Easy Elegance Empire Waist Apron
We’re back with our special series that highlights One Project Done Three Ways. Developed with our friends at Janome America, the goal is to show you the different looks that can be achieved using a variety of machines and features. We kick off we our Easy Elegance Apron. Just in time for holiday dinner planning and gift list strategizing, we created a pretty apron to show off a number of fun embellishments and sewing techniques. The basic design features an empire waist, piping accents, patch pockets, and wide sash ties.
As we always do, we’ve included detailed instructions and photos to take you every step of the way through the apron’s construction. But if you’re brand new to sewing in general or aprons in particular, you’ll also find links to our full step-by-step tutorials for specialty techniques, such as machine gathering and making your own custom piping.
There are downloadable patterns for the pretty curved bodice as well as the slash style patch pockets. There’s even a template for the end of the neck loop so you can get a perfect curve. Patterns are always listed as the first item in our Getting Started section, and wherever possible, we bundle the patterns to make the PDF download easier and faster. For more details about working with our PDFs, check out our detailed tutorial on all the functions.
Our featured machine for this basic apron is the Janome 5300QDC. It’s a mid-range model packed with the best standard features. We selected a mid-weight linen blend for this project, which meant the layers could get thick in some areas, such as across the gathered skirt where it attaches to the bodice. This could be a challenge on some machines, but Janome’s exclusive Superior Plus Feed System on the 5300 ensures even, stable feeding from start to finish.
The 5300 is also the only model in the QDC line to offer special advanced features, like a Superior Needle Threader with Thread Guide 7, a Knee Lifter so you can control your projects with both hands at once, and an Optic Magnifier Set (20x, 40x, 60x) so you can really see what you’re sewing! It’s a great option as an everyday machine or as a lighter weight companion machine for classes and clubs.
As mentioned above, we picked a gorgeous combination of linen blends for this apron from the Essex Yarn Dyed collection by Robert Kaufman Fabrics. We send a big shout-out to our friends at Fat Quarter Shop for providing all the yardage. The exact fabrics we used are linked below, but you’ll want to browse through their entire selection to pick your favorite colors and textures. If you thought FQS was only for quilting cottons, think again! They have these gorgeous linens, as well as flannels, even ultra soft Minky and Cuddle fabric.
We think you’ll like the neck loop on this Easy Elegance Apron. It makes putting on and taking off the apron super quick. And although we do specify a general length for the loop, it’s easy to make it shorter or longer for your best fit. Two buttonholes (yep – you get to practice your machine buttonholes) allow additional flexibility for adjustment. The tapered ends of the loop are threaded through the buttonholes and simply knotted to secure.
If you love this apron, check out the other two aprons in the series: the Overall Casual Apron and the Holiday Sparkle Apron. And if you enjoy these Aprons, you might also want to check out our Bright Spot Weather Ready Totes, which kicked off the 3-in-1 Series: Bag #1 – Classic, Bag #2 – Monogrammed, Bag #3 – Quilted.
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, this empire-waist apron is approximately 17″ wide across the bottom of the bodice, the waist ties are each approximately 26″ long, the neck loop is approximately 30″ long, which accommodates making the two knots that secure the loop through the bodice buttonholes, the main skirt length is 21″, and the bodice is about 7″ high at the highest point of the center curve.
For more information about the Janome 5300QDC, visit the Janome America website or contact your local Janome America dealer to see it and sew with it yourself!
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing machine and standard presser foot
- Zipper foot; for piping
Fabric and Other Supplies
- ¼ yard of 44″+ wide linen or similar for the bodice front; we used Essex Yarn Dyed Linen Blend by Robert Kaufman Fabrics in Speckle Gelato from Fat Quarter Shop
- 1 yard of 44″+ wide linen or similar for the main skirt and pockets; we used Essex Yarn Dyed Linen Blend by Robert Kaufman Fabrics in Speckle Dolphin from Fat Quarter Shop
- ½ yard of 44″+ wide linen or similar for the neck loop, bodice ties, pocket piping, and bodice piping; we used Essex Linen Blend by Robert Kaufman Fabrics in Natural from Fat Quarter Shop
- 1 yard of 44″+ wide quilting cotton for the lining; we used Kona cotton by Robert Kaufman Fabrics in PFD Bleach White from Fat Quarter Shop
- Scrap or ½ yard of 20”+ wide lightweight woven fusible interfacing for the bodice; we used 20” Pellon Shape Flex
NOTE: With the linen we selected for the ties, no interfacing was required. If you choose a lighter weight substrate, such as a quilting cotton, you may want to purchase additional interfacing to allow you to interface the neck loop and bodice ties.
