How to Make a House a Home (decorating styles)

The thought of starting over both exhausts and excites me.  I am moving to a simple box of a home with an acre of wildness.  I asked a friend of mine who lives out there about wildlife.  “I suppose I will be back with wildlife,” I wrote.  “Deer?  Coyotes?” I ventured.

She wrote back, “Deer, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, bears, mountain lions, hawks, owls.”

My chickens are toast, I thought.

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Outside of fencing in the chickens, the rest of the gardens will wait.  Fencing, soil, amendments, and careful planning over the winter’s months will result in a full fledged gardening and farm animal movement.  In the meantime, I turn to the house.

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In my mind’s eye, I see it burgundy with white trim, dark brown rustic shutters, and a wrap around porch.  I have no doubt that will come to be, but first, we work indoors!

How do you get the feel of a house?  How do you choose your decorating and design in a new place?  It is easy in old houses.  The old wood floors and crooked lines and personality shine through.  Doug was surprised that I liked the house we chose.  He commented that I don’t usually like new.

The house we spent eight years in after being married and when our children were young was an ugly bi-level in a suburb.  The photos of the place were on the internet as we peeked at real estate recently.  Gone were my murals and whimsical painted cupboards.  Also gone were the broken hand rails and the bare sub-floor.  That house swiftly fell apart the moment we bought it.  We were astounded by the new recessed lighting, sharp looking kitchen, soft carpet, and beige walls.  It was very rich looking and very…boring.  That house was all about homeschooling and raising children.  The downstairs was an art room and library with cement floors they could ride their scooters on.  The upstairs was open for entertaining and was full of color.  I don’t miss it though.  Once we made our exit to the country, I didn’t think I’d be back in the city!

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Back in the city, in a fancy apartment that looked out across the skyline of mountains that we rented for a year while saving up for a house, I decorated with eastern Indian motifs.  Golds and sharp pinks, black and white designs, and an area for yoga so that I could look out at the mountains and wonder how our life got turned so around that I was living in an apartment a few miles from that first house!  The colors were stimulating and inspiring.  A country look would not have worked.  And that was my calming place to get my mind right after so much loss.

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My design inspiration for my current house.  I kept it on my fridge for a year dreaming of my own homestead.

Here in this home, that used to be a farmhouse, the design is simple.  We moved in with practically nothing and it didn’t take long to fill it with hand me downs and antiques.  It is colorful with chili ristras and my bright paintings, yet serene with comfy seating and lots of plants, thanks to all the natural light.  The decor is incredibly eclectic, bouncing from Amish country to New Mexican to old farmhouse.

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New house decorating inspiration.

We are now moving to a circa 1993 (my baby was born in 1993) home with brand new greige paint (the newest trend- grey/beige blend), and fresh floors, and newer appliances, and not a hint of personality.  But I can find it, harness it, use it to create a new home.

The house has an incredible view of the surrounding mountains.  The acre is filled with cactus and cedar and other southwest, desert plants.  Snowfall will create a breathtaking view.

We are at a different stage of our life now.  We want to have enough beds to host all of our children in hopes of big country Christmases.  I want the house to feel welcoming, calming, inspiring, grown up, with a sense of fun and whimsy placed here and there.  A homestead, but modern farmhouse style.  I will take the greige and use it as my base of ideas.  Creams, dark woods, and warm knits will give it a hygge (Nordic) feel.  A mix of industrial, Nordic farmhouse, and cabin elements with lots of light and coziness.

Clear the clutter will be my motto and striking single pieces will replace lots of stuff.  We have our eye on a large, tall book shelf complete with a ladder.  The high ceilings will allow it.  Image it filled with all of my brewing herbal extracts with suspended plants, and stained glass-like jars of canned goods lining the shelves.  I am painting my dark piano cream.

Our shelves of books will line a wall in our new office/sewing room with a pull out couch.  The guest room will boast a stunning queen sized bunk bed.  The television will sit on a roll cart that can easily be put in a closet.  I despise having to decorate around a blasted, ugly television!  An oriental rug in the slim kitchen and blackboard doors on the pantry.  The oil lamps keep getting knocked over by a very large farm dog, so they will be replaced (*sigh) with elegant lamps.  Whimsical vintage signs and things we love, like drawings from Maryjane, greenery, and photographs.  Yes, this will be a lovely home.

