Remember the smock apron I finished in March? Yesterday I found the pattern again. It was hiding in a vase in the living room. Not sure how it got there… LOL. Now I could get cracking on the drafting tutorial for you at last.
Federal-era smock apron, c. 1800, Colonial Williamsburg, Accesion 1995-33.
The pattern is based on this apron in the CW collection. It is pretty straightforward to draft and make up, even if you have not drafted your own pattern before. It uses some length estimates I took off the image in a plotter. The rest depends on personal preference and the figure of the wearer. To start off, you will need the flowing
- The distance from the top of your shoulder to your underbust. Usually it is enough to measure at the front, but I like to check this against the back, too. It may vary a bit.
- Your armpit to armpit measure, taken at the front. You mainly need this for the width of the bib.
- Desired front bodice height to/from the underbust. The extant apron has about 4″. I made mine a bit higher, at 5″ because I have a talent of dirtying myself just where the apron ends. ;)
- Skirt length. It should come to the ankle or a little above that. Mine was 38″.
Originally, I thought about writing up step-by-step drafting instructions. But since everyone has a different working order, I put all the measurements, and maths, into one diagram. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask anytime!
One thing I did not note down is that I continued the apron straps for about 3-4″ before starting on the neckline and armhole curves. The dots on the front diagram are gathering marks. More on those in the sewing instructions below.
Apron front diagram.
Apron back diagram.
Add seam allowances to all the edges, except at the center front line. I settled for 5/8″ here.
Making up the bodice:
Cut out one front piece on fold and two back pieces, aligning the CB line with the fabric grain. Next, run two lines of gathering stitches between the dots at the top and bottom of the front piece. Each dot is 1 1/2″ away from CF, so you will be stitching four lines that are 3″ long. Pull up the gathers. Secure the threads by knotting them together and sewing own the loose ends on the wrong side of the fabric.
Next, line up the front and back pieces at the straps. Wrong sides together, sew up the strap seams. Press open, trim and finish the edges. At the bottom, the bodice pieces will not be sewn together, yet.
After these steps, your bodice should look something like this:
The joined bodice pieces.
Go ahead and hem the bodice pieces at CB and around the armholes, taking up a 1/4″ hem.
Hemming the armholes.
Now measure along the bottom edge of your bodice and add 1″. This will give you the top width of the skirt, including a hem allowance.
Making the skirt:
The skirt pattern is basically a trapezoid. At the top, you have the width you just measured in the previous step. The bottom edge should have a width between 58″ and 62″ plus 1″, depending on how full you want your skirt to be. The height of the trapezoid is your desired skirt length, plus 1 5/8″ for the top seam and bottom hem.
You can cut the skirt panel in one piece and save yourself the trouble of sewing any long seams. This works if you are using a modern fabric that is 60″ wide.
For narrower fabrics, and to create a more “period” look, you need to cut two panels. For this, add another 1 1/4″ to the top and bottom widths, then divide both measures in half. Draw a skirt panel with these new measurements. It should have one straight edge at CF that equals your skirt length, and a diagonal edge at the other end. Now cut two of these panels out of your fabric. Join them lengthwise, taking up a 5/8″ seam allowance. You can either join them on the straight or the bias edge, as you prefer. The extant apron has the skirt joined on the bias. It creates an interesting drape.
No matter if you made a one- or two-piece skirt, the next step is to hem the two long, raw outside edges. Next, align the bottom edges of the bodice with the top edge of the skirt, CF to CF and CB to CB. Like this:
Aligning the bodice and skirt.
Wrong sides together, sew the bodice to your skirt. Trim/finish the seam and press it down towards the skirt. You now have a smock apron with armholes. Go and try it on!
Ties & Finishing:
Next we need ties and a neckline drawstring to fasten the apron. For the ties at the underbust, cut two rectangles from your fabric, each about 12″ long and 2″ wide. Wrong sides out, sew up the long edges and one short edge with a narrow seam (1/4″-3/8″). Turn them inside out using a chopstick or wooden skewer. Attach the ties at CB, around underbust level, folding in and stitching over the remaining raw edge on the wrong side of the bodice.
For the neckline finish, cut a 1″ wide bias strip, the length of your neckline plus about 1″ extra. Attach it to the bodice neckline and fold it over the raw edge. Feed a narrow (1/2″-1″) linen tape through the drawstring channel you just created inside the neckline. It should be long enough to tie comfortably at the back.
Alternatively you can use four individual drawstrings, two to tie at the back, and two to adjust the front. For this, add two small eyelets to your bias strip at CF before sewing down the inner edge. Then feed through the separate tapes, stitching each one down firmly to the outside of the casing near the shoulder seams.
And you are done! Put on your new apron and check it out in the nearest mirror. :)
- This pattern can be made up from plain-weave linen or cotton fabrics. Solid colours or yarn-dyed checks or stripes work best. Period favourites included black, white or purple/mauve linen aprons. Blue and white small checks were especially popular in colonial New England.
- See my research post for more apron details and styles.
- The yardage for this pattern is around 2 yards, depending a bit on how wide your fabric is.
- If you are planning to wear the apron with your Regncy costume, I strongly recommend you take your measurements over the gown and underthings, to allow yourself enough wriggle room.
- If you do not want the straps to sit on top of your shoulders, you can put the strap seam back by lengthening the front strap and shortening the back strap by approx. 2″ respectively. I did this to create a slightly more historical look.
And that was all already. Sorry it took so long to post this. I hope the instructions are useful to you. Please have fun making your own smock apron. I would love to see the beautiful ones you have made. :)