Chicken Scratch ~ Child’s Hold-it-all Apron

on August 7 | in Sewing Tutorials + Patterns | by | with 62 Comments

Wendy (“Sunshine”) created this Child’s Hold-it-all Apron Tutorial as a fun introduction to the tradition of chicken scratch, a type of cross stitch embroidery on gingham fabric. It’s quite common to find vintage aprons with chicken scratch; now you can make your own to carry on the tradition! Read more about Wendy in her introduction, and be sure to visit her Sunshine’s Creations blog for your chance to win today’s apron. Wendy’s keeping the giveaway up for one month, through September 7th, so wander over to visit and comment after you enjoy her tutorial today.

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From Wendy:
Child’s Hold-it-all Apron (can also be used as a clothespin apron for adults)

My youngest daughter likes carrying blocks all over the house and is always using her shirt to hold them. I figured there had to be an easier way of little children carrying large amounts of items around; since their hands are so small I figured an apron with big pockets would work. Once I had the body done I figured it would also make a good clothespin apron bag for adults. I made the ties extra long so as the child grew the apron would still be useful to them. When the child is little you can either tie big loops for the bow or you can tie it in front instead of the back.


  • Scissors
  • Gingham fabric (that has a 3 x 3 grid per square inch, see photo above)
  • embroidery thread or size 10 crochet thread
  • Sewing thread to match fabric
  • size 24 crewel needle for embroidery and a sharp needle for hemming
  • straight pins

Here’s the diagram for a basic chicken scratch stitch:

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This tutorial has three main parts: ties, apron top & apron pockets (which are a full panel that extends the width of the apron).
Prep work:

Cut gingham fabric into three pieces: one that measures 150 blocks long by 74 blocks, two that measure 150 blocks long and 17 blocks wide.
When cutting make sure to do this between blocks to keep everything nice and straight.

Tie construction:

1. Your 2 strips that are 150 blocks long and 17 blocks wide are your ties.The length of the ties is long so it can be tied in front and grow with the child. If you do not want them this long just shorten the stripes.
2. Cut 1 that is 150 blocks long by 74 blocks. Use salvage for the long part of this measurement (bottom part of apron body). This salvage will save a seam on the pocket (apron body).

Construction of ties:

1. Fold ties in half length wise…
…and make a seam across the fold on one end (one block in).
2. Turn right side out and line up center seam with center of tie. This forms the point of the tie.
3. Fold again (see photo) and sew 1 block in from edge.
4. Turn right side out and hand stitch opening closed (do this for both ties and set aside till later).

Construction of apron body:

1. Make a small notch on the apron body to help you find where to fold the top of the apron over once you have embroidered it. This notch is placed 12 blocks down from the top of the apron. This is on the two short sides of the apron, farthest from the selvage.
2. Mark center of apron with a contrasting thread.
3. Fold selvage end of apron up and line up blocks with their rows. Pin edges.

Making the waistband pleats:
There are 38 columns of chicken scratch and 11 rows (1 row ends up in the seam allowance when you flip the hem so you can skip that one if you want as no one will see it).

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There are also 18 pleats total. Follow the second graph in the SMS Chicken Scratch PDF for layout. There are four squares on each side of the center fold, followed by a pattern of four squares seen, then four hidden (two back & two forward). There are nine folds each on each side of the center.
You make the folds outwards on both sides of the center…
…Like so!

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At this point you should have the top of the apron pinned so it’s ready for your chicken scratch embroidery.

How to make pockets:
The pocket section goes across the entire bottom portion of the apron. Your pocket should be 24 blocks tall.

1. With apron facing you and right side up we are starting on the left side. See top graph in SMS Chicken Scratch PDF for fold placements of pockets. Fold pockets as per arrows on first graph.
Four squares show on the front of the apron after each fold.
Two squares are hidden in each fold.
2. Pin folds for the pocket section in place and stitch with chicken scratch. See bottom graph on SMS Chicken Scratch PDF for chicken scratch placement. Do not go through back of apron with your chicken scratch on the inside pocket folds or you’ll sew the pockets closed.
Folding the pleats.3. The chicken scratch on the edges and that chicken scratch that divides pockets go through all layers (see graph in SMS Chicken Scratch PDF).

