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Scandinavian Style Rustic Apron with Decorative Stitching Accents

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Like whipped cream on a plain piece of pie or a marshmallow dropped in a mug of hot cocoa, decorative stitches can turn an ordinary project into something special. We started with a basic bib and skirt design in two natural colors of cotton duck, then added multiple lines of 9mm decorative stitching. The result: our charmingly rustic Scandinavian apron. It's perfect to wear while you're whipping up a little appelkaka (Swedish apple cake) or chockladbullar (Swedish cocoa balls).

We used the amazing Janome Horizon Quilt Maker Memory Craft 15000 for this project, which gave us over 500 decorative options to choose from – the majority of which could be stitched up to 9mm in width.

Our apron mixes a plain cotton duck accent (the nutmeg) with a stone-washed cotton duck (the natural). The wrinkly look of the stone-washed fabric added to the rustic look, as did our technique of leaving two of the accent bands with a raw edge that fluffed or "ragged" when laundered.

We selected the colors of Fall, but that's just because we're looking forward to "pumpkin spice season." You could certainly re-imagine the design in pastels, brights or jewel tones to create a whole new look. This apron would make a lovely housewarming gift when done to compliment the kitchen colors of the new homeowners. Wrap it up with some matching utensils and a favorite recipe. We found a nice selection of cotton duck at Fabric.com

As shown below, it's important to test your decorative stitches to find and place the options you like best. Take the time to do practice stitching on scraps of your actual fabric to get the spacing and repetition just right. You want variety, but don't go overboard or the effect can become overwhelming. We recommend just three stitch patterns and three complimentary colors.

Your sewing needle is covering a lot of ground when you sew a decorative stitch. If you try to sew out an ornate stitch at top speed, the quality can suffer. Run your machine a little slower and be patient. You'll be much happier with the results. Plus, even when you think you're applying consistent pressure, you may not be, so we also like to recommend using a start/stop button rather than the foot control when decorative stitching. This insures even feeding under the presser foot.

Decorative stitching is just the tip of the creative iceberg when it comes to the Janome Horizon Quilt Maker Memory Craft 15000. It is totally worth a "test stitch" at your local authorized Janome dealer. Ask to see a demonstration of the special quilting functions, like ruler quilting and the flangeless quarter inch foot. And test out its amazing embroidery functions, including the WiFi capable apps for design, editing, monitoring stitchouts, and more. 

As with store-bought aprons, our design is meant to be one-size-fits-all. However, we realize you may still wish to adjust your measurements smaller or larger. As a reference, the top of the skirt (across the waistband) is 22", the ties extend beyond the skirt by 12½" on each side (the ties are meant to be knotted at the back rather than tied in a bow) for a total waistband/tie length of approximately 47", and the bib finishes at approximately about 10" wide x 10" high. 

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

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  • 1 yard of 45"+ wide mid to heavyweight fabric for the main fabric for apron skirt and lower bib; we used a 54" cotton duck in Natural with a "distressed" type of finish so it would retain a stone-washed, slightly wrinkled look
  • ¾ yard of 45"+ wide mid to heavyweight accent fabric for apron upper bib, waist and neck ties, and bottom border; we used a 54" cotton duck in Nutmeg
    NOTE: The top of the pocket and the bottom border of the skirt are both left raw to "rag" or fray to complete the "rustic" look of this apron design. So, you need a fabric that will rag when laundered. An all-cotton selection is your best bet.
  • Two 1½" D-rings: we used a gunmetal finish
  • All purpose thread in colors to match fabric for sewing: we used natural and nutmeg
  • All purpose thread in colors for decorative stitching: we used persimmon, nutmeg and dark steel gray
    NOTE: Some people prefer a rayon thread for decorative stitching, but the rustic design of this apron calls for a matte rather than shiny finish, so we suggest all-purpose thread.
  • Tear away stabilizer or spray starch to stabilize your fabric for decorative stitching
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Straight pins
  • Hand sewing needle

