Great-Aunt Ruby’s Aprons


Each morning upon rising,
she dressed to face the day.
No robe or house dress adorned her.
She prepared to go her way.

But first an apron wrapped her,
made on the treadle Singer machine.
As if her task might soil her dress,
that the apron must keep so clean.

Some wear their apron part-time
or while doing a specific thing.
But Mother wore hers every day,
except on the day when the church bells ring.

After church was over,
and she returned to her home,
the first thing that happened
was to get a clean apron on.

Her aprons are now folded
away in some dark drawer.
The home place is quiet, too,
wondering what for it is in store.

The mother in the apron
is remembered each time we enter there,
where her apron made her special,
made us want to be close and near.

The apron that kept her dress so clean
also wiped away many a tear,
is remembered as a symbol
of how much she really cared.

She never worked for wages
or labored in a plant,
but her family was well-cared for
by this mother that Heaven sent.

The “Mother” in this poem, titled Her Uniform, was my Great-Aunt Ruby, who lived in the slanted little house where I lived when we first moved to West Virginia. A copy of it hangs on the refrigerator in the kitchen there, always has. The poem was written by her son, Bob. A collection of Ruby’s homemade aprons is going on loan to a historical society display this summer, so Georgia had gotten together bagfuls of them that were to be picked up. Ruby had long ones, short ones, “Sunday best” ones. Georgia modeled this one for me. After I twisted her arm.

Aprons are actually growing in popularity again, and for you sewing/apron aficionados out there, I’ll show the simple, classic pattern Ruby used in her favorite aprons, the long ones.

They were all home-sewn, in calicos and flowered fabrics. The front had a U-shaped neck.

There was a nice pocket, of course.

In the back, there was a crossbar of fabric above where the apron tied.

I wonder if an apron is the secret to having your children remember you with such lovely sentiment? Or if there’s more to it than that.

You better get one. Just in case!

P.S. A pattern for a very similar apron is posted on Tipnut here. Ruby didn’t use the piping on her aprons, and she just had one pocket. Also, my cousin’s wife, Sheryl, posted the specific measurements and directions for Ruby’s aprons here. (Thank you, Sheryl!)


  1. Jersey Lady says:

    Oh, I love aprons. I even wear one out to milk if I happen to have on a jumper instead of bibs. My Grandma and her sister, Regina and Alma, were known for years all over our county for the aprons they made to sell at our church bazaar.They made all kinds, sturdy cotton cover-all ones for daily work as well as organdy ones for parties or serving at church dinners.My husband’s grandma would sit in her rocker after lunch to rest for a spell. To show she was not to be bothered, she would flip the skirt of her apron up over her face and head. She would fold her hands and rock and pray, I guess or else sit still and maybe take a “power nap”. When the apron came down, she was ready to get back to work. Too precious!

  2. Melinda in Washington State says:

    Lovely. I love aprons. My Grandmother always had one on. She would carry eggs to the house in it. She would have produce from the garden in it or from the cellar. It was her basket. A lot of the time the aprons were made from flour or feed sacks. Free fabric. I think some of your Great Aunt Ruby’s might be made from these sacks. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Barbee' says:

    What an interesting post! My mother-in-law told me I was the only person she knew who still used aprons. Mine are not as sturdy as Ruby’s, because these do not have the cross piece in the back. Mine are called Cobbler’s aprons. They button behind the neck, tie in the back, and have cobbler’s pockets all across the front. I like them because they have that protective cover in front all the way to my neck. I’m pretty messy.

  4. Julie says:

    Very sweet post. Aprons do have a way of conjuring up so many sentiments don’t they!

  5. Rose H says:

    Your post today has evoked so many lovely memories of my Nan, she made all her aprons in a similar design to your Aunt. They too were made on the treadle machine, and a clean one worn each day. My Mom still has some of her aprons. Thank you Suzanne. :happyflower:

  6. Thunja says:

    they are lovely, for a minute there I actually thought that you were leading up to telling us that you were going to sell aprons…hint hint.
    I would buy one in a heartbeat.

  7. Becky says:

    Very nice!! my memere had aprons too!!

