10 Questions: EllynAnne Geisel

You wouldn't think a book on aprons would stir up such a fuss. But when Geisel's The Apron Book hit the stands, it earned loads of critical praise ("the pattern of life remembered though a homely object," said Jackie Lyden on NPR) and reached best seller status.

Her second volume, The Kitchen Linens Book, expands on this "fabrics of our daily lives" theme. People are beginning to recognize the artistic skill that went into decorating household items in previous decades and the significance of simple bits of cloth to domestic culture. On April 25, Geisel visits Dallas to promote the book...and to promote the Women's Museum of Dallas, which manages a traveling exhibit called the Apron Chronicles.

She will be at the Women's Museum on Saturday, April 25, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Just don't tell her you use paper towels...

1. You know this isn't a 'guy thing.' What are we missing out on?
You're missing out on the tactile, the sensation and richness of old cloth. There's nothing like it--the way it drapes over a table, it's like a waterfall. It is romantic. Any woman sitting at that table will run her fingers over the cloth like you'd want her to be running them through your hair. You're missing out on romance.

2. The Apron Book was a best seller. Did that surprise you?
What surprised me was how many people embraced a notion. That notion was that this icon of domesticity tied us to women of earlier generations. It turned into a grass roots movement celebrating the artistry of these women. I have a lively imagination, but--no sirree--I didn't imagine all that.

3. What do aprons and linens say about us?
That there was a time when we did so much more with so little. And one of the ways we brightened things was through expression on cloth--to brighten the surroundings. When you look at some of them, you know it is imperfect, but that didn't stop her. And handstitchery is a relaxing endeavor. I have found this myself. I'm so far behind but I made egg warmers. Took me two days, so now I'm two days behind, but it was one of the most satisfying things I've ever done.

4. You know, some of us just use paper towels. What does that say?
It says you are one step above Neanderthal when it comes to modern day awareness. You must stop that right now.

5. You once called aprons and kitchen linens the "armor of domesticity." That's good; how did you come up with it?
I live in a very small world. I amuse myself day in and day out. In my writing room I have hundreds of aprons, stacks of hot pads and hand towels and--in the corner--a life-size cardboard Elvis. I looked to him and it flopped into my head. He's my inspiration. Really, the woman protected a family through her cleverness with the family budget. That's domestic armor. I have great respect for the women of previous generations.

6. Do you like Desperate Housewives?
I was enamored of the show when it first came on because Bree was wearing an apron. She's worn two of my creations in the show.

7. As modernization in the kitchen gave women more free time through the 20th century, how did that change things?
With free time and sewing machines becoming available, women begin to sew everything. With the patterns coming out, they weren't at all intimidated by sewing drapes or sofa covers. People still didn't always have the money to by these things in the 30s, 40s and 50s. It's astonishing what they took on themselves.

8. What's the oldest piece you own?
Let me look around...An embroidered hand towel from the early 1920s. I have a lot of that genre, actually--when initials were an important thing. It showed ownership, and there were times when that's almost all a woman could own.

9. When you go on tour, people bring things to show you...
That's one of my favorite things. I never know the apron I'm going to see, the story I'm going to hear. Now that the new book is out, I'm hoping I get to see cocktail napkins. The work is so intricate.

10. So, if your husband used one of these linens to change the oil...
It would be such a sad day. To see something that someone put so much love into so carelessly used...Prevention of that moment is key. I wouldn't allow the situation to go that far.

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Dave Faries
Contact: Dave Faries