In Hilda’s Farmhouse

20180802_152433As I carefully unwrapped each fragile teacup, each plate, I was overwhelmed with emotion.  Each dish is over a hundred years old, hand painted from Denmark, and so beautiful.  How did the young newlywed, the new farm wife, feel as she carefully unwrapped such fine things on her wedding?  A hundred years separates and joins us in a flash of a tea cup.

My beautiful friend, Kat (whom I called mom) had a great love of history, and homesteading, and family.  She knew that I might be the only one to appreciate such things as old linens, and wind up clocks, and this and that, and so for each holiday I was gifted with heirlooms.  Hilda was her grandmother, a farm wife in Iowa and in my home I have her things.  I have never met her but we are connected through time as farm wives.  As women.  As housewives.  We are connected by our love of Kat and by the material things she used that carry memories and love.

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Gunhilda was her given name, but she always went by Hilda.  Her family was Danish and her husband was from Denmark.  A darling looking man named Jorgen, or George once he came to the states.  They were married in 1918 when Hilda was twenty-three years old.

I have read her old postcards often.  I am fascinated by her friends’ scripts and brief notations.  How sweet to receive such correspondence on a snowy day.

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I put on one of the aprons that Hilda made.  They are starting to fray but they are sturdy and lovely in their simple way.  A good sized pocket to gather eggs.

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I will make tea for the ladies that might come by for a visit.  Just as she would have done in that farmhouse past the rows of corn a hundred years ago and just as women will do a hundred years from now.  We are all connected by that nurturing spirit, love of family and community, and of simple things like hand painted dishes so fine.

Pumpkin Hollow Farm Homesteading Supplies and Classes (a shop is born)

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Wednesday: The idea came swift and clear as a starry night.  Or perhaps it resurfaced.  Or perhaps it was whispered in my ear by the homesteading spirits before me.  Either way, it has been seven days since then and we are already planning our grand opening.

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Thursday: I ran the idea by my youngest daughter to see if she wanted to be a part of it.  She was in.  We went for a long hike and discussed why we wanted to start a farmgirl store.  I did not want to start something rashly with just money in mind.  It needed to be meaningful and enjoyable.  We came up with a list of why the homesteading lifestyle is important to us.

  • Helps environment
  • Healthier
  • Creates better mental health
  • Satisfying
  • Affordable
  • Homesteading creates more family time
  • Great for children
  • Creates community

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It was five and a half years ago that we stood in Nancy’s kitchen making goat’s milk soap, creating label ideas, going through seed catalogs and beginning “The Five Farmgirls.”  Emily held a few-month old Maryjane on her hip as she and Nancy’s daughter, Faleena came up with product names.  We laughed as we sarcastically came up with our own catch phrase, “It’s Farmgirl Good!” as we shook the cold milk trying to turn it into butter for two hours.  Our friend, Lisa came over to help make soap and we sat outside on an early spring day and had a picnic lunch.  A year later Nancy would suddenly and quietly cross over the veil.

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Saturday: Doug and I had lunch with Lisa and Lance Saturday and I told her my idea.  They raise humane meat on their ranch and we could have a pick up point at our shop.  We could do the same for milk.  We laughed and talked for three hours and discussed ideas.  Still, with not a lot of dollars and no idea where to get an affordable retail space, it still felt far off.

So certain that this was going to take off, Emily and I started picking up usable antiques (that are sturdier and still work better than modern versions!) and items for our store.  I bought material to make aprons and farmgirl style pillows.  We came up with a name, Pumpkin Hollow Farm (of course); Homesteading Supplies and Classes.

Sunday: Doug and I drove around and gathered phone numbers for retail spaces.  None of them were quite right.  They also were way out of our price range.  I wanted an old space that looked like a general store.  And it had to be ridiculously affordable.  (They are cleaning it up…I’m keeping the piano for the shop!)

