The Heavy Work Apron

I put this work apron together a little while ago, and it has gained some popularity. I’ll walk through some of the details on how its constructed here. There are a ton of pictures so, I’ll post them together when there isn’t a lot of detail to see.

I drafted the original pattern off of myself and change bits and pieces depending on who is receiving the apron.

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This is cut from a 15 oz. canvas I bought from Big Duck. This is really nice fabric, and I’ve been super happy with it so far. The apron can be cut on the fold to eliminate the seam, but I like a flat-felled seam right down the middle.

 

 

 

 

The hand-folded flat felled seam is sewn wrong sides together, but this doesn’t really apply here because there is no right or wrong side.

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There are a ton of tutorials on how to flat fell, so I won’t go through every little detail. The picture above shows the crucial step of trimming one seam allowance down, so it will hide underneath the other allowance. Whichever side is trimmed will dictate the direction of the finished seam, i.e. trim the left side, seam is folded to the left and vice versa. This becomes important in apparel.

 

 

 

 

The un-trimmed seam allowance is folded and pressed in half, then folded again to cover the trimmed seam allowance. Once, its folded the second time, the first stitch line becomes visible. After this is all pressed, the seam needs to be sewn again. I use a 1/8 inch edge-stitching foot.

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below, is the seam from the right side, with two stitch lines, and from the wrong side, which only has one stitch line.

 

 

 

 

There’s another technique for flat-felling in which the two pieces are folded, and nested together before stitching. This technique yields the more familiar look of a jeans inseam, where two rows of stitching are visible on right and wrong sides. Working at home, I’ve found it more precise to use the stitch, trim, fold method.

The next step is to hem the perimeter of the apron. I’ve used a simple 3/8 ths double hem here. In the past, I have serged a narrow hem in a contrasting color as an accent, and then finished with a single hem.

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Being a 15 oz weight, this fabric gets thick in a hurry. Where I fold over the previous seams, there is something like 7 layers all trying to lay flat. When I start to get thick and bulky areas in my sewing, I’ll usually take the piece to the corner of my table and hit it with a hammer. This works great for apparel too. I’ll hammer the ends of collar stands, sleeve plackets, jeans yokes, pants inseams, you name it. Lay a press cloth down over the piece to eliminate any potential marring.

 

 

 

To finish, I take this over to the walking foot, which has no problem with this kind of weight. The thread weight below is something ridiculous at well over Tex 100, and is only handled in very large machines. If I tried this thread in the Juki it would for sure mess things up, and I don’t think I’d get more than 10 feet wound on a bobbin for the domestic.

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After the sewing portion is completed, the project takes a turn towards nearly pure leather work. To start, I bevel the edges of the shoulder straps and water burnish. I use a natural vegetation tanned leather, so it needs some basic finishing to protect it. In the pictures below I’ve used SnoSeal and a heat gun for this distressed finish. I have also used neatsfoot oil, mink oil, and Saddle Soap in the past for similar results. I like SnoSeal because it protects with beeswax, adds water repellency, and is easy to work with. fullsizeoutput_3d4

I then cut a 10 X 16 inch leather patch for the waist. This is a medium-weight vegetation tanned leather, that I treat the same way as the shoulder straps.

 

 

 

Before I attach the waist patch, I trace a light stitching line along the perimeter to ensure straight stitching. You only get one go with leather, so it better be right. Before I sew, I also apply a glue to the undersurface of the leather. This helps keep everything in place while I sew, and eliminates edge distortions.

 

 

 

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The stitching is done on the Consew walking foot, with a size Nm 130 leather needle. Being 30 + years old, with an unknown service record, this machine produces an incredible stitch.

I rivet the corners of the leather, and to get the placement right, I create a jig out of scrap paper. This allows me to place the jig over each of the corners and get consistent placement without marking on the actual leather.

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I use jeans rivets that I bought from Gold Star Tool. These go into the four corners of the leather, the top of the pocket, and the attachment points of the shoulder straps.

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I use 3/8 inch grommets for the shoulder strap and waist belt attachment points. Two at the top of the apron, and two on the sides. Set your grommets from the wrong side, and you will never see the folded metal from the right side.

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The shoulder straps are attached directly through the upper grommets. To have them fit, I trim down the width of strapping, then glue and rivet them together.

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Here is the backside of the apron, with the two shoulder straps attached and following the diagonal pattern of the finished product.

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To help keep the shoulder straps in place across the back, I attach a stabilizing piece of leather.

 

 

 

The hole are punched along the marking, and I use a knife to cut a line between the holes.  The two shoulder straps attach at either side of the apron with a clip at the grommets. To help keep the apron in place, I use a nylon strap that is sewn and riveted onto one side. The opposite side is threaded through the clip, and has a tri-loc for adjustment. Both shoulder straps have tri-locs to allow for adjustment, similar to a backpack strap.

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Here is the finished apron from the right side. The two visible grommets on the sides are where the straps will attach with a metal clip.

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Natural scarring on the cow hide. Looks like old branding maybe?

 

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