THE APRON BOOK: Podcast #1 – Apron Memories

Storytelling and aprons go hand-in-hand. Share your stories and pictures at


New: THE APRON BOOK : Podcast #1 – Author EllynAnne Geisel, foreword contributor Beth Livesay and producer/interviewer Tracy Wahl, formerly of npr, chat about their connection to aprons, the continuing relevance of aprons in today’s world, and connecting to the past while moving forward.

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Enjoy listening to the podcast!

» Right-click and download here (31.3MB / 27mins 47secs)

About The Apron Book:

The Apron Book

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.

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Filling a Home with Cloths of Comfort

When I approach a company or individual about sponsoring Tie One On Day, it’s because I believe they are perfectly aligned with the message that is the heart of TOOD: the value of kindness is priceless.

So when 2013 TOOD sponsor Kate Payne reached out to her hip girl’s community to bring light into a friend’s family’s darkest hours, I was immediately on board.

Kate Payne author pic thumbnail

Victims of a flash flood, the family managed to salvage pieces of their lives, but lost forever were the mama’s sacred stash of recipes, handmade and family heirloom napkins, beautiful vintage aprons and tea towels…a household’s comforting cloth. Kate’s call-out asked for donations, to bring back a little handmade and vintage love into their lives. “This family of four will be adjusting to so many things over the coming weeks and months, let’s give them something to cherish.”

To replace the irreplaceable for a stranger gave me pause.

The selection of napkins was simple – a set so pristine they were likely never used; the selection of the apron required much consideration. From numerous possibles, I chose this one – a classic Fifties gingham with flowery cross stitching, tacking at the waist, and a pocket in need of minor mending – because as in life, it is less than perfect but gets the job done.

TOOD_Hip Girls Guide_friend package www

The homemaker who sewed this apron over sixty years ago would be flabbergasted that it still exists, much less that it will yet be worn again by a loving wife and mother.

A handwritten note accompanied the bundle, my message inspired by the apron story told to me by Vonetta Lee, the woman pictured: …when life happens, get your apron on and get goin’ !

Tie One On Day is the day before Thanksgiving because it offers an opportunity to give from the heart and then give thanks.

As I packaged the apron and mailed it to Kate, I could not stop smiling! and as I write this, my heart is filled with the happiness that comes from making someone else’s day a little brighter. Such is the win-win of TOOD.

xx EllynAnne

Snow Day Redress

The mid-week snowstorm was a big surprise and with the roads slick (my least favorite driving condition), the perfect day to stay in and accomplish some major domestic clean-up. But no sooner did I think such a thought, than it was nudged to a back burner and replaced with a most brilliant way to spend a snowy day: redressing Scarlett, my mannequin.

I’ve long thought how to change Scarlett’s form from its unflattering concrete gray to something more colorful, and within minutes of the first flakes falling, I figured it out.

From a bag of vintage scraps

Vintage Scraps Bag

I cut out shapes, dipped each into a mixture of decoupage paste thinned with water, and randomly covered the form.

Mannequin_vintage scraps_in progress

The redressing took a day, which seems a long time for such a carefree project, except the cleaning up part added considerable time – which brings me to this after-thought suggestion: Cover the floor and tabletop with plastic before beginning any project that includes dripping paste.

Scarlett Redressed in Vintage!

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In all her glory, Scarlett showing off the first of my new line,

Domesti-Chic · Limited Editions

Recipe for Happiness_full pic (Medium)

AM Logo with clothesline

I so thrive on the creative process. Whether inspired by a bag of scrap fabric or a recipe, it’s the excitement of the possibilities I find energizing. Now to reserve a bit of that excitement and face the maelstrom of domestic duties still simmering on that back burner.


Tie One On…an apron, of course!

Aprons and Quilts = Vintage Fun Days in Santa Barbara

Here ’tis, the lovely flyer announcing the details of my appearance with the Coastal Quilters Guild of Santa Barbara.

Tickets are limited for the two days of events that cover everything from writing your apron memory to hands on sewing for National Tie One On Day. I’m hauling a lot of my collection out there, especially for the Sew Up Close presentation. If you’re interested in attending any session or the entire event, please get to registering, as tickets will sell out.

