Aprons, Part 1

April 23rd, 2012

We’ve been here in our new home for nearly four months now, yet still have mountains of boxes to open and sort. You’d think it would be easy since our last 10 years were spent in a garret. I mean, how much stuff can you fit in 250 square feet? You’d be surprised. Add to that the contents of my mother’s attic, including boxes and boxes of lavish wedding presents we couldn’t squeeze into our apartment so never got to use (think stainless fondue service for eight and imported Italian pasta maker), plus a number of treasured heirlooms from my maternal grandmother, a few from the paternal side, and you’ve got a pretty big pile.

Oldest Apron

A day or two ago I ran into a lifetime supply of aprons from my grandmother. Counting handful I already owned, I think I’ve now got about 20. And I plan to wear them. Well, some of them. This one, for example, is both too fragile and too special to risk soiling. First of all, it’s handmade. Machine sewn, but the tension is a bit wonky in places making it less than durable. The material is also rather weak. Notice the tear on the left side (your right as you look at the picture).

But more importantly, according to the note I found in the pocket, it was made for my grandmother by her mother-in-law, my great grandmother.

Apron Note

I’ll share more vintage aprons, from the 40s through the 70s, in coming posts.

Laundry Day

April 21st, 2012

One of the greatest luxuries in our new home is the washing machine. After years of trekking to the laundromat, it’s still hard to believe we can now do the washing in our very own laundry room.

There’s nothing old fashioned about our new front-loading washing machine and gas dryer — I snagged them last fall during a Black-Friday appliance sale in anticipation of our new home. The control panels are computerized and sensors inside the machines figure out how much washing or spinning or drying to do. They even play a little song to let you know they’re through. But I must admit I love the old ways too.

I’m not quite ready to break out the washboard (actually, I haven’t come across it in the course of unpacking yet), but I did have a sudden craving for sun-dried clothes this morning.

Wooden Drying Rack

I haven’t figured out exactly where to hang the clothesline yet, so I hauled out my (paternal) great-grandmother’s wooden drying rack. Based on the construction (it snaps open with metal springs) and family history, I’m guessing it’s about 100 years old. Which means I shouldn’t have it sitting out in the sun covered in wet clothes. Yeah, I know. But there are plenty of drying racks preserved in museums, and this one means more through continuing to use it the way generations before me did.

They that wash on Monday have all the week to dry.
They that wash on Tuesday are not so much awry.
They that wash on Wednesday are not so much to blame.
They that wash on Thursday, wash for very shame.
They that wash on Friday, wash in dire need.
They that wash on Saturday are lazy sluts indeed!

English Nursery Rhyme

Hoping no one notices that I’m posting this on a Saturday…


April 13th, 2012

As mentioned in my last post, I’ve been curtaining.

Closet Curtain
Curtain for a closet

The bathroom off the kitchen has now been covered at the windows, the shower, and around a little closet-like alcove with blue and white striped sheeting. In the thrifty spirit of the 19th century, all of my new curtains to date are recycled from old bed sheets. With some clever cutting and patching to avoid worn spots, the results are surprisingly fresh. And because the fabrics are all familiar, in some cases going back to my childhood on the east coast, they add a particularly homey feeling.

The window and shower curtains for the bathroom used up most of my blue and white fabric (I started with two full-sized flat sheets). As I was folding up the remnants, I suddenly decided that I needed a curtain to hide the area beneath a wide shelf in the far corner of the bathroom. Alas, the piece that remained just wasn’t long enough to reach the floor. But it WAS quite a bit wider than required. So I did what any self respecting 19th-century housewife would do. I pieced it.

Pieced Curtain

Dividing the fabric into thirds by width, I cut off one third (plus 1 inch for seam allowance). I then took the third-width and cut it in two at the vertical center. The resulting pieces were sewn together, then seamed across the bottom of the wider piece.

For the time it took to match the stripes, I probably could have earned the money to buy a brand new length of fabric in the right length. But the satisfaction of eking out all the curtains and finishing with nary a scrap left over was worth far more. And it’s hardly noticeable unless you know what you’re looking for, if I do say so myself.

Can you see the tiny patch I stitched in by hand above the piecing line as well? There were two little holes that seemed quite harmless, but threatened to grow over time.

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