Holiday Sparkle Empire Waist Apron
Good things often come in threes; like feet in a yard, coins in a fountain, rings in a circus, and now: Aprons in a Series! We have a new set of projects in our fun 3-in-1 Series developed with our friends at Janome America. Our goal is to to show you one great design made three ways on three different machines. Each option “ups the ante” as we experiment with a specific machine’s features. For this Holiday Sparkle Apron, we picked decorative stitching and appliqué to augment the basic apron’s empire waist, piping accents, and wide sash ties.
Our featured machine for this intermediate apron is the Janome Skyline S9. It’s a sewing and embroidery model that explodes with embellishment inspiration. There are 250 embroidery designs, including 40 exclusive designs by Anna Maria Horner, plus five amazing iPad apps to help make your embroidery even better.
We temporarily put the machine’s awesome embroidery capabilities into our back pocket in order to focus on its sewing side, especially the 300 built-in decorative stitches! The Skyline S9 also features our favorite AcuFeed™ Flex system, which turns thick layers, tight turns, and tricky substrates into flawless fabric feeding. There are so many great automatic and standard features; you’ll wonder how you ever lived without an Auto Presser Foot Lift, Automatic Thread Cutter, AcuGuide™ Cloth Guide, and 22 presser feet.
Precision decorative stitching is used across the apron’s bodice and forms the “strings” for the ornament appliqués across the bottom of the main skirt. We selected just two stitches for our stitch pattern, but – oh my goodness – the list of options is almost endless. We recommend setting aside some fabric scraps to try out your own combinations. Not only is it super fun to play with all the stitches, it’s always important to test the looks on your actual fabric to insure you get the best stitch formation and contrast.
Appliqué, for those of you who might be new to sewing, is the process of stitching a small layer of fabric, usually in a unique shape, onto a larger base fabric. It’s a great way to add on unique colors, textures, and patterns. Having a machine like the Janome Skyline S9 makes the process easy and fun. Stitch width and length can be precisely adjusted so you get a perfect outline, and the machine’s feeding system is so smooth and accurate, it’s easy to move around even the trickiest corners and curves.
Scroll down to our Getting Started section to find the free downloadable patterns for the pretty curved bodice as well as all the ornament appliqués. There’s even a Placement Grid to download so you can accurately space all the shapes. We carefully fussy cut ours out of charm squares from our stash, but any approximate 5” x 5” scraps would be great.
All the lovely appliqués and decorative stitching really pop against the beautiful linen blend fabric we chose. It has an amazing metallic texture – perfect for this apron’s Holiday Sparkle. We pulled it from the Essex Yarn Dyed collection by Robert Kaufman Fabrics at Fat Quarter Shop, and we thank them so much for providing the yardage for all the aprons in the series.
The bodice sash ties as well as the wraparound neck ties that finish in a cute side bow are also a yarn dyed linen from FQS. We loved the lime color so much, we used it for the accent piping and matched the contrasting thread for the decorative stitching to it!
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.
Check out the Easy Elegance Apron and Overall Casual Apron that round out the series. And if you enjoy these Aprons, you might also want to check out our Bright Spot Weather Ready Totes, which kicked off this 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 are two lengths to accommodate the bodice bow – one finishes at 35” and one at 17”, 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 Skyline S9 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
- Satin Stitch foot; for appliqué
- Appliqué foot; another option for appliqué stitching
Fabric and Other Supplies
- 1 yard of 44″+ wide linen or similar for the main skirt and bodice front; we used Essex Yarn Dyed Metallic Linen Blend by Robert Kaufman Fabrics in Emerald from Fat Quarter Shop
- ⅝ yard of 44″+ wide linen or similar for the neck ties, bodice ties, and bodice piping; we used Essex Linen Blend by Robert Kaufman Fabrics in Lime 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
- EIGHT 5” x 5” charm squares or similarly sized scraps of quilting weight cotton for the ornament appliqués; we used seven charm squares from our stash from Anna Maria Horner’s Honor Roll collection for FreeSpirit Fabrics
- 1 yard of 20”+ wide lightweight woven fusible interfacing for the bodice as well as to stabilize the back of all seven appliqué shapes; 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 ties and bodice ties.
- ¾ yard of 17”+ fusible web for the appliqué; we used 17” Pellon Wonder Under
- 1¼ yards of ¼” cotton piping cord
- All purpose thread to coordinate with fabrics
- One all purpose thread in a color to match the piping for the decorative stitching; we used bright lime
- One all purpose thread in a dark color for the appliqué stitching; we used black
- 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 four apron pattern pieces: Bodice, Appliqué Templates A+B+C, Appliqué Templates D+E, and Appliqué Placement Grid. 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; leave the grid as a full sheet.
- From the fabric for the main skirt and bodice front (Metallic Emerald in our sample), cut the following:
ONE 37″ wide x 22″ high rectangle for the main skirt
Pin the bodice pattern in place on the fold.
