Transform a Tea Apron into a Pretty Pinafore!


Vintage Apron Pinafore by Mary Caviness

We love to admire our treasured family heirlooms, yet we often keep them tucked away in our attics for “someday.” Designer Mary Caviness found a way to put one of her family linens to good use by turning this once tea apron for the stylish hostess of the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s into something truly special for today’s little girl. You can find similar treasures among the linen stacks at estate sales and antique shops or wherever vintage linens are sold.

This aged cotton organza apron was hand constructed and machine embroidered. The back bow ties reveal the most wear and are a bit fragile and thread bare. (For this project, ties can easily be replaced if found beyond repair or at risk of further damage.) The crisp organza appears white at first glance, but placing it next to white paper or fabric exposes a subtle pink hue.

The transformation from apron to pinafore takes mere minutes. The only requirements are a little silk satin ribbon, some Swiss entredeux and French edging lace. These are joined to create a simple yet elegant band to stitch to the apron waistband and crafted into straps resulting in a special occasion pinafore. The updated vintage piece is worn here over a high-yoked dress of pink Victorian batiste featuring puffed sleeves and a touch of ruffle at the bias-bound neckline.

This article first appeared in the January/February 2009 issue of Sew Beautiful magazine.

What you’ll need:
· Vintage apron of your choosing
· 2 yards white Swiss entredeux
· 3-1/4 yds 1-inch-wide pink silk-satin ribbon
· 2 yards French edging lace
· Bias tape or a bias strip of dress fabric for arm curve
· Madeira Cotona 80wt or Mettler 60wt sewing thread
· Lightweight thread to match silk-satin ribbon
· Size 60 needle
· Blue wash-away fabric marker   

NOTE: Make underdress before making pinafore so that arm curve placement is precise. Mary used the “Heirloom Party Dress” pattern from Martha Pullen’s book, French Hand Sewing by Machine II. This book is out of print, however there are high yoke dress patterns available from other sources. Check your pattern stash before buying!

1. Join ribbon to entredeux in same manner as stitching entredeux to fabric. Trim and whip seam and press toward ribbon. Butt and zigzag lace edging to remaining side of entredeux.

2. If waistband of apron is wider than ribbon band, fold apron band in half and straight stitch.

3. Measure waistband of apron and cut a piece of ribbon band to this measurement plus 1 inch. Reserve remaining strip for shoulder straps.

4. Pin ribbon-lace band over waistband of apron aligning top edges first, turning under each end 1/2 inch to finish even with back edges of apron. Stitch in the ditch of the entredeux and topstitch each end. DO NOT stitch top edge of ribbon at this time (fig. 1). This must remain open to accommodate straps later.


5. To mark arm curves, align center front of apron to center front of dress, placing top edge of apron 1/4 inch above yoke seam line of dress. Mark side seams of dress and bottom of underarm seam on apron using a wash-away marker (fig. 2). 


6. Using the arm-curve guide of your dress pattern, align guide to side seam marks on apron. Place front of guide to front of dress and align curve of guide to bottom mark on apron (fig. 3). Trace curve with a wash-away marker.


7. Stay-stitch inside 1/4-inch traced curve and cut out curve on marked line (fig. 4).


8. Finish curve with bias binding from dress fabric or purchased bias tape to match, tucking raw end under at each end (fig 5).


9. Pin apron to front of dress and tie sashes in back. Custom fit straps from front to back. Pin straps to apron and remove apron from dress.

10. Sew front end of strap between ribbon and original apron waistband at a slight angle. Topstitch across top edge of ribbon waistband (fig. 6).


11. Fold back strap ends under and topstitch to right side of apron in back just above entredeux (fig. 6).


Click here for a downloadable PDF of this project!

A version of this blog was originally published on 5/30/13. It was republished on 8/1/18.

Check out the products below for more heirloom sewing ideas and inspiration:

Sewing for a Royal Baby is now available as an eBook! Inside you’ll find royal-inspired patterns to make for your little prince or princess.

On the video Antique Sewing Techniques I, enjoy seeing pieces from Martha Pullen’s vintage collection while learning lots of heirloom techniques you can use on your own sewing projects!


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.