Monday: I call on a shop that people had said would be hard to get.  Many people had inquired on this space and had either been turned down or never called back.  The manager picks up, says she will call the owner and call me back.  Five minutes later she calls me back, the owner loves my idea.  She will rent to me.  For a ridiculously affordable price.  Ten minutes later I am at the shop to see it.  The building is over a hundred years old and it sure looks like a general store.  It is in a great location.

Tuesday: Dad brings a box to my apothecary that says my name on it.  “Mom wanted you to have these,” he says wistfully as he hands me a large bag along with the box.  My friends Kat and Rod are like parents to me and Kat died almost exactly two years ago.  I have a collection of her grandmother’s things.  Hilda is alive and well in my home.  A box and bag of homesteading items and china were the new gifts to me to carry on.  A whisper from above that there are many friends helping this come together.

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Wednesday: Yesterday morning we signed a lease and shook hands.  A private loan came through.  I registered my name.  We have held on to our beloved name since our early farm.  Our farm and homesteading school took a devastating turn a little over three years ago when we had to suddenly leave our rented farm and all of my beautiful homesteading items and our lifestyle was lost.  In a twist of irony, as I searched for my name in the Secretary of State, the name expired three years ago to the day that I re-registered it.

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Mission Statement: To increase happiness, health, and well being for people and Mother Earth by offering quality, second hand, homemade or sustainable objects that bring back the charm of an old fashioned, simple life.

Pumpkin Hollow Farm Homesteading Supplies and Classes coming in early September!

“It’s Farmgirl Good!”

 

 

The Farmhouse Kitchen

The kitchen is the heart of the home, is it not?  Where sustenance and love culminates into family around the table, friends clinking glasses, the quiet of morning coffee, and the gentle stirring of a pot of something delicious.  This is the largest kitchen I have ever had and it is just wonderful.  Even more wonderful, I didn’t have to do anything to it!  I love the color and the punched tin back splash is something I would have chosen myself.  The twinkly lights and festive grape vine lights replace the harsh overhead lighting (when I’m not taking pictures).  I will never opt for overhead lighting if I can help it!  I also removed the curtains.

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We scored this sign last week and couldn’t believe our luck.

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In these old houses the washer hook up is in the kitchen.  That seems quite reasonable to me.  Doug will be putting up a clothes line for me today!

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My apron collection hangs primly around the pantry.  The sign was a gift from a student.  It is a lovely reminder that dreams do come true.

The children’s knick knacks that they created during their childhood surround the sink along with Maryjane’s miniature coffee cups for when she sleeps over.

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Plenty of counter space, beautiful gifts from friends, and years to come of precious memories and delicious food.  Sláinte!

Farmgirl Fashionista

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In a world of jeans and yoga pants I suppose I stand out a bit.  I think folks are both mesmerized and baffled by my attire.  I was at the library last month and a mom came up to me, big eyes, all excited, and asked, “Is there going to be story time?” Heck if I know.  I looked down at my layered skirts, apron, old fashioned boots, and remembered my Santa hat and realized she thought I was in costume!

Maryjane wears her apron around with me and it is not uncommon for us to be asked if were just in a parade or festival.  Do we bake?  Why on earth would we be parading around as such?  Well, let me explain.  Let’s go through the elements of the Farmgirl attire.

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#1 Long skirt- This is important because I am too tall to find jeans that fit right.  I never stop moving so jeans aren’t exactly comfortable.  A long skirt is comfortable and practical.  Ever since Maryjane was about twelve months old she hides under my skirts.  Her hands wrapped around my leg, she giggles thinking no one can see her, her little feet sticking out.  As she gets taller and older I know this is limited now and I relish feeling her cold hands on my leg, that giggling, her security from the world hidden next to my leg.  It is a very maternal feeling and I know all too well she will grow out of it soon.  (I buy my skirts at the Elizabeth Celtic Festival.  It is a rather simple pattern that uses elastic or string to cinch the waist.)