- Scraps or ½ yard of 20”+ lightweight crisp non-woven interfacing for the pockets; we used 20” Pellon Shir-Tailor
- 1½ yards of ¼” cotton piping cord
- All purpose thread to coordinate with fabrics
- See-through ruler
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
Getting Started and Pattern Download
- DOWNLOAD AND PRINT our three apron pattern pieces: Bodice, Pocket, and Neck Loop End template. These have been bundled into ONE PDF to make the download easier.
IMPORTANT: Each page in this PDF download consists of ONE 8½” x 11″ sheet. You must print the PDF at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page.
- Cut out each pattern piece along the solid line.
- From the fabric for the bodice front (Speckle Gelato in our sample), using the pattern, cut ONE bodice on the fold.
- From the fabric for the main skirt and pockets (Speckle Dolphin in our sample), cut the following:
ONE 37″ wide x 22″ high rectangle for the main skirt
Using the pattern, cut TWO pocket front panels
- From the fabric for the neck loop, bodice ties, pocket piping, and bodice piping (Natural Linen in our sample), cut the following:
ONE 4½″ x 31″ strip for the neck loop
NOTE: This measurement is a standard adult size as shown in our sample. It can be adjusted according to the finished size you need… longer for larger, shorter for smaller. And, of course, the knots allow some additional adjustment.
TWO 5″ x 27″ strips for the bodice ties
TWO 1¾” x 8” strips for the pocket piping
TWO 1¾” x 19” strips for the bodice piping
- From the fabric for the lining (Kona PFD in our sample), cut the following:
ONE 37″ wide x 22″ high rectangle for the main skirt
Using the pattern, cut TWO pocket panels
Using the pattern, cut ONE bodice on the fold
- From the lightweight woven fusible, cut ONE, using the bodice pattern but cutting along the dotted stitch line rather than the solid outside line.
- From the lightweight non-woven fusible, cut TWO, using the pocket pattern but cutting along the dotted stitch line rather than the solid outside line.
- Cut the piping cord into TWO 8” lengths and TWO 19” lengths.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Make the bodice ties
- Find the two 5″ x 27″ strips for the bodice ties.
- Fold each tie in half lengthwise, right sides together.
- With a see-through ruler and rotary cutter, trim one end of each folded tie at a 45˚ angle.
- Pin down the long side and across the angled end of each tie. The opposite end remains raw.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch along the side and across the angled end, pivoting at the corner. Remember, that opposite end is left open for turning.
- Clip the corners.
- Turn each tie right side out through the open straight end. Gently push out the corners; a long knitting needle, chopstick or point turner works well for this. Press flat.
- Set aside the two finished bodice ties.
Make the neck loop
- Find the one 4½″ x 31″ strip for the neck loop.
- Fold the strip in half lengthwise, right sides together, matching the raw edges.
- Using the Tie End Template, align one side of the template along the folded edge with the curved end of the template ½” in from the end of the folded strip.
- Trace the curve onto the fabric at each end of the folded strip.
- Sew along the straight edges, using a ½” seam, and along your drawn curves at each end. Leave an approximate 3″ opening along the long, straight edge for turning. Trim the excess fabric around the point seams to ¼” and lightly clip the curves.
- Turn right side out, gently rounding out the curves at each end. As above, a long knitting needle, chopstick or point turner works well for this.
- Press flat, turning in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam.
- Slip stitch the opening closed with matching thread. Press again.
- Set aside the finished neck loop.