Getting Started

  1. Download and print the two apron bib patterns: Apron Bib Part 1 and Apron Bib Part 2, which have been bundled into ONE PDF to make the download easier.
    IMPORTANT: Each pattern piece is ONE 8.5" x 11" sheet. You must print the PDF file at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page.
  2. Cut out each pattern along the solid line.
    NOTE: There are arrows on the two pattern pieces, but they are NOT meant to be taped together. These are reference arrows so you can orient how the two pieces of fabric will go together.
  3. From the main apron fabric (Natural cotton duck in our sample), cut the following:
    ONE 15" x 28" rectangle for the skirt base
    ONE 8½" x 28" rectangle for the pocket panel
    Use the Apron Bib Part 2 pattern to cut TWO bibs on the fold
  4. From the accent apron fabric (Nutmeg cotton duck in our sample), cut the following:
    ONE 4" x 31" strip for the long neck tie
    ONE 4" x 4" square for the short neck tie tab
    FOUR 2½" x 25" strips for the waist ties
    ONE 1½" x 28" strip for the top pocket border
    ONE 3½" x 28" rectangle for the bottom border
    Use the Apron Bib Part 1 pattern to cut TWO bibs on the fold

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

  1. Press all your cut pieces so they are nice and flat.
  2. Pin each Apron Bib 1 piece to an Apron Bib 2 piece, aligning the center raw edges as shown in the photo below.
    Click to Enlarge
  3. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch together to create the complete bib front and bib lining.

Decorative stitch planning, testing and stitching

  1. Pick out three decorative stitches to accent your apron. We used the amazing Janome Horizon Memory Craft 15000 and so had over 500 to choose from! We tested several and decided on Decorative Stitch #85 and Heirloom Stitches #11 and #14.
  2. We stabilized a scrap of base fabric to test the stitches we were interested in and to figure out how far apart we wanted the rows to be. In the photo below, you'll see our tests at ½" apart (too far), ¼" apart (too close) and ⅜" apart (just right).
    Click to Enlarge
  3. Using a fabric pen or pencil you know will easily wipe or wash away (or will vanish with exposure to the air or the heat of an iron), draw guidelines on both the apron bib front and the pocket panel.
  4. The apron bib front requires THREE guides lines. First find the center point (top to bottom) of the bottom portion of the bib (the center of the Natural fabric in our sample). Draw this line first, horizontally across the entire piece. Then, draw one parallel line ⅜" above the center line and one parallel line ⅜" below the center line.
    NOTE: Remember, ⅜" was our chosen spacing; you might want yours closer together or farther away, depending on the width of your stitches.
    Click to Enlarge
  5. The pocket panel requires NINE guides lines. First find the center point (top to bottom) of the pocket panel. You can fold the piece lengthwise to find or center or measure 4½" from the top raw edge. Draw this line first, horizontally across the entire piece. Then, draw FOUR parallel lines above the center line, each ⅜" apart, and FOUR parallel lines below the center line, also each ⅜" apart.
    Click to Enlarge
  6. Following your manual, set up your machine for decorative stitching and stabilize your fabric with tear-away stabilizer or spray starch.
  7. Thread the machine with the first accent thread color.
    NOTE: Because the back of all our decorative stitching is hidden, you can use white bobbin thread with all the top thread colors to speed up the thread changes. Just make sure your tension is correctly set so none of the bobbin threads pull up to the top. This is part of the stitch testing steps above.
  8. We started with the decorative stitching on the apron bib. First stitch the center row.
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  9. Re-thread and stitch the two outside rows.
    Click to Enlarge
  10. Re-thread again and stitch the row that bridges the seam between the two fabric colors of the bib. Use the seam itself as your center guide.
    Click to Enlarge
    NOTE: If you are new to decorative stitching, check our our article: Decorative Stitches: Love Them! Use Them! for some handy tips and techniques for flawless sewing.
  11. Re-thread again and stitch the rows across the pocket panel. To reduce the number of thread changes, do all the rows of each color and then switch to the next color. Our pocket patten was as follows:
    Decorative Stitch #85 in dark steel gray
    Heirloom Stitch #11 in nutmeg
    Heirloom Stitch #14 in persimmon
    Heirloom Stitch #11 in nutmeg
    Decorative Stitch #85 in dark steel gray
    Heirloom Stitch #11 in nutmeg
    Heirloom Stitch #14 in persimmon
    Heirloom Stitch #11 in nutmeg
    Decorative Stitch #85 in dark steel gray
    Click to Enlarge

