When we’re young, our parents are just our parents. Often, it’s not until we’re looking back over our shoulders or packing up boxes for an estate sale that we take a close look at their fashions and belongings and realize, “Wow… they were pretty stylin’.” This stunning half apron design has a crisp, tailored look to it, and the jacquard ribbons from Renaissance Ribbons reminded both my sister and me of our father’s favorite skinny striped ties, which he would wear tp work with a starched white shirt and a suit coat on even the hottest days of summer. Indeed… he was stylin’.
The exact Kaffe Fassett ribbons we chose are no longer available through Renaissance Ribbons, but no worries, there are also many alternatives in different colorways, other striped patterns, or Kaffe’s famous tumbling blocks and vibrant chevrons. Check out the full Kaffe Fassett collection at Renaissance Ribbons as well as all their other amazing designer ribbon options. The key to getting our look is to combine a strong ribbon motif with a rich coordinating solid fabric. We recommend using two sizes of the same or very similar ribbon designs for the best finish.
With all this bright color against a classic solid linen, make sure you choose a ribbon accent that is color fast. All the jacquard ribbons at Renaissance Ribbons are precisely woven with top quality polyester thread, so they will not shrink and the colors won’t bleed onto your base fabric.
We turned to ribbon expert, Elaine Schmidt for additional details. She reminds us there’s a very good chance the base fabric will shrink – especially if it is a cotton or linen. If not pre-washed and dried prior to starting, the fabric could shrink up, causing the ribbons to no longer lay flat after the project is washed. Laundering won’t hurt the ribbons, so if you want to cover all your bases, you could certainly pre-wash and dry them with the fabric. Just make sure to run a zig zag stitch across the cut edges so they do not unravel during laundering. Elaine also suggests lightly pressing the ribbons with a steam iron and pressing cloth to smooth and prepare them for sewing. However, take care when pressing polyester ribbons; they require a lower ironing temperature than cotton and linen fabric.
As with store-bought aprons, our design is meant to be one-size-fits-all. However, we realize you may still wish to make yours smaller or larger. As a reference, the waistband of this apron is 24″ wide, the ties are each approximately 30″ long, and the skirt length is 16″.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
- Satin Stitch foot; optional, but helpful for ribbon stitching; it’s what we used
- Clear View Quilting Foot and Guide Set; optional – another good choice to keep your ribbon stitching precise
Fabric and Other Supplies
- 1½ yards of 1½” wide ribbon
- 4¼ yards of ⅞” wide ribbon
- 1 yard of 54″+ wide medium weight linen or linen blend in a coordinating solid; Fabric Wholesale Direct has a lovely selection of 60″ natural linen in a wide range of colors
- TWO 1″ rectangular rings for the waist ties; we used black
- All purpose thread to match both fabric and ribbons; or use our favorite for ribbon stitching: clear monofilament thread
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Pressing cloth to protect the ribbon
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Tape measure
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
- Hand sewing needle and thimble
- Two safety pins to attach the two accent bows
- From the linen fabric, cut the following:
ONE 17″ x 38″ panel for the skirt
ONE 4″ x 25″ strip for the waistband
TWO 3″ x 33 strips for the waist ties
ONE 7″ x 15″ rectangle for the pocket
- From the ⅞” wide ribbon, cut the following:
THREE 39″ lengths for the skirt
TWO 2″ lengths for the ring tabs
ONE 8″ length for the pocket
TWO 8″ lengths for the pocket bow
ONE 3″ length for the waistband bow center
ONE 2″ length for the pocket bow center
- From the 1½” wide ribbon, cut the following:
ONE 26″ length for the waistband
TWO 11″ lengths for the pocket bow
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
- Place the 17″ x 38″ panel right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Find two of the 39″ lengths of ⅞” ribbon.
- Place the first ribbon horizontally across the skirt panel. The bottom edge of the ribbon should be 9″ up from the bottom raw edge of the fabric panel. Pin the ribbon in place.
- Thread your machine with thread to match the ribbon in the top and bobbin or use our favorite option: clear monofilament thread. We used a slightly lengthened stitch for all ribbon stitching.
- Edgestitch the ribbon in place along both sides. We are using our Janome Satin Stitch foot with its helpful center red arrow guide.
