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Three Tier Ombre Apron with Shabby Chic Style

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Ombre is a French word for shading or graduating. In fashion, it refers to the graduation of color in a garment, such as when a fabric is very dark at one end and gradually lightens. With the multitude of tones to choose from within today's quilting cotton solids, we were able to achieve a beautiful ombre effect in this three tier apron design. Using colors from within the Michael Miller Cotton Couture collection, our ombre effect goes from light Vanilla on top to a dusky Sage at the bottom of the triple tier skirt. These beautiful neutrals were the perfect base for a little shabby chic style. We added vintage buttons, heirloom lace, subtle embroidery, and a surprise tulle layer in the middle of the skirt. Magnifique!

You really need a high quality, 100% cotton solid to create this lovely look. There truly is a difference you can see and feel! We loved working with Michael Miller's Cotton Couture, which is a wonderfully wide and varied collection. It is readily available at many of your favorite in-store and online fabric retailers, including: Fabric Depot, Fat Quarter Shop, Fabric.com, and ilovefabric

One of the many benefits of quality cotton is the tight weave, which not only contributes to the luxurious feel, but also provides a beautiful base for machine embroidery and decorative stitching. We added embroidery to our apron bib and were delighted with the satiny smooth finish. 

The shabby chic elements of the apron are a great excuse to rummage through your vintage button and lace collections. These little touches give the apron its unique flair. 

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, the skirt of this apron finishes approximately 38" wide x 19” high. The tiers are: 9" (cotton), 13" (cotton), 15" (optional tulle), 19" (cotton). The bib is approximately 10” wide x 9" high, making the total length of the apron, top to bottom, about 28”. The neck ties are 18" long. The waist is 20" across the skirt with two 30" ties.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

  • FOUR closely coordinating colors of 44"+ wide quilting weight cotton solids; we used Vanilla, Khaki, Green Tea and Sage from the Cotton Couture collection by Michael Miller Fabrics
    ⅔ yard of the Vanilla for the bib, neck ties and pocket
    ⅔ yard of the Khaki for the top skirt tier and waistband/ties
    ½ yard of the Green Tea for the middle skirt tier
    ⅔ yard of the Sage for the bottom skirt tier
  • 1 yard of 54" coordinating tulle; we used light peach
  • ½ yard of 20" mid-weight fusible interfacing; we used Pellon Décor Bond
  • Various lace scraps for bib, waist, and pocket accents
  • ELEVEN ½" to 1" mix-and-match, vintage-type buttons for bib and pocket accents
  • For optional bib embroidery: vintage style embroidery design and embroidery thread to coordinate with your apron colors. The design should be monochromatic; it is meant to be a subtle accent. We used a flourish design in a soft taupe.
  • 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

The cuts below are listed by the fabrics within our sample. You can certainly substitute your favorite quilting cotton solids.  

  1. From the Cotton Couture Vanilla, cut the following:
    TWO 6½" x 7" rectangles 
    TWO 9½" x 7 rectangles
    ONE 4" x 8" rectangle
    TWO 8" x 9½" rectangles
    TWO 4" x 28" strips
  2. From the Cotton Couture Khaki, cut the following:
    ONE 10" x width of fabric (WOF) panel, ie. 10" x 44" 
    TWO 2½" x 31" strips
    TWO 2½" x 41" strips
    ONE 2½" x 21" strip
  3. From the Cotton Couture Green Tea, cut ONE 14" x WOF panel, ie. 14" x 44" 
  4. From the Cotton Couture Sage, cut ONE 20" x WOF panel, ie. 20" x 44"
  5. From the Tulle, cut TWO 15½" x WOF panels, ie. 15½" x 54"
  6. From the mid-weight fusible interfacing, cut the following:
    ONE 8" x 9½" rectangle
    ONE 9" x 6" rectangle
    ONE 2" x 20" strip
    TWO 1½" x 9½" strips
    ONE 1½" x 8" strip 
  7. From your collection of lace scraps, cut the following:
    ONE 8" length for the bib
    ONE 21" length for the waist
    ONE 5½" high x 7" wide rectangle for the pocket
    NOTE: Rather than one solid piece of lace for the pocket, you could layer a number of 7" lengths of varying widths of a variety of laces to create a 5½" x 7" finished panel of different looks and textures... shabbier and possibly even more chic!