Layer the skirt lining
- Find the skirt lining panel. Layer it right sides together with the main front skirt panel. All raw edges of both layers should be flush. Pin together along both sides and across the bottom. The top edge remain raw and will be unstitched.
- Re-thread if necessary so your threads in the top and bobbin match the exterior and lining fabrics. Set for a standard stitch length.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch along both sides and across the bottom through both layers. Remember to sharply pivot at each corner.
- Clip the corners and press open the seam allowance on all sewn sides.
- Turn the skirt right side out through the open top. Gently push out the bottom corners so they are nice and sharp. Press flat.
Make the pockets and place on the skirt front
- Find the two front pocket panels, the two pocket lining panels, the pocket interfacing, the two 1¾” x 8” strips for the pocket piping, and the two 8” lengths of cotton cording.
- Center an interfacing panel on the wrong side of each front pocket panel so there is ½” of fabric showing beyond the interfacing on all sides.
- Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the interfacing in place.
- Center a length of coding along the wrong side of each 1¾” x 8” strip.
- Wrap the fabric around the cording, wrong sides together, so all raw edges of the fabric are flush.
- Using a ½” seam allowance stitch down the 8” side as close to the coding as possible. A Zipper foot is recommended.
- Use a seam ripper to open up the ends of the seam slightly to reveal the piping and cut it back ½” on each end. This will allow the piping to flatten and fit more smoothly into the final pocket seam.
NOTE: For more information about working with piping, check out our full tutorial, which goes into additional detail about measuring, cutting, joining, and more.
- Pin a length of piping along the diagonal edge of each pocket, on the right side of the fabric. The raw edges of the piping and the pocket panel should be flush.
- Machine baste the piping in place.
- Layer a lining panel right sides together with each main pocket panel, sandwiching the piping between the layers. Pin in place along all sides, leaving a 2-3” opening along the bottom edge for turning.
- Using an approximate ½” seam allowance and a Zipper foot, stitch along the diagonal piped edge. We recommend a Zipper foot to allow you to get as close to the piping cord as possible – this is why we say an “approximate” ½” seam allowance.
- Switch to a standard presser foot, we used a Satin Stitch foot, and continue stitching along both straight sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners and locking your seam at either side of the bottom opening.
- Clip the corners and turn the two pockets right side out through their bottom openings.
- Press flat, turning in the raw edges of each opening so they are flush with the sewn seam.
- Find the main skirt panel. Place it right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Place the two pockets into position on the skirt panel. Each pocket should sit 7” in from the seamed side edge of the skirt panel and 7” up from the seamed bottom edge of the skirt panel.
- Pin each pocket in place along both sides and across the bottom.
- Re-thread with thread to best match the skirt and pocket in the top and to best match the lining in the bobbin. We love that the Janome 5300QDC has an extra spool pin so we can have two spools ready for re-threading as we move through the project.
- Slightly lengthen the stitch and edgestitch each pocket in place along both sides and across the bottom. This seam closes the opening used for turning each pocket. You are stitching through both layers of the skirt, which gives the pockets the best stability.
Create the bodice with its top and bottom piping, buttonholes, and ties
- Find all the bodice elements: front panel, lining panel, interfacing panel, two 1¾” x 19” strips for the bodice piping, and the two 19” lengths of cotton cording.
- Using the same steps as above for the pockets, create the two 19” lengths of piping. Remember to clip back the piping cord ½” at each end of each length.
- Center the interfacing panel on the wrong side of the main bodice panel so there is ½” of fabric showing beyond the interfacing on all sides.
- Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the interfacing in place.
- Flip the main bodice panel so it is right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Place a length of piping along the bottom straight edge and the top curved edge of the bodice. The raw edge of the piping should be flush with the raw edge of the fabric along both the top and bottom. There is no piping along the sides. Pin in place.
- Machine baste each length of piping in place. A Zipper foot is best for this step.
- Find the finished and pressed bodice ties.
- Place one bodice tie on each side just above the piping. The raw end of the tie is flush with the raw side edge of the bodice.
- Machine baste the ties in place.
