THE APRON BOOK : Podcast #3
The summer when Leslie Dodge was ten years old, her dad lost his job. Moving to another town and into a relative’s garage, Leslie brought with her a 4-H apron sewing project that was due at summer’s end. Taught by her mother and aunt the skills of homemaking, Leslie sewed and baked her way to much more than a winning ribbon at the county fair.
Everyone knows what an apron is and everyone has a story to share!
Warm and inviting, but (like an apron) quite practical, The Apron Book is a celebration of a great American icon. Apron enthusiast Ellynanne Geisel, who curated the traveling exhibit, Apron Chronicles, returns us to hearth and home in this updated edition of the award-winning book. In this paperback edition, EllynAnne reflects on the grassroots movement of apron love in a new introduction, and a new foreword by the former editor of Apronology magazine expounds on EllynAnne’s mantra that aprons don’t hold us back; they take us back because the connection to the past is a strong one.
The Apron Book showcases full-color photos of new and vintage aprons from Geisel’s vast collection, patterns for four basic apron styles and myriad variations, recipes, tips on collecting and preserving vintage aprons, and heart-tugging stories from the traveling apron exhibit. The book also explores the history and heyday of aprons and looks at the various roles aprons still play when worn in the kitchen, around the house, by the backyard grill, on the job, or for a special occasion.
The last time I sold my handmade wares was in the early 1970s on the beaches of Hawaii. The memories of those exhausting set-up/tear-down days remained vivid enough that I never imagined a return to the carney circuit.
But with the first advertisement of Denver’s inaugural county fair, good sense and bad memories left me, and I immediately signed up for a booth to showcase and sell portions of my
out-of-control vintage collections. With over 600 aprons alone, I finally concluded I will never live so long as to tie them all on. It’s past time due for new owners to enjoy their vintage beauty.
Here I am on opening night, fresh as a daisy and giddy with anticipation of a successful carney run. But the long fair days (10 a.m. – 10 p.m.) ultimately put me into a Fair Daze, which reminded me of my original promise to never enter the carney circuit again. Fun as it was – especially the meeting of so many wonderful people and making new friends, this fair is it for me. And should I ever be forgetful of this promise in the future, my family will heartily remind me!
To experience the Apron Memories Fair Daze Finale through pictures, I’ve posted a photo album on the Apron Memories facebook page. A cheery interview with NPR’s Jacki Lyden about my fair experience and Supper Hollerin’ Contest can be heard here. It’s an hour segment, but fascinating. Who knew there were so many books or experts on fairs?
Tho’ my days on the carney circuit are done for, I am a huge supporter of our county and state fairs because of the opportunities at both for 4-H participants.
While many youth activities have eliminated ribbons in favor of the everyone-is-a winner ideology, 4-H rewards a young person’s commitment and excellence within a structured and highly competitive arena with ribbons, money, and media recognition.
4-H provides learning and competitive opportunities for activities other than raising stock. For Leslie Dodge, a member of the Coastal Quilt Guild of Santa Barbara, CA, 4-H was the gateway to a life-long interest in sewing.
As a ten-year-old in 1963, Leslie’s world tilted. While her parents worked to put things right, Leslie was enrolled in a 4-H summer program. Those months, which she recalls as the best in her life, provided her the sewing skills to hand piece an apron (for which she won a red/second place ribbon) and the confidence to model it (for which she took home the blue/first place ribbon).
Here’s a close-up of the pocket, complemented with a bright yellow button. Leslie’s stitches around the pocket are all but invisible – amazing work from such a young girl.
In this photo, Leslie models her winning apron, kept all these years wrapped away and stored in a drawer. No longer! Leslie will be framing the apron, ribbons and her handwritten story to inspire future generations to strive for excellence, one stitch at a time.
As the featured guest at the Quilt Guild’s gathering, I hosted several workshops, including one devoted to writing your apron memory. A three-hour writing experience honed Leslie’s story into a one-page reading, which she shares below
The recording is a bit jerky, and Leslie’s nervousness is on display, but her determination to overcome those nerves in front of a large crowd and read her story deserves the blue ribbon.