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Using the SMS Chicken Scratch PDF as a guide, fill in with chicken scratch embroidery on the top of the apron. Use your chicken scratch to divide the pockets from each other (sewing through all layers this time) and to close the outer sides of the pocket.

Hem sides and top:

1. Using the SMS Chicken Scratch PDF as a guide, use your chicken scratch pattern to secure pockets closed on the sides of your apron. Use chicken scratch to hold folds closed on the top of the apron.

Here’s what it looks like when you’re done with the chicken scratch:

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2. Fold over one square then another for hems on sides and top.
3. Use a matching thread and a blind hem.

Add ties:

Attach ties at the point where the notch was 12 blocks down from waist band, then flip the band down. You should only see 5 rows of chicken scratch on the front of the waistband and 5 rows on the back. This hides all the backs of the threads in the waistband. This thickness also gives the waistband strength to keep its shape. One row is in the flipped hem so that things lay smoothly.

Now your apron is all done!

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Comment in any post this week for a chance to win a SMS Deluxe Hand Sewing Kit or one of 4 $20 gift certificates to Sew,Mama,Sew!

Add your photos to the Hand Sewing pool.

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62 Responses to Chicken Scratch ~ Child’s Hold-it-all Apron

  1. paketresor says:

    i’ve begun to visit this site a couple of times now and i have to say that i find it quite exeptional actually. keep the nice work up! :p

  2. Candice says:

    I have been looking everywhere for an apron pattern with lots of front pockets to make my 3 year old, she loves to gather our chickens eggs and I want to make her an egg gathering apron. This pattern is perfect! Thanks for sharing and for all the great pictures and explanations!

  3. Cynthia says:

    This is the cutest apron I’ve seen! Perfect for my daughter & myself. I can’t wait to get started on our mother/daughter aprons! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Deci Worland says:

    I love this!

  5. Leslie Lansdowne says:

    How adorable, I’m gonna start on one right away! I just bought a vintage apron from an antique shop that has printed chicken scratch—but I’ve been in a cross stitchin’ mood so I’ll be happy to make a real one! Thanks for the toot, Wendy!

  6. Sue Cahill says:

    I did lots of Chicken Scratch back int the early 80’s, great to see it back!

    Sue Cahill (sbonetsue at yahoo dot com)

  7. Lisa says:

    I need one of these for household and garden work.

  8. Claudia says:

    This is so cute and fun!! I remember my grandmother using this technique and I have since wondered how to duplicate it….thank you for sharing this with all of us!!

  9. Robyn says:

    excellent tutorial! Thanks for all the great details.

  10. Stacy says:

    What a beautiful idea! Thanks for sharing.

  11. angie says:

    Thanks for making an apron tutorial that uses chicken scratch! I hope to make some. This makes me think of my great-great grandmother, which makes me happy. Angie

  12. Kim D. says:

    Great Idea and an adorable apron project.

  13. Nancy says:

    Too cute! What a great idea. I like this for myself. As a first grade teacher I always need extra pockets!

  14. Millan says:

    This is so cute, I love it!

  15. Nima says:

    wow…that looks great…thank you for the tutorial

  16. Lyn says:

    I did a pillow in chicken scratch in the 70’s, and I love that it is coming back, now!

  17. kt says:

    love it!!!!

  18. Suzanne says:

    Very nice! I love the “chicken scratch”.

  19. Kelli says:

    Love it! I have a chicken scratch apron I inherited from my great grandmother, all of us girls got one. I use it all the time and now we can make a matching one for my daughter!

  20. Trina says:

    That is totally darling, but it would take me about 100 years to make it. Maybe my great-great-grandaughter would like one…

  21. aprintaday says:

    i. love. it.

    seriously, that apron is adorable.

