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This tutorial is about how I upcycled one of the sleeves of a man’s shirt into a DIY kid’s apron for my 3 year old son.
I recently set myself the challenge (on instagram) of upcycling every last piece of two of my husband’s old button down shirts.
The process has taken me longer to accomplish than I anticipated – there is a surprising amount of fabric in two men’s shirts!
I came up with the apron idea when I was holding up one of the sleeves of the shirt that had already had the cuff removed and the seam opened up and thinking to myself – what could it be?
I turned it upside down and the curve of the shoulder end of the sleeve reminded me of the curve at the bottom of an apron. So I headed off to hold the sleeve up against my son and it was the perfect length – so I got to work!
- The sleeve of one adult man’s shirt opened at the seam with the cuff cut off.
- Some longer strips of shirt material for the straps.
- A small square of material for the pocket (I used the contrasting fabric of the second shirt).
- A sewing machine.
- Iron to press
- A safety pin & chopstick (optional – see below!)
Step 1: Hem the body of the apron
If you haven’t already done it, the first thing to do is to cut the sleeve off of the man’s shirt you are upcycling by cutting outside of the shoulder seam (as in you should include the seam in your apron if you can).
Cut away the cuff and the central seam down the length of the sleeve.
I left in the little wrist button and opening beside the cuff as I thought it added a cute detail. You will sew the opening shut at the top when you hem.
Next head to your ironing board, fold the raw edges of your sleeve to the back side of the fabric about a centimetre or a 1/4″. You don’t have to be precise if this is just for use at home. Press them down.
I didn’t do this for the bottom curve (the shoulder seam) of the apron as it already had the seam in it. It’s also harder to fold precisely on a curve!
Next head to your machine and sew a straight stitch all the way around, including the bottom curve.
I used a contrasting white thread on a dark blue sleeve but you can decide if you want the stitches to show or not and match it up with your fabric instead if you like. My sewing is never super precise so perhaps I should have done some colour matching but the white was already threaded and I can be a bit lazy like that!
Step 2: Sew your straps
Next you want to cut some long strips of the shirt fabric from somewhere else on the shirt.
Cut 2 strips about 6.5cm/2.5″ wide.
One strip should be roughly 90cm/35″ long (for the waist ties) and the other roughly 70cm/27.5″ long (for the neck ties).
I had done so many other projects with my shirts that I couldn’t get that width and length in two long strips. So I did one thinner strip of the striped fabric for the neck ties and I sewed together 3 shorter strips to make up the waist ties.
Fold your strips right sides together and sew along the raw edge.
Press your seams and then cut both strips in half.
Next you need to turn your straps right side out. A sewing teacher once showed me a trick using a safety pin to do this – maybe you’ve heard of it? I could never master it – so I’ve modified it. Here is what I do –
Attach a safety pin to the outside of the strip. Drop it inside. Use a chopstick to catch the top of the safety pin and push it through.
As you push it through rest the chopstick on your lap and pull the fabric down over it. Your safety pin should come out the other end and you should be able to use the leverage from the chopstick to pull your fabric right side out.
Step 3: Attach your straps
Head to your sewing machine and tidy up the edges of the straps by folding them over twice at each end and sewing shut.
Then attach the two shorter straps one at each corner with the right side of the strap facing the back side of the apron. So essentially when the straps are sewn on the seams of the straps will be hidden against the body.
Eyeball just above the waistline of your apron and measure across. Put a pin in each side and sew your longer waist straps on there (again making sure once attached the seams of the straps face the back).
Step 4: Attach the pocket
You can make the pocket as large or small as you like. I would have ideally made a slightly bigger one but I didn’t have a lot of large pieces of shirt left.
Whatever size you choose you want to fold the raw edges under on the sides and bottom and press them shut. Sew around these three edges.
Next fold over the top edge twice to completely conceal the raw edge. Sew across this.
Lastly pin your pocket where you want it on the front of the apron and top stitch around the sides and bottom.
Step 5: Find an aspiring child baker to give it to!
And that’s it an easy peasy DIY kid’s apron from the sleeve of a man’s shirt.
If you want to make this super polished you could have a backing fabric as well. In our house though this is going to get used mostly for dress up or potentially sitting in the kitchen licking icing while Mummy does the actual baking – so I didn’t feel the need to get all perfectionist on this.
I think it looks pretty cute and I love that it’s made of his Dad’s shirt!
And here is what I made with the rest of the shirt!
If you want to save this project to do later – Pin it!
Looking for more fun upcycle projects you can do for or with your kids or grandkids? Try these:
- How to Upcycle Junk Mail – Junk Journal Colouring Book
- How to Make Personalised Name Crayons
- 14 Ways to Upcycle Scrap Fabrics as Gifts for Kids
- 2 men's shirts - one full sleeve and an parts of a second shirt for the pocket and straps.
- Safety pin & chopstick (optional
- Sewing Machine
- Cut out a men's shirt sleeve along the shoulder seam.
- Cut off the cuff
- Press and then hem around the rough edges
- Cut out long thin strips for the straps - sew right sides together and press.
- Turn straps right side out and fasten to the main apron.
- Cut a pocket of your desired size press and hem the edges and attach.