Saturday, October 11, 2014

Edwardian Apron

Already I can't remember where online I stumbled upon a vision of this Edwardian apron ("dress protector"), but immediately I was enamored with it. I considered asking my husband for a custom-sewn one for Christmas, and the sixty dollar price reflects a low hourly wage for the seamstress when the cost of fabric and the pattern is factored in. Instead, I decided this is an item I might like to make more than once, so I wanted to do it myself.

Do you remember the 1995 movie version of Sense and Sensibility? I have always love the two bookend scenes: Early in the movie, Miss Marianne sprains her ankle during a rainstorm and is brought in muddy by the dashing but shallow Mr. John Willoughby. The ladies bustle about, removing their work aprons, which a lady would have worn, I imagine, most hours of the day except when socializing. Toward the end of the movie, the sensible and devout Mr. Edward Ferrars is announced by little Margaret and, again, all the ladies bustle to remove their aprons and appear casual, knowing that Edward is coming to propose marriage to patiently suffering Miss Elinor.

Aprons can be very romantic, in my book anyway.

And now with this pattern I could sew my own Edwardian apron in which to bustle about!

When a mother of four still-littles wants to sew, this takes some coordination.

Step 1. Find an available day.  I noticed that the subsequent day, Daddy and the second grader would be on a little day trip. I decided that the world wouldn't end and my child wouldn't be doomed to educational failure if I skipped school for the Kindergartener for one day.

Step 2. Buy fabric.  I just so happened to have a slow cooker meal burbling away, which meant I could dash out in the afternoon to the fabric store . . . with all four tots in tow. The scene was quite humorous (because if we don't laugh, we will cry). 

Despite my reminders ahead of time about proper behavior, despite my offering that the kids could earn Reward Bucks for good behavior, there was much wandering away in the store, touching of cheap toys from the movie Frozen (and subsequent begging for them, "Mama, why aren't you one of those mamas that buys things like this?"). The three-year-old got speared by a dramatic splinter from a wooden shelf, such that I had to pin down the child screaming hysterically and yank it out, which actually caused a fellow patron to come find us and make sure the child wasn't being murdered or kidnapped. Children climbed on the fabric cutting table. And then a dear lady from our parish who is heavily pregnant with her first, long-awaited baby saw me, "Hi!" she said cheerfully. And at that moment, one of my children began punching another one on the back, with repeatedly satisfying thumps. The lovely lady admonished, "Be gentle!" while I actually chase the offending child to incarcerate said batterer. And that's when I announced that, no, I was not giving the children any Reward Bucks, nor would they be allowed to spend some of their allowance money on fat quarters of fabric because we were leaving now.

But! There is a bright side! I found this gorgeous, sturdy cloth in an old-fashioned print. The fabric is 100% cotton, heavier than linen, lighter than canvas, and I don't know what it is called (broadcloth?) but it is perfect for an apron. At full price, this fabric would have cost me more than $60 . . . but I bought it on clearance for a grand total of $9! And that just about caused me to do a happy dance out of the store: a combination of manic frustration at my children and giddiness over my monetary savings.

Step 3. Occupy the children.

The day dawned, Daddy and John departed on their day trip. If one is going to 'scrap' an entire day of normal homemaking, one might as well do it whole hog, as they say. Yes, I changed from pajamas into daytime clothing, but I neither confirm nor deny that I didn't even brush my hair or anyone else's. I left dishes piled in the sink and didn't sweep after feeding children food that might not count as a proper, well-rounded meal but certainly filled them up just fine.

I got to observe what the five- and three-year-olds would do when basically unsupervised, nearly left to roam the house by themselves with me checking in every so often. The Earlier Parent Me would be horrified at that thought, but the Somewhat More Experienced Parent Me understands desperate times calling for desperate measures and these days don't happen very often.

The girls made a complement of paper doll outfits. Then the five-year-old made an entire set of paper fish and a fishing rod with string and hook. Each of these projects left an explosion of paper scraps, scissors, glue, and tape lying about, but I let it lie. When the baby napped and I was sewing most in earnest, the children got to watch television . . . which is when I discovered that the five-year-old knows how to operate Netflix by herself (oh no). When the baby woke again, I paid the girls Reward Bucks (a reward system we use around here) to occupy their brother. After initial enthusiastic agreement, this was met by shrieks when the toddler tried to enter the fort they had made. I reminded them that their job was to occupy him, so he gets to enter forts, knock down castles, and walk off with kitchen play pots and plans.

