This apron was designed for the Elizabeth collection by Tula Pink for FreeSpirit Fabrics, and owing to the collection's name, our apron has a certain Elizabethan flair. In researching the best elements to add the flavor of this dramatic era, we came across an interesting tidbit. In 1574, the Parliament of England passed separate laws called "sumptuary laws" to govern the ways of dressing. Clothes with gold were reserved for the Queen and her relations. Only the royals were allowed to wear clothes trimmed with ermine. And you had to have some level of nobility to sport clothes constructed from velvet, satin, and silk or trimmed with fox and otter. Peasants were restricted to dresses made of cotton, leather, and wool. Today, you can make your outfits from anything you'd like. With this apron, we of course recommend the quality cottons of FreeSpirt Fabrics. We also suggest whipping up some hot cross buns whilst wearing it.
Careful fussy cutting and renaissance style details give our apron its unique design. Downloadable patterns are offered below for the bodice pieces as well as the pretty oval pocket.
The bodice is designed in the style of a corset with an upper ruffle, which mimics the Elizabethan ruff – that circular pleated frill synonymous with Elizabeth I.
Our two-part skirt is based on the Tudor fashion trend called "slashing." Both men's and women's clothing often featured long cuts in the outer surfaces, such as on doublets, sleeves, and gowns, which allowed the contrasting colors of the linings beneath to be exposed.
We achieve the same effect with a striped underskirt overlaid with two striking floral overskirt panels.
If you love this apron, you might also like the set of Market Totes we did in the same fabric.
Although an older collection, Elizabeth was so popular, you can still find it at some in-store and online outlets. The links in our Supplies list below take you to the selection at Hawthorne Threads. Of course, you are welcome to choose your own unique set of fabrics. We're excited to see Tula's latest collection, Spirit Animal, which is due in September, and are envisioning this pretty apron using the Spirit Animal combination shown below (Re Tweet for skirt, Arrowheads for underskirt and sides of bib, Otter and Chill for center bib, and Bear Hug for straps and piping).
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 high-waisted apron is approximately 17" wide across the bottom of the bodice, the waist ties are each approximately 29" long, and the neck ties are also each approximately 29" long, the skirt length is 25", and the bodice is about 8½" high at the highest point of the curve, including the ruffle. For particularly full-figured wearers, you may want to consider darts in the side panels of the bodice for additional shaping.
Sewing Tools You Need
Fabric and Other Supplies
NOTE: All cuts include extra yardage to facilitate the fussy-cutting.
- 1⅓ yards of 44"+ wide quilting weight cotton for the underskirt, bodice ties, and bodice side panels; we used Tent Stripe in Tart from the Elizabeth collection by Tula Pink for FreeSpirit Fabrics
- 1 yard of 44"+ wide quilting weight cotton for the overskirt panels and pocket; we used Astrea in Plum from the Elizabeth collection by Tula Pink for FreeSpirit Fabrics
- ½ yard of 44"+ wide quilting weight cotton for the neck ties and piping; we used Ship Shape in Sky in from the Elizabeth collection by Tula Pink for FreeSpirit Fabrics
- ½ yard of 44"+ wide quilting weight cotton for the bodice ruffle and bodice lining; we used Tudor Windows in Tart from the Elizabeth collection by Tula Pink for FreeSpirit Fabrics
- ¼ yard of 44"+ wide quilting weight cotton for the bodice front; we used 16th Century Selfie in Plum from the Elizabeth collection by Tula Pink for FreeSpirit Fabrics
- ¾ yard of 20"+ lightweight but firm fusible interfacing; we used Pellon 950F Shir-Tailor
NOTE: With the 20" width, you will need to piece the interfacing for the waist ties.
- 1½ yards of ⅜" piping cord
- 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
- Download and print our three Apron Pattern pieces: the Pocket pattern, the Bodice Front pattern, and the Bodice Side pattern. These three patterns have been bundled into ONE PDF to make the download easier.
IMPORTANT: Each pattern download consists of ONE 8½" x 11" sheet. You must print the PDF file at 100%. DO NOT SCALE to fit the page. There is a guide rule on each page you can use to insure your final print out is to size.
- Cut out each pattern piece along the solid line.
- From the fabric for the underskirt, bodice ties, and bodice side panels (Tent Stripe in Tart in our sample), cut the following:
Using the pattern, fussy cut TWO bodice side pieces. If using the recommended stripe as we did, the stripes should run parallel with the square outer edge of the pattern piece.
ONE 39" wide x 27" high rectangle for the underskirt (stripes running vertically)
TWO 5" x 30" strips for the bodice ties (stripes running vertically)
- From the fabric for the for the overskirt panels and pocket (Astrea in Plum in our sample), cut the following:
TWO 21" wide x 27" high rectangles for the overskirt panels
Using the pattern, cut ONE pocket piece; it will become the pocket lining. For the front pocket piece, follow the steps below to fussy cut a match to the skirt panel. If you do not care to make the pocket an exact match, you can simply cut TWO pockets, using the pattern.