  8. Peggy says:

    I too have fond memories of the women in my life who wore aprons. I love them and wish I had some as old as the ones in the old house.

  9. CindyP says:

    What a lovely post….a wonderful poem written for her by her son. Is a copy of the poem going with the aprons?

    When I think about Grandma, the picture in my mind always has an apron. I wonder why wearing an apron has went by the wayside, too? I remember my mom having aprons and them hanging on a hook in the kitchen, but I don’t remember her wearing them. I have a couple aprons and I really should wear them, but I just haven’t gotten into the habit of putting it on before I notice I need it!

  10. CATRAY44 says:

    I wish I had just one of my grandma’s aprons. I can still picture some of the different ones she wore. I think we women threw a lot of neat things away when we “burned our bras” in the 70’s. (Grandma didn’t!) I would buy one, for sure. I have one apron a friend made me. I would love one like these!

  11. trish robichaud says:

    my mother wore one until the 1960s . she stopped wearing them the same time she stopped ironing. i think it had something to do with the new wash and wear fabrics. we had an electric dryer and thats all she needed. i do have fond memories of my grandma wearing hers. cooking and baking in our kitchen when she would come to stay with us for awhile. i wear a holiday one but its not as nice as aunt rubys.have a lovely day everyone.

  12. Mia says:

    oh how COOL that one is with the cross bar – I love it! I do wear aprons once in a while.. but suddenly I want to wear them a whole lot more. They aren’t easy to find these days tho, guess i might have to learn to sew HA! *grin*

  13. Tracey In Paradise,Pa. says:

    :sun: love love love aprons! :sun:

  14. Diane says:

    What a great collection. I am impressed that they were kepted all these years. The poem is great. Is it going with the aprons?? Because I think it tells their story.

    I remember my great aunt who would always wear an apron. She was always cooking, or cleaning or doing the gardening. She would have a nice apron on to protect her clothing.

    I should wear one when cooking. I am a messy cook. It would make more sense to keep my clothing clean. lol.

  15. Connie Trippett says:

    I had forgotten how grandma always wore an apron when working in the kitchen. Thanks for bringing back the great memories!!

  16. Leah says:

    Aunt Ruby’s aprons are lovely,the poem is awesome too. Nice to see Georgia again!

  17. NorthCountryGirl says:

    I have two long aprons hanging on a rack in my kitchen. I rarely wear them, only sometimes if I’m doing something especially messy or have good clothes on. I loved the poem and it made me rethink those aprons hanging in the kitchen. Just maybe I’ll put them to use…or make some really pretty calico short aprons. Thanks for reviving an interest in them.

  18. jane says:

    Really wonderful her son wrote that about her. Love the aprons. My grandmother wore them too and when she died dont know who got them. The full apron with the crossbar is the one I have liked the best ever since Sally Field wore it in the movie Places of the Heart about the tornado in Waxahachie, Texas among other themes. Loved her aprons in that movie. You should trace this pattern on to fabric, paper or interface for a pattern.

  19. rain says:

    Oh the memories-how fortunate we are to have them.! The poem was such a tribute to love-more then all the precious jewels or money could buy. Thank you for sharing Suzanne. Reminds me so much of my long ago-much missed-grammie-I still have several of hers folded safely away. :happyflower:

  20. Phyllis Ryan says:

    My apron is the butcher style and came from a “fancy” kitchen store, but I do remember the ones my Grandmother and my Mother wore. A lot of them were flour sacks, but there was always the very fancy apron worn only when company was coming for dinner. My Mother always wore her pretty one when the “girls” arrived for lunch and cards.

  21. blueberrylu says:

    What a wonderful post Suzanne!!! I love old aprons and the beautiful fabrics they were made of.

  22. Beth says:

    I wholeheartedly approve of aprons– have you seen the spoof of that British poster, “Keep Calm and Put Your Apron On”? So true. Putting on an apron just makes me feel so ready for (almost) anything!

  23. Sandy says:

    I bet most of them were made from feed sacks. My grandmother’s were!!