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Skirt tiers

  1. On EACH of three cotton skirt tiers (Khaki, Green Tea, and Sage in our sample), make a narrow, double turn hem along both sides and across the bottom. To do this, turn under the raw edge ¼" and press. Turn under an additional ¼" and press again. At each corner make a ¼" diagaon point corner. Pin in place and stitch close to the folded edge. We used our Janome Quarter Inch foot to help keep a consistent seam all around. 

    NOTE: If you are new to this corner technique, check out our tutorial on narrow hems with neat corners
  2. Find the two tulle panels.
  3. Baste the two layers together along one 54" side. This is a gathering stitch, so do not lock the seam at the beginning or the end. 
  4. Pull the gathering stitch gently until the tulle is the same width as the bottom (Sage) tier (44").
  5. Pin the tulle to the bottom tier panel (the Sage panel), aligning the gathered edge of the tulle with the top raw edge of the tier. 
    NOTE: The tulle is an optional layer.
  6. Stitch all three layers together. You can now work with these layers as one piece.
  7. Lay the skirt tiers, right side up, one top of another. The third tier goes down first (Sage/Tulle), then the middle tier (Green Tea), then the top tier (Khaki). 
  8. Make sure the hemmed sides and top raw edges are perfectly aligned. Pin all the layers together along the top edge. 
  9. Using a zig zag stitch on your sewing machine or a serger, stitch the three layers together along the top and finish the raw edges. We used a serger.
  10. Run a gathering stitch along the top of the skirt through all three layers. To do this, stitch one or two lines of machine basting approximately ⅜" from the top edge. As above, do not lock the beginning or end of the seam. The photo below shows you our serger-finished edge as we stitched our line of machine basting.

    NOTE: If you are new to gathering, take a look at our tutorial: How to Make Gathers by Machine.
  11. Pull the row(s) of machine basting to gather the skirt to approximately 20". Adjust the gathers so they fall evenly.

Bib

  1. Find the two 8" wide x 9½" high bib rectangles (Vanilla in our sample) and the 8 x 9½" interfacing rectangle. 
  2. Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse the interfacing rectangle to the wrong side of one of the fabric rectangles.
  3. Layer the fused bib rectangle wrong sides together with the plain bib rectangle, sandwiching the interfacing between the layers.
  4. Find the 4" x 8" top bib border (Vanilla in our sample).
  5. Fold this piece in half lengthwise, right sides together, so it is 2" x 8", and press a center crease. 
  6. Unfold so the center crease is visible.
  7. Find the 1½ x 8" piece of interfacing. Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse this interfacing strip to the wrong side of the fabric strip, aligning the top of the interfacing with the center crease. The fabric will extend beyond the interfacing ½" at the bottom.
  8. Press up that bottom ½" to create a finished edge.
  9. Pin the opposite edge of the strip (the non-folded edge) to the top of the bib sandwich. This is the back of the bib.
  10. Stitch together, using a ½" seam allowance. 
  11. Press the border piece up and away from the bib and fold it over to the front of the bib. The center fold is now the top edge of the bib and the folded edge of the border band covers the seam line. 
  12. Press the border in place. 
  13. Find the 8" length of lace and insert it under the folded edge of the border strip. Adjust the lace so there is a nice reveal below the folded edge but still enough under the fold to allow it be secured in place. We inserted the lace ¼" under the fold with a ¼" reveal below the fold.  
  14. Make sure your machine is thread wtih thread to best match the bib fabric in the top and bobbin. Slightly lengthen the stitch.
  15. Trim the ends of the lace flush with the bib if necessary. Pin in place and edgestitch across the border to secure.