Bib pleats

  1. The bib front and back both require two ¾" pleats along the bottom to give some dimension to the bib for a better fit. To do this, first mark your fold positions.
  2. Find the exact center of the bib back by folding it in half, mark this point with a pin along the bottom edge.
  3. Measure 2¾" to the right of the center point and mark with a pin. Then, measure 2¾" to the left of the center point and mark with a pin.
  4. Finally measure and mark 1½" to the right of the rightmost pin and 1½" to the left of the leftmost pin.
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  5. Remove the center pin; you don't need it now.
  6. Use your fabric pencil to place marks along the bottom edge of the bib at the pairs of pin points.
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  7. With each pair, pinch the fabric right sides together until the two marks meet and pin in place.
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  8. With the pleats folded in place, flip the bib over and measure 2" from the bottom edge up. Mark at each 2" point.
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  9. Run one line of stitching along these measurements to hold each pleat in place: ¾" from the pleat fold and 2" from the bottom raw edge to the end of the seam.
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  10. Repeat to create identical ¾" pleats along the bottom of the bib front. Press all pleats toward the center.
    NOTE: We used pleats rather than darts because we want our decorative stitching to remain perfectly straight.
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Make and attach the neck ties and finish the bib

  1. Find the 4" x 31" long neck tie.
  2. Fold in half, right sides together, lengthwise (so it is now 2" x 31"). Pin, then stitch, using a ½" seam allowance, across one end and all along the long side, pivoting at the corner. Leave the other end open and raw.
  3. Find the 4" x 4" short neck tie tab.
  4. Fold in half, right sides together, (so it is now 2" x 4"). Pin, then stitch, using a ½" seam allowance just along the side. Leave both ends open and raw.
  5. Turn both tabs right side out and press. Even though these aren't super tiny, check out our tutorial for an easy way to turn and press tiny tubes.
  6. Place the apron bib right side up on your work surface. Pin the long tie 1" in from the left side of the bib with the raw edges of the tie and the top raw edge of bib aligned.
  7. Fold the short tab in half so the raw ends match up. Slip the two D-rings into the fold.
  8. Stitch across the tab close to the rings.
  9. Pin the folded and stitched tab 1" in from the right side of the bib. The raw edges of the tie and the top raw edge of bib should be aligned; the folded end of the tie with the D-rings should be hanging down.
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  10. Layer the front bib and back bib right sides together, sandwiching the ties between the layers. Pin along both sides and across the top; leave the bottom open for turning.
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  11. Stitch the big front to the bib back, using a ½" seam allowance. Remember to pivot at the corners. Keep the long tie out of the way of the seam as you sew.
  12. Trim the corners at an angle.
  13. Turn right side out, push out the top corners and pull the ties up and out.
  14. Press well.
    Click to Enlarge

Assemble the skirt

Top pocket accent strip

  1. Find the 1½" x 28" accent strip.
  2. Pin the RIGHT side of the strip against the WRONG side of the skirt panel along the top edge.
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  3. Stitch together, using a ½" seam allowance. Then, trim back the seam allowance to ¼" and finish with either a serger or with an overcast or zig zag stitch on your sewing machine.
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  4. Bring the accent strip up and over to the front, encasing the finished seam allowance. Pin in place.
    Click to Enlarge
  5. Stitch the strip in place ⅜" from the top folded edge. This leaves the bottom of the strip as a raw edge. When you launder the apron, this edge will ravel or "rag," creating a fluffy accent across the top of the pocket. The seam will stop the rag, but it is unlikely it will fray up that far.
    Click to Enlarge

Skirt pleats

  1. As you did above with the apron bib; measure, mark, and make two ¾" pleats along the top edge. The measurements are the same because you want the pleats in the bib to line up with pleats in the skirt.
  2. Find the center point of the skirt, measure 2¾" to the right of the center point and mark with a pin. Then, measure 2¾" to the left of the center point and mark with a pin. Finally measure and mark 1½" to the right of the rightmost pin and 1½" to the left of the leftmost pin.
    Click to Enlarge
  3. Stitch down the pleats in the same manner as you did for the bib and press the pleats towards the center of the skirt.
    Click to Enlarge

Sandwiching the bottom border

  1. Lay the pleated skirt WRONG side UP on your work surface.
  2. Find the 3½" x 28" bottom border strip. Place it WRONG side DOWN along the bottom edge of the skirt. So, that's wrong sides together for the skirt and the border strip.
  3. Place the pocket panel RIGHT side DOWN on top of these two pieces. Again, aligning the bottom edges.
    Click to Enlarge
  4. Pin all three layers in places and stitch together with a ½" seam allowance.
  5. Trim the seam allowance back to ¼" and finish with either a serger or with an overcast or zig zag stitch on your sewing machine.
  6. Fold up both the pocket panel and the skirt, encasing the finished seam at the inside bottom of the pocket. The skirt is now facing right side up, the pocket panel is also facing right side up and the bottom border strip is sticking out the bottom.
  7. Smooth the pocket against the skirt so the raw side edges are flush. Press in place. This will make the top of the skirt kind of blouse up. That's okay. The top part of the skirt, with its pleats, is designed with fullness so it lays nicely around the waist and across the hips.
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  8. The seam is hidden from both sides. Spiffy, huh? We want the bottom of the border strip to be raw because it will rag like the top of the pocket accent strip.
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Pocket seams

