Every apron tells a story, according to EllynAnne Geisel, who collects vintage aprons and sews her own.
Yet despite the nostalgic appeal of old aprons, many crafters still enjoy making their own. Some are elaborate, with ruffles and embellishments, while others are simple and can be made quickly — perhaps in time for Thanksgiving.
Geisel, of Pueblo, Colo., curates a traveling museum exhibit, “Apron Chronicles,” launched in 2004 with 150 vintage aprons and 46 stories and images. She hopes to get people reflecting on their apron memories.
“When we tie on our own aprons, we in a sense bring (our loved ones) back,” Geisel says.
She includes many of the hundreds of stories she’s heard in “The Apron Book” (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2006), which also includes instructions for sewing three basic patterns that pay homage to vintage apron styles. In the book, one woman remembers her grandmother, a farmer’s wife, by holding onto her white cotton bib apron. A man recalls his mother wearing her dressy apron when hosting her afternoon bridge club. Another woman treasures her old white apron, covered in her three young daughter’s handprints, now that the girls are grown.
Geisel was among those who threw down their aprons during the 1960s when aprons seemed to some a symbol of women’s oppression and household drudgery.
“Women tossed them — even those lovingly sewn by their own mothers and grandmothers — straight into the giveaway bag,” she writes.
In recent years, aprons have made a comeback, especially among younger women — and men — and in introductory sewing classes. Check the usual places online — Pinterest, Etsy and crafters’ blogs — to find hundreds of handmade aprons, vintage and new.
“I think we just got tired of looking alike,” Geisel explains. “There’s nothing wrong with shopping out of a catalog, but what was lost is our understanding that our clothing and our homes are arenas where we can express creativity.”