Santa Barbara in October would be exciting enough, however, I attended my first writing conference in Santa Barbara and it was there I received validation and encouragement that my apron journey was worthy of exploration. Aside from catching up with my dear SB writing friends, I’m looking forward to meeting and making new friendships with hundreds of apronistas!
Tie One On…an apron, of course!

Hot Pads a Haute Collectible

I’ve been compiling information on the hot pad, a/k/a potholder, pan gripper, and handle hugger. Surprisingly, this little domestic helpmate has quite the extensive history.

From amongst the bins of booklets and instructional manuals that I’ve accumulated is this one from the 1940s, which advertises a two-page spread of GAY AND AMUSING TOWELS AND POT HOLDERS FOR THE KITCHEN. On the cover, below the word Needlework, you can see a towel and matching potholder, both embroidered “glasses.” The toweling makes sense, but on a hotpad? I figure this had to be the work of a male graphic artist.

The booklet isn’t dated, but the designs help to narrow the time frame (patriotic, so the war is still on) and the women illustrated have Betty Grable hair dos.

From a 1932 Nebraska Farmer (always knew there was a reason I bought a year’s worth of this publication!), oilcloth is the new and exciting choice for construction of hotpads and a matching holder. What’s difficult to see in this photo is the coordinating oilcloth covering for the salt box. Women of the era were often applying domestic artistry to the most mundane objects, however I think covering the salt with a washable cover pure genius. Makes me think of doing something similar for an olive oil jar.

I don’t have a date yet for this hotpad project, although from aprons, I know that tinted, stamped patterns were popular in the Twenties. This project was started but not completed – given the simplicity, it may have been used to teach a girl her embroidery stitches.
This photo of Virginia Downs, mother of Earl Downs, graces the introduction to The Kitchen Linens Book. It’s capitivated me from the second I first saw it, so detailed, it could be something out of a Smithsonian exhibit. Everything is within her reach – dishtoweling on the hanger, hot pads hanging from hooks above the stove. Everytime I examine this picture, I see something new.
Like vintage aprons, hot pads are a fun collectible because the variety in design and make-up is endless. I’d venture they’re so available because the time commitment (unlike constructing a quilt or knitting a sweater) is minimal, which led women to make a lot of hot pads. Unique storage is also fun to collect – like this little rolling pin with a crochet covering. The hooks were painted a bright yellow, which is an artistic touch if ever there was one! The little pin and pads are resting on a rectangle that’s of metal, which protected a counter surface from a hot pan or pot.

I’ve pitched a piece on hot pads to a perfectly suited national magazine, and so far haven’t heard word one. To me, an article on the history of the hot pad plus vibrant photograpy would make great reading. Just need to find the right home for it. And be patient.
Off on a bit of apron journeying to New Mexico!
Tie One On…an apron, of course!

Vintage Backyard Daddy-O & Giveaways

Hey! And hey again! Following a bit of bad judgment which left me flat on my achy breaky back, it’s lovely to return to the land of the upright. In celebration, I gave a party, featuring my favorite food – the hamburger.

Following some ancient law of barbecue etiquette, the burgers were grilled by the testosterone duo in attendance. While the meat sizzled, the fellows modeled Fifties backyard daddy-o attire from my apron collection

Blog_BBQ_guyz (Medium)

This genre of apron is hugely collectible because of limited availability. Grimy from charcoal, grease flare ups and hand wiping, such daddy-o wear was more often tossed in favor of a new one. Considering their vintage, the screened designs are amazingly vibrant.

These two aprons are sewn of a fabric flimsy in comparison to the heavy duty cotton of others in my collection, which leads me to think they were not meant to last – perhaps tied on for a single event or received as a Father’s Day gag gift in lieu of the perennial tie.

Blog_BBQ_Come and Get It (Medium) Blog_BBQ_Elvis (Medium)

Blog_BBQ risque 2 (Medium)

Then there’s this apron, with the Emergency Only zipper’s placement just oh, so risque. Hardly x-rated by today’s standards, but definitely titillating at the time.

