In the 1970s, which some call “back in the day” but I call “yesterday,” hand-embroidered shirts were a popular handwork trend. I embroidered several shirts, and I also made a western shirt for Mike and hand-embroidered the embellishments on the front and back yokes. As I worked I wondered what would eventually become of the shirt. Fast forward 25 years and there it is in the bottom of my rag basket. I just couldn’t bring myself to discard the embroidery work.
Enter ideas by way of Vintage Notions, compiled by Amy Barickman as a tribute to Mary Brooks Picken. Barickman credits Mrs. Picken as “the first American authority on home arts and founder of The Woman’s Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences in Scranton, Pennsylvania.” Mrs. Picken founded her school in 1916, and through it she revolutionized sewing for the American homemaker. Through Vintage Notions, Barickman re-presents some of the ideas and instruction coming out of Mrs. Picken’s school. It was here I discovered the idea I needed to preserve my handwork in the article, “Men’s Shirts Put to Feminine Use” (pages 30-31).
So, I took the old shirt from the rag basket. First I ripped out the sleeves and opened the underarm seam in the body of the shirt. In order to preserve the embroidery, my shirt would not follow the “Magic Pattern” instructions exactly, so I was feeling my way along. I simply cut the front of the shirt away under the front yokes. The back of the shirt became the front of the apron with the front yokes lying over the shoulders.
The instructions state that it's possible to make two aprons from one shirt. However, two aprons is not possible in my case. The thing is – in order for the apron to fit me, I really need a bigger man’s shirt. (A bigger man wears a bigger shirt, if you catch my drift.) So, I opened the sleeves flat, sewed them to the shirt back (front of the apron),and then used an apron pattern to shape the sides and hem. Then I was ready to apply the bias tape. When I thought I had finished it, Mike said he thought aprons should have pockets, so I ripped the pockets (without flaps) from the shirt and applied to the apron, buttons and all.
I admit the apron feels a bit awkward. Mrs. Picken’s apron instructions (there are several) called for a little more shaping than I could do because of the embroidery. But, it’s pretty hanging in my kitchen and that's what I wanted. It’s an idea I cherished that has come to fruition. KW