My Daddy Wore Overalls

herbie-holding-sandyThere’s something iconic about a man in overalls.  To me, it means he is unpretentious, hardworking, honest.  Someone with whom I would want to spend time in conversation and in hugging.

There aren’t many photos of my Daddy in overalls.  Though he wore them every day to work, when he came home, his first order of business was to take a shower and change into his “knock-about clothes”, khakis and a sport shirt.  That would be his uniform until bedtime.  And on Sundays, a suit, or at least a sports jacket and tie.

He wore overalls when he farmed.  I heard stories of his walking behind the mules and plow in his overalls and barefoot.  When he left the farm to begin building houses, he added work boots to his wardrobe, but kept the overalls.

The many pockets had designated uses.  The partitions in the bib held his wallet and a fat flat pencil, you know the kind wood workers used. Another held a pocket knife, used for sharpening that pencil, among other things.  One of those spaces sometimes held his wristwatch if it needed protection from the task at hand.

A long pocket on the leg of the overalls held his folding carpenter’s rule and a hammer hung in the loop.  He could flip that wooden rule open to just the right length for a measurement and refold it in the blink of an eye.  If you don’t remember those devices, or that they are called rules, not rulers, you are a young whippersnapper.  See, just thinking of overalls has me using his words.

I can smell the denim.  And the sawdust embedded in the fibers.  Maybe a little tobacco scent, too.  And I remember how heavy they were when wet.  I was a tiny little thing, but one of my jobs was hanging clothes on the line.

man-in-overallsMaybe all that is why I was so intrigued by the man in this quilted piece.  I snapped this street photo the minute I saw him.  Since then, I have come to know who he is and have secured permission to use his image in my art.  He, like my Daddy, is worthy of long conversations and hugs.


man-in-overalls-backThe quilt measures 10” x 18”.  The photo is printed on vintage linen fabric, hand painted, then quilted.  I used cotton thread, using hand-guided free motion quilting on my domestic machine.  It is layered with raw silk, a remnant of denim, and a worn reclaimed quilt fragment.  The label is a vintage cocktail napkin.  (I found this one with the rooster in an antique store ramble just as I had finished this piece.  Perfect!)

The photo of my Daddy holding me is one of the few I have of him wearing his overalls.  I guess it’s obvious why men wearing overalls pleases me so.  And, I still have that chair.

Author: Sandy Gilreath

I've stitched my way through life. Early skills in utilitarian and decorative sewing have merged with art in the world of quiltmaking. My love of journaling has now crossed into the cloth world, too. I love old songs, old souls, old words; my collections attest to my fascination with memories.

11 thoughts on “My Daddy Wore Overalls”

  1. I love reading your blog. It reminds me of the book you gave me by Celestine Sibley. Would love to talk with you concerning an old quilt my great grandmother made for me. It needs some repair and would like to see if you could be of help or give me advice. Have a great day.

  2. Beautiful quilt! With so much meaning.
    My Dad wore coveralls. He was a body and fender man. He was a tall big man with big shoulders and arms, under the coveralls he wore white t-shirts that I learned how to iron on. He was my dad and my best friend, 20 years after he has been gone I still miss the daily conversations. The few times I have had the occasion to go to a body shop the wave of sounds and smells nearly brings me to tears with floods of memories playing with bolts and screws waiting for Dad to get off work. Charished memories.

  3. My older brother wore overalls all the time. He worked on a farm and later was a typesetter for different newspapers (including the Macon Telegraph) and still wore his overalls. In his later retirement years, he changed to coveralls–probably because he was so frugal, no shirt was needed.

  4. My Daddy wore overalls for many years. I remember all of those pockets you talked about. I did not know that the fold out ruler was called rules. Learn something every day.

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