Embroidery Inspiration – Aprons

This week’s embroidery inspiration is aprons – especially the delightfully impractical kind covered in ornate embroidery. While most aprons serve the practical purpose of keeping one’s gown clean, they can also be the perfect canvas to showcase your wealth or embroidery skills. While I generally prefer items to have a nice balance of form and function, I have to admit that I adore utterly frivolous aprons.

If you want to dabble in embroidery but don’t want to commit to a whole gown, an apron can be a great choice for showcasing your work. An apron can dress up an old gown or completely change the look of an outfit. As the following examples show, it can be flashy, delicate feminine, or a bit understated – something for everyone.

This yellow silk taffeta apron at the Museum of Fine Arts has just about everything a girl could want – ruffles, ruched trim, oodles of embroidery, and even pockets. The embroidery is polychrome silk used in satin, stem, and couched stitches to create a vibrant and beautiful apron.

Even though the overall shape is the same, this 18th c. apron at the Cooper Hewitt feels much more delicate. The color are softer, the scalloped trim daintier, and the overall embroidery pattern is smaller.

A delicate cotton apron dotted with sprigs of embroidered flowers. Both silk and metal threads are used with satin stitch, stem stitch, and drawn thread techniques to create a fanciful assortment of blossoms. 

This utterly impractical apron was no doubt a show-stopper in its day. It’s made of gold lace, further trimmed with silk and metal embroidery, metal foil, and silk ribbons. 

An over the top apron from 1830-50. The description include mushroom and plum colored silk satins, embellished with silk ribbon, chenille, chiffon, and knife pleats.  From Augusta Auctions.

I love the delicate simplicity of this green silk apron with its shaped waistband and gathered pockets. It’s embellished with small sprigs of satin stitch flowers with a limited color palette. The black and apple green is a very striking color combo. 

This tiny black silk apron from 1850-1900 shows the beginnings of the insubstantial “hostess aprons” of the 1900s. The pastel silk embroidery is accented by matching peach silk ribbon bows.

This delicate wisp of ruffled and embroidered chiffon is the epitome of a mid-1900s hostess apron – all show, and no substance. It was mainly a symbol of your skill and efforts as a housewife, to be worn when entertaining. From Ruby Lane.


18th Century Embroidery Techniques* includes information on many of the stitches used in the 18th c. examples above, and also includes more detail of a few period aprons.

If you’re looking for threads, both Threadneedle Street and Needle in a Haystack carry a wide assortment of silk and metal embroidery threads.

I’ve pinned many more examples of embroidered aprons to my Pinterest page, and will be sharing them throughout the week on Facebook.

What are your thoughts on aprons? Love them or hate them?

*Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you choose to make a purchase. These are marked with an * after the product name. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers, and I do not recommend products solely to get a commission.

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