Friday, September 7, 2012

Aprons - beyond the kitchen

I’m not much of a collector. I don’t have oodles of purses like some women or tiny blown-glass animals like my great Aunt Clara. But I am fond of aprons and have many than I can use. They have much to commend them; they don’t have to be dusted or displayed in expensive cabinets.  They don’t cost so much I feel guilty. 

A Aprons are artifacts of culture, whether home-made or manufactured. I love the ones sewn by creative housewives during the 1940s and ‘50s.  Some aprons are pleated, many have clever pockets, while others are gathered and full as a dance skirts.  I value them as bits of beauty.

P       Usually they're practical and sturdy for wiping messy hands or catching a last minute spill. I use many of mine, but some are too fancy. One is made of sheer net, with satin ribbon ties. It must have been for party wear. 

I love to display them. For example, here I used them as place mats. My back door window displays three in a column to keep the sun out.  I have hung them on blank walls as textile art pieces, or draped them four and five at a time on folding rack. 

R      They remind me of people and places.
In Guatemala I bought an apron woven and sewn at a women’s collective. The fabric is heavy and dark, shot through with subtle variations in the threads that create designs within the design. This type of apron was traditionally a gift from mother-in-law to her son’s new bride to symbolize the change in kitchen leadership! 

 Later at the market one of the weavers recognized me and helped me buy an every day apron, a gingham skirt of pleats and rick-rack with a concealed zipper pocket to safeguard the shopping cash. 
My grandmothers wore aprons all of the time. I have one I took apart for a pattern and remade in vintage fabric. My great-grandmother hand-stitched a plain white apron of lightweight fine cotton with beautiful lace and a tiny gathered pocket. I can’t imagine she’d ever wear it to cook in. 
     A friend gave me her grandmother's tiny, tiny crocheted apron. It has a bib which she pinned to her dress while serving at church potlucks.

O Sure, they're old fashioned but not obsolete. There’s a web community of apron collectors. And there’s a resurgence in hand-made aprons. My grandkids and their momma received matching aprons last Christmas. (Not from me.)  Window-shopping at the airport recently I drooled over a colorful bibbed apron which would have been a guilty pleasure had I bought it. 

N I have to wear an apron to stay neat and clean when I cook. Otherwise, I’m like a kid who wipes her hands on her clothes.

S     For so many reasons aprons are special. When I open my apron drawer, or look in the bags that keep my collection color-coded and dust-free, I see a metaphor for a synapse. Each one makes a connection between me and some woman I will never met--but wondered about while I handle her apron.
Can painted plates or salt and pepper shakers do that? 

Leave a comment about your favorite apron!

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