- Place the second ribbon above and parallel with the first ribbon. The bottom edge of this second ribbon should be 11″ up from the bottom raw edge of the fabric panel, which means there is about 1″ in between the two ribbons.
- Edgestitch the ribbon in place along both sides.
- Flip over the skirt panel and lay it flat on your work surface wrong side up.
- Find the remaining 39″ length of ⅞” ribbon.
- Place the ribbon wrong sides together with the bottom raw edge of the skirt panel, overlapping the fabric with the ribbon by ½”. Pin in place.
- Edgestitch the one side of the ribbon in place on the wrong side of the skirt panel.
- Flip the skirt back over to the right side. Fold up the bottom ribbon along its seam. This edgestitching seam now becomes the finished bottom of the skirt panel. Press the ribbon flat against the front of the skirt panel (remember that pressing cloth). Pin the top edge of the ribbon in place.
- Edgestitch the top edge of the ribbon to secure.
- Trim any excess ribbon so the raw ends of the ribbon lengths are prefectly flush with the raw side edges of the skirt panel.
- Fold and press a double-turn ½” hem along both sides. To do this, turn in the raw side edge ½” and press. Turn in an additional ½” and press again, concealing the raw edge within the two folds. Pin in place.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to match the skirt in both the top and bobbin. We continued to use a slightly lengthened stitch.
- Topstitch each side hem in place from top to bottom.
- Find the 7″ x 15″ pocket rectangle.
- Fold the pocket in half (7″ x 7½”) wrong sides together and press to set a crease.
- Unfold the pocket right side up so the crease line is visible.
- Find the 8″ length of ⅞” ribbon.
- Center the ribbon horizontally across the pocket panel so the top edge of the ribbon is ½” below the center crease line. Pin in place.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to match the ribbon (or clear monofilament) in the top and bobbin.
- Edgestitch the ribbon in place along both sides.
- Fold the pocket in half, right sides together, sandwiching the sewn ribbon between the two layers.
- Pin along both sides and across the bottom, leaving an approximate 3″ opening along the bottom for turning.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the fabric in the top and bobbin. Re-set for a normal stitch length. Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch along both sides and across the bottom. Remember to pivot at the corners and to lock your seam at either side of the 3″ opening.
- Trim the corners, press open the seams, and turn right side out through the opening.
- Press the pocket flat, gently pushing out the corners with a long blunt end tool, such as a long knitting needle, chopstick or point turner. You want the corners to be nice and sharp. Fold in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam.
- Find the skirt panel. Place it right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Place the pocket in position on the skirt panel. It should be 6″ in from the left hemmed side of the apron, and the ribbon on the pocket should be perfectly in line with the top horizontal ribbon on the skirt. Pin the pocket in place.
- Edgestitch the pocket in place along both sides and across the bottom, remember to pivot at the corners. This seam secures the pocket to the skirt and closes the opening used for turning the pocket. We used a slightly contrasting thread to topstitch our pocket in place and continued to use our slightly lengthened stitch.
- Fold the skirt panel in half to find the exact center point along its top raw edge. Mark this center point with a pin.
- Create a group of three knife pleats at each side of center along the upper edge of the apron skirt.
- The pleats are spaced 1″ apart and each set starts 3″ from the center front.
- Pin in place.
NOTE: If you are new to creating pleats, take a look at our tutorial: How to Make Knife Pleats.
Waistband and side rings
- Find the 4″ x 25″ strip of waistband fabric and the 26″ length of 1½” ribbon.
- Place the fabric strip right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Place the ribbon horizontally across the fabric strip with the top edge of the ribbon ½” (and just a bit extra) from the top raw edge of the fabric. The ribbon should be centered so it extends ½” beyond the fabric on either side. Pin the ribbon in place.
- Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the ribbon (or clean monofilament) in the top and bobbin.
- Edgestitch the ribbon in place along both long sides. When done, trim away any excess so the ribbon is flush with the waistband.
- Fold back the opposite long raw edge of the fabric strip ½” and press.
- Find the pleated skirt panel.
- Place the waistband right sides together with the top edge of the skirt panel, aligning the raw edges of both pieces. The folded edge of the waistband is laying against the skirt panel. Pin in place. The waistband should extend beyond the skirt panel by ½” on both sides.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch across the waistband through all the layers. Your ½” seam should run right along the edge of the ribbon but should not catch the ribbon – that is why you placed it just a bit more than ½” from the top when originally stitching it to the waistband strip. You will be about ⅛” to the right of the ribbon’s edgestitching seam.
