Overall Casual Empire Waist Apron
Looking at something from different angles is a smart approach for most things in life. It’s also the idea behind the 3-in-1 Series we developed with our friends and sponsor, Janome America. This Series shows one project done three ways on three different machines. The first apron in the series: Easy Elegance has clean lines that highlight an empire waist, piping accents, and wide sash ties. This second apron variation takes off from this base design, and using the precision features of the Janome Continental M7, adds a jumbo pocket with unique stitching details and rivets, as well as an adjustable neck loop that fastens with classic overall buckles.
Apron construction is similar to garment sewing, and our Overall Casual Apron design has several clothing techniques you might recognize, like machine gathering, topstitching, and piping. But no worries if these sound new to you. We offer links to step-by-step tutorials that go into additional detail so you can learn or refresh your skills prior to starting the project.
Our featured machine for this apron is the Janome Continental M7 Professional, a top-of-the-line powerhouse that has the largest sewing space available on any home use sewing machine. The big bed space was especially helpful when stitching the apron’s jumbo pocket onto its wide skirt – no need to “scrunch up” your project to get it under the needle!
The Continental M7 has a newly redesigned motor that provides the strength, reliability, and longevity you’ve come to expect from a Janome professional machine. That means the power behind the needle penetration is engineered to handle your toughest and thickest sewing challenges. The Continental M7, glides through every step – at up to 1,300 stitches per minute. We’re thrilled when a machine has plenty of power to deftly handle whatever we throw at it.
The signature look of all three aprons in this Series is the empire silhouette, which achieves its high-waisted effect with gathers just under the bust releasing into a long 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 top and fuller on the bottom.
We used two different linen blend fabrics plus quilting cotton for our sample apron; the main skirt and pocket have a gorgeous metallic sparkle! It was a wonderful combination with a beautiful drape and extra durability. Plus, the heavier weight of the layers means the need for interfacing is limited.
Our linen blends are part of the Essex Yarn Dyed collection by Robert Kaufman Fabrics from the fabric experts at Fat Quarter Shop, and we send them BIG thanks 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.
If you love this apron, check out the other two aprons in the series: the Easy Elegance 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 the ends threading through the overall buckles, 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 Continental M7 Professional, 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
- Edge Guide foot; optional for precise stitching
Fabric and Other Supplies
- ½ yard of 44″+ wide linen or similar for the bodice front; we used Essex Yarn Dyed Linen Blend Classic Woven in Black and White Stripe from Fat Quarter Shop
NOTE: We have included a bit of extra yardage to allow a nice fussy with a wide stripe.
- 1 yard of 44″+ wide linen or similar for the main skirt and jumbo pocket; we used Essex Yarn Dyed Metallic Linen Blend by Robert Kaufman Fabrics in Ebony from Fat Quarter Shop
- ½ yard of 44″+ wide linen or similar for the neck loop, bodice ties, and bodice piping; we used Essex Linen Blend by Robert Kaufman Fabrics in Lime from Fat Quarter Shop
- 1¼ 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.
- 1 yard of 20”+ lightweight crisp non-woven interfacing for the jumbo pocket; we used 20” Pellon Shir-Tailor
- 1¼ yards of ¼” cotton piping cord
- TWO 1¼” overall buckles; we used Dritz Overall Buckles in Nickel
- Five metal rivets; we used Dritz Double Cap Rivets in Nickel
- Rivet setting tools for your chosen rivets; we used Dritz Double Cap Rivet Tools
- All purpose thread to coordinate with fabrics
- One all purpose thread in a contrasting color for the pocket stitching; we used white
- See-through ruler
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
- Small hammer to set rivets; we recommend a soft leather mallet or a ball peen hammer
- Heavy metal, stone or wooden block to use as a cutting and hammering surface; we like to use a small granite block
Getting Started and Pattern Download
- DOWNLOAD AND PRINT our two apron pattern pieces: Bodice and Pocket 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 (Black and White Stripe in our sample), using the pattern, cut ONE bodice on the fold.
NOTE: If using the same cool stripe we did, make sure your stripes are perfectly straight.
- From the fabric for the main skirt and jumbo pocket (Metallic Ebony in our sample), cut the following:
ONE 37″ wide x 22″ high rectangle for the main skirt
ONE 33” wide x 12” high rectangle for the jumbo pocket
- From the fabric for the neck loop, bodice ties, and bodice piping (Lime Linen in our sample), cut the following:
ONE 3½″ 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 length allows for some additional adjustment as threaded through the overall buckles.
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
ONE 33” wide x 12” high rectangle for the jumbo pocket
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 ONE 32” x 11” panel for the jumbo pocket.
- Cut the piping cord into 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. We love the OmniGrid mats that feature already marked lines at a 45˚ angle.
- Pin down the long side and across the angled end of each tie. The opposite end remains raw.
- Thread the machine with thread to best match the fabric in the top and bobbin. 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 two finished bodice ties.
Make the neck loop
- Find the one 3½″ x 31″ strip for the neck loop.
- Press back all the raw edges ½”.
- Fold the strip in half lengthwise, wrong sides together, matching all the folded edges.
