The clink of ice swirling in glasses, card tables in the living room, cut crystal bowls of white mints with green centers, ashtrays... yes, there were lots of ashtrays. I have clear memories of peeking around the corner, watching the 'grown-ups' with cards in their hands and cigarettes between their lips, laughing, talking, playing bridge. Orbiting through it all was my mother, handing out appetizers, picking up crumpled napkins, and wearing a crisp hostess apron and high heels. Our own little episode of Mad Men right there in the living room. Our Cocktails At Eight apron tutorial echoes that bygone era of elegance with its rich taffeta, frothy organza, a gorgeous ribbon waistband, and a sprinkling of tiny, shiny bows.
The steps below are quite detailed, but if you've not worked with super sheer fabrics before, check out our full tutorial: Sewing with Sheers.
The apron finishes at approximately 16" in length from the top of the waistband to the bottom hemmed edge of the underlay skirt, 11" to the bottom of the overlay skirt. The ribbon front of the waistband is 20" and each tie is about 27" long.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
Fabric and Other Supplies
- 1 yard of 44-45" wide taffeta fabric for the apron skirt and waistband; we use a copper taffeta
- 1 yard of 44-45" wide organza for the apron overlay: we used pale pink organza
- 1 yard of 1½" wide decorative ribbon; we used Pink/Gold Harlequin jacquard ribbon from Renaissance Ribbons, which is currently out-of-inventory, however, their 1½" Blue/Gold Harlequin, 1½" Green/Gold Harlequin or 1½" Fleur De Lis in Ivory/Gold would all be lovely by simply changing up the colors of your taffeta and organza.
- 2½ yards of ¼" ribbon to coordinate with the apron skirt fabric for the tiny bows; we used a gold ribbon to match the gold in our decorative ribbon
- Dinner fork with four tines
- Dritz Fray Check or similar seam sealant
- All purpose thread to match fabric and ribbon
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Straight pins
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Hand sewing needle
- We designed the waistband to be solid ribbon, free of any machine topstitching. To create this look, your cuts need to be careful and exact along the quarter inch as listed below.
- When cutting the taffeta, we strongly recommend using a rotary cuter and large cutting mat in order to use the mat's grids to get and keep your cuts straight. We also find it helpful to the fold your fabric in half prior to cutting in order to better see and align with those grid lines.
- When cutting the organza, it is best cut as a single layer. Once you get it straight on your mat, tape it in place so it doesn't shift, because it DOES want to shift!
- NOTE: As mentioned above, if you are new to these type of fabrics, take a look at our tutorial: Sewing with Sheers.
- From the taffeta, cut the following:
ONE 16¼" x 37¼" rectangle for the skirt
ONE 21" x 4" strip for the waistband
- From the organza, cut the following:
ONE 11¼" x 37¼" rectangle for the skirt overlay
FOUR 31" x 5" strips for the ties, then layer all four pieces and cut one end of all four ties at a slight angle. I call this the 'sash slash.'
- From the decorative ribbon, cut one 21" length.
- From the bow ribbon, cut SEVEN 12" lengths.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Finishing the edges of the taffeta and organza
- Part of the beauty of this apron is the finish detail on the two skirt layers. Special occasion fabrics, like taffeta and organza can be challenging to work with, but if you go slowly and carefully, the results are lovely.
- Our go-to tutorial for tiny hems with mitered corners is perfect when working with crisp cottons that fold and press and stay where you tell them. Many of you may have used our narrow hems with clever corners tutorial for napkins, placemats and more. For this project, we are adjusting the technique slightly in order to account for the stubbornness of the taffeta and organza.
- You need to make a narrow hem on the two sides and the bottom of both the 16¼" x 37¼" taffeta piece and the 11¼" x 37¼" organza piece.
- Turn under each edge ½" and press in place. With tiny hems like this, it helps to pin and press over the pins, but keep the iron away from the plastic heads of the pins or use glass head pins. Press one side, then the other side, then the bottom.
- Un-pin and unfold at each corner so you can see your crease lines.
- Trim off the corner to ¼" and fold it down at a 45˚ angle.
- First, re-fold the sides up to the original crease line (that's a ¼" fold) then fold again right along the original crease line (that's another ¼" fold). This second fold tuns under the raw edge to form the double-turn hem and forms the mitered corner. You are just working with the corner at this point.
- The folded hem apart from the corner remains a single ½" pressed fold as shown in the photo above. This is where this technique differs from our traditional narrow hem and clean corner tutorial. It's much easier to create a ½" fold in the tricky taffeta and organza than a tiny ¼" fold. So in order to get your double fold, you will tuck under the raw edge. In other words, you are kind of rolling it in on itself so the raw edge rolls under and back and rests against the original ½" crease, making a ¼" double turn hem.
- Pin like a crazy person to hold everything in place, but make sure you remove the pins as you sew, because sewing over pins in taffeta or organza can cause a pull, which can result in an unwanted pleat and sometimes, an ugly snag.
- Edgestitch both sides and across the bottom, pivoting at the corners.
- Repeat to create the side and bottom hems on the organza piece.
