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Create a Day of the Dead Apron (by Laurel Anne Hill)

Written by Laurel on December 28th, 2013


Front of Laurel Anne Hill's Day of the Dead Apron


Attention sewing enthusiasts who celebrate Dia de los Muertos:  Day of the Dead.  It’s not too early to mark your calendars for November 1-2, 2014, and contemplate making an apron for the occasion.  I found some stunning Day-of-the-Dead fabric in the spring of 2013, which I converted into a four-corners “reversible” apron — a Christmas gift for my sister.  I didn’t have a traditional pin-and-cut apron pattern, so I used my purchased-from-a-craft-fair four-corners apron as a PATTERN GUIDE and found some helpful instructions online.

The following link leads to many possibilities you may wish to check: Four Corners and Other Apron Ideas and Instructions.

Fortunately, I purchased three times the amount of fabric that I thought I’d need.  Otherwise, I never would have been able to center the large and complex “skeleton fiesta” scene optimally, nor place the pocket to blend into the overall front-of-apron design.  The reverse side of my apron contains a simple repeating motif of skulls and roses.


Laurel Anne Hill's Day of the Dead Apron, Reverse Side


My purchased apron, aka PATTERN GUIDE, measures approximately 24 inches on all sides with two 36” x 1-1/8” ties and one 22” x 1-1/8” upper loop to slip over the head.  The finished pocket is 6” wide and 7” high.  I made my Day of the Dead apron a little larger.  My finished product measured closer to 26 inches on all sides with 37” x 1-1/4” inch ties and one 23” x 1-1/2” upper loop.  My completed pocket was approximately 7” square.  You see, I cut my fabric without a paper pattern and allowed for potential uneven cutting and generous seams of ½-inch.  My Kenmore sewing machine—once owned by my grandmother—is of 1930s vintage and ample seams always help me sew straight.  Note that the front of my apron consists of the skeleton fiesta fabric square plus a border (two strips that were 3” wide before sewing and 2” wide in the finished apron) of the reverse-side skulls-and-roses fabric.  The reverse skulls-and-roses side of the apron has no border or pocket.

Here is how I made my apron ties:  I cut one 39” x 6-1/2” strip of fabric with one side along the salvage.  I cut that strip lengthwise down the middle to produce two 39” x 3-1/4” strips.  For each tie, I folded the strip in half lengthwise with the back side of the fabric facing outward.  I ironed each strip to line up the fabric edges for easy sewing.  I left one end of each tie unsewn in order to turn the fabric “tube” right-side out.  After turning and ironing, I sewed the open ends of the tubes shut.  I hid these less attractive ends between the two fabric layers of the main part of the apron.

In fact, the main apron, the neck and the pocket are also double-layered and have to be turned right-side-out once the two layers are sewn together.  For the main apron, leave three inches or so unsewn where the ties will go to permit turning room.  For the pocket, leave a couple inches open on the bottom.  Once turned, these “holes” become closed when attaching the pocket, ties or neck piece.


Right Apron Tie

Left Apron Tie


Tricks to turning fabric when two sides are sewn together:  Trim close to the seams (approximately 1/8-inch) at the ACTUAL CORNER AREAS.  With care, use a yardstick to gently poke at the corners after turning so they don’t appear rounded.  You can use a knitting needle on the ties if a yardstick is too wide, but DON”T poke a hole in the fabric.  If you don’t have special turning tools, patience is needed to turn two long apron ties that are only 1-1/4 wide in finished form.  Listen to some music you like.  Take your time.  The end result will be worth the effort.  Or, first watch the video athttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22DngINLQ-M and then buy some real turning tools in a fabric store or on online.

Note that the upper corner of my finished apron has been turned down 3-4 inches and hand-tacked in place (after ironing) adding a decorative button.  I tried on my apron creation and checked the turndown distance before finalizing the neck strap.  And speaking of ironing, after I sewed each section of my apron, I ironed it.  I ironed the finished product, as well.


Notice the Well-Matched Pocket

Secure Stitching of the Lower Tip


I didn’t do a turn-down style pocket on my apron because I didn’t want to interrupt the skeleton fiesta motif.

When I used to quilt, I washed my cotton material before cutting it into pieces.  With cotton aprons, however, I simply purchase quality fabric and allow for a little shrinkage.  This is what my grandmother used to do and she was practically a one-woman apron factory.  However, fabric comes from all over the world these days.  You should consult with your local fabric shop when making your purchase to ascertain if you should pre-wash or not.

By the way, my sister loves the Day of the Dead apron I made for her.  Now it’s time to get busy on one for myself.  As a published author of science fiction, fantasy, steampunk and horror, I intend to wear my own apron throughout the year.

My Mexican ancestors would be proud of me, particularly because some of them sewed to make a living.

Happy sewing,


Laurel Anne Hill (Author of “Heroes Arise”)