Monday, June 25, 2012

How to Make a Vintage Embroidered Doily Apron

Happy Summertime to All of You Lovely Art Ladies!  

What do you do with a stack of vintage embroidered doilies that are collecting dust on the shelf?

You make a sweet little apron to wear for when you are whipping up a batch of delicious French macarons, washing the dishes, or hostessing an an afternoon tea party!

Using various types of embroidered dresser scarves and doilies you can make an apron that will tickle you pink. This is a good way to use defective, cutter doilies.  I used many doilies that had stains and holes and worked around those areas.

Please read all of the directions before cutting and sewing since this is a "design and sew as you go" type of pattern. 

Keep in mind that this is an approximate pattern and adjustments will have to be made according to the sizes and embroidered patterns of your own doilies and whether or not you are working around stains or holes.  This isn't rocket science, ladies!  These directions are for a small to medium women's sized apron. You can add or subtract to adjust the pieces to fit your particular size.

  • 1 or 2 Dresser Scarf Doilies for Center and Side Panels of Skirt. Cut (1) approximately 13W X 19L inches for the center panel and (2) approximately 7W X 19L inches for the right and left panels (You will need two different dresser scarves if you want the skirt side panels to be different from the center panel).

  • 1 or 2 Small Oval Doilies for Pockets. These need to be approximately 8W X 20L inches long if cutting one in half, or smaller if using two separate doilies. Depending on the design, size, and shape of the doily you might be able to use just one by cutting it in half. Or it would be cute to make the pockets out of two different smaller doilies, etc. You could even make two pockets out of two small round matching doilies. I used two matching doilies and made cuffs at the top of the pocket, see picture of completed apron.  The doilies I used were from a set that would have covered the arms of a sofa to keep them from getting soiled.

  • 5 Scraps of Embroidered Pillow Cases and/or Doilies for Waist Ties and Neck Ties. Cut (2) approximately 5W X 22L inches or longer for the waist ties and cut (2) approximately 5W X 18L inches or longer for neck ties. 

  • 1 Scrap of Embroidered Pillow Case or Doily for Waistband. Cut (1) approximately 4.5W X 17L inches or longer* not including the lace edging (The waistband in the completed apron picture has a finished lace edging but  if you don't have a doily piece with lace edging then you will need to add another one-half inch for seam allowances to each of the short sides. Also you will need to add another half-inch seam allowance to one raw edge of the length to allow to turn under. Refer to picture under step 7 in the directions for an idea of what the waistband with lace edge looks like when it is cut out and pressed). *Remember, if you make your waistband longer you will need to add width to the apron panels.

  • 1 or 2 Oval and/or Round Embroidered Doilies for the Bib.  (1) doily approximately 11W X 18L inches and (1) round doily approximately 11 inches diameter (In the completed apron I have used part of one smaller round doily to layer on top of a piece of a larger oval doily. You will need to gauge your own doilies by pinning them to your assembled skirt and waistband and adjusting them as necessary to fit before sewing them together).

  • Thread
  • Sewing Machine
  • Iron
  • Ironing Board
  • Pins
  • Scissors
  • Measuring Tape
  • Optional Lengths of Crocheted Lace for Decorating the Ties if you want to make the ties out of plain fabric.

Just to give you an idea, here is a picture of the approximate layout of the pieces before cutting and sewing them to show you the different types of doilies and  pillow case pieces. You will want to make sure to read the directions before proceeding.  (I took this picture of un-ironed doilies just for reference, but you will need to iron yours first.)

Here is a look at a possible cutting layout.

Again, I don't want to hear any whining from anyone if you mess up your apron, ha, ha:  Please read all of the directions before cutting and sewing since this is a "design and sew as you go" type of pattern.  You will have to make adjustments to work with your individual doilies!


1. Launder and iron all of your doilies. Tip: This will make it easier to cut them and sew them!  If some of the doilies have never been laundered and you sew them together with those that have been previously laundered, and then you wash the finished apron, there could be uneven shrinkage making your apron look wonky.  Most of my sewing is done with my favorite sewing tool, the iron.  What I mean by that is if you have to turn a seam under it is much easier to turn it under by pressing it in place before you sew it!

2. Lay out your pieces in the manner that you will put them together for the apron so that you can measure how large or small to cut them so that they will fit together.  

3. Cut out the pieces making sure that you add enough for your seam allowances if you have to alter. (Tip: Measure twice, cut once. That way you will make sure that your measurements are correct.) 

