Mary Brooks Picken was a busy woman; she was founded the Women's Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences in 1886, was author of dozens of books, patterns, and articles on fashion, sewing, and other "domestic arts," and was highly influential on women all over the country. Sadly, I had never heard of her until Stitch Magazine's Spring 2010 issue featured Amy Barickman's Vintage Notions, a book devoted to Picken.
The magazine also reproduced one of Picken's "magic patterns," an apron made from one yard of fabric. The pattern is certainly ingenious -- fold the yard in half diagonally, mark a few measurements, cut out the apron, sew one seam (at the neck), sew on ties, bind the edges with bias tape, and you're done. In honor of the vintage-y-ness of the project, I picked a pink 30s reproduction print and red and pink gingham for the binding:
I recommend Barickman's book, too. It's filled with lovely illustrations, more magic patterns (some of which are intimidating), old-timey advice, timeless advice, recipes, ideas, and musings.