The Infinitely Ruffled 1780s Apron

Tabubilgirl smiling and spreading the infinitely ruffled apron

This apron – Infinitely Ruffled 1780s Apron – began all the way back in 2018.  It was my second project out of the American Duchess dressmaking book. I had made aprons, but at that point I hadn’t much experience with hand rolling hems, and this apron – well, this apron had a lot of rolled hems. There were 3 yards in the apron body, 6 yards up one side of the ruffle  and 6 back down the other side.  Just thinking about it, I needed a fainting couch and a handsome gentleman to sponge my temples. At my slow, painstaking rate of rolled hemmery, 15 yards of hem felt like miles.

I started with optimism – mostly at night, in front of the television, where I didn’t have to think of the miles and miles and MILES of hem (the estimate grew, exponentially, with every stitch) and I worked on it on and off, and on and off,  and on, and on, and ON – I came to think of it as the Infinite Apron : when I was feeling down and like life had no meaning, I’d pull out this horrible apron and confirm that I was right.

An apron laid out on the floor. The ruffle has been gathered and partially pinned to the edges of the apron.

Then 2020 happened.  Circumstances saw me stuck outside of Chile for 18 months, where I sewed – and hemmed – other things.  Uncertain, unmoored, waiting for vaccines and badly missing Mr Tabubil, I sewed for my sanity’s sake: caps, fichus, mantelets, wrapping gowns, petticoats – I seamed, I gathered, I whipped, and I hemmed –  Practice brought experience, and eventually expertise, and somewhere in the middle of it all – rolled hemming changed from proof of the dreary infinite to something that was fun.

When I finally made it home to Chile in 2021, I pulled out the horrible infinite apron and found that as a project, it had become benign. It had become something almost small. So I finished it. I took that heap of half-hemmed voile, I unpicked my laboriously bungled whip-gathers, and then I sat back, cracked an anticipatory grin –

I re-whipped my ruffles. I tacked them down. I stroke-gathered the waist to a band, and then I stopped, and looked for a bit, and I took some vast and serious pleasure in the formal, measured beauty of the strokes. 

Stroked Gathers on a 1780s Ruffled Apron

This infinitely ruffled apron had become metaphorical as hell.  I felt existential whiplash with every step.

A close-up view of a stroke-gathered apron waistband

Until there it was – the infinitely ruffled 1780s apron.  I liked it so much, I made another one.

An apron made of cross-barred muslin with gathered ruffles and stroke-gathering

Here’s an apron. Take two. I can HEM, you see. I hemmed around the world and back.  Sometimes, looking at those lonely, drifting 18 months, I feel like I hemmed my way home.

Again, Tabubilgirl smiles and holds out the original infinitely ruffled apron

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