Empire Waist Apron
This apron has a unique empire waist and lovely details that make it pretty enough to wear outside the kitchen: piping, gentle gathering across the skirt, an eye-catching oval pocket, and an optional fabric flower. We added a safety-pin to the back of our flower so it could be worn at strap level, at the empire waist or simply removed. We suggest a medium weight fabric, such as the original 100% cotton twill we used, to give the design its crisp style.
The empire silhouette achieves its high-waisted effect with gathers just under the bust releasing into a long, flowing skirt. The look has been popular for thousands of years, with examples even found in early Greco-Roman art. It’s a flattering style for many body types but is especially nice for figures that are smaller on the top and fuller on the bottom.
We originally used a combination of two Waverly fabrics, and although the collection is still current, the exact colorway can be harder to find. Try shopping the Home Décor section of your favorite fabric retailer for the latest options.
As mentioned above, a medium-weight cotton twill is wonderful to work with for this apron. It has a beautiful drape and more durability than a traditional quilting weight cotton. Plus, with the heavier fabric, there is no need interfacing. If you choose a lighter weight cotton, you should add interfacing to the bodice and pocket.
Downloadable patterns are offered below for both the bodice and the pocket.
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 ties are each approximately 23″ long, the skirt length is 25″, and the bodice is about 7″ high at the highest points of the curves.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
- Quarter Inch Seam foot; optional
- Overedge foot; optional for seam finishing
- Zipper foot
Fabric and Other Supplies
- 1 yard of 45″+ wide medium weight fabric with a bold motif for the apron’s skirt and pocket
- 1 yard of 45″+ wide medium weight coordinating fabric with a smaller motif for the apron’s bodice, bottom skirt accent and ties
- 3 yards (two packages) of ½” pre-made piping
- Two 1″ buttons; we used wooden buttons
NOTE: You only need one button if you are not making the optional flower
- 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
- Hand sewing needle
Getting Started and Pattern Download
- Download and print the Pocket and Bodice patterns, which have been bundled into one Apron Pattern Pieces PDF to make the download easier.
IMPORTANT: Each page within the pattern download is ONE 8½” x 11″ sheet. You must print the PDF file at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page. There is a guide rule on the pages to confirm your print out is to scale.
- Cut out each pattern piece along the solid line.
- From the fabric for for the apron’s skirt and pocket, cut the following:
ONE 37″ wide x 21″ high rectangle for the main skirt
Using the pattern, fussy cut TWO pocket pieces
- From the fabric for the apron’s bodice, bottom skirt accent, and ties, cut the following:
TWO 4″ x 24″ strips for the neck ties
TWO 5″ x 27″ strips for the waist ties
ONE 6″ x 37″ strip for the bottom skirt accent
Using the pattern, fussy cut TWO bodice pieces on the fold
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Make the ties
- Find the two 4″ x 24″ strips for the neck ties and the two 5″ x 27″ strips for the waist 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 slight angle. We used the handy diagonal grid line on our cutting mat to cut along.
- Pin the long side and across the angled end of each tie.
- On each tie, use a ½” seam allowance to stitch the long side and across the angled end, pivoting at the corner. Leave the opposite end open for turning.
- Clip the corners.
- Turn both ties right side out and press flat.
- Set the ties aside.
Make the pocket
- Find the two pocket pieces.
- Cut one 30″ length of piping.
- Pin a length of piping to the right side of one of the two pocket pieces. If one fussy cut is better than the other, use the best one as this will be the pocket front.
- To connect the piping ends, use a seam ripper to open up the piping fabric on one end.
- Trim back this end of the inner piping cord so it butts together perfectly with the opposite end.
- Fold back the loose end of the fabric and overlap the ends.
- Pin in place, matching the rest of the piping so it is now a continuous curve.
- Using a Zipper foot, machine baste the piping in place.
- Place the back pocket piece and the front piped pocket piece right sides together. Pin in place, leaving a 2″ opening along one side.
- Still using a Zipper foot, stitch the layers together, staying as close to the piping cord as possible. Lock your seam on either side of the 2″ opening left for turning.
- Turn the pocket right side out through the 2″ opening.
- Lay the pattern on top of each pocket. There are dots indicating where you will stop and start when sewing the pocket to the skirt. This is also the fold line for the pocket. Place a pin at these dots on the pocket. Then, place a pin at the dot indicating button placement
- Press well, pressing in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with sewn seam.
- Set the pocket aside.
- Find the main 37″ x 21″ skirt rectangle. Place it right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Cut a 37″ length of piping.
- Pin the piping along the bottom raw edge of the skirt panel.
- Machine baste the piping in place. We switched to our Satin Stitch foot and moved the needle position all the way to left. You could also use a Zipper foot as you did above for the pocket.
- Find the 6″ x 37″ bottom accent band.
- Place the top raw edge of the accent band right sides together with the bottom raw edge of the skirt, sandwiching the piping between the layers. Pin in place.
- Using a Zipper foot, stitch together, running your seam as close as possible to the piping cord.
