“Right?” she said. “I got it at a vintage store. I wish I had a bunch more!”
“Shoot,” I said. “I can make you a pattern.”
There are three parts to it, plus apron strings and a pocket. Just trace it out and put it together. How hard can it be? Well. How hard can I make it?
She had already whipped it off and handed it to me. Jeez, I’ve been sewing for 55 years. I’m no stitchery genius, but you cut out shape A and shape B and slap them together and stitch, and before you know it you have most of your private bits covered.
I don’t know if I ever mentioned it before, but there are a number of aspects to your standard IQ test, and the parts that involve visualizing two-dimensional things in 3-D space is where I pitch into dangerous territory. Basically, my verbal ability is what has kept me out of an institution.
What you really should do, especially if you’re not wieldy with the three dimensions, is carefully rip all the original seams to spread the individual pieces out, trace them onto paper, and you have your pattern.
This apron is old. This apron was pieced together by candlelight using scraps from Granny Mae’s Sunday-go-to-meetin’ calico. It has now been worn quite a bit by our ace massage therapist and is saturated to gumminess with fragrant oils, and if a modern person raised on hormone-infused dairy products and hybridized wheat so much as breathes on it, it will fall into lint. Also, it is piped. Narrowly. A raw edge is covered in 1/4-inch bias tape, and it will spontaneously unravel in direct sunshine.
I’m not going to carefully rip anything.
So there’s some guesswork.
The contestants of Project Runway throw these things together in a few hours. They have a model, they have imagination, experience, and three-D imaging skills, and if you ask them to produce a bustled bridesmaid’s gown on a Nigerian theme involving a marsupial, using recycled plastics and an inspiration from Dickens, they will churn it right out.
I would like to note at this time that they will do so only after pitching God’s own fit and wailing to the heavens. Someone will disappear and return only after having cut themselves until they feel right again. Others will have to introduce ruching to cover over the fabric shrinkage from their tears. These people are as delicate in temperament as they are talented.
I made a pattern and decided I needed to do a test apron before my friend spent any money on fabric. I found an old sheet I used to love. It’s soft as a baby bunny. I’d put my toenail through the bottom sheet and bought a new set. I cut it all up and began to sew.
It feels like silk and sews like it too. Which is to say, squirrely and aggravating. But what really screws things up is when you finally get the whole thing put together and put it on and the place where you sew the back straps to the bottom is completely wrong. You have made an apron for M. C. Escher. There’s a righteous Moëbius twist in it. So you have to rip it out. You can do that maybe once. Your sheet was no match for your toenail, so it certainly can’t survive multiple rippings.
And yet, it must! I took out the two offending seams and put them back together, after pinning and double-checking, and guess the hell what? One of them was right, but the other still wasn’t! I’d sewn it to the correct side this time but still twisted it! There are three ways to get it wrong, and I got it wrong all three ways, and one of them twice. It is possible that this brain deficit is what gives me compassion for people confused about the apostrophe.
Nothing like this ever happens on Project Runway. Actually, it does, but those contestants disappear in mysterious circumstances, followed by public service announcements about mental health.
“I can make you more aprons just like this!” I recall I said.
At minimum wage, they’ll run a couple hundred bucks each. Good thing I work for free.