  24. Rose says:

    Great memories from aprons. When my grandmother had hers on, you knew good food was coming!

  25. jane says:

    I have a pattern for a 1950 apron with pot holders. I bought it at a garage sale for not sure maybe 50 cents. It sells online for 15. I first made it when I had my son it has a ton of good pockets. I have since made them to sell at craft shows and they sell fast. they are like a smock type apron in that it covers you well.

  26. LeAnn, in Washington (the state) says:

    Love the aprons. I wish I would remember to wear one more often. I seem to always make a mess. My dear mother-in-law’s favorite apron had a loop in it to hold a hand towel. She raised four children and the first 8 years they lived in a 3 room house w/out an indoor bathroom or running water. I guess we’ve got it too easy to need aprons these days.

  27. Maria in CT says:

    I love aprons, too. I loved this post!!! I made aprons for Christmas gifts this past year. I fondly remember my grandmother wearing one all the time, and now when I wear one, I can feel her again. I just wish I still had some of her old aprons. She was a seamstress and made all of her own and the quality of hers was so much better than mine. Thank you for the poem and the memories!

  28. Marymac says:

    this conjured up old memories of mom and her aprons. Thanks Suzanne for bringing this to us.

  29. Lish says:

    This made me think of my Grandma Oda who lived over the hill from you in Gandeeville for all but 4 years of her life. She always wore and apron. Always. It’s how I remember her. She also kept a thimble in the front pocket. If you got out of line her hand could be in that pocket, thimble on a finger, and you were popped on the “noggin” before you knew it! HAHAHAHA

  30. P.J. says:

    Suzanne–it would be so great if you’d kind of give us apron-lovers some general measure from one of the long aprons–like from the sholder to the hem–how long. How deep is the U-shaped neckline from the sholder and from the sholder to the strap across the back and then to the apron strings. I know it will depend upon the person who is making it, but general guidelines would help us not-as-creative types know what we should be thinking about when we lay out our material. I love aprons and haven’t seen one with the strap across the back but like that it would make it fit better. Anyway, I’m not trying to make work for you but if you’re ever inclined to take those measurements, that would be great. Either way, thank you so much for showing these aprons, they are so sweet and pretty. I’m glad aprons are coming back in vogue, I wear one a lot. PJ

  31. Carol says:

    My grandmother always wore a full apron to keep her dress clean. I wore waist aprons for years. We had organdy aprons for dress up occasions. Now I wear a full apron when I bake or cook something messy. I believe at least some of Aunt Ruby’s were made from feed sacks. When I was a kid I wore summer clothes made from the same. I can remember my grandmother picking the prettiest sack when she bought the feed. Those were the days when the ladies got their work ‘done up’ then took time to visit with one another. People worked hard, but they weren’t in a hurry.
    Once again, thank you Suzanne for bringing back memories.

  32. Kathryn says:

    We call those anchor-back aprons. I have so many from my mother and grandmothers. I have made a lot, too. I use narrow-fold bias tape to go around all the raw edges. That way they look like the vintage ones from my family.

    Of course, those women made their own tape from scraps. Ack!

  33. MMT says:

    I just recently started wearing an apron, especially when I am frying food. Got tired of having grease splatter on my clothes. The one I have been using has a platic coating on it so the grease doesn’t soak thru. I’m not sure where I got it, but am glad to have it. I have been thinking about making a few more for baking and soap making. I made my first batch of soap last weekend and I am loving it! I even took some of the little scraps from the spatula and slow cooker and put in a foam soap dispenser with some water to use at the kitchen sink. I use the bar soap in the shower, but I like the foam soap dispensers at the sinks for less mess. Think I will go to the site that Connie posted and get some patterns to use. Thanks for another great post Suzanne.

  34. Betty ireland says:

    It’s a good thing you are giving instructions re:how to make one’s own apron. “Authentic” hand-made aprons are selling for $75-$100 on-line and in boutiques.

  35. Nancy K. says:

    I’ve been looking for the “perfect” apron for over a year! I want a long(ish) one that color coordinates with my kitchen/dining area as I’ll probably have it hanging on a hook (or dress rack) when I’m not actually wearing it…
    It’s so hard for find the right one when you have a vision in your mind of what it should look like!

