Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Apron Day

Yesterday was National Apron Day (USA) and I thought I had better write about it as my first apron was a gift from my paternal Grandmother and yesterday was her birthday. The apron had been a gift from her in-laws in England and I believe had been made by her husbands grandmother. The embroidery is beautifully done and it is trimmed with lovely lace. There is wear on the straps and I know I wore it as a child and recently did a little repairing. This apron is officially the "one that started it all" as far as my collection of aprons is concerned. I have two other aprons from my Grandma that I will post about later.

Here is more of a close-up of the details. Click on the photo to enlarge it. I do not remember my Grandma doing this kind of embroidery, but she did try to teach me to tatt. I wish that I had retained more of that skill. I found a book in the thrift store and bought a shuttle, but it is not as easy as I remember. Arghh! If she was still alive, my Grandma would be 104. She lived through possibly some of the biggest changes in modern history. She was born in Michigan where her Father was streetcar conductor. His mother was born a Putnam and could trace her lineage to her Dutch family's 1661 arrival in America. My Grandma's mother was born a Stebbins and could trace her roots to her family's emigration from England to Massachusetts in 1636.

My Grandmother was about five in this picture and her life was about to dramatically change when her family chose to homestead in Saskatchewan. She was seven before she started schooling as the cold and travelling conditions were difficult with the school three miles away. Unusually for the time she went away to high school and then went on to Normal School(teacher's college). She taught school until her marriage in 1938.

I love this portrait of my Grandma done in her twenties. She had a fashionable haircut and dress and looked comfortable with her Independence. She was a very social person but quite fiercely independent. While her sister asserted her independence by running off and marrying an unsuitable husband, my Grandma was a career teacher and therefore making her own way and answerable only to herself. She continued to teach until her marriage in 1938. Her independent spirit served her well during the war when she followed her husband from training base to base with her infant son, my Father. After the war, they opened a small general store on Vancouver Island which I will blog about in the future. After she was widowed in the '60s, she moved to Vancouver were she ran a boarding house for university students including quite a few foreign students.

By the mid-'70s she moved back to Vancouver Island and was regularly involved in my family's life. She travelled fairly frequently and even drove herself to Saskatchewan in 1985 to celebrate the eightieth anniversary of province hood. She never really recovered from my Dad's death in 1988 and her physical health started to deteriorate. For such an independent person, this was very frustrating for her. In remembering her, I think of her as a thoroughly modern vintage woman: she appreciated where she came from and was very resourceful, she was respectful of her parents but independent, she enjoyed marriage and family life but spent most of her adult life on her own, she took traditional women's role and made them new, and she had all the aspirations that her 21st century sisters have but had a vintage wisdom to not expect it all at once.

Putting on her aprons has given me more confidence in my role as a wife and mother and allowed me to enjoy it in the way women of old enjoyed making and embellishing their very practical aprons.

To see how others enjoy their aprons check out The Apronista


dyanna said...

I like your blog.I'm waiting for your new posts.

Julia said...

That is so beautiful and the detailed embroidery wonderful. I so appreciate the time that it took to make. I wish I had something from my grandmother like this. :(

Great history too.

For pictures I got a tripod. So when nobody is around I can get the shots I want. They are cheap and kind of fun once you get the hang of them! I think I paid 16 for the one I use right now.

barbara said...

Beautiful apron and such a great memory! I just came across some tatting books and shuttles at an auction, and it looks really difficult - good luck if you attempt it! Barbara

Anonymous said...

This is such a lovely story. Your grandmother sounds like an amazing and inspiring lady. You are so lucky that you still have some of her aprons...