Because decorative stitching can often cause fabric to shrink up slightly during the stitching process, rough cut around the bodice pattern by about ½” as shown in the photo below.
Un-pin the pattern and use the rough-cut bodice as a pattern to cut a matching rough-cut piece from the lightweight woven fusible.
- From the fabric for the neck ties, bodice ties, and bodice piping (Lime Linen in our sample), cut the following:
ONE 4″ x 36″ strip for the long neck tie
ONE 4″ x 18″ strip for the short neck tie
TWO 5″ x 27″ strips for the bodice ties
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
The bodice lining will be cut later, using the finished decorative-stitched bodice as a pattern.
- Cut the piping cord into TWO 19” lengths.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Bodice decorative stitching
- Place the bodice interfacing on the wrong side of the bodice (remember, both pieces were rough cut to be oversize). Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place.
- Using the paper pattern as a template, mark the 15 vertical guide lines for the decorative stitching.
- The lines of stitching should be 1” apart across the bodice and each line should be perpendicular with the straight bottom edge of the bodice. Remember, any time you are working on the right side of your fabric, make sure you are using a marking tool that will easily wipe away or will vanish with exposure to the air or the heat of any iron.
- Set up your machine for decorative stitching, threading the top and bobbin with the contrasting thread you chose for this step. As mentioned above, we recommend a color that matches the apron’s piping fabric. We used a bright lime green.
- To get a look similar to ours, select two stitches that are blend well. We suggest a plain stitch with a decorative stitch. Our sample used a Triple Stitch (#5 on the Janome Skyline S9) and a Star Stitch (#16 on the Janome Skyline S9). The two stitches alternate across the bodice.
- Stitch the odd number lines first – the “plain stitch” – 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17.
- Re-set for the second stitch selection and stitch all the even number lines – the “decorative stitch” – 2, 3, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16.
- With the 17 lines of stitching complete, find the original paper pattern and use it to trim the rough-cut bodice down to side. Align the “fold line” with the center line of stitching, pin in place and cut one half. Then flip over the pattern so it is wrong side up and repeat to cut the second half.
- Use the trimmed bodice as a pattern to cut ONE bodice lining panel from the lining fabric.
Make the bodice and neck ties
- Find the two 5″ x 27″ strips for the bodice ties and the 4” x 36” and 4” x 18” strips for the neck 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. In the photo below, we are trimming the wider bodice ties. Many cutting mats, including the OmniGrid mats we love, feature printed lines on a 45˚ to make getting the proper angle easy.
- 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, the 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 four finished ties.
Complete the bodice with its top and bottom piping and add the ties
- Find all the bodice elements: the front panel (with the decorative stitching complete), the lining panel, two 1¾” x 19” strips for the bodice piping, and the two 19” lengths of cotton cording.
- Center a length of coding along the wrong side of each 1¾” x 19” 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 19” side as close to the coding as possible. You can use a Zipper foot for this step or a standard foot with the needle position all the way to the left. Repeat for the second length of piping.
- 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 side seams.
NOTE: For more information about working with piping, check out our full tutorial, which goes into additional detail about measuring, cutting, joining, and more.
- Place the main bodice panel 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.
- Using the original paper pattern, mark for all four tie positions.
- Find the finished and pressed ties.
- Place one bodice tie at the marks on each side. The raw end of the tie is flush with the raw side edge of the bodice. Place one neck tie at each of the marks along the upper bodice – the long tie on the left side and the short tie on the right side (left and right when looking down at the right-side-up bodice on your work surface).
- Machine baste the ties in place.
- It’s 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. Unfold the bottom lining fold to pin in place.
- Attach a Zipper foot, which will allow you to get as close as possible along the piping cord. Stitch across the top, going slowly along the top curve.
- We then chose to switch to a standard presser foot to stitch both sides to insure we maintained a perfect ½” seam allowance.
- 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.
- Press well from the back and the front. Using a pressing cloth over the decorative stitching is a good idea.
Prepare the appliqués
- Find your EIGHT quilting cotton charm squares or scraps, the fusible web, the paper appliqué templates, and a marker.
- Trace each ornament shape onto the paper side of the fusible web. Because all the shapes are symmetrical, there is no need to worry about reversing the images.
- Trace TWO of Template A, TWO of Template B, TWO of Template C, ONE of Template D, and ONE of Template E.
- Cut “wild” around each of the EIGHT drawn templates. You want at least an extra ¼” beyond the traced outline all around.
- Following manufacturer’s instructions, adhere ONE fusible web ornament to the wrong side of each fabric piece. We took the time to adjust our shapes to best feature a pretty motif when viewed from the right side, centering a pattern or motif element.
- With all the shapes properly fused in place, cut out each shape along the drawn line.