Add the ties to the bib

  1. Find the TWO 4" x 28" strips (Vanilla in our sample).
  2. Fold each piece in half lengthwise, right sides together, so it is 2" x 28" and press a center crease. 
  3. Unfold each strip so the center crease is visible. 
  4. Fold under ½" and press along one 28" side of each tie. Then, on one end of each tie, fold under ½" and press. 
  5. Place the two ties vertically and side by side on your work surface. The folded edges of the two ties should be facing each other, the raw edges opposite one another, and the folded ends should be at the top, simulating how they'll be on the finished bib. 
  6. Find the bib (with its top border band in place). Place it right side down on your work surface and slip it under the ties. Adjust the ties so the bottom raw edges of the ties are flush with the bottom raw edge of the bib, then align the raw side edges. Pin in place from the bottom raw edge, stopping at the top of the bib. 
  7. Stitch together, using a ½" seam allowance, from the bottom raw edge, stopping at the top of the bib on both sides.
  8. Press the border piece out and away from the bib, then fold it over to the front of the bib. The center folds of the ties will now become the side edges of the bib and the folded edges will cover the seam lines. But... don't fold them into place just yet.
  9. First, find the TWO 1½ x 9½" strips of interfacing. Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse one interfacing strip to the inside of each tie, aligning the interfacing with the center crease and the bottom raw edge of each tie. This is similar to how the top border piece was aligned.
  10. With that added stability in place... NOW fold the ties into place so each folded edge just covers each seam line. Press well.
  11. Continue pressing all the way to the end of the ties. The folded edges should be exactly flush with one another from the top of the bib all the way up to the end of each tie.
  12. Pin in place.
  13. Starting at the end of one tie, edgestitch across the end, pivot at the corner, then continue edgestitching all the way down the tie and across the apron bib, ending your seam at the bottom raw edge of the bib. Repeat for the opposite tie.

Optional embroidery

  1. Find the center point of the apron bib.
  2. Following the instruction manual for your particular embroidery machine, hoop the bib and stitch the embroidery. Remember to correctly stabilize prior to stitching. 

Bib buttons

  1. Arrange your vintage buttons across the top border band of the bib, centering the buttons top to bottom within the band, and side to side from the inside seams of the ties. We used six buttons, varying in size from ½" to 1".
  2. Carefully stitch each button in place through just the front layer of the accent band, leaving the back of the bib free of stitches and/or knots. 

Waistband and ties

  1. Find the TWO 2½" x 41" tie pieces, the TWO 2½" x 31" tie pieces and the ONE 2½" x 21" tie piece (all Khaki in our sample).
  2. Stitch the two 2½" x 41" tie pieces together at one end with a ½" seam allowance. Press the seam open. This is the back waistband/tie.
  3. Stitch one 2½" x 31" tie piece to either side of the 2½" x 21" tie piece, using a ½" seam allowance. Press both seams open. The is the front waistband/tie.
  4. Find the 2" x 20" interfacing strip. Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse this interfacing strip to the wrong side of the center front waistband/tie strip, centering it top to bottom within the strip and aligning the ends with the sewn seams. 
  5. You now have two 2½" x 81" waistband/ties.
    NOTE: Why are the two 81" strips made differently, you ask? The center-seamed strip is the back and the side-seamed strip is the front. With this configuration, you economically use the fabric, but you don't have a center seam showing on the front of your apron's waistband. Cool, huh?!
  6. Place these two waistband/ties right sides together, lining up all raw edges. 
  7. Using your see-through ruler and fabric pen, measure and mark the openings needed in the waistband to insert the apron bib and the apron skirt. You can use the center seam on the waistband back to insure the openings are centered. You need a 10" opening along the top of the waistband for the bib and a 20" opening along the bottom of the waistband for the skirt.
  8. Stitch the two waistband/tie pieces together, using a ½" seam allowance. Start at the bottom opening mark, stitch along bottom edge, pivot at the corner, stitch along the end, pivot at the corner, and stitch along the top edge until you reach the top opening mark.
  9. Remove the tie from machine. Move to the other side of the top opening mark, and start again. Stitch along the top edge, pivot at the corner, stitch along the end, pivot at the corner, and stitch along the bottom edge until you reach the opposite of the bottom opening mark. Be sure tolock your stitching at the beginning and end of all your seams.
  10. Clip the corners. Turn the waistband/tie right-side out through the middle opening. Press flat. Make sure you press in the raw edges of both openings so they are flush with the sewn seam. Also be sure to push out all four corners with a blunt-end tool, like a large knitting needle, chopstick or point turner, to create sharp corners.
  11. Edgestitch along your finished seams, pivoting at all corners, but be sure to leave the top and bottom openings free and clear.