- Place ONE of the overskirt panels right side up on your work surface. If using a directional print, work with the RIGHT overskirt panel (right when looking down at the apron). Measure 10" down from the top raw edge of the panel and 5½" in from the center raw edge. This intersection point marks the top left corner of the pocket.
- Place the pocket pattern at this point to sketch in the motif. Bring the marked pocket pattern to the remaining fabric and use the sketch to find a matching motif. Align the pocket on the motif, using the sketch as your guide, and fussy cut ONE pocket front piece.
NOTE: If you are new to pattern matching, check out our general fussy cutting tutorial, as well as our tutorial on matching a pocket to a background panel.
- From the fabric for the neck ties and piping (Ship Shape in Sky in our sample), cut the following:
TWO 4" x 30" strips for the neck ties
ONE 2" x Width of Fabric (WOF) strip for the piping
- From the fabric for the bodice front (16th Century Selfie in Plum in our sample), very carefully fussy cut ONE piece, using the pattern to center the "face.".
NOTE: Our pattern is meant to cut on the fold. If you are new to fussy cutting, you may want to print two copies and butt them together to create one full pattern, allowing you to cut flat.
- When the bodice front piece and bodice side pieces are cut, trim away the inner angled sides along the dotted seam line. Butt together the two pieces to create one full pattern piece that can be used on the fold.
- From the fabric for bodice ruffle and bodice lining (Tudor Windows in Tart in our sample), cut the following;
Using the assembled bodice pattern, cut ONE full bodice piece
ONE 4" x 35" strip for the ruffle
- From the interfacing, cut the following:
Using the pocket pattern, cut one piece.
Using the assembled bodice pattern, cut ONE full bodice piece.
FOUR 2" x 14½" strips for the waist ties
NOTE: If your interfacing is wider than 20", you can simply cut TWO 2" x 29" strips.
- Cut ONE 45" length from the piping cord.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Make the bodice and neck ties
- Find the two 4" x 30" strips for the neck ties, the two 5" x 30" strips for the waist ties, and the interfacing strips.
- 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 slight angle.
- On just the bodice ties, open the ties flat so the crease line is visible.
NOTE: The neck ties are thinner and are meant to be either knotted or tied in a bow. They work better without interfacing.
- Center two interfacing strips along each tie, butting the pieces together if needed to create the full 29" length. One side of the strips should be aligned with the center crease of the tie. Trim one end of the interfacing to match the angled end of bodice ties. There will be ½" of fabric extending beyond the interfacing along the raw edges. Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse in place.
- Re-fold along the crease line right sides together. Pin the long side and across the angled end of each tie.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch the side and across the angled end, pivoting at the corner. Leave the opposite straight-cut end open for turning.
- Clip the corners.
- Turn both sets of ties right side out and press flat.
- Set the ties aside.
Make the piping
- Find the 4" x WOF fabric strip and the 45" length of piping cord.
- Wrap the fabric around the piping cord, right side out. Align the raw edges of the fabric and pin in place.
- Attach a Zipper foot.
- Secure the fabric in place around the cording with a basting stitch, running your seam as close to the cording as possible. Go slowly; it's important the raw edges of the fabric stay even with one another.
- Set aside the completed piping. You'll cut the three lengths to best fit as you assemble.
Make the ruffle
- Switch from the Zipper foot back to the standard presser foot.
- Find the 4" x 35" ruffle strip. Fold it in half, right sides together, so it is now 2" x 35".
- Stitch across both ends only, using a ½" seam allowance.
- Trim the seam allowances and clip the corners.
- Turn the ruffle right side out through the open bottom. Push out the upper corners so they are nice and sharp. A long, blunt-end tool is good for this, such as a knitting needle, chopstick or point turner.
- Press flat.
- Gather the bottom raw edges of the ruffle strip. To do this, run one or two lines of basting across the strip, keeping the the basting within the ½" seam allowance. Remember, don't lock either end of your seam.
- Pull the basting to gather the ruffle to approximately 18".
NOTE: If you are new to this technique, take a look at our article: How to Make Gathers by Machine.
Assemble the bodice
- Find the bodice front and the two bodice side panels.
- Pin one side panel, right sides together, with either side of the bodice front. Pin in place.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch together.
- Press the seam allowances open and flat.
NOTE: If you have not already done so, transfer the marking dots (for the neck ties and waist ties) from the bodice pattern to the fabric. We used small snips into the seam allowance as our marks. Make sure you mark both the left and right sides of the bodice.
- Find the piping.
- Place the bodice piece right side up and flat on your work surface. Pin a length of piping along curved top edge and the flat bottom edge, cutting the piping to fit for each length. There is no piping along the sides.
- The raw edges of the piping should be flush with the raw edge of the bodice.
- At each piping end, expose the cord and cut it back ½". Then flatten the fabric back into position. This allows the piping to lay flat within the side seams.
- Attach a Zipper foot again.
- Machine baste the piping in place along the top and bottom, running the seam as close to the piping as possible.