  1. Fold the skirt back up into place and smooth out the layers again so the sides of the pocket and the skirt are flush.
  2. Measure and mark the lines for pockets. There are five pocket seams, which will create six even pockets across the pocket panel.
  3. With the skirt and pocket panel still flat and smooth, find the exact center. The easiest way is to fold in half and mark with a pin at the center fold. If you don't want to disturb your nice flat layers, measure 14" in from one raw side edge.
  4. Mark a vertical line from the bottom of the pocket panel to the top accent strip of the pocket.
    Click to Enlarge
  5. Measure 4½" to the right of this center line and mark parallel line. Measure 4½" to the right of this second line and mark a third parallel line.
  6. Repeat to create to matching vertical lines to left of the center line.
    Click to Enlarge
  7. Lengthen your stitch and topstitch along each drawn line. Use a thread that matches the base fabric so you won't notice the pocket seams against the decorative stitching.
  8. Set up your machine again for decorative stitching, and, as you did above on the apron bib, run a final decorative stitch across the pocket/border seam. Use the same decorative stitch that you did for the bib crossover stitch.

Side hems

  1. Make a ½" double turn hem along each side of the skirt. To do this, fold the raw edge towards the back of the skirt ½" and press, then fold another ½" and press again. Pin well.
    Click to Enlarge
  2. There are a LOT of layers along these side hems. With all this bulk, we recommend you hand stitch the hems in place. We stitched with two different colors of thread - nutmeg along the border and then natural along the rest of the skirt. 
    Click to Enlarge

Waistband and waist ties

  1. Find the four 2½" x 25" strips.
  2. Take one pair, and using a ½" seam allowance, stitch, right sides together, along one 2½" side. Repeat with the other pair. This will give you two strips that are 2½" x 49".
    Click to Enlarge
  3. Match these two 49" strips right sides together, lining up all raw edges and the center seams. This will become your waistband/ties.
  4. Using your see-through ruler and fabric pencil, measure and mark the openings needed in the waistband to insert the apron bib and the apron skirt. You can use the center seam to insure the openings are centered. You need a 10" opening along the top of the waistband and a 24" opening along the bottom of the waist band.
    Click to Enlarge
  5. Stitch the two waistband/tie pieces together, using a ½" seam allowance. Start at the bottom opening, stitch down one side, pivot at the corner, stitch across the end, pivot at the corner, and stitch along the remaining long side to the top opening.
  6. Remove from machine. Move to the other end of the top opening. Start stitching again, down one side, pivot at the corner, stitch across the end, pivot at the corner, and stitch along the remaining long side to the bottom opening.
    Click to Enlarge
  7. Turn right side out through the middle opening. Press. You might need to reach in to the corner points with a blunt-edged tool, like a large knitting needle, chopstick or point turner to help push out the seam and make a nice point at all corners at the ends of the ties.
  8. Make sure you press in the seam allowances along the openings (top and bottom) so they are flush with the sewn edges.
  9. Edgestitch along your finished seams, pivoting at all corners, but still leaving the top and bottom openings free and clear.
    Click to Enlarge

Attach bib to waistband

  1. Find the completed bib.
  2. Insert the bib into the top opening (the 10" opening) of the waistband. Pin in place.
  3. Edgestitch apron bib in place, being careful that your new edgestitching matches the existing edgestitching on the waistband/ties piece.
    Click to Enlarge

Attach skirt to waistband

  1. Find the completed skirt.
  2. Insert the skirt into the bottom opening (the 24" opening) of the waistband. Pin in place. Line up the pleats of the bib with the pleats of the skirt.
  3. Edgestitch apron skirt in place, being careful that your new edgestitching matches the existing edgestitching on the waistband/ties piece.
    Click to Enlarge
  4. Launder your finished apron to wash away all the stitch guidelines and to allow the two raw edges (the pocket accent strip and the bottom border) to rag and fluff. There might be some longer fabric tails when you first remove the apron from the dryer. Simply trim these flush with the fluffy frayed edges.

Contributors

Project Concept: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Liz Johnson

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