  36. Michele Messier says:

    My mother is 86 now and she always wore half aprons everyday while me and my 7 brothers and sisters were growing up. She always had kleenex in the pockets, she only liked the aprons that had pockets. She had quite a variety. :duck: :duck: :duck:

  37. Carol Langille says:

    My granny wore an apron over her dresses. Of course she made them out of calico and feedsack and hers were the long ones but not anchor back. They had a simple strap that looped around the neck. My mother made a couple for me years ago…I have them still and wear them on rare occasions. When I do, I feel a physical connection to my family’s past.
    Another ‘use’ for my granny’s apron was to act as a basket for fresh eggs from under a chicken and for produce from the garden. I want to see Suzanne wear one to gather her eggs!

  38. Jackie C says:

    I wear an apron every day. When making soap it is better to get a lye splash hole in the apron than in the good shirt or me. I love all those aprons, but the one with the pink flowers and the rip in the fabric almost brought tears to my eyes. My Grandma wore an apron daily, she pinned the top to her ample bosum with great big safety pins.She passed away about 50 years ago and I can still remember her aprons. She always made great tomato jam.

  39. Karen Anne says:

    No knead Grandmother’s bread –

    I’m failing miserably with this, and wonder if Suzanne or anyone has any idea what I’m doing wrong.

    The first one came out approximately okay, although with a more cakelike than breadlike interior, but the subsequent several attempts have all had gummy interiors. I’ve tried baking them longer, baking them longer with a sheet of aluminum foil on top, baking them until the top crust is almost burnt, still gummy.

    I’m at sea level, might I have to make some adjustment for that? thanks…

    • Suzanne McMinn says:

      Karen Anne, I tried baking in Florida at sea level last summer and had terrible trouble with it. Pie crusts, breads, etc. Stuff just didn’t come out right. The only thing I made that came out right was pizza breads. I have no idea. I tried googling around on sea level baking and couldn’t find anything, but I know there was SOMETHING different about it at sea level because I was using all the same recipes I always use.

  40. Bonita says:

    I never knew my grandmother…but my mother worked in a factory and she wore bib aprons at work all the time. It was to save her skirts and blouses from all the oil on the parts she worked on. Once in a while she would wear them when she was cooking, especially on holidays when she was dressed up but still had cooking to do. I must have liked them. The very first thing I sewed was a (surprise) apron for my mom. I bought a pattern and fabric with my allowance (I was 7), cut the fabric on the dining room floor while she was at work, and sewed it on one of the early Singer ‘portable’ sewing machines. Yup, there’s something about aprons.

  41. Lavender Garden Cottage says:

    I just love old aprons! The more worn, stained, torn and LOVED the better! Really sweet post!

  42. Klabmom says:

    I always want to make myself and apron, but never get around to it. Maybe I should make one for me and matching ones for my girls! awwww

  43. Janet Smart says:

    My grandmother always wore aprons. I don’t know what happened to them, I would love to have just one to remember her by. Since I don’t have any of hers, I collect others. I have lots and lots of vintage aprons and have posted on my blog about them before. I love aprons! Loved looking at your Aunt Ruby’s aprons.

  44. Nancy says:

    That brought a tear to my eye…both my mother and grandmother wore dresses ALL the time with aprons over them…usually the short ones…and slips,always slips and aprons no matter the temperature. You could always find a tissue in the pocket and usually a grandchild with thumb in mouth trailing behind with the “silky” in the other hand (the bottom of the slip). Such simpler times….

  45. Karen Anne says:

    Thanks, Suzanne. I looked on the web and found this about adjusting for altitude:

    Basically to change a yeast bread recipe for a lower altitude:
    longer proofing time
    lower oven temp by 25 degrees
    less liquid or more flour

    So I’ll try that. (You know you;re in trouble when you put the results in the compost pile and even the raccoons don’t touch it 🙂

  46. Shirley T says:

    As a teenager in the middle 50’s I remember my mother wearing those anchor type aprons with everyday house-dresses. A many a summer day I set up the ironing board on the front porch, where it was cool,and ironed those suckers for hours. After they were washed,starched, and line dried, they had to be sprinkled with water,rolled and put in a plastic lined basket for overnight. And those were the GOOD OLE DAYS!! Yeah right!!