3. Note: Seam allowances are one-half inch. Sew the skirt center and sides together by placing the raw edge of left and right panels about a half of an inch underneath the center   panel. Topstitch down the finished edges of the fabric of the center panel and then another topstitching on the lace edging of the center panel just to secure the side panels and to finish their raw edges underneath.  

4. Finish the top raw edges of the pockets whichever way you choose by making a cuff, sewing on seam binding, or turning under and finishing with lace, etc.

5. Place the pockets on the apron skirt in the areas of your choice and topstitch in place.

6. Mark the center of the skirt.  Sew two gathering stitch lines on the top raw edge of the skirt. Pull to gather so that the skirt is the same length of the waistband (not including the lace) while distributing gathers evenly. Or, if you don't have a lacy finished edge on your waistband, gather it one inch smaller than the length of unfinished band.

7. If you have a waistband with a lace edging, turn the long raw edge under one-half inch and press with an iron. Then fold in half lengthwise matching the turned-under edge to the opposite finished fabric edge with the right sides of the fabric out and press. Mark the center front of the waistband.  Or, if you have a waistband with two raw long edges, turn the long raw edges under one-half inch and press in place. Then turn the short raw edges under one-half inch and press in place.  Then fold in half lengthwise with the right side out and press.  Mark the center front of the waistband.

8. Place the wrong side of the finished lace edge of the waistband on the top of the right side of the skirt gathers matching centers, evenly distribute the gathers, pin in place, baste, and topstitch at the edge of the fabric.  Or, if you have a waistband with all raw edges, then place one folded edge of the waistband on top of the right side of the skirt gathers matching centers, evenly distribute the gathers, pin in place, baste, and topstitch on right side at the edge of the fold making sure that the short side raw edges are folded under at the pressed turn of the raw edge.

9. Fold waist ties lengthwise, right sides together, and make a seam along the long raw edge and one short raw edge. Turn out and press.  If you are going to sew lace on top of your ties, do it now.

10. Place the raw edges of waist ties into the waistband matching the top folds of the ties to the top fold of the waistband. Fold the back part waistband over at the center fold and encase the raw edges of the shirt gathers and waist ties, pin, and baste.  Topstitch on the right side along the short edges and the bottom long edge of the waistband making sure to catch the inside waistband all along the edges (that is why I suggest that you baste, old-fashioned, I know, but it works well and saves time in the long run!).  Tip:  If you don't want a bib top on your apron you can stop here and you will have a finished apron!

Detail of the wrong side of the apron.

11. Fold the neck ties lengthwise, right sides together, and sew along long raw edge and one short raw edge. Turn out and press.  If you are going to sew lace on top of your neck ties, do it now.  Finish the raw edges of the short ends with a zig-zag or appropriate finishing treatment.

12. Sew the round doily bib layer to the top of the oval doily bottom layer of bib.  Finish the bottom raw edge of bib with a zig-zag stitch or other appropriate finishing treatment.  Center the bib bottom edge under the top folded edge of the waistband, pin and baste.  Secure by topstitching all along the top folded edge of the waistband and add another topstitch one quarter-inch in from the fold.

13. Place the neck ties on the underside of bib and secure with topstitching.

14. Now, tie your apron on, admire your work, and go make some French macarons for your tea party!   

Happy Sewing and Happy Apron-Wearing! 

Loves and Hugs, 


  1. In LOVE! You're doilies and scarves are fantastic!!! And...I love the picture on the grass with the tiny little white flowers! How precious are they???

  2. I love it Cheryl. This makes me want to sew some pretty aprons. Thank you for sharing such goodness!

  3. LOVE, LOVE!! I have some of those same pocket doilies as on your finished aprons. I can't wait to try making an apron!
    Love your picture too! Shannon

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. OMG OMG OMG - I LOVE IT! You never cease to amaze me - and I promise not to whine! lol

  6. How clever are you, and you are so right. I have piles of these goodies, too sweet to toss, but what to do!! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Love your apron. I got in the new mary janes farm magazine and there are some pages with photos of this type apron, so fun! she had some beautiful ones in her shop up in Courdelane Idaho also. so many ways you can go with these aprons, thanks for sharing yours.

    1. Cheryl, you are amazing! you inspire me!!! I love your style and this doily apron is a great way for me to use that big bag of tablecloths and doilies! It would be great for a birthday gift to the person who gave me all of them because she didnt know what to do with them!!! I knew I could use them for something!!
      Thanks Cheryl!!!

  8. Thank you Cheryl...this is amazing! I'm off to locate all the linens I have ;D