Sunday, November 15, 2015


"Don't take my picture until I untie my apron."
   That is a sentence I heard more than once from grandmothers, aunts and other relatives. Most women wore aprons when they cooked or worked in the yard, though it was never worn at the table. It was the one garment that was dawned fresh each morning and dropped in the laundry basket at night. Other clothing was often worn for several days especially if one had to pack heavy buckets of water any distance to be heated on the stove before washing could begin. To not change your apron was considered slovenly.
   The cleanliness of an apron is testified by the fact that its was used as the first bandaged when a slipped knife sliced a hand or a finger. Later it was carefully soaked in cold water to get the blood out before it could set and leave a stain.
   The first item a girl made when learning to sew was an apron. I still have one I made in 4-H, it is yellow with a red print and had a matching pot holder that was lost over the years.
   Aprons were used to protect clothing from spills and stains, but they had many other uses. This utilitarian item of apparel dried many a tear and dabbed a skinned knee before an antiseptic was applied to prevent infection.
   Aprons served as a pan or basket for a few beans gathered from an early morning garden or a visit to the hen house. They were useful for drying your hands when a towel wasn't handy. They served as a pot holder or oven mitt to prevent burns.
   A quick shake of your apron would turn it into a fan on a hot day or in the kitchen when standing over the range stirring a pot to prevent food from scorching and sticking. Another fanning motion of an apron was used to herd barnyard animals or clear chickens off the porch.
   Deep pocket could hold clothes pins, a bit of balled string, a knife, keys, scissors, a handkerchief, seed packets, gardening gloves, or other small tools.
  One could always tell when company was expected as the woman of the house would change her apron. Clean and fresh if it was just neighbors, a bit fancier if it was a Sunday and the preacher was expected to drop by for dinner, and if tea was being served for a club or group the aprons would be of the finest lawn and embroidered with pretty flowers. The apron was then carefully folded and left in the kitchen before she greeted her guests.
   Men also often wore aprons as a matter of their trade. A chef's apron is a wrap around affair the length of which is adjusted by folding it over before being tied. A cobbler's apron was usually of heavy leather. The butcher's apron was of heavy cotton duck. The blacksmith apron was of oiled rawhide. An electrician's apron was of thick rubber. A shop apron was sturdy denim.

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