- This seam allowance will be visible on the back of the apron, so we finished it with a neat overcast stitch, using our Janome Overedge foot.
- Press the completed skirt panel flat, pressing the seam allowance up and away from the bottom accent band.
- Place the skirt panel right side up and flat on your work surface. Measure 7″ in from the right raw edge of the skirt panel and 10½” down from the top raw edge of the skirt panel. Place a pin at the intersection of these two measurements.
- Measure 5½” to the left of this first pin and place a second pin.
- Find the pocket. Align the two marking pins at the outer edges of the pocket with the two marking pins on the skirt. Make sure the pocket is sitting straight up and down on the skirt panel.
- Pin the pocket in place from the pins, down and around the bottom of the pocket. There are no pins along the top curve of the pocket.
- Use a Zipper foot to stitch the pocket in place, running the seam right along the inner edge of the piping (stitching in the ditch of the piping). Remember to start and stop at the pin points.
- Fold the loose top of the pocket down into position. If necessary, place the pattern piece over the folded edge again to check the position of the button.
- Hand stitch the button in place through all the layers of the pocket, but NOT through the apron skirt. This stitched button is what holds the folded top of the pocket in place.
- With your hand needle still threaded, hand stitch the pocket opening closed (the opening you used to turn the pocket right side out), concealing your stitches next to the piping.
- Along both sides and across the bottom of the skirt create a narrow ¼” double turn hem with clean corners.
- Using a ¼” seam allowance, and with thread that best matches the skirt fabric in the top and bobbin, stitch along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners. We’re using our Janome Quarter Inch Seam foot.
NOTE: If you are need to narrow hemming with these pretty corners, we have an easy, step-by-step tutorial you can review.
- Gather the top edge of the skirt panel. To do this, run one or two lines of basting across the panels, keeping the 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.
- Set the skirt aside.
- If you have not already done so, transfer the marking dots (for the neck ties and waist ties) from the bodice pattern to the fabric. We used small snips into the seam allowance as our marks. Make sure you mark both the left and right sides of both bodice layers.
- Place one bodice piece right side up and flat on your work surface. Pin a length of piping along curved top edge and the flat bottom edge. There is no piping along the sides.
- Machine baste the piping in place along the top and bottom in the same manner as for the bottom of the skirt and the pocket.
- Find all the ties.
- Using your marks as your guide (remember, we used small snips into the very edge of the fabric), place the two narrower neck ties at the left and right marks along the top curved edge. Then, place the two wider waist ties at the left and right marks along both sides. Pin the ties in place, aligning the raw ends of the ties with the raw edges of the fabric. 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 outer seam.
- Find the back bodice layer. Fold up the straight bottom edge of this panel ½” and press in place.
- Place the back bodice layer right sides together with the front bodice layer, 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.
- Using a Zipper foot, stitch across the top and along both sides, pivoting at the corners and going slowly around the top curves. Along the top, the seam should be as close as possible to the piping cord. Down the sides, default to a ½” seam allowance.
- Clip the corners and the curves and the “V” at the center front, being careful to not cut into your seam. Press the seam allowance open.
- Turn the bodice right side out through the open bottom and press flat.
- Place the piped bottom edge of the bodice front right sides together against the top gathered edge of the skirt panel, aligning the raw edges. Pull the folded bottom edge of the bodice back up and out of the way. Adjust the gathers as needed to fit the skirt against the bodice, but keep the gathers nice and even. Pin in place.
- Stitch across the top of the skirt through all the layers (remember, you are not stitching through the back layer of the bodice, just the front). We are still using our Zipper foot to make sure we are staying as close as possible to the piping. This may be slightly larger or smaller than our traditional ½” seam allowance
- Press the seam allowance up towards the waistband.
- Bring the folded edge of the bodice back layer down into place, covering the seam you just made. Pin in place.
- Hand stitch the folded edge of the bodice into place. We used a whip stitch.
Optional fabric flower
- Cut a 3½” x 36″ length from one of the two fabrics. We used the accent fabric from the bodice, ties and accent band.
- Complete the flower using the Fabric Flower guest tutorial from Tim Holtz.
- Stitch a button in the center of the flower to match the button on the pocket.
- Stitch a large safety pin to the back and place on the bodice at the strap line or the bottom piping line.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructions: Debbie Guild
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I love this design! I’ve made it a couple of times and it turns out great! Thank you so much.
Hi Pam – Thank you so much! It’s a great design – one of our favorites for sure. Thanks for letting us know you’ve had such great success with the pattern. 🙂
What a lovely apron! What a
What a lovely apron! What a great gift idea for my two sweet daughters-in-law. I’ve never tried piping but you make it look doable. Thank you for all you freely share!
@Coryb – You are so welcome!
@Coryb – You are so welcome! Let us know how your two aprons turn out. We’d love to see a picture of them modeled by your daughters-in-law! If you follow us on Facebook (sew4Home) or Instagram (sew4home_diy), post a picture so we can all be inspired!