country people who remember their elders also will remember the shawls, aprons
and slat bonnets worn almost every day of the year. Aprons were constantly worn,
except to church and to town to buy groceries. Anytime a woman stepped out the
door into the sunlight, she tied on a slat bonnet for protection from the sun.
were necessary, especially in the winter, because the old houses were not insulated
and were usually poorly heated. A shawl kept the shoulders and neck warm, but
did not interfere with the ever-busy hands going about the daily work. Most were
hand-knitted from cotton or wool yarn. My grandmother preferred navy blue.
Anytime I think of her, a picture flashes across my mind of blue, calico, gingham
aprons and bonnets. About once a year, in good years, she bought a measure of
the material along with a spool of blue thread and oiled up the old Singer sewing
From a high shelf in the pantry, she retrieved patterns cut from
brown paper bags, laid them out and smoothed them and the new materials with a
hot sad iron. Then she attached the paper to the materials with straight pins
and began cutting out shapes.
the old familiar aprons began to take shape. A neck strap and two waist tie strings
were attached, then the most important thing of all, apron pockets to hold the
snuff can, chew root and sewing thimble. A tap on the head with that thimble kept
little boys under control.
Her slat bonnets were made in one piece unless
material ran short. Her pattern provided plenty of shade in front for her eyes
and bunched material in the rear to protect her neck and shoulders from the hot
sun while hoeing in the garden. She always sewed string ties front and back, as
fancy buttons were too frivolous for a work bonnet.
Most important of all
were the cardboard slats to slip into the sewed slots across the top of the bonnet
to keep the shape rounded like a covered wagon top. Almost any type of cardboard
worked, but the best came from the sides of Quaker Oats cans.
height was the correct length for slats, the waxed surfaces prevented sweat and
moisture from soaking in and when the sides were cut into one-inch-wide strips,
they provided the proper count and curve to put the finishing touches on a proper
slat bonnet for both comfort and beauty. The ladies of the time must have made
millions of bonnets down through the years.
As descendants of these old
families had occasion to clean out the pantries and closets of their elders after
their passing, they sometimes found several empty Quaker’s Oats canisters sitting
There might come a time when someone needed a new slat bonnet.
© Delbert Trew
- August 1,
"It's All Trew"
Trew is a freelance writer and retired rancher. He can be reached at 806-779-3164,
by mail at Box A, Alanreed, TX 79002, or by email at trewblue@centramedia .net.
For books see delberttrew .com.
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