Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Grandma Wore an Apron

    Grandma wore an apron, though if you tried to prove it by looking for a picture of her wearing her apron, you would never believe it. It was clear the apron was used to keep her clothing clean and was certainly NOT meant to show up in something as important as a picture! 
    It wasn’t until I was older that I wondered why aprons were so important. They have even crept into idioms like 'tied to his mother’s apron strings', or 'cut the apron strings'.
    Grandma had a lot of aprons and made even more of them for various occasions.  Frilly little half aprons were meant for girls serving at wedding receptions.  Bib aprons and full aprons were for cooking, canning and washing. When I spent my twelfth summer with her, she helped me sew cobbler aprons for my little sisters.  When I was older, she helped me make full aprons for me and my sisters.
    At some point, she went through a phase of decorating gingham aprons with chicken scratch embroidery.  Her embroidery patterns were little scraps of gingham with the various motifs on them.  It took careful math to make sure the pattern came out even on the apron.
    I don’t know when aprons went out of vogue, but I grew up donning old clothes
for dirty tasks rather than wearing an apron.  The mint green and white checked drawstring apron I made in 7th grade home ec class is still as pristine as the day I made it. Maybe it was the washing machine that caused their demise by making laundry so much easier that we began to think nothing of putting on fresh clothing every day or so rather than making them last a week.
   When I started working at the living history farm, I fell in love with aprons.  I never realized what handy things they were!  When little girls showed up to help in the kitchen, they had to wash their hands.  Then they bemoaned the fact they had no towel to dry their hands.  Silly girls!  What did they think an apron was for! 
   In the garden our beans were planted on tall tripods.  With the ends of my apron skirt tied together, I could use both hands to pick the beans, using my apron as the bucket which moved right along with me as I picked.  They worked for bringing in produce from the garden and eggs from the chicken house.  When baby chicks or ducklings needed transport to another location, the apron was ready.
   Aprons were also handy for tear wiping, nose wiping, face washing.  By bringing one end of the apron around back and over the shoulder to tie to the other corner of the apron, it made a dandy  baby carrier as well.
   Do you need to shoo away a fly or herd the animals somewhere?  Simply flap that apron at them and watch them go.  Are you trying to get the attention of someone in the distance?  Wave that apron like a flag.
    You can also use an apron to socialize kittens by carrying them in the bib like a kangaroo.

    Aprons have changed over the years.  In the mid-1800s  women wore pinnies or pinners which were long half aprons with a bib, held up not by straps, but by straight pins.  They did not usually have pockets attached to the aprons then, but often wore a separate ‘pocket’ tied around the waist and hidden under the apron. By the early 1900s, aprons had straps to hold them up and frequently had large pockets.  By the 1950s aprons had become more frilly and decorative rather than useful.

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