  47. Debnfla3 says:

    I love aprons. I’m going to try my hand at making a few.

    I live in Florida but haven’t had a bit of trouble making Suzanne’s bread recipes. I suppose longer proofing would help. I let bread rise a long time, you know here in Florida an air conditioner going all the time keeps the house cool. That helps with letting bread rise longer. If I ever want to speed up the rising times I just cover my bowl and set it in the garage keeping an eye on it. The garage is hot!


  48. Shannon Ward says:

    Do you have a pattern of deminsions for that long apron? would love to sew that. Been looking for a pattern like it for years. Its just like the one my great-grandma wore.

  49. CherShots says:

    You conjured up some wonderful memories of my Grandma! Thanks!

  50. cgReno says:

    You are sooooo on it. Yes, aprons are making a great comback. Last time I was in Mexico I bought 6 of the aprons that you see some of the “older” Mexican women wearing. I LOVE them and I love wearing them. My granny was an apron wearer who always had a clean hankie in her pocket, and if i remember correctly her apron always smelled like fried chicken!

  51. Senta Sandberg says:

    The apron is a beautiful piece of Women’s History like the quilt. Our History is not written down it is in antique shops in old quilts,cookbooks and aprons, Handwoven rugs made from the wore out aprons. Thanks for sharing.

  52. Maureen Child says:

    Oh Suzanne, those are JUST the kind of aprons my Mom loves! She doesn’t sew though and looks high and low for them. Your family’s lucky to have such a glorious stash of them!

  53. peggy says:

    Love these aprons. I wondered if you see Mary Jane’s Lots of aprons also mentioned there as well as chickens and other stuff. :sun:

  54. Jean says:

    You brought back such great memories. I have my Great-great Grandmother’s apron. I am told she wore it every day.

  55. Rhubarb Rhose says:

    I love this apron blog. My mother always wore one and she had many that we divided up after she was gone. I am lucky to own several and they looked a lot like your great aunts!!! I wear an apron when I’m baking and it makes me feel like I’m being serious about the task at hand! This blog reminded me of a poem called “The History of Aprons” that I am planning to include in a family cookbook we are making. I have sent you an email attachement with this story on it (couldn’t figure out how to attach it to this comment so I’ve done it by email – hope that’s O.K.). I think you’ll like this!

  56. jane says:

    Bonita – what a great story. Do you still have that apron you made your mother?
    Shirley – I remember ironing like that too. Kids today just dont have a clue how easy they have it.
    Senta – You are so right about hour history being written through our aprons, recipes, notations in cook books and how special woman made life for all.

  57. SuzieQ says:

    Love this post..haven’t worn an apron in years and years and am constantly messing up clothes when cooking… I’m going to make me some aprons ASAP!! Thanks for the prompt! :fairy:

  58. Melissa says:

    :fairy: I love these sweet aprons. My husband’s grandma is 90 years old and i have a few similar ones that she made.

  59. Karen Anne says:

    Etsy has lots of aprons.

  60. Amber says:

    I have an absolute love affair with aprons. I’m drooling over those vintage fabrics!

  61. Vicki says:

    I love the aprons! My grandma always wore a house dress with an apron over it. The funny thing is , my mother never wore aprons. Any time she tried, my dad came along and pulled the bow untied. So she gave up wearing them. But as I get older, I find I am ruining more clothes by not wearing aprons, so I am trying to get back into the habit. I want to make one of the anchor aprons, I love that style.

  62. Susan at Charm of the Carolines says:

    I love old aprons. The ones I collect are so petite and adorable, I can’t imagine they ever saw serious duty. There is a beauty to the “full coverage” ones that are faded from serious washings. Oh the stories they could tell…

  63. lavenderblue says:

    One of the things I saved from my Mom’s house was a raggedy little apron that both she and my Grandma wore. It looks as if it may have been made from a kit. It’s a bib type with a full-ish skirt. There is like a print of a quilt pattern across the bottom and thick blue rick-rack, like, everywhere. Not the most utilitarian but it reminds me of them, so it hangs in my house.