#2 Slips- In a world of too tight skirts and panty lines, I do still love the look of a beautiful cotton slip.  Mine has a long swath of eyelet around the bottom.  It is feminine and beautiful.  I also wear a full skirt under my regular skirt as well.  Why?  Well, I am cool in the summer with the layers, and warm in the winter with the layers.  It makes my dress swish.  It is lovely and modest and sexy all at the same time.  And at my age, I don’t care what the style is.  I like the old fashioned look.

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#3 Apron- If you do not wear an apron each day how do you find your phone and keys?  Mine would be lost in my purse, possibly forever.  I also can carry a tissue, my to-do list, and a few flowers I harvested.  The original reason for an apron was to cover a woman’s dress, for she probably only had two, one for every day and one for church.  The apron is easier to wash and keeps clothes cleaner, meaning if you haven’t traipsed through mud, you can hang your skirt back up. (Mine were made by an Amish woman and her daughters, a neighbor of a blog reader.  Some of mine I made, or were gifts, or hand me downs, and some really quite old that belonged to Kat’s grandmother.)

#4 Old fashioned boots- Stickers, weeds, rain, snow, cold or hot weather, farming, shoveling, and a cute addition to any farmgirl attire.  (I got mine at Big R.)

We farmgirls have lots to do, from taking care of the homestead, cooking for folks, farming, and for me, being the local folk healer, so wearing beautiful, comfortable clothes is just one perk of being a farmgirl.

The Homestead Pinafore (Mennonite treasures)

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Over two years ago a fellow blogger, Eileen, and I sewed aprons for one another and sent them across the country to each other.  I made her a half apron with beautiful fabric with a chicken towel sewed on as pockets.  She sent me a Mennonite style apron since she lives near a large community.  She wanted to make me something that I wouldn’t have and indeed this apron was a great gift to me and one that I have never seen replicated.

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It reminds me of the pinafore on the front of Raggedy Ann’s dress and pinafores were always a pretty accessory to the occasional dress I had growing up.  I wondered what the difference was between a pinafore and an apron.  A pinafore comes from “pin a fore” or pin the apron to the front of the dress such as the Amish do.  Then it came to be understood as an apron that had two arm holes and covered a large part of the dress.  It turns out a pinafore is another form of an apron.  So, I naturally love it.

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I’ve touted it before, aprons are an important accessory for any farmgirl.  They can make an ordinary outfit look different every time one wears it.  They keep one’s dress clean so one doesn’t have to do laundry as often (yea!).  There are pockets so that one can find their keys, pocket knife, tissue, phone, gardening trowel, small toys, clothes pins, and eggs from the coop.  (Just remember to take the eggs out when you get in to the house!)

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I probably strike folks as a bit different with my long skirts and aprons but fashion should hint at one’s personality and passions, not on what companies want to sell that season.  I get many compliments about my aprons from adults and I overhear young people whispering to their friends that they love the way I dress.  Yesterday at the farmer’s market a vendor said that she had seen more people with aprons on.  Fabulous!

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My beautiful apron that Eileen had given me had seen child’s tears, gardening dirt, held a dying chicken, was stained with goat placenta, had been covered in flour, had been worn around our homestead, then to our new temporary one, to now.  I asked Eileen if she would sew me a few more.  Apparently Eileen hates to sew.  She had a solution though!  I sent an extremely fair price to her to give her Mennonite neighbor who had loaned her the pattern in the first place and her daughters made me five of the most beautiful aprons/pinafores I have ever seen.

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A gift beyond measure.  I cannot wait to wear them on my next homestead! (and today….I’ll wear one today!)

Modern Pioneer Woman (crackling fires and homesteading)

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I forgot to mention one of my favorite cookbooks yesterday!  “The Pioneer Woman Cooks” by Ree Drummond is filled with mouthwatering recipes that can feed a crowd or easily be halved.  I highly recommend the Fig and Prosciutto Pizza.  I love the step-by-step photographs and stories.

