work surface and place the bound pocket, right side up, on top of the apron front, which should also be right side up. Align the two curved raw edges. You could lightly pin, but it isn't really necessary. Just keep the raw edges together – the stickiness of the laminate helps keep the layers from shifting.
- Machine baste the two layers together, using a ¼" seam allowance. Stitch from one corner of the pocket, around the bottom and back up to the opposite corner of the pocket. Do NOT stitch across the top of the pocket.
NOTE: Before you switch your machine back to a straight stitch, make a note of your zig zag width and length settings.
- Remove the apron front from the machine and return to your work surface. Make a neat 45˚ fold in your binding at the pocket corner, pin, and continue around the outside edge of the apron front, wrapping the binding around both layers and lightly pinning/clipping it in place. Go all the way around to the bottom of the left arm hole.
- Re-set your machine for a matching zig zag stitch. Starting exactly on top of your 45˚ folded corner, stitch the binding in place. Secure your stitch when you get to the bottom of the arm hole.
NOTE: Laminate fabric is easy to work with, and it stays in place nicely as you wrap and stitch your binding. Making neat binding is really all about practice, and going slowly and evenly, gradually feeding the fabric into the binding. Don't expect to just wrap, pin, and stitch. Going too quickly or assuming everything stays put and never moves is where disappointment lurks: you pull it out of the machine and there's a big chunk of fabric that's slipped out and isn't captured within the binding. Save yourself some seam ripper time and some tears. Go nice and slow and feed a little bit at a time. If possible, set your needle so it stops in the down position so there's no worry about your stitches getting out of line. Slow and steady, Mr. Turtle.
- Remove the apron from the machine and make another corner fold at the bottom of the armhole. Wrap the edge with the binding up to the shoulder.
- Stitch in place.
- Remove from the machine. Make a corner fold. Encase the top of the shoulder. Stitch across the shoulder.
- Remove from the machine. Make a corner fold. Encase the entire neckline around to the top of the opposite shoulder. Stitch in place.
- Finally... you get to cut the binding. Trim it flush with the top of the shoulder.
- Cut a piece of binding just slightly larger than the armhole still left to bind.
- Encase this armhole. Stitch in place. Trim both ends of this length of binding flush with the laminate.
NOTE: Two things to keep in mind: 1) The corner folds are going to be a bit tough to stitch though, which is why we recommended the new, denim/jeans needle. You also need to make sure your machine has good needle penetration power. Our Janome worked like a charm. 2) Do the very, very best you can to start your new zig zag line directly on top of the previous line. We used a lock stitch to secure the beginning and end of each seam for a neater look.
- Bind the back of the apron in a similar manner.
NOTE: We opened a new package of binding, because we weren't positive we could squeak it out with what was leftover from the front, and we didn't want to piece the binding. We'll use the excess for something else.
- On the back, start on the left edge of the bottom and run the binding in one continuous strand all the way around, across the top of the first shoulder (making corners as you did on the front), and around the neckline. Stop and cut the binding flush at the edge of the opposite shoulder. A final piece completes the opposite arm hole.
- As you can see in the photo below, the right front shoulder and the back left shoulder are left un-bound. In addition, the front right side section and the back left side section are un-bound.
- Use your see-through ruler to measure across the front of the pocket and find the center point. It should be at about the 7" mark. Place a pin at this point, then use a fabric pencil to draw a very light perpendicular line.
- Re-set your machine for a straight stitch, and stitch along the drawn line, divinding the pocket into two sections. We slightly lengthened our stitch. Start and stop just beyond the binding. In other words, don't stitch on top of the binding. It won't ruin anything if you do stitch on the binding; it just looks better if you don't.
- Place the front and back of the apron right sides together and pin at the un-bound shoulder seam and the side seam.
- Stitch both seams, using a ½" seam allowance.
- Turn the apron right side out.
- Because of the stiffness of the laminate, and the fact that ironing is a challenge, your seams are not going to lay flat. Instead, for each seam, fold the seam allowance together and towards the back of the apron. Clip the ends of the seam allowances at a diagonal to make sure they hide neatly. Then, top stitch ¼" from your seam line through all layers. This creates the look of a flat felled seam and keeps everything nice and flat.
- Use your see-through ruler to place three buttons evenly along the center pocket seam.
- Fold over the shoulder tab and the side tab from the back to the front and mark the placement for one button centered on each of these tabs.
- Thread a hand sewing needle with thread to match your buttons and stitch all five buttons in place.
- Place one side of your Velcro® dots directly over the button thread knots on both tabs. Whip stitch the dots in place.
- Place the opposite side of your Velcro® dots in position on the front of the apron to line up with the dots on the tabs. Whip stitch in place.
- We switched to a white thread to whip stitch the Velcro® dots in place - just thought it looked neater.
NOTE: It will take a bit of brute force to hand stitch through the laminate and the Velcro® dots. This is why we recommended using a very sharp needle and a thimble. The thimble allows you to push the needle harder without driving it into your finger and bleeding all over your nice, new apron!
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Liz Johnson