    What I’d love is one from an online store called AmazinGraze Farm store. I found it through a blog called Down on the Farm. One of the first farm blogs I started reading. Cute with lots of pictures but not a lot of instructions like we get here.

    Anyway, this lady sells handmade aprons made by her neighbor, a young girl. The aprons are adorable. They have handpieced quilt tops for the bib part. That’s not the only thing in the store but I thought it was really sweet of the lady to help the little girl that way. And the prices are cheap.

    I wish I could provide a link but I’ve forgotten how and the kids aren’t here to do it for me. You could google it by going to “Down on the Farm” but be sure to type in “Marci” (the lady’s name). Otherwise you get lots of song lyrics and kindergarten lesson plans.

    Suzanne, I hope you don’t mind me writing about another blog, but I just thought that the lady selling those for the little girl was so generous and sweet that I just had to tell about it.

  64. glenda says:

    I am so glad someone besides me is wearing aprons. I thought I was the only one! I make and wear something like the butcher’s apron but I make the cobbler pockets across the front bottom half.
    I like to make them out of denim or something a little heavier than prints because I use them outside when gardening and gathering eggs.
    I just ordered myself a real gardener’s apron so now I can make some just for the kitchen. I use one daily. I have worn out 4 and desperately need to make more.

    Thanks for the tip on the free patterns.

    I have some of mother’s old aprons, but they are too fancy for me….and too small!

  65. Dana Lou says:

    I love aprons!!!!I am a messy cook and always seem to have an apron on…I call it my big bib!!!! I love to sew and think this will be my next project for my craft shows…
    For the last year and a half,(since my Granddaughter was born) I have been making bibs and burp cloths.
    I have been yearning to make aprons… I have the inspiration!!!

  66. Dee says:

    Those Aprons remind me of my Grandma. When ever my grandma cooked she always wore an apron. Great post and I love your website.

  67. Terry Wilson says:

    I just love aprons. Old aprons and the women who wore them… Your site is awesome. I have had the opportunity to grow a garden and can and cook like a crazy woman, but I am looking forward to a day when I can have a few chickens!

  68. Anne Devaney says:

    I am an activities coordinator in a nursing home in Ireland. I have just read this beautiful poem and I would like your permission to copy it and read it to all my lovely ladies in the nursing home.
    I know they would love it.

  69. Anne Devaney says:

    Thank you so much, I know my ladies will just love this poem. Will let you know the response.

  70. Susan Bolyard says:

    I love the apron article. My mother passed away this past May and I wanted her aprons. She had quite a collection plus my dad cooked and he had some also.
    I am planning on turning these aprons into quilts for my two sisters and myself. Something to remember mom by.

  71. Ramona Slocum says:

    Do any of you know the website for Colorado somebody. Was it Colorado Lady? She has the place to order shirts and aprons with your favotite recipes printed on them. Ramona

  72. Susan Croteau says:

    May I use the poem for my church newsletter?? It is so very lovely!

  73. katherine jenson says:

    :sun: Thank you so much for the reminder about aprons. How soon we tend to forget things. I can remember my great grandmother, from Norway, always, always had an apron on, unless it was time to go to church! The family story says, when all of her children were a bit much, (12) she would put her apron over her head and pray in Norwegian, “God give me strength!”

    Her daughter, my Grandma Jo, always had an apron on as well. She made her own and were similar to what you showed, in the full length version. She always had a kleenex in the pocket for little noses and it gave me great comfort to see her in her apron.

    I am going to make myself one. I live with my little 5 year old grandson and I want him to remember me in my apron too! Thanks for the memory trip. It made me smile!

  74. Kanesha says:

    Thanks for this post. I love aprons and the family history that often accompanies aprons. My mother-in-law lives with my family and she has made beautiful aprons and has taught me how to make some. I love when she talks about her own grandmother and aprons.

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