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I enjoy being a modern pioneer woman.  We hoped and prayed for this little homestead to somehow make itself known and available.  This sunny, quaint homestead is peaceful surrounded by miles and miles of birdsong and prairie.  My heart rests easy here.  However, if you have been following me for awhile you know we had some tearful, freezing moments this last winter.  It was cold.  Much more so than I can fully express.  I was upset that I believed the small wood cook stove in the kitchen would heat the whole house.  I am most upset that my animals seemed to fare poorly from it.  It seemed to age my older cat, Ichabod and Bumble the Greyhound.  It broke my heart to see them so cold.  Even “Little House on the Prairie” had a proper wood stove!

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The new wood stove was fired up last night to test it and Ichabod found the warmest spot possible.

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The final bill made me gasp and tear up, actually.  I thought that I could pay the lease through with tuitions so I wouldn’t have to worry so much this summer.  (No more worrying!) But it all went to pay for warmth.  Which will be worth every penny.  And I thankful I had the money for it.  I love the funky style of the stove.  I look forward to (though I am not rushing!) cooking on my new stove and being blissfully warm while the snow tumbles down.

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I so enjoy this lifestyle.  I love my long skirts and aprons.  I love my clothes line.  I think I will get out the clothes handwasher for summer.  I love kneading bread and hearing the tops of the jars pop closed of preserved garden fare.  I love the sight of a rotund lamb running and jumping, the sound of milk hitting the pail, the rooster crowing.  I love growing and cooking fresh food and sitting on the porch with a glass of wine listening to the frogs in the pond.  I love waking up at dawn and going to bed at dark, no alarms.  No outside work.  No schedules.  Just the bustling of a busy homestead and the sound of a crackling fire.

How to Become a Homesteader-Part 3-Old Fashioned Items

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There was good reason for many of the items that we now view as quaint or wonder what they were for in antique shops.  There are some items that will make your life much easier in your homestead.  Some new, some not so new.

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1. Oil Lamps– Oil lamps are functional and beautiful.  In our effort to dramatically decrease our electricity use, we enjoy reading by these light sources.  We have one large one on each end table and Doug bought me two that hang on the wall, one either side of our pillows.  We have one on each table in the house and a few smaller ones that can be moved about.  Lamp oil is fairly inexpensive and the lights give a soft glow to the homestead.

There was one evening when the electricity went out in the entire neighborhood at our last house.  Doug and I did not even know until we got up and realized how dark it was outside!  We just kept on reading.

The softer light also signals the body that it is time to settle down.  Bright lights, LED lights, and blinking lights all act as stimulants for the body.  It’s no wonder there are so many sleeping issues out there!

You can pick up oil lamps at Walmart, at thrift stores, or new at Lehmans.com

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2. Aprons– I may have about thirty-two of them but I am always on the hunt for more and love receiving them as gifts.  I also make them but it is more fun to wear one that a nice great-grandma would have worn at one time.  It honors those that came before us to wear something used with love.

The reason for aprons was simple.  The girls had a only a few dresses and rather than mess them up every day and have ever more laundry (some chores never change) they wore an apron over the dress.  This kept the dress clean and it was easier to wash an apron then a long dress.  I wear my aprons out.  I wear them cooking, cleaning, doing farm chores, gardening, at farmer’s markets, and sometimes just out.  I like to keep a tissue, a bit of cash, my phone, and a pocket knife in the pocket.  I don’t have to lug around the suitcase of a purse I have!

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3. Pocket Knife– Doug and I got each other lovely turquoise knives.  But a good old fashioned Swiss would do nicely as well.  I have walked around with a steak knife in my pocket before getting a pocket knife.  A pocket knife folds up, y’all.  Just get one.  You can easily cut fresh greens, snip the twine off a bale of hay, or any number of other things that come up.  Cut open an apple, get one with a wine cork on it…instant picnic!  But really, yesterday I went to feed the goats forgetting that it was a new bale and pulling and pushing around the hay bale doesn’t get it undone.  I forgot my knife in the house.  Back in my apron pocket it goes.