- Find the ruffle. Place it along the top curved edge of the bodice. You are sandwiching the piping between the bodice and the ruffle. The finished ends of the ruffle should sit ½" in from each side edge of the bodice. Adjust the gathers as needed to fit and pin in place.
- Baste the ruffle in place. It is not necessary to get super close to the piping with this basting seam, just keep the raw edges of all the layers even.
- Find all the ties.
- Following the marks you transferred from the pattern (remember, we used small snips into the very edge of the fabric), first place the raw ends of the neck ties at the left and right marks along the top curved edge. Pin the ties in place on top of the ruffle.
- The ties should be slightly angled in. To check the angle, flip up the ruffle. The angle of the ties should align with the angle of the bodice side seams. Use a yardstick or similar long straight edge to check the line.
- Place the two wider bodice ties at the left and right marks along both 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 all four 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.
- Find the bodice lining and the bodice interfacing. Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse the interfacing the wrong side of the lining.
- Place the back bodice layer right sides together with the front bodice layer, sandwiching the piping, the ruffle strip, 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.
- Still using a Zipper foot, stitch across the top and along both sides, pivoting at the corners and going slowly around the top curves. Both seams should be as close as possible to the piping. Down the sides, default to a ½" seam allowance. Be careful to not catch the ends of the ruffle in the side seams.
- Fold up the straight bottom edge of the bodice lining ½" inch and press in place.
NOTE: If you are new or working with multiple layers and curved edges, you may want to consider stitching two seams. First, stitch all the way around with an approximate ¼" seam, concentrating only on keeping all the raw edges flush. Then, go around again, this time concentrating on getting as close as possible to the piping cord, creating a super sharp pivot at each corner, and maintaining a true ½" seam along each side.
- Clip the corners and the curve, being careful to not cut into your seam. Press the seam allowance open.
- Turn the completed bodice right side out, unpin the ties, and press flat.
- Set aside.
Make and place the pocket
- Find the two pocket pieces and the pocket interfacing.
- Following manufacturer's instructions, fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of the front pocket piece.
- Pin a length of piping along the top raw edge of the interfaced pocket. As above, cut back the piping cord ½" at each end.
- Still using a Zipper foot, machine baste the piping in place.
- Place the pocket lining and the front piped pocket piece right sides together. Fold back the top raw edge of the pocket lining so it is flush with the top of the piping. Pin in place along both sides and around the bottom. The top remains open.
- Stitch the layers together along both sides and around the bottom. Go slowly to maintain a smooth curve.
- Clip the curve.
- Turn the pocket right side out through the top. Press flat.
- Stitch in the ditch of the piping seam to secure the folded top edge of the pocket lining.
- Following your original markings from the pocket fussy cutting, place the pocket in position on the right overskirt panel (right looking down at the apron). Align the motifs and pin in place along both sides and around the bottom.
- Edgestitch the pocket in place along both sides and around the bottom. Lengthen the stitch and go slowly to create a smooth and pretty line of topstitching.
- Find the main 39" x 27" underskirt rectangle.
- Re-attach the standard presser foot.
- Along both sides and across the bottom, fold and press into place a narrow ¼" double turn hem with clean corners. To do this, fold back all the raw edges ¼" and press, then fold an additional ¼" and press again. Create an aligned diagonal point at each corner.
NOTE: If you are need to narrow hemming with these pretty corners, we have an easy, step-by-step tutorial you can review.
- Using a ¼" seam allowance and thread that best matches the underskirt fabric in the top and bobbin, stitch along both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners.
- Repeat to create narrow hems along the outer edge and bottom of each overskirt panel. Along the inner edge of both panels, create a wider hem. Fold back ½" and press, then fold and additional 2" and press again.
NOTE: This wider hem allows the overskirt panels to flip up slightly without revealing the wrong side of the fabric. This is particularly important if you like to twirl in your apron.
- Change out the thread to best match the overskirt panels. Stitch all around, staying close to the inner folds and pivoting at the corners.
- Place the underskirt right side up and flat on your work surface.
- Place the overskirt panels right side up on top of the underskirt. The top raw edges of the panels should be flush as should the bottom hemmed edges. Along the sides, the overskirt should overlap the underskirt by the width of the hem. This will create a center gap between the overskirt panels.
- Pin the layers together along the top edge.
- Gather the top raw edges of both layers. 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. The close-up below shows a better view of how the side of the overskirt panel extends beyond the underskirt panel by the width of the hem.
- Pull the basting to gather the skirt to fit the bottom of the bodice.
NOTE: Remember, as above, if you are new to gathering, take a look at our article: How to Make Gathers by Machine.
Attach the skirt to the bodice
- Pull the folded bottom edge of the bodice lining up and out of the way. 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. Adjust the skirt gathers as needed to fit the against the bodice. Pin in place.
- Stitch across the top of the skirt through all the layers. We switched back again to a Zipper foot to make sure we are staying as close as possible to the piping. This seam may be slightly larger or smaller than a traditional ½" seam allowance
- Press the 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 lining into place. We used a whip stitch.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructions: Kathy Andrews, What Sew Ever