Cutting the pieces for this apron was a reminder of one of my first sewing lessons, as given by my aunt. When selecting a pattern, review on the back the measurements for each size as they vary widely. Never (!) say to oneself, "I am a size X in clothing, so I must be a size X in this pattern." In the case of this pattern, I was four sizes bigger in size than I am in regular American clothing. One has to just swallow pride, remember that a size number does not change the reality of one's body up or down, then proceed ahead with the sewing. (Do you think that maybe at least once in the past I have refused to make the pattern's 'too-big' size, made what-surely-must-be-my-size only to discover it was ridiculously too small for me and I had wasted an entire sewing project? May'haps . . .)

And even then, I got to try my hand at making make measurement modifications (even bigger!) in a couple of areas. This degree of variance reminded me of wedding dresses (which are typically labeled many sizes bigger than clothing).

Thankfully, this pattern--which comes only with black and white illustrations by hand--comes with additional online photo instructions (and even a video to help with the inexplicable Step 2).

Also, I made my own bias tape, which results in a cleaner, more sophisticated look. I don't have a lot of experience making bias tape, but was able to muddle through following online instructions. The result looked very good and was well worth not buying pre-made bias tape.

This project was also a good example of cutting carefully. The pattern called for 4.5 yards for the pattern itself plus an additional 4 yards for making bias tape: 8.5 yards at regular priced fabric would be shockingly expensive for an apron. I bought the end of a role which was only 5-1/8 yards. Could I do it? By cutting judiciously in a much more creative way than laid out by the pattern, I had 3.5 nearly perfect yards left with which to make bias tape. Wow!

I couldn't quite finish the project in one long day, but almost did. Then followed three days in which my mind was distracted by wanting to finish this aspect or that tricky part, grabbing literally ten- and fifteen-minute moments between duties to sew some more.

Pretend it's not 85 degrees out . . .
imagine me wearing this around the home on a blustery winter day,
baking with the children or serving guests for dinner.

I have finished the apron and found this to be a very satisfying project. I note that the "dress protector" certainly makes me look like a plump matron, but, you know what? I am a plump matron! And being a homemaker and homeschooler of four children and nearing the closing out of yet another decade in age, a matron is a proper and respectable thing to be. We women sure seem to succumb to the worldly societal pressure that no matter how much age, wisdom, experience, and babies we accumulate, we're still supposed to look like we are unmarried twenty-somethings who wear single-digit size clothing.

I'm already pondering another version of this apron . . . I might try making it in a lighter fabric, but one still sturdy enough for an apron, in a length that falls just below the knee for a summertime version!


  1. Wowwww....! I'm in shock at how great you are at sewing!! I joked to my sister the other day, "You know, I think I'm just going to ask Mrs Lauer to teach me how to sew, because she's really really good." I'm serious! Anyways, the apron is super cute and charmingly vintage. Good job! -Emiliann W

  2. I LOVE IT! You absolutely must teach me how to sew one of these! And the post was hilarious, I was laughing out loud.

  3. Emilann: Thank you! You'll have to wait patiently for sewing help behind my five-year-old daughter who has lately been begging for me to teach her. It's so hard to carve out time, I've been considering changing one of our afternoons of academic school to a weekly sewing afternoon.

  4. Priscilla: This is technically a beginner's pattern, so you should be able to do it! You could borrow my pattern. I'd just want to talk you through Step 2 and have you watch the little video on it because that part was exceedingly confusing to me and it is where I made mistakes.

  5. I've always wanted full body aprons, too! In fact I have thought about making those my 'dresses' and just wearing underneath some kind of basic unitard or something of which I have say, 12 identical ones. LOL. The apron-dresses I envision need plenty of pockets, set in ones and patch ones with button closures. And a breast pocket. And nursing access. Haha now you can see why I never made this brainchild. Too much work!

    And just so you know, I also made an entire shirtdress in a size 12 thinking it'd be plenty big for me since I'm more like an 8-10. And wouldn't you know I made it all the way to the end except for buttons and button holes and couldn't close it on my body to the tune of about 3 inches around. A full length (to the ankle, with sleeves) shirtdress.

  6. Sarah: I love seeing that I'm not the only one who thinks a full-body apron is a wonderful thing! I have a sneaking suspicion that your dream (which I have shared) is basically the laughed-at housecoat of days of yore. Am I right? I've really started to see the wisdom in those housecoats.

    My apron does have big, roomy pockets, but no nursing access. I thought about that and wondered if I could make some kind of adaptation for a future one.

    Regarding sewing a piece too small, I think we seamstresses only have to get burned by that mistake one time never to forget the lesson again!

  7. Hello Katherine, Thank you for showing us your lovely apron, it looks so "Edwardian" and feminine. Actually I have been looking for an apron like this for some time. I clean houses and offices and I am always spotting my dresses with some sort of cleaning agent. I do wear an apron but your apron gives so much better coverage than mine. I especially like the large bib area and length. I would like to see a photo from the back to see what the ties/straps are like. I will have to buy the pattern and have a couple made. P.s saved your photo to show a seamstress. Hope you don't mind. :)