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4. Work Gloves– It took us awhile but it wasn’t long before we figured out that we needed some work gloves.  We had several lying around but we keep them by the door now.  From mending fences, to digging fresh soil, from picking up a sick chicken, to bringing in firewood, gloves are imperative.

Even Maryjane has her own pair thanks to her Grandma Dawn!

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5. Cast Iron Pans– I spent a good many years buying those cheap Teflon pans in lovely colors only to get Teflon in my eggs and needing new pans.  We have a nice collection of cast iron now (always on the lookout for a new piece) and they will be passed down to our children’s children’s children!  They stay in great shape, can be whipped into shape if they have been neglected too long, can go from fire to stovetop, and are great for cooking.

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6. Cuckoo Clocks and Wind Up Clocks– Same reason as the oil lamps, should the power go out you wouldn’t even know!  We keep our clocks wound and love the gentle ticking.  The bird that appears thrills our granddaughter and visiting children (and many adults).  We don’t have any clocks with that dreadful LED light up display.  The last one was discretely placed in the giveaway pile.  I like the feel of a vacation home.  That I live in a vacation home.  Plenty of things to read and do, not a lot of electric stimulation, just gentle lighting and sounds.

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There are many nice things to have on a homestead; seeds, tools, books, board games, matches, coffee, a man…but these six things will get you started!

Farmgirl Swap

Hi, my name is Katie and I am computer illiterate.  Ok, I can find my way around a computer but anything more than folders on the desktop, email, and Facebook and I turn it over to Doug who is a happily retired computer guy.  Just like overhead lighting, anything with a red or blinking light gets unplugged.  I dream of gadget free households, unplugged, off grid, by candlelight.  Doug looks at me in horror when I say things like that.  So, why on earth am I asking for a laptop and camera for our anniversary as well as a spinning wheel?  To blog.

Such a simple thing, to write stories and ideas and share memories and hopes for the future but once I started putting pen to paper…ahem…fingertips to keyboard (I do miss my old typewriter) I am enthralled, complete, and inspired.  Here in our little corner of the world I have friends, I love the people we surround ourselves with, I love our town.  In any time period before, this is all I would know.  I have been enlightened by farm girls (and guys) all over the country….nay, world through this blog.  Farmgirls choosing what chickens to get this year, what to plant this year, how to afford land of their own, how to raise children, what to can this year.  I have kindred spirits in other states, secretly holding each other up, cheering each other on, laughing at jokes, and sharing recipes and experiences that have thus far only been found in library books.  Real people, real friends stretched out across the globe, together.  This blog has helped the world get very small for me and comforting.

I am so thankful for all the other bloggers out there, as well as for the friends that see me nearly every day that still read my blog and comment.  You have no idea how much that means to me.  I have been inspired to go back and finish what I started, a writing degree.  Grandma is going back to college!  Luckily Metro State has lots of late thirties students….I think.  I dream of teaching writing and literature part time at a community college, getting a book deal, supporting a homestead which we both want so much.  All because of a blog.

The laptop is so that I can write outdoors when the weather warms up.  I don’t like being cooped up!  The camera is so I can stop stealing Doug’s ITouch to take pictures.  But, then that is all, no more gadgets!  I just need enough to connect.

Now, you are probably wondering where the farmgirl swap comes in.  I was reading  http://simplyhomesteading.wordpress.com and Eileen was making aprons. We are like two farmgirls split at birth, I swear, we write about nearly all the same things.  Except for the butchering stuff, I have never had a deer on my dining room table and if there were, we probably would be petting it and wondering where to keep our new pet.  But, she is a homesteading girl of humorous words, and a similar life and ambition and I just adore her.  I suggested we make each other aprons.  An apron swap.  This is what we came up with.  I made her the one with the rooster on it.  I was so pleased with it, I am going to make some more to sell at the farmer’s market.  And she made me this sassy Mennonite number.  I love it.  And through the world wide web, two farm girls connected and now have lovely aprons to get us through our chores!

