Aprons In Appalachia

Aprons in appalachia

My Granny Gazzie always wore an apron. I suppose Mamaw did too but I don’t really remember hers. Granny Gazzie’s aprons had pockets on them for holding tissues or other handy items. Growing up Granny wore aprons too, but not all the time like Granny Gazzie.

Granny wore an apron when she had just come from work or church and needed to get supper or dinner cooked. And she always wears an apron when she’s canning or putting up stuff.

Me-I never wear an apron. When I get home from work I change clothes before I start cooking or doing any other messy type of chore. I have ‘around the house clothes’ you know t-shirts with stains all over them that don’t need protecting from a few additional stains.

Last summer there was big doings at work. I still needed to wear dress clothes, but I was also running back and forth managing food and generally pitching in where ever help was needed. One of the other ladies had a long apron she put on over her dress clothes. The apron had pockets to hold her keys and phone. It didn’t take but one look at her apron to give me instant apron lust.

That night I rummaged around until I found an apron the girls had gotten me for Christmas back when they were in elementary school. The next day I was in apron heaven as I scurried back and forth between buildings and chores. My nice clothes were protected and my phone and keys were handy if I needed them.

Back in May I attended one of the loveliest weddings I have ever been too. It was held at the John C. Campbell Folk School. Not only was the wedding lovely it was fun too! Chatter and Chitter invited several friends to attend the event with them. There was music, dancing, a parade, well wishing, and good food. Believe it or not there was even a fiddler playing traffic guard.

Once the parade made it back to the festival barn we sat around and talked about how cool the wedding was and how good the food smelled and how we couldn’t wait to taste it. Chitter said she was going to go see how long it might be till the buffet table was ready.

She was gone for a good while and we began to wonder where she went-I mean how could she disappear in the festival barn? Suddenly one of her friends poked me in the shoulder and pointed. Here came Chitter wearing a long apron carrying a tray of food. It was just one of the funniest things. She looked like she knew what she was doing, like she was catering the wedding herself. We looked at each other and busted out laughing.

Chatter said I’m going to go see what she thinks she’s doing. As you can probably guess a short time later we saw Chitter wearing her own long apron, carrying her own tray of food. For the rest of the evening Chatter and Chitter wore their aprons like badges of honor.

The next morning I noticed the aprons laying in the living room. I said “Girls why did you bring these home you should have left them at the folk school.” They informed me the lovely bride told them they could keep the aprons as payment for pitching in with the food. Now every time the girls cook they tie on their special aprons before getting started.

Once I started thinking about aprons it seemed everywhere I looked there was someone wearing one. The beginners group of the Kudzu Kickers Clogging Team recently learned a routine where they come out on the stage like little baby chicks. Mother Hen leads them on the stage-wearing a chicken themed apron.

Little middle 2014 chatter and chitter


The first day of little middle I received the photo above on my phone. The girls were honored to receive another apron! They were assisting Kim Joris (aka best recycle artist EVER) in her class and Kim’s mother made them an apron with deep pockets to wear for the week. Those pockets were perfect for holding the tools necessary to construct the creations the class made.

So now that I’ve assured you aprons are alive and well in Appalachia-how about at your house-are aprons a must?


You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    May 16, 2016 at 7:29 pm

    I love aprons. My great Granny was from the mountains of Tennessee. Mama G was what we called her. Always wore an apron or smock. In regards to bonnets. I knew another lady who could make anything. After she turned 97, she said she was to old to crawl around in the floor tacking quilts. So she made dolls and bonnets. She would recycle old prom or wedding dresses to make very elaborate outfits, complete with petticoats. She liked to use those stiff plastic super sized cups from the gas station cut to size for the “visor” as well for the body of a doll if someone had given her a broken doll. Lol I can only pray I am as wonderful as she and my grannies one day.