- Leave the paper side of the fusible web in place until you are ready for the final placement.
NOTE: If you are brand new to appliqué, check out our tutorial: How to Appliqué like a Pro.
Add the decorative stitching and appliqués to the skirt panel
- Find the Appliqué Placement Grid. This is used to get the most pleasing spacing across the front of the skirt for our ornament appliqués. The inner perimeter line on the grid represents the finished seamed skirt panel. The outer perimeter line represents the raw cut panel.
- You’ll notice the decorative stitching lines that will become the ornament “strings” are not perfectly spaced at one inch markings. This is by design and accommodates the size and shape of the eight appliqués. You can see in the photo below the “approximate” measurements across the 37” cut width of the skirt panel.
- Peel away the paper backing from the eight appliqués. This makes them slightly tacky so they can be lightly positioned to help with the drawn lines. The grid also shows how far up from the bottom edge of the skirt panel each ornament should sit.
- Using the Placement Grid, a measuring tape, and a long ruler, mark for each of the eight ornaments.
- Do not fuse the ornaments yet; simply lightly press in place and then use a single pin to hold each ornament.
- Draw in each vertical guide line from the top of the skirt panel down to the top of the ornament. Then lift up the top of each ornament just slightly and continue the line behind the shape for about 1”.
- The decorative stitched ornament strings should use the same two stitches as you used on the apron bodice. But, the strings have two different patterns. Three of the strings are a single line of plain stitching. The other five strings are the plain stitch overlaid with a section of decorative stitching. You can see in the illustration below how each of the strings look. The Placement Grid allows you to figure out where and how long each overlaid section should be.
- Mark the overlaid section on each of the appropriate five drawn lines with start and stop pins.
- Stitch along each of the eight drawn lines first with the plain stitching. As above, we used a standard Triple Stitch (#5 on the Janome Skyline S9).
- As you did when drawing in the lines, when stitching, fold back the top of each ornament slightly to continue the stitch behind it by about 1”.
- Then, go back and stitch each decorative segment on the five lines. This stitch (#16 Star Stitch on the Janome Skyline S9) should be directly on top of the plain stitch.
- Press the panel flat.
- With all the strings complete, you can remove the pins and firmly fuse each appliqué in place.
- Find the remaining lightweight fusible interfacing and the original paper appliqué templates. Similarly to what you did when tracing and cutting the fusible web, cut one slightly oversize template for each ornament from the lightweight interfacing. As before, each shape should be about ¼” larger that the actual template. Cut ONE for each of the EIGHT ornaments.
- From the front of the skirt, use pins to mark the top and bottom of each fused ornament.
- Turn over the skirt panel so it is wrong side up and use these pin marks to center each of the pieces of fusible interfacing.
- Following manufacturer’s instructions, fuse each of the interfacing shapes in place on the wrong side of the skirt panel. This gives the linen the additional stabilization needed for the cleanest appliqué stitching. It will be hidden by the skirt’s lining panel.
- Set up the machine for appliqué. Re-thread with the dark contrasting thread in the top and bobbin (we used black) and attach a Satin Stitch foot or Appliqué foot.
- Select an appliqué stitch for each outline. We used a Center Stretch Stitch (#6 on the Janome Skyline S9) with a 3.0 width and .90 length.
NOTE: Our stitch width and length settings are suggestions. As with all techniques, test and practice first with scraps to make sure you have the look that’s best for you.
- Position the edge of the appliqué under the needle so half of the satin stitch falls on the appliqué shape and half falls on the background fabric. Go slowly and carefully around the shape, covering the raw perimeter with your dense stitching.
- Our Janome Skyline S9 comes standard with the needle-up-down function. If you have this function, you’ll find it very handy. Use it when you stop to adjust your fabric as needed, keeping it centered for the turns and pivots you may need to do.
NOTE: As mentioned above, if you are brand new to appliqué, check out our tutorial: How to Appliqué like a Pro.
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. Re-set for a standard stitch and 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.
- Turn the skirt right side out through the open top. Gently push out the bottom corners so they are nice and sharp. Press flat.
Attach the skirt to the bodice to finish
- 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.
- 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. If all your decorative stitching was done carefully, there should be stitch lines at the exact center of both the bodice and the skirt to align.
- 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. 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).
- 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: Kathy Andrews, What Sew Ever
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I have used this pattern before, turned out very nice, I did make a change to the bodice ties & used D rings instead of long ties & to make bodice fit better, added a small piece of tie to make a Y at the top & bottom sides.
I printed out the ornament page #4 placement has a mask design, covering the background, that is all grey. Hope that you can fix that.
Hi Sylvia – Glad to hear you are enjoying this new pattern – and custom alterations always help make it your own. Thanks for the note about that last page of the pattern. It has been fixed and re-loaded. Sorry for any inconvenience. If you follow us on social media, we’d love to see a picture of your apron.