Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Toddler and Baby Aprons

I'd been thinking of making for new aprons for the girls, for painting and getting messy. Two of them don't wear bibs a whole lot now, and they've outgrown any of the earlier aprons I made them (see this post).

Find out below how easy it is to make little aprons like these!

I did my usual internet search for free patterns, and found a number of patterns for toddler aprons. I've listed my Top 4 more fully at the end of the blog.

I made my aprons using the John Lewis one, as I found it corresponded almost identically in measurements to the Yards and Yards one in the smallest of their three sizes, which was called 1-3 years. The John Lewis one was a very easy pattern to follow, so that's what I used to cut them out. However, I did like the idea of an adjustable fit, so I decided I would do something similar to the Yards and Yards tutorial. You'll find the details of both of these in my Top 4 at the end of the blog.

I will here add an IMPORTANT CAVEAT. If you plan for a small child / toddler to wear this apron (or any made with the Yards and Yards design) note that you should fasten the waist ties THROUGH the neck loop (so it forms an 'X' or sort of underlined 'V' at the back).
Back view - the pink and red are all one continuous tie, but shown in  two different colours to make the arrangement of the waist part and neck loop clearer

This is because, without doing that, pulling the waist ties will have the effect of tightening the tie that goes round the neck. Knowing how toddlers run around, it's easy to imagine one trying to stop another running by grabbing the waist ties of the apron - or possibly a toddler could get caught on something and slip over while caught. If you tie the waist ties through the neck tie, pulling the waist strings won't have much effect and certainly won't pull the neck tie tight. Safety first!

Materials needed for my version (each apron)

A piece of plasticised material about 18" square (though you could use any stout material that paint and stuff won't soak through)
1.5 metres of double fold bias binding tape in a contrasting colour
1.5 meters of  thick cord matching the bias tape
Sewing thread in the same colour as the tape and binding.

I had bought half a metre of the material which was 54" wide, out of which I managed to get three aprons in total.

Here's how I proceeded.

Stage 1 - Make or print the pattern, cut out the material

 I cut out the apron from the John Lewis pattern, which you have to draw out from the measurements given. This was easy. You'll notice in my pictures, I have rounded corners at the bottom, where the John Lewis pattern has square corners. It doesn't matter which you do, but I quite like the look of rounded corners myself. I also find it is easier to apply tape to rounded corners than to square corners, where you would need to mitre the tape. Anything for an easier life!

Although I liked the Yards and Yards adjustable fit, this is dependent on having two layers (it's a reversible apron). However I wasn't going to make a reversible version, because I'd found this fun material in a cow print, which is plasticised and wipe clean, and I wanted to use it at a single layer. (It's shown below with a strip of bias binding I was trying for contrast.)

I wasn't going to be able to enclose the neck string within a channel made between the two layers, because there wouldn't be two layers!. So I had to work out a different way to attach my apron strings. 

I found bias binding and cords in three colours (I wanted to use the orange but no cord available, only the bias binding. So that will be used for a different design.

Stage 2 - Attach bias binding to bottom part of apron and neckline

Normally I recommend sewing bias binding in two stages: first, with the tape opened out and attached one side, then, after folding it back over, with a second seam to hold the folded part in. For the sides and top of the aprons, though, I broke this rule, and sewed the tape on in one go, folded over with the plastic fabric encased in between. Because the plastic fabric is a little bit stiffer than ordinary fabrics, it's pretty easy to ensure it doesn't slip out while you are sewing it.

To finish the ends...... 

..... I left enough at the end of the bias tape to turn over (before I had sewed right to the end of the seam) ....

 .......folded the end of the bias tape over, and ..........

....... doubled the fold of the tape back on itself, thus fully enclosing the edge of the fabric. 

This gave quite a nice neat finish to the end of the seam, which, in the finished apron, would have the apron strings rubbing against it. 

I did the same along the top or neckline of the apron.