Making and attaching the teeny, tiny bows
- Wrap, loop one way, loop back the other way and knot twice from the back.
- This nifty little fork trick is one we found online, and it is much easier to see someone do it than for me to spend several paragraphs trying to describe it. Our favorite video was from My Pink Cricut. Check it out on YouTube.
- I've suggested starting with a 12" length of ribbon, which is quite a bit more than you need, but the longer tails are easier to work with when you are trying to hold the fork and tie a double knot with just your two hands. With a little more practice, I'm sure you could start with a shorter length to conserve ribbon.
- Tape your hemmed organza piece onto the cutting mat, aligning the bottom edge with a grid line. There are two rows of bows. The first row is 4½" down from the top raw edge of the organza; the second row is 7½" down from the top raw edge.
- For the first row, place one bow mark dead center, one 10" to the right of center and one 10" to the left of center.
- For the second row, place a mark dead center - but there is no bow there; you are just using the center point as reference. Place one bow mark 5" to the right of center, a second bow mark 5" to the left of center, a third bow mark 15" to the right of center and a fourth bow mark 15" to the left of center.
- Trim the bow tails at an angle so they are just beyond the bow loops and hand stitch one bow at each of the seven marks.
Layer the skirt and overlay and gather the top edge
- Place the hemmed taffeta piece right side up and flat on your work surface. Place the hemmed organza piece on top of it, also right side up. Pin together along the top raw edge. Edgestitch the two layers together with a zig zag stitch. This keeps both layers from fraying while you are gathering.
- Run a gathering stitch along the top of the skirt. To do this, stitch one line of machine basting approximately ⅜" from the top edge through both layers.
NOTE: If you are new to gathering, take a look at our tutorial: How To Make Gathers by Machine.
- Pull the row of machine basting to gather the skirt to approximately 20". Adjust the gathers so they fall evenly. Set the skirt aside.
Make the waist ties
- Find the four organza waist ties with the angled ends. Pair them up and match them right sides together so the angled ends align. Pin in place.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch together along both long sides and across the angled end, pivoting at the corners. Leave the straight cut end open.
- Repeat for the second pair of ties.
- Press the seams open.
- Turn each sewn tie right side out and using a long blunt end tool, such a chopstick or knitting needle, push out the corners so they are nice and sharp. Press the ties flat.
- Topstitch ¼" from the edge along both sides and across the angled end. The topstitching is optional, but a good idea as the organza tends to want to roll; the topstitching will keep the edge of the ties looking nice.
- Turn each tie wrong side out and trim the seam allowance close to the topstitching seam.
- Run a line of Dritz Fray Check or similar along all the cut edges. Because organza is so sheer, trimming back the seam allowance like this gives you a cleaner look from the front.
- Turn each tie right side out again and press again.
Create the waistband
- Find the 21" x 4" waistband strip. Fold it in half, wrong sides together, so it is 21" x 2" and press well.
- Pin the waistband to the back of the skirt, taffeta to taffeta, so the raw edges of all the layers are flush. It should be centered on the skirt so there is ½" free on both ends of the waistband; in other words, ½" extending beyond the gathered top of the skirt.
- Stitch together through all the layers, using a ½" seam allowance. We recommend stitching with the gathers facing up so you can make sure the gathers stay even and flat.
- Finish the raw edges of the seam allowance with a machine sewn stitch, a serged edge or at least with a seam sealant as both the taffeta and the organza will fray.
- Press the waistband and the gathered seam allowance UP. The gathered edge across the front will eventually be hidden by the ribbon.
Layer the waist ties and ribbon to complete the apron
- Still working from the back of the apron, you should have two free "tabs" sticking out ½" at each end of the taffeta waistband. Measure ¾" down from the top edge (the folded edge) and mark this point with a pin.
- On the raw-edged end of both sheer ties, find the exact center and mark that with a pin.
- Align the marked point on the taffeta waistband with the marked point on the tie. Pin the two pieces together at this mutual point.
- Make two pleats in the organza tie, bringing the sides of the tie in to the center so the organza tie is now the same width as the taffeta waistband "tab."
- Repeat on the opposite side of the apron. The finished angled ends of the ties should be facing one another towards the middle of the apron.
- Place the 21" length of decorative ribbon RIGHT SIDE DOWN across the back of the apron, creating a three-layer sandwich of: taffeta waistband tab, pleated organza sash, and ribbon. Pin the layers together at each end.
- Stitch the ends together, using a ½" seam allowance, which should be exactly in line with the hemmed sides of the apron skirt.
NOTE: The Jacquard ribbon is super pretty on both sides so in the phot below, it almost looks right side up, but no - as stated above, layer right side down.
- Fold this ½" seam allowance towards the center of the waistband and stitch the seam allowance in place with a scant ¼" seam. Trim the seam allowance back to this seam and put seam sealant on the trimmed edges.
- Turn the ribbon right side out and over to the front of the skirt. This turn also allows your lovely ties to come out from each side just like they are supposed to.
- Hand stitch the top edges of the ribbon/waistband together with a whip stitch.
- Hand stitch the bottom edge of the ribbon in place as well, making sure you cover the gathered seam.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Debbie Guild