The inspection on our new house is today and I will take along a measuring tape and graph paper to measure and plan.  This is my favorite part of moving!

Here are a few tips on how to find the personality and decorating style for your home.

1- Find the story behind the house.  Use surrounding scenery and house style to find the personality of the home.

2- Where are you in life?  Raising kids or working from home will all change the needs of the house.

3- What colors make you perk up?  What design elements (antiques, old/new signs, plants) make you smile?

4- Can you reuse what you have?  What do you need to buy?

5- Decorate with what you love.  Even if they don’t “match,” you will find that they end up seamlessly working with everything else.

6- Check out design and decorating books from the library and cut out decorating ideas you love from magazines.  I keep a huge binder of them and look at them each time I want to redecorate or move.

7- Fill your home with visiting friends, laughter, great books, candle light, and a kettle for tea.  Music, less electronics, and joy will make your home a respite from the world.  I think I might turn in my smart phone for a home phone and a record player.

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Gone Vintage and the El Rancho Hotel

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There is nothing like the excitement of going on holiday.  I love the lists of things to remember and dreaming of places to come.  My friend, Mindy gave me one of these suitcases and the other I inherited from my Grandma.  To me, they represent the golden era of travel with sleek, hard covers, ready to take on the world.  Since we are taking a road trip, the cases fit nicely in Fernando the Fiat.  The beautiful landscape of New Mexico flies by the window.  Clouds that seem painted on the flat, domed sky.  Red rocks and Creator-made walls of horizontal color schemes.  Breathtaking country.

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Just under ten hours into our trip, down the historic Route 66, we arrived at El Rancho Hotel in Gallup, New Mexico.  It was such a pleasant surprise.  You don’t always know what you are booking on the internet and this place is just too fun.  Dozens and dozens of old, autographed head shots and photographs from movies being filmed here line the walls.  Some of my favorites.  Some of the greats, Jimmy Stewart, Lucille Ball, Doris Day, Humphrey Bogart.

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The hotel is still like it was in 1936.  A historical beacon carefully crafted to impress the Hollywood set of the era.  The décor is rugged southwest.  Stone and Pendleton and wood.

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We waited in the elevator for the attendant.  The original elevator takes some skill to travel exactly to the correct floor.

 

Memorabilia of a bustling time remain set around the lobby.  A player piano, a place to get your shoes shined, a cigarette machine, and stamps at a fraction of the current rate.

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My vintage looking hat cocked to the side and my beloved old turquoise pleases me as I stand atop the curved wood staircase with red carpet or sit in the lobby with a cocktail imagining the comings and goings of the movie elite and the glamorous upper set with suitcases and sunglasses and perfect 1940’s hair.  A cigarette confidently smoking between fingers and laughter and parties.  I would have loved to have seen it.

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There is rich history in this state that I love and there is more where we are going.  Today we head off to Arizona.

(El Rancho Hotel and Motel, 1000 East Highway 66, Gallup, New Mexico)

 

 

Redecorating the Farmhouse, part 1- Painting the Furniture

20180723_141059_Burst01I had good intentions when I painted it the first time!  Instead of a lovely, muted pumpkin orange, the ten dollar table from a yard sale looked more like it was showing its football pride.  (I love Broncos as much as the next Coloradan but not in the kitchen!)  The orange paint started peeling off right away because yours truly didn’t sand the top.

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The lovely young woman staying with me donned an apron and helped me redecorate and restore.  She may as well be one of my children.  We sanded off the old paint, which didn’t take much, and roughed up the surface.

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I wanted a chalkboard top.  We looked and looked for chalkboard paint in the aisle and could only find spray paint.  Then we saw “chalk style” paint.  I thought it was a strange way to say chalkboard paint but we took it home all the same and applied it to the table.  It was watery.  And then I remembered what chalk paint is!  It is like white wash.  It adds a vintage look to furniture.

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I painted the legs.  The table has been transformed from football to farmhouse!

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Now, one quart of Country White paint- which is just a touch cream- makes all the difference in the world to cast offs.  Take this brown bookshelf.  I have never loved the brown.  I always meant to paint it.

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It is amazing how much different it looks and how comforting and country it now looks.

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A brown side table and vintage mirror got the same treatment.

