Jinger Howell of Yo Momma’s Apron Strings makes one-of-a-kind aprons at her home in Bowdoin. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

BOWDOIN — Jinger Howell buys fabric by the single yard — a whimsical floral, a bold geometric pattern, an eclectic print. She picks a style — the 1947 halter, the criss cross, the 1920s flapper — and sews one-of-a-kind vintage aprons.

She’s Yo Momma’s Apron Strings.

The business started simply enough nine years ago before growing into two bedrooms and a playroom converted to Yo Momma’s home base.

“I grew up with antique-loving parents, so that sets the stage for my affinity for things vintage and antique,” said Howell. “It started because I wanted an apron, a), and b) I wanted a vintage apron, and c) I wanted to make it myself.”

She looked for vintage patterns, gathered material and . . .

“It was kind of a mess,” Howell said. “So that was the apron I kept, and just kept going. I’ve always liked sewing. It just really appealed to me, so I just kept making aprons. And then, when you have too many aprons, you’ve got to do something with them, right?”

Not long after, her neighbor, Karen Marston at the Bowdoin Baking Co., encouraged her to apply for space at the Brunswick Winter Market in the Fort Andross Mill.

The aprons found a nice home there, she said. That’s also where the apron stories started: My grandmother used to wear one like this, my mother wore one like that.

“There’s a lot of memories involved in aprons,” Howell said. “Aprons were just a part of history. Women were always wearing aprons to protect their clothes because you couldn’t just throw your clothes in the washing machine for most of the history of humans and aprons and clothes.”

Howell has more than half a dozen styles, plus half-aprons and one design she’s licensed for the rights to produce: The Bapron, a bib-meets-apron that’s difficult to wiggle out of. She’s had people send in their own fabric or ask for a specific look.

“Replicating grandma’s apron — I’ll do what I can,” Howell said. “The really fun part is when people have a specific type of apron that they want to make that I don’t normally make, so doing custom aprons and tweaking designs, it’s great fun, because it’s a challenge sometimes.

“In fact, I just did two that were a rather large challenge, but she’s happy with them, so hooray for that,” she said. “She wanted a harvest apron, so with specific types of pockets, some that were pleated so that they open up, you can put more produce in them, some smaller so she could keep tools in them. She didn’t want it to tie behind her neck, so I adapted that, so just kept making changes.”

Due to the pandemic, Howell is taking the winter off at the Brunswick market, instead sewing up inventory for her website and posting pictures as she goes. Her oldest daughter is her most frequent model.

She can make one apron, from cutting the pattern to securing the last tag, out of a yard of fabric in about two hours. The exceptions to the one-of-a-kind rule: Linen aprons and kid aprons. She shops sales and stores like Marden’s always looking for new fabric.

“I would say the majority of people buy them as gifts, but I love it, love it, love it when somebody comes in and wants one for themselves,” Howell said. “They know what they like when they’re buying for themselves.”

She retired this year from Merrymeeting Adult Education after 15 years, “so I’m cooking a lot more, wearing lots of aprons, dirtying lots of aprons,” Howell said. As for Yo Momma’s, “It’s all a side hustle.”

But a fun one.

“Buying the fabric is way fun, and then I get to try it on,” Howell said. “I’m always the first one to try the apron on to see how it looks, so that’s really fun. Most of the aprons I keep are mistakes.”

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