So what is a hack?
A hack is making changes to an existing pattern to create a different look. It is a great way to add your own style and to build confidence in dressmaking. It gives you a good feeling at the end which far outweighs the nerves when you begin.
So, as promised here are all the details of how to use your Hepworth Apron pattern to make a super stylish pinafore dress. The fit remains flattering and very contemporary.
You can buy the Hepworth Apron here as a paper pattern or as a PDF (including a US version).
You can follow the basic construction tips and free video tutorials included in the pattern, as well as reading the additional information below. We have made 3 videos just for the hack too (watch below).
The secret to this hack is creating a skirt back which fits you well and sewing it to the apron front.
I didn't want a wrap over with too much fabric at the back of the skirt, so took the time to create a very simple pattern with 2 darts and a zip. It's quick and stress free to draw up and requires no specialist tools.
The main learning point for the hack is inserting a centre-back zip, which I always put in a skirt where possible to make it hang nicely. The trick is to do it early on so you can then fit the garment at the side seams. In the old days people were always taught to put the zip in as early as possible whilst the fabric is laying flat. Access is easier, it gets the stressful part out of the way and the fact is you cannot fit around a zip, but you can fit so much better at the side seams once the zip is stitched in place and you can try it on. I hope when you try this method, it will be a game-changer, because it certainly was for me.
What you need:
All of the Hepworth Apron pattern pieces
Pattern paper (or newspaper) to draw your skirt block and trace strap
A tape measure
An invisible zip to match your choice of fabric (8 inches long)
The hack requires less fabric than the apron if your fabric is 60 inches wide: buy 1.25 m
If you use 45 inches wide fabric you need an extra half metre as the skirt is wider: buy 2 m
I sewed up a looser fitting version where the straps cross at the back, and a more fitted version where they don't. I honestly love them both and get a lot of compliments when I wear them. I have at least another 2 planned - a lightweight gingham one for summer and a needlecord version for winter to team with colourful polo neck jumpers.
Drawing the skirt back
Begin by drawing a vertical line on your pattern paper which is 29 inches long
At the top make the top of the skirt 10 inches wide (for UK 8 to 12) and then mark the following points with a small dot ( I would recommend adding an extra 1 inch to all the measurement below for UK 14 to 18 and 2 inches for UK 20 )
7 inches down the vertical line measure 12 inches across the width of the skirt (or 13/14)
16.5 inches down the vertical line measure 13 inches wide (or 14/15)
29 inches down the vertical line measure 13.3 inches wide (or 14.3/15.3)
Join the dots on the right hand side and across the bottom.
Mark a 1 inch wide dart which begins 5 inches from outside hip and is 4.5 inches long
You can also mark a notch on the centre back seam 9 inches from the bottom if you would like a split in the skirt for ease of movement.
Top tip: Pin your paper pattern to the apron front pattern (A) before you cut it out and ensure it will fit around your waist and hips (allow 5/8 inch for your seam). If in doubt go a bit bigger as you can then fit it at the side seams once the zip is inserted.
Making a strap pattern
From the centre back edge of pattern piece B ( the long curved edge) draw a line across the width of the strap at a depth of 19.5 inches.
Trace this slightly curved shape to make a new strap pattern, adding 2 inches to the top and label the top and the bottom so you don't get confused later. Also copy the grainline off the pattern piece. Note the strap is on a slight angle so that it will hang correctly across your back.
What else to decide before cutting out
Do I want my straps to be hemmed and a single layer of fabric as on the Hepworth Apron? If yes just cut 2.
Do I want my straps to be double with a contrast fabric beneath? If yes cut 2 in outer fabric and 2 in your contrast of choice.
Do I want my patch pockets to be in one fabric? If yes cut 4 single pockets in total.
Do I want my pockets to have a contrast lining? If yes cut 2 in outer fabric and 2 in your contrast of choice.
Lay out your pattern pieces and cut out
(Piece A is on the fold and straight - it's just the camera angle!!)
The pinafore suits pockets and I can't live without them. On the apron you can place on an angle but I think they look smarter straight on this hack. You can sew them on to the apron front at this stage as access is easier than at the end.
I positioned mine approx 5 inches below the top of the side seam with approx a 4.5 inch gap between them at the centre front.
Top Tip: Baste your pockets half an inch from the edge so the stitches are easy to remove afterwards and don't get caught beneath your machine stitches.
Making up the skirt back
Transfer the darts using tailor tacks and stitch them. Press towards the centre back of the skirt.
