Antiques & Collectibles: Aprons recall the best memories of Thanksgiving

It’s that time of the year when we remember going to Grandma’s house for Thanksgiving and smelling that wonderful blend of turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes and just a hint of pumpkin pie as you walked through the door.

And, of course, Grandma was always wearing one of her aprons. To her they were simply practical, but to you, thinking about those times years later, they bring back countless memories.

Aprons have made a huge comeback with the modern woman and I’m convinced it’s not about being practical or even the way they make us look but the way they make us feel. The feeling that comes from being surrounded by those we love and care about. It’s all about the joy and comfort of being back home again.

Over the last several years I have done apron workshops on the history of aprons up to the current apron trends. I have several hundred notecards from ladies and gentlemen who have attended these workshops, and get messages from folks who all have a story about aprons.

Apron memories

Ann Matchey, owner of 3G Gallery in Alma, Wis., said, “I wear cotton and/or poly cotton aprons. My aprons are about 10 or more years old. One that is precious to me is the apron I made and gave to my mother back in the 1990s. I did get it back when she went to the nursing home and has since passed in 2011. Needless to say, wearing the apron on holidays helps me think and remember her and good times.”

Pam Tesch, community education coordinator at the St. Charles School, told me, “My love for aprons goes way back to childhood, so I can talk about them forever! I think my grandma had more aprons than dresses! I have one that she made for me when I was young. Thanks for reminding people of this important memory in days long ago. My kids could tell you stories of my aprons. They told me once they were going to bury me in an apron. I told them to make sure I am wearing something underneath it.”

Charlene Saxe, painting teacher and artist from Ettrick, Wis., said, “I am an oil painting artist. I wear a full-body apron or a smock. If I have a little too much oil paint on my brush, I just quickly clear my brush across my apron or smock before I put the paint on the canvas. On more than one occasion I did not have my apron on, so I would find smears of oil paint across my blouse or other garments I was wearing, so I now have to remember my apron.”

Teri Petruck, owner of Farm Girl Finds, Dodge Center, said, “I’ve had a Colonial Salt apron seems like forever, and it is quite fragile and very old. I also have a Dickies brand apron I made for myself from old overalls that I wear for gardening, crafting and shows because I love all the pockets and the recycling of the old overalls.”

Angie Pehler, owner of Angie’s Vintage Rust, wears a new apron when selling at flea markets. Jim Kieffer, husband of Sarah Kieffer, owners of Sarah’s Uniques and Jim’s ‘Man’tiques Antique Mall, St. Charles, also wears his new half-apron with the gas pumps, sport cars and more when he does certain sales at the shop. As Jim told me, “I wanted a new apron like a money belt around the waist style with pockets to wear during St. Charles Gladiola Days.”

National Tie One On Day

This year, on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, women like myself and others across the country will be celebrating the day by wrapping a loaf of bread in an apron and tucking a prayer or a note of encouragement in the pocket and then delivering the bundle to someone in need of physical or spiritual nourishment, or both.

As this was originally started by author EllynAnne Geisel ( in her book, “The Apron Book” to help us put the giving back in Thanksgiving.

As we all know, these last few months have been especially difficult for many of our friends, neighbors and family members. I can’t imagine anyone who would not appreciate a thoughtful gesture like this. It doesn’t matter if you bake a loaf of bread from scratch or buy a box of cookies at the store. And aprons can be found at second-hand thrift stores.

Keep in mind that the rarer aprons are going from $25 on up and are mostly found at antique malls or online markets. Since I make aprons, I have donated aprons to our Winona Volunteer Service Food Shelf.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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