Jan 13, 2023

It's Not Your Grandmother's Apron...But It Can Be

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I presume much like the rest of you reading this when I first learned to use knives in the kitchen I learned to cut away from myself to lessen the risk of injury. It was more than a little startling when I first learned the cordwainer’s (shoe making) craft to find the opposite was true: Much of the work involves sharpened implements that are directed toward the body. Hoping to keep all my organs and appendages unscathed by the slip of a sharpened tool I figured a little preventative maintenance was in order. I bought a standard apron made of canvas. But it just wasn’t right. In short order I found shortcomings and pitfalls:

  • The neck strap that supports the bib – I found it remarkably uncomfortable.
  • The apron strings had to be tied which meant they also had to be untied. If tied at the back and I sat back it would dig into my back. If drawn to the front to tie it got in my way.
  • The apron extended to just above the knee – that was cool. But much of the work I do requires me to sit down. That span of fabric across my legs was awkward.
  • An apron made of canvas is robust – but it’s no protection against a sharpened knife.I researched several unique styles then melded them together to create my own apron – an apron that you will find me wearing anytime I am doing leather work. In fact in the shoe making and accessories classes I teach at Los Angeles Trade Technical College the first project that every student completes is this apron.
    • Made of 3-ounce/1.2mm leather (about the thickness of a dime – two layers of which your Baby Lock sewing machine can manage with little effort) the apron is far from bullet-proof. However it provides a bit more protection than a regular textile.
    • The neck strap and apron strings are continuous and adjustable. The straps cross the back and are supported between the shoulder blades by a “strap keeper.”
    • Below the crotch level (referred to as the “fork” in the tailoring trade) the apron is separated into two panels.
    • Though I hesitate to say “one size fits all ” this particular apron fits “most.” Some students shorten the waist. None found it necessary to adjust the size side-to-side – though it can be easily done if needed. (Suggestions for simple alterations follow.)

Click here to download more information on this project and step by step instructions. Click here to download the apron pattern.

Check out Russell's video on the project below.

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