Grandma’s Apron: Guest Blogger Grandma Ruby (Blohm) Neal

Grandma’s Apron

by Ruby Blohm Neal

Grandma Ruby Neal wearing festive earrings and apron, and working on a turkey, rural Dexter, Iowa

Grandmothers always used to wear aprons; they were a matter of necessity. An apron was made from an arm’s length of material, hemmed and gathered at the waist with a band and ties. Most were checks or prints because they didn’t show soil as easy. Some were fancy with cross-stitch or embroidery.

The apron had many uses. When Grandma was in the garden it was gathered up and used as a basket. In the yard it would be used to told a chow chip or so for the fire, a few eggs the old hens had hidden, and a bunch of wild flowers for the table.

It was used to dry many a tear from a crying child or wipe a dripping nose. The apron shooed many flies at the door and removed pans of bread or sheets of cookies from the oven. It served as a pad to take hold of hot pans on the stove or poke the coals; it then wiped the sweat from the brow. When Grandma was out in the meadow to meditate and give thanks, her thoughts would be interrupted by spotting a new calf and trying to get it home in her apron.

These aprons were easier to wash than a dress and could be changed in a moment’s notice. When a visitor was seen coming, it was quickly removed. the apron hastily dusted the table and polished the silver. It was used to cover the head and take the chill from the shoulders. Carrying wash water to the house and out again, the apron invariably fell in the pail of water a few times. At canning time the corner was used to hold the jar while screwing on the zinc lid.

At last, when the apron was worn thin from many washings, it was cut into strips to be braided and sewed together to make a rug to adorn the floor by the bed or a favorite chair. Narrower strips were sewed and rolled into balls and taken to a person who had a loom to weave rugs.

I’ll bet that most of the aprons above were made by Grandma Ruby Neal. I know she did the cross-stitch ones.

Leora Wilson and daughter Doris Neal, wearing one of Ruby Neal’s creative aprons, Guthrie Center, 1970s.


  1. What a flood of memories this post brings back! My grandmothers and mother–and now even my wife!–used aprons for just about every use mentioned in this post (except making rugs–they used the less-worn pieces in making quilts). Mother often, especially for special guests on Sunday or at Christmas Day dinner, wore aprons that covered her whole front, but she, too, was dressed to the full underneath that apron, right down to the special necklace and clip-on earrings! As Bob Hope so often said, “Thanks for the memories” your post brought back!

    • I’ve got a couple of those around-the-neck aprons, but they didn’t photo well. One is heavily starched and ironed! Ah, clip-on earrings. Most of mine ended up in my Christmas “jewel tree.” This is fun, isn’t it!

  2. I think too many people eat fast food and frozen meals these days to be all that familiar with aprons as we are. Thanks for being back memories, Joy.

  3. enjoyed the apron..I have a program to be used for a club, about the same as your comments… remember when an apron would be the gift to people helping with wedding receptions? I had
    some of them, sometimes made of organdy
    …utterly useless 🙂

  4. My grandmother wore a clear plastic apron that went around her waist with a plastic semicircle (like a large headband). I’ve never seen another one like it.

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