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I will show y’all tomorrow how these pieces, along with a little chaos and hard work, transformed my house into a beautiful farmhouse!

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It gets worse before it gets better, y’all!

 

The Farmgirl Bath; Before and After

This is one of those cases where paint really did save the day.  No fancy remodels.  Just paint and fresh towels.  If I could find a few vintage floral prints to hang up, that would really make the room.

To start, the bathroom was full of spiders and dirt.  Whatever kid lived here last had pizza on his fingers and left marks throughout the house.  The bathroom was dingy and plain.

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Now, I am one that would prefer to count blessings over wrinkles so I do not want bright white light with bright white walls.  A light shade of rose tones the space down and gives a glow of health and less wrinkles to anyone who peers in the mirror.

The key to making different colored rooms appear seamless is the use of a color throughout all the rooms.  In this house’s case, I am using that lush, dark brown as trim throughout.  It was also used on the bead board in the bath.  The dark brown instantly transports me to old hotels we have stayed in and makes the bathroom go from frilly pink to all grown up and slightly French.

After two weeks of packing, moving, rearranging my shop, and painting, I am ready to try out that new bath tub!

A Simpler Idea Board

I love this concept from Country Living magazine.  Take a picture or photograph that strikes you, that you love, that inspires you, and build a room (or house) around it.  I have had this picture torn from the back of the same magazine on my fridge for most of last year.  It is so lovely in its simplicity, the apron, the chicks, the colors, the flowers, it feels like home.  The saying, “Despite the forecast, live like it’s spring” has certainly been inspirational.

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Taking elements from this photo, I will put together the living room.  I think light yellow paint, soft like the chicks we will get in spring, will be lovely.

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A new sofa cover

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Post cards that belonged to my friend, Kat’s, grandmother, Hilda. These gems are over 100 years old and the text whispers stories of times past. Like the one that reads about a friend’s new fangled wringer washer!

Next week I will begin painting and making the home feel like spring.

Vintage Handkerchiefs (a crochet project)

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I love many things from bygone eras, especially vintage wear.  I particularly like the look of handkerchiefs worn about the hair.  I do not wear common head bands as they give me a headache.  I do like my hair out of my face though when I am working around my farm.

I used to make the girls dresses and would sew a matching triangular handkerchief to wear on their heads.  They were adorable.

I also used to collect vintage handkerchiefs and wear them around.  Gorgeous prints, lavender flowers, one that was orange trimmed.  One day when I met Doug’s grandma for lunch some very long time ago, she took one look at my hair covered with the lovely lavender handkerchief and asked horrified, “Why are you wearing that schmatte?’

I was a little taken aback, a lot younger, and truly cared what people thought.  To her, it signified peasant wear, a poor woman, and after World War II and growing up poorer than some, she wanted nothing to do with anything that didn’t hint at affluence.  She was a sweet woman, God rest her soul, but she didn’t have a filter.  I took the handkerchief off and for years did not wear one.

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After seeing Sound of Music once again, I dug through my drawers to find the missing handkerchiefs.  I only found one and it is a bit tattered.  We go to a knitting club at the coffee shop every Monday and I had an idea.  How cute would it be to crochet one?  Not an original idea, I am sure, but original to me!

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First I bought the ribbon yarn that is used in so many scarf patterns.  I carefully crocheted the tops and then the bottoms of the ribbon creating almost a hat, a gorgeous lavender hat, that is actually a handkerchief.  Then I made one with regular yarn.  It, too, turned out cute and will look quite nice holding my hair out of my face during farmer’s markets this year.

Here’s the rough pattern for the regular yarn: (You can use the same pattern for the ribbon yarn just don’t pull all the way through.  One row is crochet the top of the ribbon, second row is the bottom of the ribbon, etc.)

Chain as many as you need for the string to go from ear to ear.  28 is a good place to start.

Then turn it, slip stitch into the first hole then chain three in the second hole.

Triple stitch into each hole up to the second to last hole and turn.

Repeat, gradually decreasing stitches until the end is a peak.

You can be as creative as you wish with this project.

Use a piece of yarn or ribbon and weave through the top.  This ties under your hair.

This came together in about 30 minutes!  Enough time to catch up with the girls, have a cup of coffee, and still get home to make supper.