There is a quick video here on how to press darts:
Preparing to insert the zip
Read on or watch the video:
Iron a strip of lightweight interfacing approximately 1 inch wide by 10 inches long to the centre back edge of the skirt. This helps the zip to sew in nicely.
Overlock or zig zag the centre back seam of your skirt as this is the only exposed seam once the garment is finished.
Place the skirt right sides together and using a contrast thread machine baste from the top of the skirt 8 and a half inches down the seam (I use a 1 inch seam allowance for zips)- use the longest stitch length on your machine and do not secure stitches at the start or finish as they are only temporary!
Now reduce your stitch length, put in the thread that matches your garment and sew from the point where the basting ends to the bottom of the skirt, or if you wish to have a split at the back of the skirt like me then finish off inches 9 inches before the bottom, securing with a backstitch.
Next - press the entire seam open so it lays lovely and flat - this is your only chance to this as the zip goes in next.
Step 7 Inserting the zip
Read on or watch the video, or both!!
Position the zip tape right side down 1 inch below the top edge of the skirt so the centre of the teeth sit on the seam line you created in step 6.
Pin and baste it, only going through the seam allowance and not to the skirt front. These stitches can stay in place afterwards as an extra level of security so make them reasonably neat!
Now remove the temporary stitches in the contrast thread so you can access the zip to sew it in place. This is done from the right side of the skirt.
Put your regular zipper foot on the machine and set the needle to the left position. Open the zip as far as it will go and then roll the zipper tape back and sew as close to it as you can - go slowly and make your stitch length about 3 so it's not too tiny. Again you are only sewing the zip tape to the seam allowance and not through to the skirt front. When you get as far as you can go, reverse and finish off. Shift the needle a little towards the edge of the zip tape and sew a line level with where you had to stop and the end of the tape.
Repeat at the other side.
Top Tip: Never sew across the bottom of a zip - it creates an unnecessary bump that can be visible and the zip is very secure as it is.
Now look at your zip from the front and admire it! If you feel you can still see some of the tape simply repeat the stitches a little closer to the zip teeth - you don't need to unpick the original rows so it is not too much work.
Joining the front and back of the pinafore (step 2 and 3 in Hepworth Apron instructions)
Now that you have a functional zip you can pin the skirt back to the apron front using a 5/8 seam allowance and try it on. Decide on the height of the bib as this can be adjusted later with the straps and also how low you want the skirt to sit. My looser version is level with the top of my hip bone rather than at my waist - but you then need a longer top to wear underneath.
Once you are happy with the fit of your pinafore follow the Hepworth Apron instructions to sew and press your French seams.
Hemming the bib
Press a double hem from the bib to the zip on both sides of the bib. Sew this BUT stop approx 1 inch beyond the side seams so you can slot the straps in later.
Sewing and fitting the straps
Either turn under and hem the straps as in the Hepworth Apron instructions (step 4) or cut a second pair in a contrast fabric like this Liberty print I chose.
For the second option, pin and sew the longer edges of the strap together with right sides together and a half inch seam allowance. Turn right side out. Press. Top stitch if desired (use a stitch length of at least 3) – ensuring the bobbin thread matches the colour of your contrast fabric beneath.
I used Aurifil 40 wt thread to top stitch on the denim and 50 wt sage green on the bobbin.
Top Tip: Sage green is a brilliant colour to blend with multi-coloured fabrics - or if not then try a mid grey. They show a lot less than white.
Hang the strap at your shoulder and make sure the gentle curve is going outwards at the lower back as it would on the apron.
Baste the straps to the top of bib and add the facing as on the apron, including top stitching it in place (step 6 in the Hepworth Apron booklet).
Step 12 (Almost there!)
Try on the pinafore once more and pin the straps in the position you want them to finish and at a length you are happy with (you may need to cut some length off the bottom).
Tuck them into the hem you have already pressed in step 9 so all the raw edges are neat and tidy and sew the hem from where you broke off earlier to the centre back - this should finish just above the zip.
In order to prevent them from curling outwards, add a row of top stitching across the width of each strap from the right side.
If you have a bit of contrast fabric left you can bind the inside of your split on the skirt as shown here.
Otherwise all that is left to do is to decide on the length of your pinafore and turn under the hem.
The finished pinafore looks very tidy from the inside with no raw edges and will be very easy to wash and wear many many times.
Please share your versions with us at the studio - it makes us very happy and the hashtag is #hepworthapronhack.