By Cassie Johnston
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If I’m being totally honest, this might be my favorite of all the projects for Handmade Holiday—it’s just so freakin’ cute! Even if you don’t make this ruffled apron for a gift, you should definitely make it for yourself, because cooking Christmas dinner is much more enjoyable in an adorable apron. Trust me.
If you do manage to hand it off as a gift, it would make an excellent hostess gift for someone who is kindly providing you with copious food and drink while you celebrate. It even packages itself. Just fold it up, slide in a few kitchen utensils and tie the belt around into a bow. Wham. Bam. Beautiful hostess gift. Thank you, Ma’am.
Of course, you don’t have to make this using holiday colors – you can use any combo of colors and patterns that move you. In fact, once you whip up your first one (in about an hour) and realize how quickly these guys come together, you’ll want to make more in all different color schemes. This is actually my second ruffled apron—I made my first one for Thanksgiving—and I’m already dreaming about the next apron I want to make. A girl can never have too many ruffled aprons, can she?
Only word of warning? Use caution around open flames. Not that I know from experience or anything…
Alright, let’s make us an apron. First things first, make sure you have all the supplies you need. I just used fabric from my fabric stash, but if you’re headed to the fabric store, here’s the amount of each fabric you need.
As far as equipment, it’s pretty basic. This tutorial does use a sewing machine, but you could sew this by hand. It’d be tedious but doable.
Alright, now that the cutting prep work is done, let’s actually assemble the apron.
We’re going to start off with a whole boatload of ironing. We need to iron in hems on three sides of all of the ruffle panels, as well as the back piece of the apron. Let’s start with one of the ruffle pieces. Start by folding the fabric over 1/4″ (wrong sides together) and ironing. Having a good steam iron will really help the hems to stick, so try cranking up the steam option if you’ve got it.
Do this around three sides of the fabric (the two short ends and one of the long ends, leaving the other long edge “raw”). Then come back and repeat the process—roll the fabric in another 1/4″ and iron—making the hem clean and finished.
Repeat the process with the remaining four ruffle pieces. When you’re finished, they should all look like this guy:
Go ahead and set those aside—we’ll sew ’em in a sec—but first, we need to do the same hem dance on the big backing piece for the apron. Again, fold three of the edges in 1/4″ (leaving one of the long edges “raw”) and then fold them over once more to make a clean, finished edge.
Now that all of the ironing is done (for now), it’s time to sew some stuff!
All that ironing should make quick work of sewing the hems. Load up your sewing machine with coordinating thread and start with the large backing piece. Start top-stitching along the hem.
Once you get to the corner, keep the needle in the fabric, lift the presser foot, and pivot the fabric so you can continue to sew along the bottom of the hem.
Finish top stitching all the way around the hem and then set your piece aside.
Next up, we’re going to do the same thing to the ruffle pieces. Topstitch around the three hemmed sides, pivoting on the corners to create a continuous stitch. If you’re working with multiple colors of ruffle fabric, you might want to keep in mind what thread you’ll want to use and sew them in that order accordingly. For example, I sewed my green back piece and my two green ruffles with green thread, and then switched to red thread to sew the remaining ruffles. Or, you could just pick one color of thread that’ll blend or coordinate with both. Whatever fries your bacon.
Ready for the super fun part? It’s ruffle-making time! To make ruffles, you’ll need a loose stitch, so search out the “stitch length” dial or knob on your sewing machine and turn it as loose as it will go.
Once you have that set, sew one straight line along the raw edge of each of the ruffles, about 1/2″ down from the edge. You aren’t sewing anything “together” with this stitch, you’re just making the stitch that will pull the ruffle gathers together.
Do that loose stitch along the raw edge of each of the five ruffle pieces. Once those are done, it’s time to ruffle! Grab the ruffle piece that you want to be your bottom ruffle of your apron and find the two threads that come out of that loose stitch you just made.
Hold onto one of those threads (let the other one go) and then very gently push the fabric back on the thread, making it gather and ruffle. Sometimes, the thread is a jerk and breaks. If that happens, pull out the whole stitch and re-do it with the loose setting on your sewing machine, and then try to re-ruffle.
You’ll want to push the fabric back until it’s the width of your back piece (a little over 20″). I don’t measure, I just hold up the ruffle to the back piece and call it good when it’s close. That’s one of the joys of working with ruffles—they are inherently imperfect—so no need to be super precise.
