Join Janet on her adventures as a designer, writer, maker, and farmer in montana. no two days are ever the same. you might even see a bear or two.

Reverse Engineering Grandma's Apron

Reverse Engineering Grandma's Apron

I was in DD#1’s room the other day working on a non-sewing related project when I spotted something I had put there for safekeeping. It was an apron that came to me in a box of stuff from my mother a couple of years ago. The apron may have belonged to my father’s maternal grandmother (perhaps my mother knows) because that box also contained my Grandma and Grandpa Gargus’s wedding portrait:


When my grandmother was parceling out her belongings before she died, she made sure I got that picture. She used to tell me that I reminded her of her mother with all my chickens and my big garden. I take that as a huge compliment.

The apron doesn’t fit me—it was designed for someone much shorter than me and I don’t think Grandma Gargus broke 5 feet, but it’s handmade and it is similar to the H-back style apron I just finished. Because part of Brain is still cogitating on sizing issues related to that other apron, it immediately seized upon this apron and insisted that I stop what I was doing and make a copy of it.

[The husband thinks it odd that I refer to Brain in the third person, but I told him that if it was inside his head, he would refer to it that way, too. It’s like having a rather demanding toddler in there. Sometimes it’s better just to give in and let it have ice cream for dinner.]

This apron is old and fragile. I didn’t want to take it apart, so I very carefully laid it down on the cutting table and traced around as much of each piece as I could, filling in and connecting lines where I couldn’t. My goal was to get a rough draft of the existing apron and tweak the pattern as necessary in future iterations. I ended up with five pattern pieces: the front, two sides, two pockets, two ties, and the back yoke. As I went, I made notes about the construction. For instance, the seams connecting the front to the back yoke don’t sit at the shoulder; they come down a few inches. The neck opening is concave, not convex. Grandma’s apron is also trimmed in 1/4” bias tape, but because the pieces are shaped differently, I had to figure out the order in which things went together. I did all of this with the ultimate end goal—and the universe is still laughing—of writing this up as a sewing pattern for sale at some future date.

It was well into the 90s yesterday, so I spent the afternoon cutting out the pattern and putting the apron together. I am close to having a decent prototype. I need to finish trimming one of the edges with bias tape and then I’ll get pictures of both aprons to compare. I think this prototype apron may end up being my fair entry, too.

The next step is to grade it to a size that will fit me, and from there, a range of sizes to fit other people. (Knitting designers sometimes joke that “all designers are a size Medium.”) I’ll start by comparing the pattern pieces for this apron to the pattern pieces for the Protect and Serve apron. I definitely need to figure out how to make it longer. An apron like this is supposed to tie at the waist; this one ties at my upper back. (The Gargus/Szabo side of the family had short genes.) I also stumbled upon a very helpful blog post yesterday entitled How a Sewing Pattern is Born. Making the apron is only part of the process; presenting it in a form that other sewists can follow is equally important. I’m ahead of the curve because I’ve written so many knitting patterns, but there are a few crucial differences between knitting patterns and sewing patterns and I have some work to do in that area.


I spent an hour yesterday morning in the raspberry patch:


Raspberries are infinitely easier to pick than huckleberries; I picked two gallons in under an hour and I wasn’t even working that hard. I left quite a few out there in case the neighbors want to come get some. (I’ve been issuing invitations all week.) I am freezing some and I also made some raspberry sauce. Last night after dinner, the husband got himself a piece of peach pie—I made the pie on Sunday—put a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream on it, then drizzled raspberry sauce over the top. He can do that because he requires five million calories a day. I think I gained a pound just watching him eat.

I inspected the lettuce bed and was delighted to see that some of the seeds I sprinkled out there a few weeks ago have germinated:


I may actually succeed this year in having an ongoing supply of lettuce through the fall. The trick is going to be keeping that clover from taking over again.

I am training the baby rooster to eat from my hand. He has been watching me feed the big rooster. I went into the chicken yard yesterday and he started to come over to see what I had, but then one of the hens pecked him on the head and he ran off. When I went back into the coop, though, he followed me in and hopped up on top of one of the nesting boxes near where I was standing. I put scratch grains down in front of him and he kept inching closer, so we’re making progress. The big rooster is at least five or six years old and although he is a fine specimen, that is up there in age for a rooster. I worry that one of these days I am going to come out and find him keeled over dead.

I’d love to find a home for the Black Australorp rooster. He is a fine specimen, too—although clearly subordinate to the big rooster—but he doesn’t have quite the same charming personality. Mostly he keeps to himself. He won’t eat out of my hand, but he’s not aggressive toward me, either, so mostly we ignore each other.

The Old and the New

The Old and the New

A Social Dichotomy

A Social Dichotomy