  • Reply
    August 18, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    Sure enjoyed this post. I’ve started wearing an apron in the last few years. Love having the handy pockets–as well as not messing up clothes.
    Re: sunbonnets and how the brims were made stiff: some were called ‘slat bonnets’—because they used thin wood or bamboo slats slipped into sewn strips. Later, some folks used cardboard instead.
    There are a lot of different designs. The most practical have a deeper brim and a long flap in the back to give more protection from the sun. A disadvantage to the really deep brims, however, is that it’s like wearing blinders. You can see anything out to the sides without turning your head.

  • Reply
    August 7, 2014 at 8:48 am

    What an interesting post and comments! And I love those clever denim aprons the girls are wearing.
    I’d been thinking about making myself an apron for some time, but then I noticed that every piece of clothing I wear these days is stained, frayed, comfortable, and has big, useful pockets. I think this means my entire “wardrobe” of about 8 items is already nothing but a collection of aprons! 😉

  • Reply
    August 4, 2014 at 10:13 pm

    My mom and aunties always wore an apron. There is just something empowering when wearing an apron! I simply LOVE the creative denim aprons and am already scheming on how to make one of these! Your blog and the background music continue to inspire me.

  • Reply
    August 2, 2014 at 9:50 pm

    I love aprons! A couple of years ago one of my daughters bought some material and asked me to make some aprons for several nieces on her husband’s side of the family. They turned out so cute with pockets and pleats that I wound up making about 35 for friends and family! What fun! And you know what? I don’t have one!

  • Reply
    August 2, 2014 at 5:44 pm

    Ed-you are so right! He has more than one apron : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    Peggy Shifflett
    August 2, 2014 at 7:45 am

    My momma used her apron for everything you have put down above. She also used it to chase flies out of the house when we had a fly roundup. Us kids used towels and Momma used her apron. We got behind the flies and drove them through the back door and outside. Peggy S.

  • Reply
    August 2, 2014 at 1:48 am

    Both of our Grandmothers (and Great Grandmothers too) wore aprons all the time that I recall; one Grandmothers was pretty, embroidered and heavily used, and the others was more plain and still heavily used, and ever single one of them had a handkie in the pocket to wipe a child’s nose at a moment’s notice – whether the child wanted it wiped or not. LOL
    I remember one of them scolding, “All ladies wear aprons” and I remember one of them accidentally wearing one to Sunday church under her overcoat, and having to snatch it off and stuff it in her pocket all embarrassed when someone noticed and reminded her of it.
    And I remember when our Maternal Great Grandmother died, all laid out in her Sunday finest, that everyone said it didn’t look like her because she wasn’t wearing an apron, and I remember thinking that was true cause even as a fairly young child then, not yet a teen, I thought so too.
    Our Mother wore one, mostly only on holidays though that I recall, and Lord knows I’ve tried wearing one but have taken to wearing old clothes when I cook instead, cause I just can’t remember to put on an apron, and I’m more comfortable in old clothes anyway.
    Sad it seems they’re going away with days passed, doesn’t it!?! Guess many “ladies” aren’t being raised nowadays – sometimes that surely seems so, at least in many many houses.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    August 1, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    Some of the womenfolk where I used to work wore aprons that were like a long piece of cloth with a head hole in the middle. It was the same front and back except the front had two big pockets. It tied on both sides. They kept all their ties, tags, markers and such in it.
    Men wear aprons too, you know. Nail aprons. Tool aprons. Men who do welding and grinding wear leather aprons. I’ll bet the Deer Hunter has an apron.

  • Reply
    Shirley Owens
    August 1, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    Tipper, Thanks for this post. I started using aprons faithfully when I retired. I find that in the morning or during the day I may sit around too much. But, I have magic aprons that inspire me to get my chores done. I put on the apron and something lights up my whole being with energy and motivation. I know this sounds silly, but the power of suggestion is definitely at work here. My Mother and Grandmothers all wore aprons all day. They had very few dresses, so it was necessary to keep them clean a couple of days if possible before washing them, thus the bib on every one. And the uses of the apron are countless. Don’t get me started on that. Anyway, since I started wearing them and making some real pretty ones, too, seems all the females in my family want one or two. Guess what I am sewing them for Christmas. I’m glad I could inspire them and pass on good things from my folks, too. Chitter and Chatter look great in theirs. I hope they hold onto that tradition for sure. I continue to love the blog.

