March 30, 2011

Civil War Era Apron Pattern

My dirty apron.The stains are from the ashy pots.
 Nothing is so helpful at a reenactment than a good apron. Aprons function as napkins, drying cloths, extra warmth and protection against various "wardrobe malfunctions."

 During the war, it is said, that a few ladies who dressed like soldiers and joined the army were caught when another soldier tossed them some apples and they attempted to catch them in their nonexistent aprons.

I've been using the same 2 aprons for at least 3 years and think it's time for some new ones. I thought I'd include my sketchbook diagrams for anyone wanting to make their own.

To find the waistband length, take you waist measurement on top of the dress you will be wearing it with and add 5 inches for overlap. If you want to make an apron that ties, use at least an extra 12 inches on both sides.

For waistband stiffeners, buckram and stiff muslin were used in the 1860s. I will be using buckram for mine. If you are a beginner, buckram can normally be bought at the cutting counter, you just need to ask for it. The size should fit a teenager or an adult, the only thing that really changes is the size of the waistband. Cut two apron bibs along the fold of the fabric, cut 2 waistbands of fabric and 2 of stiffener, and cut one apron skirt, hem the skirt with a plain hem. Alternatively, you could make a apron with no bib. They were just as popular and are quicker to make if you need one in a hurry.

Diagram from my sketchbook.

A note for beginning sewers: If you make a pattern that you know you will use frequently, such as an apron pattern or a bodice pattern, make it easy on yourself and glue the flimsy pattern pieces to poster board. The next time you use it, you will not need to use pins or weights and it will trace very quickly. You also won't have to waste time ironing pattern pieces or repairing damaged ones. They are bulkier to keep around but it really does save a lot of time. You can use a hole bunch and a piece of ribbon to keep the pieces together so you don't lose them.   

1. With right sides together sew around the sides and the top of the apron bib.

2. Turn the apron bib right side out and iron it. Gather the bottom edge (by hand or with a long machine stitch.)

3.  Stitch a piece of interfacing to the wrong sides of each of the waistbands. With right sides together, sew between the stars indicated on the diagram. (8 inches from the center at the top, 16 inches from the center on the bottom. Clip the excess fabric, turn right side out and iron.

4. Insert the bib into the 8 inch open space left in the waistband. Stitch across. (There are nicer ways to do this that would be too difficult for me to explain. If you know the nicer way, do it that way.)

5. Hem the apron skirt on three sides. Gather the rough edge. Insert the gathered edge into the 16 inch gap left in the waistband and sew across the waistband.

6. Add a button (or 2 if you fluctuate frequently) to one end of the waistband and a buttonhole to the other. 

****Ironing is very important when sewing. Many people, myself included, don't want to stop sewing to iron each piece but it really makes the garment look more professional and fit better.*****


  1. I'm definitely going to try this out. Thanks for the sketches!

  2. Hi Stephanie Ann,
    I am so glad I discovered your Blog. You have so many interesting things posted.
    I shall be looking through all of your postings in the future. ;-) :-)
    Many Blessings, Linnie

  3. Stephanie thank you for the lovely comment and suggestions over at my blog on thrifting. I agree that lots of thrift store are over priced, that is one reason why I avoid goodwill and salvation army. :) I do do charity shops as I said in the video because they tend to be cheaper and have lots of sale days. I would sugguest for you yard sales and estate sales now that spring is here, maybe there will be a whole bunch in your area.

    I would love to do a video about more details on how to find clothing at thrift stores and other places,and thinking about what type of people live near you, so what type of things will be put into the used stores. There are a lot of elderly and business people in my area, so a lot of vintage 60s,70s,80s,and 90s clothing as well as more expensive brand name clothing. Is that what you meant by thinking about where clothing comes from in our thrift stores. Because I believe that would be a good topic for my next video. :) do give me more thoughts if you have any more on this.

    I love this post as well! Because aprons are a must! and they are so simple to do over a dress or corset! definately a tutorial I will be trying soon! :) I am going to be making some for people in my reenacting group, as well as to sell. Could I use your tutorial for selling some aprons? or do you not want me to do that. Just let me know.
    In Christ,

  4. Oh, it's gorgeous! It looks JUST LIKE the one I'm planning to make, too! Great minds think alike :)

  5. So glad to see that homework didn't kill you after all. hee hee.

  6. I love this! I might try it, though I can't promise that I have good sewing skills!

  7. Thanks, everyone. I hope it helps.

    :D The homework still might kill me.

  8. Than you very much for the guide Ms. Stephanie, i hope i can make myself a apron bibs and 2 aprons for kids or else I end up buying some aprons at because they are my choice when it comes to the lowest price of aprons.

  9. How funny is this? A friend on Ravelry (knitting site) sent me the link to your blog. My friend is in the Netherlands!!! I re-enact California Gold Rush era, so even though you have Civil War information, some of your selections fit my time frame perfectly. I have enjoyed your blog and will come back again, soon. Thank you.

  10. Hello!!! How many yards of fabric did this take?? :) I have a reenactment next month and I want to make a brown one to go with my dress so I'm looking all over for patterns! Can't wait to try this one!

  11. Hello! Thanks for commenting. It takes a little over a yard and a half. Aprons are good for using up scrap fabric leftover after other projects.

  12. My family is now part of the 9th Virginia Cavalry. We have a reenactment coming up in a week and a half and since much of this is new...
    Thanks for the pattern, but what kind of pins do you use for pinning it on, and where do you get them?

    1. Hi! I used to be part of the 9th Virginia infantry back in the day. There are other CW related patterns on my blog if you go to the index tab at the top.

      The pins are straight pins, just like the plain metal ones you use for sewing. Here's an example:

      Remember to bring some extras as they are very easy to lose. I also have some advice for new reenactors that I wish someone told me: Good luck, stay warm and if you need anything else, feel free to email.

  13. I'm having a great time reading your blog. Thank you so much for all the excellent info you've taken the time to post and your helpful reply! Beth


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