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Empire Waist Apron with Double Tier Skirt: Featuring Monkey Wrench by Tula Pink

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Clean and simple is usually Design Rule #1. But that doesn’t mean you can’t build beauty with the right combination of several special details. This adorable apron features: an empire waist, pretty piping accents, a double layer skirt, bouncy poms, and a unique oval pocket. Making it extraordinary is our use of fabric from the latest collection by master designer, Tula Pink. Monkey Wrench ships in September 2019, which means there’s a whole lot of colorful motif mischief coming soon to your favorite in-store and online retailers. 

According to our friends at FreeSpirit Fabrics, Tula Pink’s Monkey Wrench tells the story of a mischievous monkey named Bananas. This little monkey has a simple mission: to distract you from the mundane and introduce a little spontaneity into your life – whether you like it or not. What you do with his interference is completely up to you. There are also gossiping parrots, colorful ladybugs, and forgotten frogs. But the real moral of the story is to keep your eyes open for banana peels!

We’ve included detailed instructions and photos to take you every step of the way through the apron’s construction. And, as always, we include links to full step-by-step tutorials for any specialty techniques, such as gathering, piping, even the diagonal point corners that finish the main skirt.

There’s a downloadable pattern for the pretty curved bodice as well as the fold-over oval pocket. The pocket’s flap is secured with a single large button. We used a simple wooden button that blended well with the bananas, but this accent could also be a great excuse to add a little surprise bling with a flashy rhinestone or sequin button.

The poms along the bottom of the overskirt are optional, but poms are such a happy little embellishment, it would be hard to resist. Besides, Bananas the Monkey requested them himself, and who are we to deny the style insight of such a mischievous monkey?!

The main skirt panel is a single layer of fabric with a narrow hem all around, but the overskirt is a double layer, giving you a secret back fabric to flip up and flash as you go about your banana bread baking.

Remember, this is a classic empire waist design, which means the main ties sit at the mid back rather than at the waist. Because both the waist ties and the neck ties are long pairs of ties, so their exact positions can be adjusted to fit the wearer. The waist ties work best in a bow, the neck ties as a knot.

Our thanks to FreeSpirt and Tula Pink for giving us a early preview of Monkey Wrench. We have additional projects coming up in some of the other color ways and motifs. Yes, go ahead and say it, “We went a little bananas!”

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 30" long, the neck ties are each approximately 23" long, the main skirt length is 25", the overlay skirt length is 17", and the bodice is about 7" high at the highest points of the curves. 

Sewing Tools You Need


Fabric and Other Supplies

Getting Started

  1. DOWNLOAD AND PRINT: our three apron pattern pieces: Pocket Part A, Pocket Part B, and Bodice. 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.
  2. Cut out each pattern piece along the solid line.
  3. Using the arrows printed on the pattern pieces, butt together (do no overlap) Pocket Part A and Pocket Part B. Tape together to create the full-size pocket pattern.
  4. From the fabric for the bodice front, bodice lining, neck ties, and bodice ties (Don’t Slip in our sample), cut the following:
    TWO 4" x 24" strips for the neck ties
    TWO 5" x 31" strips for the bodice ties
    Using the pattern, cut TWO bodice pieces on the fold

  5. From the fabric for the main skirt and pocket (Ribbit in our sample), cut the following:
    ONE 37" wide x 27" high rectangle for the main skirt
    Using the assembled pattern, cut TWO pocket pieces

  6. From the fabric for the overlay skirt front; (Monkey Wrench in our sample), cut ONE 37" wide x 18" high rectangle for the front overlay panel.
  7. From the fabric for the overlay skirt back (Spots on Spots in our sample), cut ONE 37" wide x 18" high rectangle.
  8. From the lightweight fusible interfacing, cut the following:
    TWO 4" x 24" strips for the neck ties
    TWO 5" x 31" strips for the bodice ties
    Using the pattern, cut ONE bodice piece on the fold
  9. From the mid-weight fusible interfacing, use pattern to cut ONE pocket.
  10. From the pom pom trim, cut a 37" length. Center as best possible to leave approximately ½" - " of trim beyond the last pom at each end. This will allow you to catch the trim in the skirt's seam and leave a well-balanced pom to dangle at each side.
  11. The piping will be cut to fit within the instructions below.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Make the ties

  1. Find the two 4" x 24" fabric and interfacing strips for the neck ties and the two 5" x 31" fabric and interfacing strips for the waist ties.
  2. Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of each tie strip (neck and waist), making sure the edges of the interfacing and fabric layers are flush on all sides.
  3. Fold each tie in half lengthwise, right sides together.
  4. With a see-through ruler and rotary cutter, trim one end of each folded tie at a 45˚ angle.