  • Reply
    August 1, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    I love aprons, too, Tipper! My grandma always had one on all day. I always wear one when I can, but seems I usually forget for regular cooking and end up with flour and grease on my ‘at home’ clothes. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    August 1, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    and Ed…I had almost forgot about my Granny on my Daddy’s side. As she was getting pretty old she would sit in the rocker, with her apron on, her snuff can and birch stick in one pocket. Her “hankercherf” that she used to wipe the corners of her mouth sticking out of the other pocket. Her spit can was on the floor beside her rocker rail…Yes, back then those old handmade wooden rockers were low. She kept a piece or two of Horehound candy in her pocket with her snuff can sometimes. Mostly she sent us to climb up her dresser, to the top drawer for her candy stash, for the grandkids and to replenish her apron pocket. Don’t ask me how she ate Horehound candy with a dip of snuff in her mouth too…ewwwwwww! But, you know it didn’t bother me that much when I was young, not until I got older and started thinking about it.
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…She always took that “hankercherf” out of her apron pocket and wiped her lips before giving us a goodbye kiss!
    I wish I had one of those snuff kisses today!

  • Reply
    August 1, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    I just love those creative aprons. I only seem to wear them when cooking on special holidays like Christmas. I have sewed a few in my days and I really like the ones a friend of mine made that cover the chest and bottom and fit the body with a short sleeve. I’m a very messy cook. I also love the picture – it’s a keeper for an album.

  • Reply
    Glynda Chambers
    August 1, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Tipper, I love aprons, my mom wore an apron every day. I think she put it on when she got dressed in the mornings and didn’t take it off till she got ready for bed. I have collected several aprons over the years and will wear one like at Christmas or Thanksgiving when I’m doing a lot of cooking but I just love to find aprons at garage sales, thrift shops and consignment shops that are really pretty or a pretty design or size. Thanks for doing the post today on Aprons and hearing all the different stories about aprons.

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    August 1, 2014 at 11:48 am

    when I took Home Ec (dating myself, I know) our first project was an apron made from a yard of cloth. We were told to measure and then TEAR the fabric for band and ties. I have the clumsy-fumble fingers gene but I tried very hard and I made an “A” I kept very quiet about the tie on one side that was attached backwards!!!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    August 1, 2014 at 11:44 am

    Aprons are for blood, sweat and tears
    For hiding pieces of candy
    For keeping your little snuff can in
    Aprons are for hiding behind
    For clothes pins, diaper pins and bobbie pins
    For pencils, pens and scraps of paper
    Aprons are a lap full of string beans when you’re wearing pants
    For handkerchiefs and bandages
    For found objects swept from under the bed
    Aprons are for gathering and doling out
    For catching stains and covering rips and worn spots
    For playing grown up
    Aprons are mending kits and doctor bags
    For saving pretty rocks and arrowheads
    For mystery finds
    Aprons were worn by the real founders of our nation. Aprons are still worn by its foundation.

  • Reply
    August 1, 2014 at 11:13 am

    Mama never wore an apron but Granny always had one on at home. They were bib aprons that tied in the back. Granny wore dresses all her life & stockings that she rolled a knot in to hold them up. She would pick in the garden into the skirt of the apron.
    I saw a pattern for a “gathering apron” on the net & always meant to make one since I’m prone to use the bottom of my tee shirt the same way.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    August 1, 2014 at 10:56 am

    The girls look cute in their denim
    aprons. I use to wear something like this when working. It was so
    handy to have the mikes and scale
    right in front of you to measure
    things. Later I graduated to a white smock with big pockets.
    My mama wore an apron, but for the life of me, I can’t remember
    how she tied it on, cause of her
    left side being paralyzed…Ken
    PS: Good luck in Bryson.