I’d love to see pictures of your creations.  Katie@Gardenfairyherbal.com

Let’s bring vintage back….I actually don’t mind looking like a peasant!

The Spookable Home

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I love decorating, I love holidays.  I do not have a vacation home, or a weekend home, I barely get the rent paid on this beauty.  Our home is our retreat and I want it to be fun and whimsical!

My bear holds a candle to greet folks coming by in the evening.

My bear holds a candle to greet folks coming by in the evening.

My decorating style momentarily would have to be deemed Vintage Farmhouse Adobe.  My Halloween decorating style would have to called Charming Spook.

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We have always loved Halloween around here.  Not the scary, gory, stay up all night watching horror movies kind, but the Charlie Brown pumpkin patch, Martha Stewart deco, stay up all night watching Winnie the Pooh Halloween kind of spooky.

A line of small pumpkins and a cauldron greet visitors.

A line of small pumpkins and a cauldron greet visitors.

When the kids were little we plastered the walls with cardboard cutouts and fake spider webs.  Boxes of costumes stood at the ready to be worn any day during October.  The kids would come home from school one day to the house filled with scary music (Mickey Mouse Halloween tape) and I would be at the stove stirring a pot of Witch’s Brew with my witch hat on.  A large cardboard cutout of a witch hung above the dining room table on her broom and we called her grandma.  Every square inch of house decorated with something charmingly scary.

Last year's scarecrow with Bret (Emily's boyfriend), Emily (in blue), Shyanne, and Andrew.

Last year’s scarecrow with Bret (Emily’s boyfriend), Emily (in blue), Shyanne, and Andrew.

We go to a historic park that puts on a pumpkin patch and festival every year.  And I mean, every year.  We are taking Maryjane for the first time this year.  Sadly, Andrew will be in Tennessee for the weekend with his friend and will miss our yearly outing.  Last year, the house was oddly empty.  The kids were here, but not here.  Too old to play witches, the recipe for my witch’s brew already known (apple cider heated with pumpkin pie spice), and trick or treating with mom and dad out of the question, we had a sad holiday.  We didn’t decorate much.  The kids never came home to carve pumpkins.  We left a large bowl of candy on the stoop and went to Red Lobster.  It was depressing.

Maryjane in her new costume.

Maryjane in her new costume.

This year, the kids are still not here but I want the house to emanate Halloween as Doug and I love it too.  And when the kids do come by, particularly Maryjane, there will be whimsical fun for all.  I started by planting a very large pumpkin patch spanning the entire front yard.  It is now full of orange orbs and dying leaves.  Very spooky.  A simple sign stating it to be haunted is all it takes to make it fit the holiday.  I left the corn stalks up because they just scream spooky evening with their tall shadows in the dark.

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We don’t have the walls plastered with cardboard or window clings.  We may not have five carved pumpkins.  But, I did want to have an air of spooky fun throughout the house.  This can be easily done with just a few touches.

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I like to decorate with a mix of vintage touches, natural elements, and lights.  I abhor overhead lighting.  My every day oil lamps and candles play the part of old Halloween house just fine.  A few pieces we have picked up over the years like miniature cauldrons, metal signs, and dark candelabras help bring the spirit of the season in without it looking cluttered or cheesy.

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A leaf covered table cloth and a generous scattering of pumpkins help make the place feel like Autumn.

My favorite decorations are my two black cats, Clara and Booboo.

My favorite decorations are my two black cats, Clara and Booboo.

Getting those blankets out and throwing them haphazardly over seating, a black cat, and a pile of books invites people to curl up and relax.

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Indian corn on the table, orange twinkly lights, and pumpkin pie spice coffee.  Happy Spooking!

100 Year Old China (and other heirlooms to use)

There are attics and basements everywhere filled with unique treasures.  Grandmother’s china, photographs, clothing, old aprons, beautiful linens, scrumptious cookbooks.

I have been collecting aprons for years now and friends have gifted me with hand sewn beauties that belonged to their grandmothers.  I have Doug’s grandma’s old, old, china.  I have fabulous old cookbooks.  I have things that I do not want to get ruined.