In further recognition of Daddy-O Day, my publisher has provided me this timely giveaway:

America’s Best BBQ: 100 Recipes from America’s Best Smokehouses, Pits, Shacks, Rib Joints, Roadhouses, and Restaurants by Kansas City barbecuearians Ardie A. Davis and Chef Paul Kirk!

Giveaway Cover

This is a mouthwatering collection of recipes from starters to meats, classic side dishes, sauces, rubs and decadent desserts.

I like the format of tips, tricks, techniques, memorabilia, color photos and firsthand recollections of tales from the ‘pits.

Entry is easy as pie-just leave a comment & your email address (for winner’s notification). Drawing held early am Sun., June 21st.

Plus, sign up to receive my newsletter, and you’re also in the drawing for “Dick,” my Apron Memories bistro-style apron!

Blog_BBQ_Dick (Medium)Guy-sized in girth and length, it’s hand sewn of heavy weight denim with a detachable wipe cloth.

I named this apron after Dick Cline, a most affable fellow who is one of the 46 storytellers in Apron Chronicles. Dick told me that it was from his mother that he learned Wearing an apron makes good sense.

Good sense. Good times. I don’t think I’m alone in welcoming more of both!


Tie One On…an apron, of course!

Aprons Don’t Hold Us Back, They Take Us Back!

Apron-ology magazine exists because women have a long history of sewing their own aprons. Luckily for those of us who rely on patterns to guide our creative bent, companies like Butterick and McCalls have been selling patterns since the 1860s. When I contacted McCalls to learn about the company’s history, Kathleen Lenn, the company’s senior Vice President, took patience and gracious to a new level when she visited the company’s archive office and copied images for me to share with y’all.  !!!!!
This first image is the cover of an 1886 McCall pattern magazine, THE BAZAR DRESSMAKER, which was established for the purpose of selling apron and fashion patterns through the mail.

This ladies’ pattern is actually classified as a Kitchen Apron – domestic armor, I say! The button at the apron’s bottom would have been sewn with double the thread to the fabric, when you consider the volume of panteloon, petticoat and dress the apron was attempting to squish and contain.

Not as easy to see, but I hope you’ll try – even if it means squinting – is this page of girl’s aprons. Between the button up boots, layered clothing, apron protection and primped hair, girls of the time dressed as a mini-version of their mothers…a reflection of the pattern company’s awareness of society’s expectation of its younger females.

Patterns have always been created to be disposable, so it is lucky for us indeed that Butterick/McCalls donated the majority of the companies’ patterns to COPA, the largest pattern archive in the world. It’s located at the University of Rhode Island, and you can visit it on-line at
The apron has always been a great first time sewing project, and to see up close the patterns of over a hundred years ago – aprons don’t hold us back…they take us back, and in the nicest way imaginable.
Tie One On…an apron, of course!

Winners Plucked from Vintage Peanut Tin

I am overjoyed with the success of the third annual National Tie One On Day. To the one hundred + participants, thank you for bringing a bit of happiness to someone in need of a little kindness.

Now, to the drawing for 5 copies of The Apron Book, 5 copies of Apronisms, and 5 vintage aprons from my very own collection – rather than allow my computer to randomly select the winners, I decided to choose the winners the old fashioned way: by drawing their names from a hat…only not a hat, but rather from a wonderful old tin that is normally my peanut holder. So I wrote out all the entries, cut the paper into slips, folded them, and dumped them into the tin

Tie One On Day Drawing Entries

Then I set up the scene and took this photo

Tie One On Day Drawing 1

Then, with my eyes closed, I plucked 15 entries, and here they are:

The Apron Book : Monica (Nov 6), Cindy (Nov 12), eternalsunshine (Oct 30), jana (Nov 17), and marissa (Nov 7)

Apronisms: Toiling Ant (Oct 31), whoopsiedaisiesgal (Nov 7), Paula (Nov 8), Jill (Nov 13), Paige (Nov 10)

Vintage aprons: Sheila (Nov 7), Christie (Nov 4), Becky (Oct 30), Laura (Nov 8), Cheryl Janeen (Nov 20)

To all y’all who participated in National Tie One On Day 2008, thank you thank you thank you!


Tie One On…an apron, of course!