  • Reply
    August 1, 2014 at 10:25 am

    I don’t know the exact reason, but I never wore an apron until retirement. I was despondent for a few weeks after, as personal reasons forced me out of the work force before my active mind was ready to go. One of my greatest helps was The Blind Pig. It just took me back to the wonderful world of gardening, canning, music, and kraut making, And, guess what, I actually had time to savor the recipes and share stories on the blog.
    Suddenly with the childhood memories of Appalachia becoming like a long lost friend, I started to don an apron. Why, I was just so busy with all my projects I had no time for pity parties, and that apron could hold a mess of cucumbers, clothespins, and protect my designer jeans. My life is so full now that an apron has become an important part of my life. My winter projects will be, yep, sewing aprons and maybe Barbie clothes. There is a marvelous pattern online for a aprons made with men’s old flannel shirts–sure wish I had one when I made that blackberry cobbler the other day.

  • Reply
    Darlene Debty Kimsey
    August 1, 2014 at 10:17 am

    My Granny Hughes wore an apron all day long. Whenever I was little and got in trouble with my Mama, I would run and hide my head under Granny’s apron. It was my shield 😀

  • Reply
    Gina S
    August 1, 2014 at 10:09 am

    Mama only occasionally wore an apron. I wondered why she kept several very pretty ones. The mother of my closest childhood friend always wore a long white apron from her waist to mid-calf. Back then kids ran free in the neighborhoods of my small town. The nearest mother was the mother of the moment. One day a boy stepped on a cardboard carton impaling his largest toe on a big staple. We ran helter skelter to the nearest house, screaming all the way. Mrs. B was awaiting the birth of her fifth child. When she saw the injury, her hands pulled her apron up so that its hem touched right on the space between her eyebrows. From the day of the child’s birth until she was ten or so, every time she cried or became angry a small red stain would come right between her eyebrows. Maybe it was only coincidence. I ate pickled beans cold right from the jar until I couldn’t get them anymore. Now I make a quick refrigerated version. Mama never tasted a pickled bean until she was carrying me and her mother in law gave her several pints. Mama inhaled them Coincidence? I don’t think so.

  • Reply
    Linda Womack
    August 1, 2014 at 10:08 am

    My Aunt used to make me a pinafore apron that I loved. I need to find a pattern. I love aprons, I always have two or three hanging in my kitchen. I’ve also given them as gifts.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    August 1, 2014 at 9:48 am

    When hanging out a few hand scrubbed (on the wash board) just a handful of items, my Mom and Grandmother would grab a few clothes pins from the bag on the porch. Into those apron pockets they went, rather than carry the whole clothes pin bag.,,
    Thanks Tipper
    I think the saying should be instead of “Handy as a pocket on a shirt!” It should be, “Handy as a pocket on an apron!”

  • Reply
    August 1, 2014 at 9:42 am

    Aprons have been on my mind lately too – but they are also on my body – I wear them for certain chores and for cooking if I don’t have my “scrubbies” on (clothes which have seen better days and I don’t mind getting a few more grease spots, snags, bleach outs, on/in them).
    My Kansas grandmother always wore one – almost a wrap around with cap sleeves – except when she went to church or when she finally slowed down to eat ice cream with a gathering (she reminded me of a little wren always skittering around – I obviously didn’t get her genes!). My great grandmother always had a full apron and so did my Texas grandmother but they had should straps and a bib – perhaps an accomodation to the south Texas heat and humidity. All usually had hankies in the pockets and a tea towel over their shoulder or stuffed in the side of the waist ties. Mom wore them the same way as do I. I don’t know what my Kansas Grandma made hers out of but the Texas branch all made them out of chicken feed sacks – usually after the sacks had served a few years as kids clothes or a dress. Many of the aprons were quite colorful as a result but sometimes they would use the sacks first to make a “nice” apron for wearing at church social and special family gatherings. Later on I can remember that it was a big event when we went to a fabric store for some nice aprons Grandma made for Christmas gifts. Think she had sold her chickens by then so no more chicken feed sacks.
    Mom used to have a crocheted half apron which was only worn when she hostessed women’s circle or music club or a card game. I don’t think it did much good as far as protecting her clothes – and she was always worried about snagging it on something – but guess it designated her as the hostess.
    This post brought on such a flood of memories; but it also brought on lots of questions! Could you please tell about the “wedding parade” tradition? Did this evolve from the chivarie tradition? And where do you find patterns for the yard bonnets Miss Cindy mentioned. My Texas Granny and Grandma both wore those anytime they were outside (along with Grandad’s or Grandpa’s shirts to protect their arms). I had hope to find one or two when their houses were cleaned out but no luck. I’ve searched on line for patterns but none seem quite like I remember – – and how did they get the rims so stiff?
    And one more apron question: When we visited historic Williamsburg Virginia some 40 years ago, they had a pattern for an apron which served as a shawl, a baby carrier, a supply carrier, and other things as well. Although I haven’t searched recently, I have yet to find one that serves as I remembered. Are you or any of your readers familiar with such an apron – or better yet, have a pattern for one?
    I hope your girls treasure their aprons. They are such useful things and can be a trove of memories!