- It’s also a good idea to gather up the ends of the ties and lightly pin them in place at the center of the bodice so they will be out of the way of the perimeter seam.
- Find the bodice lining panel. Fold up the straight bottom edge of this panel ½” and press in place. Place the bodice lining right sides together with the bodice exterior, sandwiching the piping and all the gathered-up ties between the layers.
- Pin in place along the two sides and across the top curved edge. The bottom remains open.
- Attach a Zipper foot, which will allow you to get as close as possible along the piping cord, although you can also use a standard presser foot. We chose to use the Satin Stitch foot.
- Stitch across the top and along both sides, pivoting at the corners and going slowly around the top curves. Remember to keep your seam right up against, but not on, the piping cord along both the top and bottom of the bodice.
- Clip the corners and the curve, being careful to not cut into your seam. Press open the seam allowances.
- Un-pin the ties. Turn the bodice right side out through the open bottom. Pull the ties out into position. Press flat; as above, a long, blunt tool, such as a knitting needle, chopstick or point turner will help smooth out the seam.
- Find the original bodice paper pattern. There are marks on this pattern for the two buttonholes. Cut out these marks so there are two little windows in the pattern.
- Lay the pattern over the top of the right side of the finished bodice and mark the buttonhole positions.
NOTE: As always when working on the right side of your fabric, make sure your marking tool is one that will easily wipe away or will vanish with exposure to the air or the heat of an iron.
- Set up your machine for a standard buttonhole. We love the automatic buttonhole feature on our Janome 5300QDC.
- Make sure the machine is threaded with thread to best match the exterior fabric in the top and to best match the lining in the bobbin.
- Make one buttonhole at each marked point.
- Carefully cut open each buttonhole.
- Find the finished neck loop. Feed one each of the loop through each buttonhole and lightly knot to hold in place.
NOTE: Once the apron is complete, you can further adjust the knots for your best fit. Simply slip the loop over your head and adjust the tie ends until the bodice sits comfortably across the chest but is still loose enough that it can be pulled off over your head. When you have it just the way you want it, re-tie each knot tightly to secure.
Attach the skirt to the bodice to finish
- Measure to find the exact center along the top of the skirt panel as well as the bottom edge of the bodice. Add a marking pin at each point. It’s a good idea to place more than one pin at each center point so it is easy to spot.
- If necessary, realign the top raw edges of both the skirt panel and the lining and pin the layers together across the top.
- Gather the top edge of the skirt panel. To do this, run one or two lines of machine basting across the panels, keeping the basting within the ½” seam allowance. Remember, don’t lock either end of your seam.
- Pull the basting to gather the skirt to approximately 17″.
NOTE: If you are new to this technique, take a look at our article: How to Make Gathers by Machine.
- Open up the layers of the bodice. Place this piped bottom edge of the bodice front right sides together against the top gathered edge of the skirt panel, aligning the raw edges and with the center pin points flush with one another. Pull the folded bottom edge of the bodice lining up and out of the way. Adjust the gathers as needed to fit the skirt against the bodice front within the sewn side seams. Pin in place.
- Stitch across the top of the skirt through all the layers (remember, you are not stitching through the lining layer of the bodice). It’s best to stitch with the gathers facing up.
- Press the finished seam allowance up towards the bodice.
- Bring the folded edge of the bodice lining down into place, covering the seam you just made. Pin in place.
- Hand stitch the folded edge of the bodice all the way across with a neat ladder stitch.
- Press well again.
Project Design: Anne Adams
Sample Creation and Instructions: Debbie Guild
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That’s a really cute apron, and I am a big fan of piping, but the boob tassels – um, no, thanks. I would lengthen the neck strap, put snaps on the ends, then pull it through the grommet to snap to itself. It could be adjustable with multiple snaps. Or another way…
That is what’s SO cool about sewing: you get to choose your own direction. It’s also what’s cool about this trio of aprons, they are all a bit different, including different options for the neck loop. The knots-through-buttonholes option is a great one for newer sewists, and is one of the fave features on our #1 popular Sweetheart Apron … so we love bringing it into designs now and then.