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I think many people do not want to use their old treasures for fear of ruining them.  I understand.  I am saddened that some of my old apron pockets are ripping off along with the material they are attached to because I wear aprons every day and especially to the farmer’s market where I keep everything in my apron pockets.  I do not want any of our heirloom dishes to be broken.  They are truly irreplaceable.  I don’t like that the pages are falling out of my old cookbooks.  I don’t want any of my vintage items to be destroyed.  I do not want to keep them in a box to keep safe either though.  What would be the good of that?

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What is the point of having things if you don’t use them?  My grandmother has closets and closets of dolls she paid hundreds of dollars for that were supposed to be worth thousands now.  They are not.  My mother-in-law gave me a box of towels from the May Company from the early 60’s with the tags still attached.  Why?  They don’t look so pretty now but we are using and loving them!  Things are meant to be used.  They will either waste away unappreciated and unloved in a box or can be part of a busy family’s lovely day to day living.  Material things may not be important but they do add or subtract from one’s atmosphere and living among beautiful and practical items does make life nicer.

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If you don’t use it or don’t love it, pitch it.  Give it away.  If you love it, even if you don’t want it to be ruined, get it out and use it.  Love it.  Enjoy it.  Crystal dishes for breakfast.  An old tablecloth on the family table.  Don an old apron.  Honor the person who made it or bought it by enjoying it.  Heirlooms are meant to be seen and used!

Farmgirl Chic

Farmgirl fashions have not changed much in the past couple hundred years.  Maybe our bloomers and corsets have been replaced with Victoria Secrets (a farmgirl has to feel a little sexy while shoveling manure) but the outer layers remain the same.  Such practical clothing has endured for a reason.  Now, many farmgirls I know do wear jeans.  I am five foot ten and a hundred fifteen pounds.  They don’t make jeans for me.  If the legs are long enough they figure I must larger so the crotch hangs down to my knees.  If the waist fits then I have high waters and the crotch goes up my… never mind.  Anyways, I don’t like jeans and rarely wear them.

In high school I wanted to be a fashion designer and took classes and came up with some pretty great designs.  Pity my sewing skills are limited to quilts, aprons, and skirts (like the one below).  My patience limited to small quilts, aprons, and skirts!  So, this is the city girl in me making homesteading clothes high fashion!

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First, very important, the skirt.  The long, flowy skirt is fabulous in winter by keeping you warm, and in summer by keeping you cool.  My long skirts take me from season to season with only the addition of a heavy slip and tights in the winter, and flip flops in the summer.  I love the New Mexican style layered skirts.  I also pick up a new skirt every year from the Elizabeth Celtic Festival.  The young lady who has a booth next to mine makes the most beautiful, practical A-line skirts with elastic that are (gasp) long enough for me.  They are always made with tapestry-like fabric and in glorious prints.

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A wool sweater is a must.  It has been the oddest season here in Colorado this year and for more than a week we have been below zero at night and not a whole lot more than seventeen degrees in the day.  Bundle up!  They last forever.

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Vintage clothing is great for going to town.  This plaid, wool skirt is warm and cute paired with tights.  Equally cute in the spring without.

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The boots are important.  I bought Crocs.  Very comfortable, covered in chicken #$#% and the snow leaks in the holes.  Tried galoshes.  Freakin’ adorable.  Not so much with the crack on the side.  Snow leaks in the hole.  I finally broke down and bought leather boots.  I said sorry and thanks to the cow that helped make them possible and I know that the boots will last a lot longer than the other footwear I have bought in the past, therefore I am being a bit better environmentally.  They are pretty cute though and they withstand everything I hand them.  Paired with alpaca socks in the winter, my feet stay cozy, light socks in the summer will make them look super cute in the garden.

Cute boots with Eliza

In the summer, fun sun dresses with the boots will be brought back out.  I’m Irish, English, Scottish, and Dutch….Mama needs a little sun on those legs come spring!  Luckily there are a few Native American grandmas in the mix to help me get a little tan.

Lastly, the party dress.  This picture is from last year’s fashion show I did for a company that turns old vintage dresses into cowgirl outfits.  Old vintage dresses go perfectly with sparkly high heels or cowboy boots and can be made casual or dressy.  With big chunks of turquoise, you will be ready for any event!

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One only needs a few flowy skirts, sweaters, warm socks, and good boots to get through the winter and a few great sun dresses and flip flops for summer.  There is only one thing you mustn’t forget…an apron! (see apron post in Crafts)

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!