Gift of aprons connects Western to Switzerland

Brianna Kuplent
Communications and Marketing intern
Thursday, October 3, 2013 - 11:25am

Western Washington University Professor of Environmental Studies Gigi Berdardi and her food cultures class presented child-size aprons to the Waldorf Early Childhood Conference coordinator in Dornach, Switzerland, this past summer. The aprons, sewn by Diane Knutson, the department's administrative services manager, will benefit a kindergarten class in Dornach.

The aprons were given to conference coordinator, Edda Nehmiz, to show appreciation for helping organize the class’ program and arranging tours.

“[Nehmiz] is open and passionate about childhood education, and was excited about receiving the aprons,” said Western student Ryan Bainbridge, a student in Berardi’s class.

Teachers from the Dornach Waldorf School were also excited about using the aprons, Berardi said.

Dornach natives are fairly isolated, and the city is not a common travel site for American tourists, Berardi said. Located in Northern Switzerland, Dornach has a population of 6,375.

Children in the Waldorf schools do many hands-on activities, and the aprons will help, Bainbridge said.

Knutson, affectionately known as “the apron lady,” began sewing in high school and focused on aprons because she sees them as functional and practical. Each lined apron takes approximately three hours to construct with decorative stitching, buttons, bows and lace.

She began to sew aprons after getting married, and having little money to buy gifts.

“[It] was the first time I sewed aprons and felt they were a gift of my labors and from my heart,” Knutson said. “It is fun to choose fabrics to fit each individual’s personality.”

She reuses leftover material for the aprons and has sewn for children of faculty members, friends and her daughter’s preschool class in Seattle. Not wanting to sell the remaining aprons, Knutson gave them to Berardi for the Italy trip as a gift from the department.

“Each apron is beautiful, intricate and original,” Berardi said.

Because of the success in Dornach, Knutson said she is considering giving Berardi another batch of aprons if Berardi returns to Italy and Switzerland next summer.


Western professor Gigi Berardi, Edda Nehmiz and student members of Berardi's Food Cultures of Switzerland and Italy class show off a few of the donated aprons at the Goetheanum in Dornach, Switzerland. Photo courtesy of Gigi Berardi