- Slightly lengthen the stitch.
- Edgestitch along all four sides, pivoting at the corners. For a super precise seam, we used the Janome Edge Guide foot.
NOTE: You are edgestitching along just the double folded edges.
- Press flat.
- 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 so the threads in the top and bobbin match the exterior and lining fabrics. Re-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.
- 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 pocket and place on the skirt front
- Find the front pocket panel, the pocket lining panel, and the pocket interfacing.
- Find the printed and trimmed Pocket Template.
- Place the template in the upper right corner of the front pocket panel.
- With a see-through ruler and rotary cutter, slice along the inner diagonal line of the template
- Flip over the paper template so it is now wrong side up and repeat these steps to slice a mirror image diagonal in the upper left corner of the pocket panel.
- Repeat to slice matching angles in the lining panel and the interfacing panel.
- Collect all three sliced panels.
- Center the interfacing panel on the wrong side of the 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.
- Layer the lining panel right sides together with the main pocket panel. Pin in place along all sides, leaving a 3-4” opening along the bottom edge for turning.
- Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch along all sides and across the bottom, pivoting at all the corners.
- Clip the corners and press open the seam allowances.
- Turn the pocket right side out through the bottom opening. As above with the ties, use a long, blunt tool to gently push out all the corners so they are nice and sharp. A 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.
- Draw in the pocket division and accent lines. There are THREE vertical lines: ONE at the exact center point of the pocket, ONE 7” in from the right seamed edge of the pocket panel, and ONE 7” in from the left seamed edge of the pocket panel. In addition, there are TWO giant “Xs” between the center and side vertical lines.
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.
- Thread the machine with the contrasting thread in the top and thread to best match the lining in the bobbin. Slightly lengthen the stitch.
- Edgestitch along the top edge of the pocket only.
- We again used the Janome Edge Guide foot to keep a very precise and straight stitch as this seam will be quite visible.
- If necessary, switch back to a standard presser foot. We used the Janome Satin Stitch foot.
- Topstitch along the Xs only. Do not stitch the vertical pocket division lines yet.
- Find the main skirt panel. Place it right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Place the pocket, also right side up, into position on the skirt panel. The pocket should be centered side by side and should sit 2” up from the seamed bottom edge of the skirt panel.
- Pin the pocket in place along both sides and across the bottom. Also pin along the three drawn vertical lines.
- Stay with the contrasting thread in the top and the lining thread in the bobbin and continue using the same slightly lengthened stitch.
- Using an Edge Guide foot if possible, edgestitch along both sides and across the bottom. This seam closes the opening used for turning the pocket.
- Switch back to a standard presser foot, we again went with the Janome Satin Stitch foot, and stitch along the three drawn vertical lines. For the neatest start and finish to these pocket division seams, we recommend using a Lock Stitch to start and end. If you do not have this feature on your machine, you can use a very neat backstitch or can leave your thread tails long and then feed them through to the back of the skirt and hand knot to secure.
Add the rivets to the pocket
- Collect the Double Cap Rivets and the Setting Tools.
- There is a rivet at the top of each of the three inner pocket division seams as well as a rivet at each outer corner – five rivets total. Refer to the drawing above.
- First cut a hole at each rivet point with the cutting tool.
- Set the front cap of the rivet into position through the hole from front to back. As mentioned above, you should use a very hard surface to hammer against for the best seal. We like to use a small block of granite.
- Make sure you push the stud of the rivet cap all the way through the layers so it comes out on the lining side, then snap the back cap over the stud.
- With the anvil underneath the back cap, use the setting post and a hammer to seal the two parts together.
- Repeat to add the four additional rivets along the top of the pocket.
NOTE: Riveting is easier than you might think (especially with the Dritz tools), and we’ve summarized the steps above. If you’re brand new, check out our Metal Rivets Tutorial.
Create the bodice with its top and bottom piping and ties
- Find all the bodice elements: front panel, lining panel, interfacing panel, two 1¾” x 19” strips for the pocket piping, and the two 19” lengths of cotton cording.
- Remember to mark for the tie positions.
- 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.
- 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.
- Find the finished and pressed bodice ties.
- Place one bodice tie on each side. It should sit just above the piping at the marks you previously transferred from the paper pattern. 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 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.
Add the overall buttons
- Find the original bodice paper pattern. There are marks on this pattern for the two upper ties. Lay the pattern over the top of the right side of the finished bodice and mark for an overall buckle at each top corner of the bib.
- Each overall button should sit approximately 4” in from the finished side edge and 1” down from the finished top edge. You can use the actual buckle to help confirm the position.
- Cut a small hole at each marked point and insert the button’s back stud from the back through to the front.
- Place the button front over the stud. Gently push into position, then lightly hammer 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 the skirt panel and 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 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.
- Open up the layers of the bodice. 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 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 seamed sides. 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.
Thread neck loop through buckles
- Find the two overall buckles and thread one end of the neck loop through each buckle. It’s easy to then adjust the size of the loop for your best fit.
Project Design: Anne Adams
Sample Creation and Instructions: Debbie Guild
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