  22. Elizabeth says:

    Adorable! I think I’ll have to make this for my cousin’s daughter 🙂

  23. Megan Kinyon says:

    Wow that is beautiful! I want to make one now. I will have to use that chicken scratch embroidery on the ginham I have in my sewing closet. Thanks for the idea!

  24. Stacy says:

    How cute!! I can just see my little girl running around with this apron full of her treasures! I can’t wait to make her one. Thank for the tute.

  25. Ramona says:

    Cute apron. Finally I know what chicken scratching is.

  26. Kim says:

    Adorable! I love the chicken scratch!

  27. craftytammie says:

    super cute project!

  28. Cayce says:

    I love it! how beautiful! I agree…might have to make myself one to hold my clothespins for wash day 🙂

  29. Mary Beth says:

    Totally cute! This is going on my to make list for my daughter— and maybe myself too!

  30. Kathleen says:

    What a wonderful idea! So many of the childrens’ apron patterns you see are really boring or not very functional. this seems like it would be great for my little niece who is beginning to love pretending to cook! Thank you!

  31. Serena says:

    What an adorable, fun, useful apron! I never would have been able to figure out how to do ties that way. They’re gorgeous!

  32. Cheryl says:

    I use to do chicken scratch years ago. The apron is absolutely adorable! Thanks so much for the tutorial!

  33. What a great tutorial bring back smocking to a child’s apron. I thing I need to make one.

  34. Elaine says:

    Very cute, now I will have to make one for my favorite little girl! Thanks for posting this, Elaine

  35. Tara says:

    That is such a nifty idea! I bet both of my kids would love one for their various items they haul about. 🙂

  36. Mel says:

    great idea!

  37. Stephanie says:

    Adorable! I always wandered what ‘chicken scratch’ was. Now I know, thank you very much!

  38. Patty says:

    I love it!

  39. Lorien says:

    Thank you for this tutorial! I have a small collection of vintage “chicken scratch” gingham aprons, and I’d love to have a couple for my girls. I’ll definitely be using this for inspiration! Now my only problem is finding cotton gingham. My local fabric store only has 80/20 polyester gingham, boo!

  40. Steph Wehrman says:

    Oh my, that looks like it takes a lot of time and patience, but with a beautiful result!

  41. Nancy Mc says:

    I love chicken scratch. Fun to do and reminds me of all my Grandma’s aprons!

  42. andrea says:

    What a cute apron : )

  43. Robin D says:

    this has got to be the cutest kids apron I have seen in a long time.

  44. Love it! So much beauty.

  45. Kadybug says:

    This is such a cute apron!

  46. Marilyn says:

    Oh I had forgotten all about this! My Aunt used to make these aprons and I always wished I could! Thanks for showing the pattern!

  47. Tam Bell says:

    How geat is that, my son would love one…and my daugher too when she gets bigger.

  48. VickiT says:

    What a great idea. Such an adorable model too. Thank you.

  49. Penny says:

    That is adorable, I may make 7 for party favors for my DD’s 6th B’day

  50. Andi says:

    I’ve never heard of chicken scratch before – so pretty with the gingham. Thanks for sharing with us!

  51. I remember having a dress and little jacket when I was about 7 with chicken scratch embroidery on it. It was blue gingham. Good memory, thanks for jogging it up.

  52. Liz Fenwick says:

    Very adorable!
    I want to make one for me now!

  53. Myra says:

    Wonderful idea, esp for clothespins.

  54. Helena says:

    That is awesome. I hope to find the time to make this cutie.

  55. jennsquared says:

    That’s really cute!

  56. Susie Mac says:

    Now this is a project right up my alley. It’s so cute. I’m going to make one for my mom. Thank you for the instructions!

  57. Ellen Ban says:

    Very cute idea. Love the “chicken Scratch”!

  58. MaryAnn says:

    That’s a beautiful little apron. Thanks for the info.

  59. Heather W. says:

    Very cute! I might have to make one or three;)

  60. MeganAnne says:

    wow this is darling. beautifully done.

  61. Margie says:

    Wow thats such a pretty apron & such a clever design. I would love to wear one while hanging out clothes!!

  62. Angel says:

    very cute!

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