Sunday, May 31, 2015

A Practical 1925 Apron Made from a Man's Shirt

Being the end of the month, a Historical Sew Fortnightly is due. I had a work in progress that I had to set aside.  I've been quite busy with a plethora of gardening that has resulted in some pain in my hand, wrist, and arm.  No more sustained hand sewing for me for a while! Disappointed that I had to set aside  my project, I assumed I would skip submitting an entry for this month's challenge, Practicality. Then I started thinking about this book, one of the favorites in my historic sewing collection: Amy Barickman's Vintage Notions: An Inspirational Guide to Needlework, Cooking, Sewing, Fashion, and Fun. Amy Barickman has revived the works of one of America's first home economists, Mary Brooks Pickens.  In 1916, Pickens opened The Women's Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences, while also establishing correspondence courses. The courses taught were "dressmaking, millinery, cooking, fashion design, beauty and homemaking."  (p8) Reading this book is a delightful trip through time to the 1920's and 1930's. The book is arranged monthly, according to courses offered seasonally.


I recalled reading directions for making an apron from a man's shirt.  Yes! I found it on p30 and 31, under the month of January. It was originally written by a Margaret Murrin, for Inspiration, in 1925. There is no pattern to cut out and lay on fabric, but there were diagrams and explanations for 3 different variations of aprons. Interestingly, one apron used primarily the long sleeves from a man's shirt.

I didn't think I'd ever make these aprons. I'm not completely keen on them in the book. Nor am I completely keen on 1920's clothing. However I am a teacher by trade, I like to teach history with I could at least save this for a history lesson someday.   Little to my surprise...

I asked my husband if he had any extra shirts that he no longer wanted. Actually he said he had a robin's egg blue colored shirt that he could give to me. He said it was faded so he no long wore it. When I saw it I was sad, because I loved that shirt. I bought it for him years ago.  I don't think it has faded, although it looks so in the pictures. It's actually a bit more colorful than it appears in the photos. I hesitated to cut into it because I liked it so much, but I finally did.  Oops, forgot to take the obligatory "before starting the project photo."  One sleeve is already cut out... 


It was super easy to cut out! The diagrams and instructions are crystal clear about the cutting  process! However I couldn't find the finishing directions. I assumed we were expected to turn under the edges and machine stitch. After doing that, it looked quite plain, so I decided to add white rickrack. The author had suggested using rickrack in the long-sleeve based apron, so I decided to go ahead and perk up this apron with rickrack.  Also nothing was mentioned about how to attach the ties to the body of the apron. I considered just sewing them together but that made the apron a bit too tight when trying to take it off.  I knew the best option would be a button and buttonholes.   


I dug through my button stash and found these adorable heart buttons. Dare I say, the more I worked on this shirt apron, the more I was liking it! I've always loved this shirt, and I am tickled that I can now wear it myself. It carries a lot of special meaning to me.


The shirt pocket was right in line with one of the straps that I cut (this apron is all in one piece). Pockets were not shown in the diagram. I decided to keep the pocket for the fun of it. I could imagine the designer encouraging me to do so. I trimmed the seam line of the pocket with rickrack.  


Here's the proof that it was once a man's shirt! A label inside my apron! I love it!


I love this apron!


The rickrack! The robin's egg blue fabric!


The criss cross in back!


The heart buttons!


And how about that unpractical pocket in the back? However I thought it was more practical to leave it on instead of ripping it out and destroying the fabric. How funny would it be if someone slipped me a note in my pocket while I was busy cooking? 


Very simple. Cute. Only 2 hours to sew from a 1925 Magic Pattern, which really had no pattern as we think of it today.  It was all written directions and diagrams.


Yes, I think this apron will get lots of use! Everyone in the family likes it and have pretty much laughed through the entire process. I don't think any sewing project has brought so many gleeful looks from my family members. Fun, fun, fun!


And now for the HSM details:

HSF 2015

What the item is (and what practical things you can do in it): An apron made from a man's shirt using directions from 1925. Practical in that a man's shirt was used to convert into an apron. Cooking can be done with it, which is also practical, to keep my clothes clean.

The Challenge: Practicality

Fabric: Cotton/polyester from a man's shirt

Pattern: Magic Pattern

Year: 1925

Notions: Rickrack, buttons

How historically accurate is it? Accurate in sewing method and style. Inaccurate in materials...I used my husband's old shirt. Can't imagine where I'd find a man's 1925 shirt...and not that I'd have the heart to cut it up. I thought it was practical to revive the 1925 pattern for today.

Hours to complete: Two hours!

First worn: Today for photos.

Total cost: Less than $6 for the rickrack was my current investment. However I did buy this shirt for my husband years ago, probably for $10. The buttons were from an old garment from my daughter's outfit when she was a little girl, which might have been a gift from family,, or a yard sale or thrift store purchase I made. If I purchased it retail, I spent $10 or less on it. I simply don't remember which outfit the buttons came from.


  1. Very cool! It reminds me of "make do and mend" ladies suits made from mens suits in the 1940s. I think it's fabulous that you get to keep using a garment that you hold in such high regard. And it's a centuries old practice to keep reusing cloth items until there is nothing left!


  2. This is lovely! So many happy family memories in one super-practical garment. I love that all your family so enjoyed the making of it as well.