Friday, September 11, 2009

The Ties That Bind

"My Grandmother loved to sew from the time she was very young..." That statement by Beverly Galloway of rural Holt County, Nebraska, is just the beginning of many heartwarming stories of how her talented and thrifty Grandmother designed and created not only aprons for herself and others, but also how she provided for her family's clothing needs.

When Beverly's grandmother was young, she wanted to attend a school in Chicago to learn tailoring and how to be a seamstress, but her parents felt that the school was "too far away" for their daughter to be, so any dreams of professional training were laid aside. Instead, she put her skills to use sewing most of her own clothes, and clothing for her younger siblings and family. Later, she married (she sewed her own wedding dress and trousseau) and used her talent for clothing design and construction to sew her husband's shirts, suits, pants, clothes for herself, and even her daughter's (Beverly's mother) high school graduation dress.

Beverly's own mother's interests were more in the vein of cooking, tending her chickens, and her vegetable garden---she preferred these over sewing---so Grandmother stepped in (quite happily, I'm sure), and sewed for Beverly's older sisters, and made most of Beverly's clothes. Grandmother would bring some fabric to the house, and with Beverly sitting beside her, they both would pour over a current dress catalog, with Grandmother suggesting which piece of fabric would work well with what specific design. Beverly would choose some dress styles, and then Grandmother would ask to see a "well-fitting dress" which she would use for measurements. In a week or two, Beverly would be presented with a beautiful, lovingly made dress.

And of course, the aprons! What a treasure trove of styles, colors, and fabrics---both serviceable and fancy. An apron was standard, everyday wear--a homemaker would have a 'work' apron which most likely was a full frontal covering that would protect the front of the dress from dirt, food splashes, etc. The bottom half of the apron could be used to carry vegetables in from the garden, to gather some chicks or eggs, to shoo away flies, or even to give refuge to a shy or hurting child. A small pocket on the right was a convenient place to tuck a hankie or a popped button that may have been picked up off the floor. A good number of the aprons are made out of flour sack material, as in those days, that is what flour and sugar came in---a very sturdy, tightly woven fabric that just happens to wear like iron.

Beverly said most of the aprons were made by her grandmother, but there are also purchased ones and some were gifts. If a guest was staying for a few days at the farm, ("Grampa loved guests...") they might present an apron as a gift for the hospitality they were shown. Her grandmother sewed aprons for nearly every female she came across, it seems, and she was incredibly creative with embellishments: rick-rack, 'Swedish' embroidery, multi-colored crocheted trim, and appliques. She even had the ingenious idea and resourcefulness to use the squares in gingham material as a 'cross stitch' pattern.

Beverly commented, "She was always one who could take a few cents and she'd have a gift for someone. She remembered all of her sisters, all of her grandchildren...there was never a birthday or a Christmas that she didn't make sure that she had a gift for everyone."
As Beverly fondly told these stories and shared the sweet and tender memories of her grandmother's love and generosity, the 'Proverbs 31' woman came to my mind: "She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness...her children rise up and call her blessed..." (Proverbs 31, verses 27 & 28)

Joy Richter

Grandma's Apron
by Tina Trivett
The strings were tied, it was freshly washed, and maybe even pressed.
For Grandma, it was everyday to choose one when she dressed.
The simple apron that it was, you would never think about;
the things she used it for, that made it look worn out.
She may have used it to hold, some wildflowers that she'd found,
Or to hide a crying child's face, when a stranger came around.
Imagine all the little tears that were wiped with just that cloth.
Or it became a potholder to serve some chicken broth.
She probably carried kindling to stoke the kitchen fire.
To hold a load of laundry, or to wipe the clothesline wire.
When canning all her vegetables, it was used to wipe her brow.
You never know, she might have use it to shoo flies from the cow.
She might have carried eggs in from the chicken coop outside.
Whatever chore she used it for, she did them all with pride.
When Grandma went to heaven, God said she now could rest.
I'm sure the apron that she chose, was her Sunday best.
I miss you Grandma...


  1. Isnt' it amazing how popular these very styles are nowadays! Treasures of the past now appreciated I guess more! But, most treasured is the story behind these. Loved it!

    I have always worn an apron..have my own little collection. I suppose I'll pass mine down now!


  2. Oh I loved the story. and I have the same poem in my guest bedroom. I love all the aprons. At one time I had 56 that I had collected but have been selling them off and on at the rusty cupboard.

  3. What an amazing piece of family and social history.
    Thank you for commenting on my sweetmyrtle blog today. Isn't it amazing how the internet connects us all- from your life 'out in the country' in Nebraska to mine in a small town in the south of England in the UK?
    Your stories and tales of your community are amazingly inspiring and i am so grateful to have found your blog and to learn about your part of the world.
    Have a lovely weekend.
    warm wishes


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