Stage 3 - Make the casings for the cord strings

The next step was to make a casing for the cord that would thread through the armholes to form the adjustable fastenings. To make the casings,  I used the same bias tape, but I reduced the size of the seam allowance on the tape. With normal double fold bias binding, the tape opened out is roughly 2". Single folded, it is about an inch, with two half inch seam allowances folded in to meet each other (and of course, folded again enclosing the material it is binding, it is roughly half an inch). I wanted to make the finished folded tape about 3/4" instead of 1/2", to allow the cord to move freely within it.  So I ironed one side of the tape more or less flat, and on the other side, I refolded and ironed the 1/2" seam allowance to be about 1/4".

Although the ends of bias tape are fairly stable and don't always need hemming, I did reinforce the ends where the cord would abrade against them, by doing a quick zig zag across a simple folded in single layer hem.

 I then attached the opened out tape to the armhole 1/4" from the edge, on the wrong side.

Then I did a second seam on the right side, with the folded in hem (the 1/4" I had ironed earlier). Although you can thread the cord through afterwards, actually I enclosed the cord as I went.

Stage 4 - Thread the cord through the casings 

I threaded one end of the cord in at the bottom and up to the top of one arm hole, then through the top of the second armhole (leaving a loop for the part that goes round the neck) and down to the bottom. It doesn't really matter how long you leave this, as you can adjust it when putting it on the toddler. I tied a big knot at each end so I wouldn't lose the ends of the cords in the casings.

At this point, you could say - I'm finished! However, if you missed my important caveat earlier, please go back and read it. With a young child, always tie the waist ties through the neck loop to avoid the neck loop tightening. (I did consider making large knots at the top of the armholes where the neck loop goes in, to try and stop it tightening beyond the minimum size you want it to adjust to, but I wasn't convinced this would work. Tying through the neck loop is safer.)

Stage 5 - optional - Add a pocket

I had some strange random shaped bits of fabric left over when I had cut two aprons out, so I cut these into  rough semicircles, to make pockets. I simply sewed the last little bits of my bias tape around the pockets, with a mitre at the top corners. Actually the length of the tape I had left more or less defined the size of the pocket I could make. Then I attached the pockets to the middle of each apron with a second seam near the edge of the pocket starting and finishing each end with a few backwards and forward stitched for strength . I positioned them just below the waist level. I don't think these pockets would take any serious weight, they are more for show. But I think they finish the aprons off nicely.

Having tried the first cut out apron against little Toddler I, I concluded the pattern would be a bit long for her. Although she's 21 months now she's only 12-18 month clothes (mostly). So I cut a couple of inches off the length, but left the width alone.  The green one above is the one I reduce in size, by trimming off the bottom. 

The pattern was fine as it is for older Toddler A, who is a tall 2 years old +. You can see the two side by side, with A's being the pink version and I's being the green version.

For Baby a, I may try a different style. Although she is no doing a lot of standing up, she also still does a lot of sitting down, and the fabric is slightly stiff so I didn't think it would work so well as a long apron on her.

These were my Top 4 free patterns for aprons for toddlers.

The Yards and Yards one. 

I really like this pattern for a reversible apron, because it has adjustable ties, and it also comes in all sizes from "1 year" to adult. But please note my important caveat above! You can find the pattern here

The John Lewis one. 

This one gives full and detailed instructions on how to make the pattern and how to sew the apron. It doesn't indicate size but I'd say about an age 2-3. It would be pretty easy to adapt for a different size, though, if you measured the child and found it was very different from the measurements given on the pattern instructions. I made one as it comes for our tall 2 year old, and one a bit shorter (I didn't adjust the width) for 18 months. You can find the pattern here.

The Living with Punks Mini Me one. 

You can download the pattern via Craftsy here. Note that you have to register with Craftsy to download their free patterns, but that's free, too, and they have a lot of free patterns.

The Montessori one

This is a copyright pattern but comes with full instructions, and has the advantage that it fastens with Velcro. You can find the pattern here. The Montessori web site the pattern referenced appears to be defunct at the moment.

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