  5. Pin down the long side and across the angled end of each tie. The opposite end remains raw.

  6. 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.  
  7. Clip the corners

  8. Turn each tie right side out through the open straight end and press flat. 
  9. Set the four ties aside.

Make the bodice with the upper piping

  1. Find the front and back bodice panels, the bodice interfacing panel, and the piping.
  2. Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of one bodice layer. All edges of both layers should be flush. This will be the bodice front. The front and the back are the same fabric, so you can choose either one. If you have one piece where the motif is more well centered, use it as the front.
  3. Transfer the marking dots (for the neck ties and waist ties) from the bodice pattern to the fabric. Make sure you mark both the left and right positions on both bodice layers – both sides along the top curved edge for the neck ties, and along each side for the waist ties (remember, this apron has an empire waist).
  4. Place the interfaced front bodice piece right side up and flat on your work surface. Cut and pin one length of piping to fit along the curved top edge. Cut and pin a second length of piping to fit along the flat bottom edge. There is no piping along the sides. 

  5. The inner edge of piping cord should sit ½" from the raw edge of the bodice so your seam line can stitch right along, but not on, the piping cord.

  6. At the center front, make a small clip in the piping to ease it down into the curve of the bodice.
  7. Machine baste the piping in place along the top and bottom, using a standard foot or a Zipper foot.

  8. Find all the finished and pressed ties. 
  9. Using your marks as your guide (remember, you transferred the dots from the pattern to the fabric), place the two neck ties at the left and right marks along the top curved edge.

  10. Then, place the two waist ties at the left and right marks along the 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. 

  11. Find the plain back bodice layer. Fold up the straight bottom edge of this panel ½" and press in place. 

  12. 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.
  13. Pin in place along the two sides and across the top curved edge. The bottom remains open.
  14. Re-thread the machine with thread to best match the fabric in the top and bobbin and re-set the stitch length to normal. 
  15. Attach a Zipper foot if possible although you can use a standard presser 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, even if this means it is slightly wider than ½".

  16. Down the sides, default to a true ½" seam allowance.  You do stitch across that folded edge along the back bodice panel.

  17. 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. 

  18. Turn the bodice right side out through the open bottom and press flat. 

Make the pocket

  1. Find the two pocket pieces and the pocket interfacing.
  2. Cut one 30" length of piping.
  3. Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of one pocket piece. All edges of both layers should be flush. This will be the pocket front. As with the bodice above, if one pocket panel cut is better than the other, use the best one as the pocket front.
  4. Pin the length of piping to the right side of the pocket front.

  5. To connect the piping ends, use a seam ripper to open up the piping fabric on one end. 
  6. Trim back this end so it butts together perfectly with the opposite end. 
  7. Fold back the piping fabric and overlap the ends. 
  8. Pin in place, matching the rest of the piping so it is now a continuous curve. 
    NOTE: For more information about working with piping, check out our full tutorial, which also includes steps to make your own piping should you not be able to find a packaged piping that is as perfect of a match as you’d like.
  9. Machine baste the piping in place.

  10. Place the back pocket piece and the front pocket piece right sides together, sandwiching the piping between the layers. Pin in place, leaving a 2" opening along one side. 
  11. 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. 

  12. Turn the pocket right side out through the 2" opening.
  13. Press well, pressing in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with sewn seam. 
  14. Lay the pattern on top of the pocket.
  15. There is a fold line for the pocket. Place a pin or make a mark with a fabric pen or pencil at these dots on the pocket. Fold down the pocket at the marked points.

  16. Place a pin or mark at the dot indicating button placement.

  17. Remove the paper pattern and press well along the fold line

  18. Using the marked point, hand stitch the button in place through all the layers of the pocket. This stitched button is what holds the folded top of the pocket in place. We used a pretty X hand stitch in a contrasting color to the button.