Attach the bib and the skirt to the waistband

  1. Insert the completed apron bib into the top opening (the 10" opening) of the waistband. Make sure you are inserting the bib with the front of the bib facing the front waistband - the one without the seam. Pin in place. 
  2. To insure the bib was perfectly straight, we measured and marked a line (we used pins; you could also you a fabric pen or pencil) ½" up the bottom raw edge of the bib.
  3. We then carefully inserted the bib into the waistband top opening, following the line, and re-pinned from the front. We then flipped over the apron, aligned the back with the front and hand basted it in place to be sure nothing would move around during our final stitching.
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  4. Edgestitch the apron bib in place, being careful that your new edgestitching matches the existing edgestitching on the waistband/tie piece.
  5. Find the 21" length of lace. 
  6. Insert the lace behind the finished edge of the bottom front waistband opening. Adjust the lace so there is a nice reveal below the folded edge but still enough under the fold to allow it be secured in place. This lace was a bit wider than our bib lace; we inserted the lace ¼" under the fold with a ½" reveal below the fold.
  7. Insert the completed apron skirt into the bottom opening (the 20" opening) of the waistband, positioning it behind the lace. If necessary, adjust the gathers to tighten or loosen to fit. Pin in place. We actually hand basted the layers in place so the lace would be secure. 
  8. Edgestitch the apron skirt in place, again being careful that your new edgestitching matches the existing edgestitching on the waistband/tie. Remove any basting threads.

The pocket

  1. Find the TWO 6½" high x 7" wide pocket pieces, the two 9½" high x 7" wide pocket pieces (Vanilla in our sample), the 6" x 9" interfacing rectangle, and the 5½" x 7" lace panel.
  2. Place the lace panel on the front of one of the 6½" x 7" pocket pieces, aligning the sides and the bottom. The lace will sit 1" down from the top raw edge.
  3. Topstitch across the top of the lace to secure it to the fabric. In this instances, and throughout the project, always stay mindful of changing your thread colors as needed to match your fabric and to adjust your stitch length as needed.
  4. Place the remaining 6½" x 7" pocket panel on top of the fabric/lace panel, right sides together, sandwiching the lace between the layers. All four sides of the fabric should be flush. Pin in place.
  5. Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch around the entire panel, pivoting at the corners and leaving an approximate 2"-3" opening along the bottom for turning.
  6. Clip the corners. Turn right side out. Push out the corners so they are nice and sharp.
  7. Fold in the raw edges of the opening so they are flush with the sewn seam. Press well. 
  8. Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse the 9" x 6" interfacing rectangle to the wrong side of one 9½" x 7" pocket piece, centering it side to side, but aligning it only along the top, leaving the bottom free. 
    NOTE: We did this because with the heavier interfacing, we wanted to keep it out of the seams as much as possible, but we want the reinforcement at the top for the buttons and buttonholes.  
  9. Place the interfaced pocket piece right sides together with the remaining 9½" x 7" pocket piece. Pin in place.
  10. As above, stitch around all four sides, leaving a 2-3" opening along the bottom, turn right side out and press.
  11. Place the finished lace pocket on top of the finished plain pocket aligning the sides and the bottom edges. Pin in place.
  12. Edgestitch the lace pocket to the plain pocket along the sides and across the bottom. This will close both openings used for turning. 
  13. Arrange your vintage buttons across the top of the pocket (the plain back pocket), centering the buttons side to side and approximately ¼" down from the top edge. We used five buttons, varying in size from ½" to 1".
  14. Following the instruction manual for your sewing machine, make three buttonholes: one for the center button's placement and one for each of the outside edge buttons. We found that two vertical buttons for the sides and one horizontal button for the center was a good configuration for our button selection.
  15. Hand stitch the number two and number four buttons in place between the buttonholes; these are the fixed, decorative buttons. 
  16. Lay the pocket on the finished apron, aligning the left edge of the pocket with the left edge of the apron bib. The top of the pocket should sit just below the top edgestitching of the waistband, 
  17. Mark the position of the three functional buttons and hand stitch in place along the waistand.
  18. The pocket is removable. When the pocket is not attached, the three buttons simply look like extra embellishment along the waistband. 

Contributors

Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild

Section: 

Comments (4)

Anonymous said:
Anonymous's picture

Lots of good techniques here! I love it that you are using machine embroidery a little more now.  I've been loving my embroidery machine for many years now.  

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

Thank you! A little embroidery does sometimes add just the right touch.

Pati said:
Pati 's picture

I love the look of this Vintage" type apron with all the shabby chic flavor. Thanks for sharing this with us.  Did you include the embroidery design? I wasn't able to locate it.Thanks a bunch :)

Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home said:
Liz Johnson.Editor.Sew4Home's picture

@ Pati - The embroidery is an optional item, so the choice is up to you. It is not a custom design, but is from a Anna Maria Horner embroidery CD that is ohhhhhhh.... 4-5 years old! Any simple scroll-like pattern in muted colors would look lovely.

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