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Farmgirl Aprons

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Out of all the fascinating literature and school work that my seventh grade teacher taught, the one thing I remember her saying is, “One day, when you are in your late thirties you will stop worrying about what other people think about you.”  This was in response to our incessant trying to keep up on fashion and with the other students.  The nervous, pre-teens giggled, scoffed and wiggled in their seats and shook their heads sure that wouldn’t happen.  I remember thinking, “I can’t wait for that.”  I was quite doubtful, however.

Well, sure enough, late thirties, and I couldn’t care less what people think about the way I dress.  It is liberating, fantastic!  And, I am indeed trying to bring aprons back mainstream.  Seldom will you find me without one.  I have ones for around the house, ones for parties, ones for karaoke, ones for the store, and ones that match everything.  They are a charming accessory to any outfit.  I love the vintage feel, the glamorous housewife, the perfect hostess, the beauty of a fashion culture ended with the Flower Children.

But not only that, aprons are practical.  I have a place for my knife to open straw bales and letters.  A place for a tissue and a couple of bucks.  The funny thing is, no matter what I am wearing or where we are at, I always seem to pull a clothes pin out of my pocket!  A testament to my lifestyle, I guess.

The other thing that appeals to me so is the histories behind these lovely articles of clothing.  They tell stories of the women that made them or the places I got them.  For instance the one above is not old, it was in a tea house that my Grandma and I used to frequent.  When my Grandma felt better we had Tuesday outings.  We’d leave the kids with Grandpa for some Taco Bell and Grandpa time and Grandma and I would skirt off to IHOP or a tea house and a little shopping.  I bought this apron on a whim.  It will serve to remind me of Tuesday outings.

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The red apron was made by my friend, Kat’s, grandmother.  Kat enjoys giving me wonderful vintage items from her family for holidays because I think she knows how much I love them and treasure them and their stories.  Kat is in her young, early sixties, so I can speculate how long ago her grandma would have made this, and the others that Kat has bestowed upon me.  I can see her grandmother at the sewing machine with a piece of lovely fabric making these practical and pretty aprons.  The pocket on this one is a doily.  How clever!

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When the children were little I made furry puppets that wrapped around one’s neck and waist and fastened.  They looked a bit like sloths.  I got the pattern from my grandma who had made them for myself and my siblings when I was younger. The ones I made my children were loved dearly as well.  We took them to craft shows and at one particular show met a charming, grandmother-like woman.  With dark eyes, and dark skin, and a heavy bosom for hugging children, no doubt, she emanated sweetness and Southern charm.  She told Doug and I that if we could run by her house, she had a few items that she had sewed that she wanted to give me.  I don’t know if she even knew our names.  We went to her humble apartment, and though she wasn’t home, she had left a bag on the door.  Inside was filled with home sewn napkins of beautiful fabrics and hand towels and two aprons, this being my favorite one of the two.  This is my around the house apron because it covers the most and can stand up to wet laundry and white flour.  Her kindness will forever stay with me bound in the stitches of this homey apron.

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This is my newest apron from Kat that I received this Christmas.  The bottom fringe is hand crocheted and taken from an old pillow case while the top is a thin, spring-like pink floral.  It is so pretty, I feel like a princess wearing it.

I have over twenty aprons in my collection, some given, some bought, some that I made.  Aprons were my first clothing project, and even though I haven’t evolved much past that, it did help me figure out how to make skirts.  Aprons are wonderful gifts.  Everyone should have an apron or two, or twenty, in their artillery as a farm girl!