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    August 1, 2014 at 9:40 am

    Yes, I grew up with apron wearing grandmothers, aunts and Mother. My Grandmother liked the ones that had the loop that went over the neck and hung down and tied in the back. Sometimes in the summer she clinked as she busied herself around. Only to find in a pocket a jar lid or two she had dropped in her apron pocket!
    My Aunt wore both types, but had to have one with big pockets. She wouldn’t have an apron from the local store, no pockets or none with pockets big enough. She didn’t sew only farmed and taught part-time at a little school early on in Mars Hill. She had someone make her aprons. Not often for they were wore out before tossin’ out! Pockets were not to carry cell phones and keys but to carry a little corn when she went to the chicken house to gather eggs. She would toss the corn over in the edge of the lot away from the house with the nests. The hens would all scramble over to get their share while my Aunt gathered the eggs. More than once she would say as she laughed, “Well, I guess I teased her off the nest ‘fore she had time to think ’bout that egg, ’cause it’s still hot!” Especially if it was one of her hens that tended to want to brood every time it laid an egg! When moving a hen with chicks about in the yard, I’ve see her pick up the chicks and put them in her apron pockets until she moved the turned over crate, that held the hen, over to a new scratching spot. then gently take the chicks from her apron pockets and drop the baby chicks down in front of a scolding hen!
    Aprons were pulled up and held at both ends to carry a little produce back to the house after hoeing a row or two of garden as well.
    Back in the fifties, my Mother, took off her cooking apron and donned her red and white crocheted apron, just before company got there. She wore it while the company was there.
    I remember my Uncle who was such a joker said to my Mother, “Ruth,I don’t think that
    apron yore wearin’ is goin’ to keep any spills off your dress”!
    It wouldn’t of course, it was just part of what the hostess wore. Mom had her fancy dress aprons as was common in the fifties as well as her work aprons.
    I have a few of Grandmas flour sack aprons as well as my own Mothers fancy aprons.
    I have “around the house and yard clothes, paint clothes with paint all over them…In fact that is about all I wear. It broke my heart, just like a man hates for you to throw out his favorite sweat shirt, I finally give in and threw out a wore tattered favorite paint shirt!
    I should have worn an apron! Then I could still be using that old worn paint shirt!
    Loved this post Tipper, I love old aprons and stories of aprons.
    Remind me to tell of the time my Canton aunt got the tail of her apron caught goin’ thru the wringer on the old slosh washin’ machine!

  • Reply
    Frances Allen
    August 1, 2014 at 9:35 am

    Yes, I make my own aprons (usually with a quilt block on the top) and always wear one in the kitchen. That way, I don’t have to worry about the clothes I’m wearing. Love aprons!!

  • Reply
    Pamela Danner
    August 1, 2014 at 9:33 am

    I love aprons! I sew and have made many aprons.

  • Reply
    August 1, 2014 at 8:54 am

    There must be at least ten cute aprons tucked away somewhere in my linen closet. I don’t recall wearing one more than a time or two. My mom and granny always wore an apron. I’m not sure if the purpose was to protect their dress or if it was used to wipe their hands on as I remember mom doing so many times. I used to make her aprons. It never took more than an hour from start to finish. My oldest daughter cooks from scratch meals for her large family and wears aprons to protect her clothes. She had me looking for the kind that fits around the neck and ties in the back. That style protects where we get most of our stains and grease splatters. They are hard to find.

