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Make a Half-Apron

For a printable PDF of this project, click Make a Pioneer Half-Apron.

Serviceable aprons protect your clothing. They are made in plain, printed or patterned fabric; white aprons are very good for “better” use, but will also be used for dirty work, if the apron fabric is sturdy enough.  Modern quilt-weight cottons work well for aprons, as does white “utility” muslin. Your apron should not match your dress or other clothing items. Avoid a “matchy matchy” look.  This can be more difficult than it sounds, as we all tend toward modern coordination very naturally. When in doubt, white cotton is just fine.

Historic aprons may be “half-aprons” (ending in a waistband, like the pattern given here), or “pinner aprons”, which have a front bib that is pinned to the dress front.  Aprons can hook, button, or tie to close.  Teen girls may wear aprons, or may wear more covering pinafore styles held over from younger girlhood.

The hardworking aprons worn for active work tend to be cut fairly long (to the knees, at least), and quite full, to cover most of the front of the dress.  If you are a “front wiper”, you need an apron skirt  to cover you to the sides of the body.  If you are a “side hip wiper”, your apron skirt  needs to wrap around to the back of the body. (And if you don’t know whether you’re a side or front wiper, make bread at home, then check yourself for the flour marks.)


  • 1.5 (for “front wipers”) to 3 yards (for “side wipers”) cotton cloth, 45” width.
  • Thread to blend with ground color of fabric
  • Needles and other basic sewing supplies

Measure Length
Your apron should cover most of your skirt, to about knee level or just a bit longer.  Measure over your dress and skirt supports, then add 2” for a cut panel length (this 2” includes 1/4” for a waist seam allowance, 1-3/4” for a hem allowance).

Cut Apron Panels
Side Wipers
If you are a side wiper, cut two width of fabric.  One full width will make the front panel; divide the other width in half to make two back panels.  You can swap the back panels in order to use the selvedges as the back hem of the apron.

Front Wipers
If you are a front wiper, cut one width of fabric.  You will use the selvedges as side hems if they are plain.  If there are symbols or words on the selvedge, rip or trim it off, and work a narrow hem along the edges.

Prepare Waistband
Measure comfortably over your dress and underclothing (including corset).  Add 3” for a waistband cutting length (this includes 1/2” for turning in the short ends, 2-1/2” for ease and overlap at the closure).

Cut or rip a band 3” wide by this length.  Press one long edge to the wrong side 1/2”.  Press both short ends to the wrong side 1/4”.  Fold in half to mark the center front; place a pin in the fold.  Fold each half in half to find the “side points” (these will be slightly behind the side horizon of the body); place a pin in each fold.  Set aside the band for now.

Seam and Hem Panels
Using a 1/4” seam allowance and a running stitch by hand or straight stitch by machine, seam your panels.  The edge may be left raw, or finished by hand overcasting the seam allowances together.

At the free sides of your apron panel, press 1/4” to the wrong side. Tuck the raw edge under, and hem with a straight stitch by machine, or running stitch by hand.

At the lower edge, fold and press 1/4” to the wrong side.  Fold and press again, 1-1/2”.  Secure the hem very close to the upper fold with a small running stitch by hand.  You may find it useful to whipstitch the side edges of the hem to keep all the layers neat.



Gather Waist
Work two rows of running stitch by hand along the top edge of the apron.  Hand-gathering sits much better, and with less bulk, than machined gathering.


Attach Band
Lay the raw edge of the band and the waist edge of the apron skirt right sides together, matching the center front points. If you are a front wiper, match the side hems of your apron skirt to the “side point” pins of the waistband.  Draw up the gathers to fit. If you are a side wiper, leave about a hand-span of band at each end of the waistband, and pin your apron skirt on from that point; draw up the gathers to fit.

Stitch the seam with a 1/2” seam allowance. Press all seam allowances toward the band (including along the free ends of the band.)  Trim the allowances to reduce bulk if desired.


Fold the waistband in half to cover all raw edges.  Topstitch with a small running stitch by hand very close to all edges, or use a small whip stitch to close the band.


Add a button and buttonhole to close the band at the back.


For a printable PDF of this project, right click and save Make a Pioneer Half-Apron to your computer.

© 2012 Elizabeth Stewart Clark. All Rights Reserved.