- Press the waistband (and the seam allowance) up and away from the skirt panel.
- Find the two 2″ lengths of ⅞” ribbon and the two rectangular rings.
- Slip one length of ribbon through each ring, creating a tab. Pin the raw ends of the ribbon together.
- Pin one ring tab to each end of the waist band, centering the tab within the wider waistband ribbon. Remember, the waistband should extend beyond the skirt panel by ½” on either side.
- Fold the waistband in half right sides together. The folded edge of the waistband should be flush with the bottom edge of the ribbon. The ring tabs are sandwiched between the layers. Pin in place.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch across each end through all the layers. This seam should be flush with the existing skirt side hem.
NOTE: You’ll see in the photo below that we sewed this seam with our needle in the far left position in order to stitch as close to the ring as possible. You could also use a Zipper foot if you are unable to adjust your needle position.
- Trim the seam allowance back to about ¼” and turn the waistband right side out. Adjust the waistband down into position on the back of the skirt panel so the folded edge of the waistband covers the waistband/skirt seam allowance. Pin in place across the skirt.
- Flip over the skirt so it is right side up and secure the waistband with a line of topstitching, running your seam exactly along the previously sewn ribbon edgestitching seam.
- Find the two 3″ x 33″ fabric strips. Fold each in half lengthwise, right sides together, so they now measure 1½” x 33″. Pin in place, leaving an approximate 3″ opening along the 33″ side for turning.
- Re-thread your machine with thread to match the fabric in the top and bobbin. Re-set the stitch length to normal.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch across both ends and down the long side of each tie. Remember to pivot at the corners and to lock your seam at either side of the 3″ opening left for turning.
- Clip the corners and turn right side out through the center opening. As with the pocket, use a long, blunt-end tool to gently push out the corners so they are sharp. Press in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam.
- Slightly lengthen the stitch again. Edgestitch around all four sides of each tie. This is a decorative touch and closes the opening used for turning. Press each tie flat.
- Insert one end of each tie through one of the rectangular rings.
- Fold the end of the tie back on itself by about 1½”.
- Stitch a 1″ X Box to secure this fold in place. If you are new to the X-Box technique, check out our full tutorial.
NOTE: We re-threaded to a slightly contrasting thread (the same thread used to stitch the pocket in place) to stitch the boxes because they are kind of a decorative element. You can do the same or stick with the matching thread.
There are two accent bows, one for the pocket and one for the waistband. Both are made in exactly the same manner. The steps below show you the waistband bow.
- Re-thread your machine with thread to match the ribbon in the top and bobbin or use clear monofilament.
- Find the two 11″ lengths of 1½” ribbon and the 3″ length of ⅞” ribbon.
- Place the two 11″ lengths wrong sides together and pin in place.
NOTE: When wrong sides together the ribbon kind of grips itself. You may not need pins; we didn’t use any.
- Edgestitch along both sides. Do not stitch the ends.
NOTE: This edgestitching matches the edgestitching on the waistband and adds some extra body to the bow.
- Place the ends right sides together so the raw edges are flush. Pin in place.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch across the end to form a loop.
- Press open the seam and turn the loop right side out. Rotate the loop to center the seam.
- Thread a hand sewing needle. Run several hand gathering stitches through the center at the seam. You will need a little pressure as you are stitching through four layers. Better grab a thimble.
- Pull the stitches to create the classic “bow tie dimples” at the center of the loop. Hand knot to lock the stitching.
- Wrap the 3″ ribbon around the center of the loop. Fold under one end of this narrower ribbon ½” to create a finished edge. Pin in place.
NOTE: We flipped our bow several times to check the wrap on the front, adjusting the center piece looser or tighter as needed to insure we had just the right look before stitching in place.
- With the hand needle and thread, whip stitch the ends to secure.
- The bow can be stitched in place right on the waistband (positioning as shown in our photos above) or pinned in place. We opted for the safety pin route. Find the appropriately size safety pin.
- Hand stitch the safety pin to the back of the bow. The pin should be placed just a bit higher than center to keep the bow from drooping.
- Repeat these steps with the two 8″ lengths and the one 2″ length of ⅞” ribbon to create the matching smaller bow for the pocket.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Michele Mishler