  • Reply
    August 1, 2014 at 8:17 am

    i have them on a hook. when grandgirls come over they love to wear one the ambiance of wearing an apron and the memories that are conjured up from them.

  • Reply
    August 1, 2014 at 8:07 am

    I don’t wear aprons either, but I do make them. I think aprons look nice on women, but they seem to get in my way.

  • Reply
    Richard Moore
    August 1, 2014 at 7:52 am

    Growing up in Georgia six decades ago, my mother, aunts and cousins always wore aprons in the kitchen. If someone tried to step to the stove without an apron, she would have been stopped.
    I can just imagine my Aunt Ophelia saying “You’re liable to get something on that pretty house dress.” And she’d grab a spare apron from her pantry to offer for protection and restore order to the universe.

  • Reply
    Barb Wright
    August 1, 2014 at 7:50 am

    I always wear an apron. My mother and grandma did,too. Hubby got me a really nice one last Christmas. It has a rooster on it..I raise (and LOVE) chickens. Last October,I helped my grandson sew an apron for his mom’s birthday. Tradition lives on!!

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    August 1, 2014 at 7:35 am

    Sorry no aprons here, we do keep them at the studio for people to wear while painting.

  • Reply
    August 1, 2014 at 7:32 am

    I’ve recently started wearing aprons. I don’t like the fact that some of the nice ones you can buy are hand wash and line dry. I did find a nice cotton one at a local farmer’s market.

  • Reply
    Suzannah McCuen
    August 1, 2014 at 7:21 am

    Momma always wore an apron when in the kitchen. At day’s end it was looped over the doorknob at the back door or draped from a nail on the swinging kitchen door. She cooked (for Daddy and their seven children), cleaned throughout the house and outside, polished the silver, soaked the glass chandelier pendants in ammonia, canned, did the laundry, handled the processing of a freshly slaughtered hog, etc, etc in that apron. She sewed some of her own aprons but in the later years her daughters might buy one for her every few years. When I was in home-ec in seventh grade in 1971 I sewed two gingham aprons, one for Momma and one to use myself. I have Momma’s last one (bought for her by one of my sisters) hanging on a nail in my kitchen as she is now in Memory Care with Daddy and no longer cooks or cleans….but if she were to, the first thing she’d do is put on her apron as, she said, her grandma always did. Momma’s mother was widowed early on and worked outside the home (eventually becoming a US Chief Deputy Marshal) while Grandma stayed home with Momma and her sister. It may be that aprons are out of fashion now mostly because we don’t spend anywhere near the time with housekeeping chores as women used to and few women clean the silver service, scrub their ovens clean by hand or can their own produce these days. When I retire and take on more of those chores I’ll slip Momma’s apron off the nail and tie it around my waist to begin and I will think of her each time I do.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    August 1, 2014 at 7:20 am

    I don’t wear an apron and have never worn one. I’m not sure why, I just don’t. My grandmother, however did wear aprons. She wore them all the time. When she got up in the morning she put on a dress and an apron and she wore it all day. She had lots of aprons and they were all made out of flour sacks. She made the aprons. She also wore a bonnet when she went outside to the garden. The bonnets were also made by her from flour sacks. That was not unusual. it’s just what the country folks did. All the women wore aprons and bonnets. As a child I wanted an apron too so she made me one.
    I like the aprons the girls wore in the picture. It looks to be made of old blue jeans and the big pockets look handy!

  • Reply
    Barbara Gantt
    August 1, 2014 at 7:17 am

    I have a collection of aprons made by my Aunt who was born in 1902. My Granny and 3 Aunts always wore one. My Mom would wear an apron on Sundays. She would keep her church clothes during dinner so needed to keep them nice. I have a Christmas apron that my Aunt made. It is beautiful white fabric with applicaide red ponsettion it. I rarely wear one . But love the ones passed down from family. Barbara

  • Leave a Reply