Work with the ruffle a little bit to distribute all the pleats and gathers along the whole 20″ expanse. Then, we’ll pin it to the back piece. For your bottommost ruffle, measure up from the bottom hem of the back piece about 1-1/2″. Again no need to be super accurate.
Pin on the left and right sides, then the middle and a few places in between, making sure it straight-ish along the way.
It’s starting to take shape, isn’t it? Exciting! Now, we’ll sew that ruffle down. Take it over to the sewing machine and just sew right over top of those ruffles—about 1/4″ down from the top of the fabric. Make sure you remove the pins as you go! From personal experience: a needle shard flinging at your face after it hit a pin is no fun.
One ruffle down, four to go!
Repeat the ruffle gathering process, but this time, when you attach the ruffle, pin it about 3″ above the top of the bottom ruffle. Again, no need to be super accurate here—a little bit of haphazardness is part of the appeal.
Sew that ruffle on, and then repeat the process with the remaining three ruffles—the top ruffle should be aligned with the top, raw edge of the backing. Voila!
Pet your pretty ruffles a few times, then set it aside, because we’ve gotta make the belt.
First things first, a word about the belt length—I went for about 80″ finished belt length. That’s long. I like it to wrap around my waist twice and tie in the front. And, admittedly, I’ve got a pretty zaftig waist. You can feel free to shorten the belt if you’d like, but I would say that it’s easier to shorten it later than it is to add on. So my recommendation is to make it as listed and then try it on later and shorten if you think it’s too long.
Okay, onto beltmaking. First, we need to sew together the two 40″ pieces to make one big long piece. Line up the short edges of the tow pieces and sew a 1/4″ seam.
Open it up and iron the seam open. Use some steam to get it nice and flat.
Now we’re gonna do that whole ironing in a hem thing again. Starting at one end of the long strip, fold in 1/4″ of the fabric and iron it down.
Once you get all the way through the long belt, rotate it, and repeat the process with the other side. It should look like a little train track when you’re done.
Then fold the whole thing in half lengthwise (with the two train tracks touching) and iron it down to make a clean, finished-edge strip.
When you get to the ends, roll in the short edge about 1/4″ before ironing, just to make sure the ends are nice and neat, too.
Alright, last step—and it’s an easy one. We’re going to attach the belt to the apron using topstitching, but first, we need to pin the belt to the apron. Find the center of the belt, open up the fold and then “wrap” it around the top raw edge of the center of the apron. Think of it like a taco. The belt is the taco shell, and the apron is the fillings. You want all the taco fillings inside the taco.
Once you have it pinned to the apron, take the whole mess over to the sewing machine. We’re going to topstitch around the whole belt. Start at one end of the belt and sew a small, 1/8″ hem.
Once you get to the apron, keep sewing straight through, removing pins as you go, but make sure you’re going through all the layers of the belt and the apron. In other words, make sure your fillings are still in the taco.
Continue all the way to the other end of the belt and then, with the needle in the fabric, lift the presser foot and turn the apron 90° and sew along the short end.
Pivot again and sew all the way along the top edge of the belt, just to give it a nice finished look.
Sew the final short edge, trim the extra threads, give the whole thing a light ironing, and then beam with pride! You’re done.
I swear it was a total coincidence that the top of my apron looks like a piranha plant. Happy accident, I suppose. Happy sewing!
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FOR CUTE! I was just wanting to make some aprons and was thinking I didn’t have quiet enough of any one fabric to do my traditional BBQ apron that I always make. Problem solved! Thanks… My besties will love you for this :)
Ah, this would be so easy with my ruffling foot (I love that thing!).
One suggestion, if anyone is intimidated by making that belt (because all that ironing starts to stink by the time you get to it!), you could always use bias tape. It’s not available in as many colors as fabric, but it can make that process go a lot faster!
Yes! Or even one of those bias maker thingies. Which I have, but never use. I actually like the ironing. Something very Zen about it. :P
I’ve scorched my fingers so many times making bias tape that I now come to dread it! I, too, have a bias tape maker but haven’t ever used it!
I love this! I’ve made my mom a couple of aprons in the past, but never a ruffled one! I have two people in mind (and that’s not including me!) that would love one of these.
Cassie, since you are doing all of these tutorials, you should think about having a Flickr group or something like it where readers can upload images of their completed projects! I’m sure it would be fun for you to see what everyone makes!
It looks like I’m going to have a busy weekend!
Curious – what needle size did you use here? I love, love, love this tutorial, but I’m hesitant about sewing through the ruffles :-(
Just regular medium-weight sewing machine needles.
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