  19. Set the pocket aside.

Skirt overlay with its pocket and poms

  1. Place the front skirt overlay panel right side up and flat on your work surface.
  2. Mark the placement for the pocket. To do this, measure 8" in from the right raw edge of the skirt panel and 8½" down from the top raw edge of the skirt panel. Place a pin at the intersection of these two measurements. 

  3. Find the finished pocket. Place the upper left corner of the pocket at the marked point. Make sure the pocket is sitting straight on the skirt panel with the top of the pocket parallel with the top of the skirt panel.
  4. Pin the pocket in place along the sides and around the bottom.

  5. Re-thread the machine if necessary with thread to best match the pocket in the top and bobbin. Set a slightly lengthened stitch.
  6. Use a Zipper foot to stitch the pocket in place, running the seam right along the piping (stitching in the ditch of the piping). Remember to start and stop at the pocket’s folded top edge.

  7. Find the 37" length of pom trim.
  8. Pin the pom trim in place along the bottom edge of the front skirt overlay panel. You want to catch the center of the trim strip in the skirt's seam, which means the bottom edge of the trim should be " up from the bottom raw edge of the skirt panel. As mentioned above, center the pom trim to leave approximately ½" - " of trim beyond the last pom at each end. This will allow you to catch the trim in the skirt's seam and leave a well-balanced pom to dangle at each side.
  9. Still using a Zipper foot, machine baste the pom trim in place.

  10. Find the back skirt overlay panel. Place the front and back overlay panels right sides together, sandwiching the pom trim and the pocket between the layers. Pin along both sides and across the bottom. Leave the top open.
  11. If necessary, re-thread the machine with thread to best match the fabric in the top and bobbin. Re-set the stitch length to normal. We continued to use our Zipper foot although you could also revert to a standard presser foot.
  12. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch along both sides and across the bottom. Remember to pivot at the corners.

  13. Press the seam allowances open and clip the corners.
  14. Turn right side out through the open top. Pull the poms out into position along the bottom edge. Gently push out the corners so they are nice and square, a long knitting needle, chopstick or point turner works well for this. Press flat.

Finish the main skirt

  1. Find the main skirt panel.
  2. Along both sides and across the bottom create a narrow ½" double turn hem with diagonal point corners. To do this, fold in the side edges ½" and press.

  3. Fold an additional ½" and press again.
  4. Create a neat diagonal joint at the two bottom corners.

    NOTE: If you are new to narrow hemming with these pretty corners, we have an easy, step-by-step tutorial you can review
  5. Attach a standard presser foot and re-thread with thread to best match the skirt fabric in the top and bobbin.
  6. Stitch along both sides and across the bottom, staying close to the inner fold of the narrow hem – this should be just shy of ½". Remember to pivot at the bottom corners.

Attach the bodice to the skirt to finish

  1. Place the main skirt panel right side up and flat on your work surface.
  2. Place the overlay panel right side up on top of the main skirt. Align the top raw edges of both skirt panels. Pin the layers together across the top.
  3. Measure to find the exact center along the top. Add a second marking pin at this point. Or put in the pin from the opposite direction. You just want the center to be easy to spot.
  4. 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.
    NOTE: Because we were gathering three layers, we re-threaded with the heavy contrasting thread in the top and bobbin. This is optional, but helpful to insure the gathering stitch doesn't snap.
  5. 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.
  6. Find the center of the piped bottom edge of the bodice front. Place a pin at this point. Then, 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 the center pin points. 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. Pin in place.

  7. Stitch across the top of the skirt through all the layers (remember, you are not stitching through the back layer of the bodice - it is pulled out of the way as shown in the photo below).

  8. NOTE: We are using our built-in fabric feeding system, the Janome AcuFeed™ Flex system for this step because of all the layers. You could certainly use a standard presser foot, just go slowly to keep any shifting to a minimum and make sure you are staying as close as possible to the piping.
  9. Press the seam allowance up towards the bodice.
  10. Bring the folded edge of the bodice back layer down into place, covering the seam you just made. Pin in place.
  11. Hand stitch the folded edge of the bodice all the way across with a neat ladder stitch.

Contributors

Project Design: Alicia Thommas  
Sample Creation and Instructions: Debbie Guild

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