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How to Make a Craftswomen's Leather Utility Apron

My son and his girlfriend are designing a shop to build what their imagination inspires. As the shop transforms the missing component was their personal safety gear. That's where I knew I could help. I volunteered to make a shop worthy leather utility apron for each of them. My first apron will be for her. I wanted it to be functional, unique and stylish. I found the perfect leather piece, which has a paisley print on it through the Tandy Leather web site. I bought the leather and ventured into my first leather project and first Instructables.

The Leather — Loved the Leather

The leather piece was perfect — certainly unique. It measured about 45 inches (116 cm) by 38 inches (97 cm). In the image above the red arrows shows additional leather area. It measured about 7 inches (18 cm) deep.

Materials List

Material List Includes:

* Paisley Printed Leather (Tandy Leather $57.23, this includes shipping)

* Pattern (home design)

* Scissors (capable of cutting a single layer of leather)

*Sewing Machine (Special Note, I used the motor on single thickness. On two or three layered thicknesses I used the hand wheel only)

* Rotary Blade * Cutting Board * Cutting Guide and Ruler

* Seam Ripper (Walmart $1.98)

* Knit Picker (Walmart $1.98)

* 4 Metal D Rings (Jo Ann's Fabric $5.00)

* Small Bottle of Krazy Glue (Walmart $2.98)

*Coats and Clark Upholstery Thread of contrasting color (JoAnn Fabric and Craft Store $3.49)

* Size 18 Universal Heavy Duty Machine Needles (JoAnn Fabric and Craft Store $3.99)

* Painters Tape (used as a sewing guide and substitute for pins)

The Pattern

My pattern had simple lines to accommodate the weight and stiffness of the leather. The dimensions given in the image are for a women's medium. The measures are:

  1. Length of Top of Apron to Waistline — 10.5 in. (2.7 cm)
  2. Length of Waistline to Hem — 24 in. (70 cm)
  3. Width Top of Apron (5.75 in. (14.6 cm)
  4. Width at Waistline and Hem are the same measure — 23 in. (58.4 cm)

For scale, the pattern was photographed on a 12 in. by 12 in. (30.48 cm by 30.48 cm) tile floor.

Cutting Out the Pattern

I had to arrange my pattern several times to find the best fit with minimum waste. My first pattern had too many curves and detail; I switched to the pattern shown. There are two options for transferring the pattern to the leather:

Option 1 — Place the pattern along a fold of the leather, pencil the pattern outline onto the leather, remove the pattern and cut the leather one layer at a time.

Option 2 — Place the pattern along an edge of the leather piece, trace its outline, flip the pattern, trace again and cut one layer at a time.

The Sewing Machine Prepartion

I cherish my workhorse Kenmore sewing machine. It was one of my first purchases after graduating from high school; needless to say it's been around a long time! I've used it to sew everything from baby clothes to exterior window awnings. With maintenance, cleaning and periodic oiling it still runs pretty good.

Using size 18 needle, Coats and Clark Heavy Duty Upholstery thread, adjusting the tension and stitch length to maximum (6 stitches per inch) I was off.

I used blue painters tape to secure the pocket pieces to the main apron while I sewed them in place. It also served as a straight guideline on the piece I was sewing onto. I removed the tape as I went along; sewing over the tape gummed up the needle.

A double row of topstitching was used everywhere except the strap pieces.

Onto the Pockets

After cutting the leather: pocket size, number and position need to be decided. This apron has one functional pencil pocket, which is located at the top and to the right. On the bottom, I added a second pencil pocket underneath the double-layered larger pockets.

The sketch identifies the dimensions of the pockets as:

  • The Pencil Pocket — 2.25 in. (6 cm) wide by 4 in. (10 cm) long
  • Larger Brown Colored Pocket — 7.5 in. (9 cm) long by 12 in. (30.5 cm) wide
  • The Paisley Print Pocket was a scrap piece that fit the bill. I was careful not to make them the same size so I was sure to be sewing two layers and not three layers of leather. I first sewed the smaller pocket to the larger brown pocket and then both to the apron.

In the middle of the larger pockets I added two rows of topstitching to make four functional pockets. In total there are six pockets

Sewing Machine Challenges and Tricks

The leather challenged the ability of the machine. It sewed well on single thicknesses. However, I had to abandon the motor and use only the hand wheel on layers of 2 and 3 thicknesses, a bit tiring, but a great workout for my forearms.

I was forced to separate the top from the bottom skirt because of failed initial pattern choice. The waist seam was 23 inches (58.5 cm) wide. To manage the weight and awkwardness of the effort I sewed from midpoint to the edge of one side and then the other. The stitching looked much better.

Finishing Touches

Once the pockets were sewn in place I pulled my threads to the back and tied them off. Using the knit picker I pulled the thread through a stitch, cut them short and Krazy Glued them close to the stitch line.

Originally, I had wanted to make the apron reversible, but neither my machine nor I could handle it.

Almost Finished

The straps were next, using the rotary blade and the cutting board, I cut 2 — 6 inch (15.24 cm) long by 1.5 inch (3.8 cm) wide straps to hold the two D rings for the shoulder and waist ties.

The straps were topstitched with one row of stitching and threaded through two metal D rings. The strap was folded in half; the ends were crossed and separated to make ensure one layer of strap was sewn to the one layer of apron.

These were attached to the upper left shoulder and waistline right of the apron.

Last Touch

Finally I cut two longer straps, same width as before but, for the neck and waist tie, these should be as long as need be. I sewed the longer tie straps in place with double rows of topstitching. Reinforcement stitching for the waist strap completed the project.

I can't wait to gift my apron I'm sure she'll love it.

My next leather project is to sew my son's leather utility apron. Id love to be sewing on the first place prize Tippmann Boss Leather Sewing Machine. I'd appreciate your vote in the Tandy 2016 Leather Competition.

Thank you and happy making.


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