17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:
Tuesday, June 4, 1912: Had most of the ironing to do today. Fixed over a hat by taking the ribbon off and putting another kind on. Wonder if I’ll wear it very much.
Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:
Ironing was much more complex a hundred years ago than it is now. The Muffly’s did not have electricity, so flat irons would have been heated on the wood or coal stove.
Here are abridged directions for ironing from a booklet called Approved Methods for Home Laundering published almost a hundred years ago by Proctor & Gamble:
Dampening or sprinkling is usually the last thing done at night. Cover the table with a clean cloth, fill a basin with warm water, and use a clean whisk broom for sprinkling. Sprinkle each large piece, fold sides and ends into the middle. Lay small pieces together before rolling. Linen should be very damp. Pack all the rolls into the basket and cover tightly.
Ironing is the finish of good laundry work and the test of the laundress.
A laundress’s test for a hot iron is to hold it near her cheek for a few seconds. If too hot for this, it is too hot to use. [Comment—whew, this sounds dangerous. I’m amazed it was considered an “approved method” back then.]
Another test is to touch the bottom of the iron with a wet finger; if it hisses, it is hot—the shorter the hiss, the hotter the iron. [Comment--this also sounds a little dangerous; though I can remember my mother doing it.]
Shake or stretch the article to be ironed into shape and place on board. Iron with the right hand from right to left, using the left hand to arrange the material.
First iron the part that will wrinkle least, leaving the plain, straight parts until the last. Ruffles and trimming should be ironed first.
Best results are attained when the iron follows the long warp thread of the material. The cloth should be left dry, especially bands, hems, and seams, or they will wrinkle.
For heavy materials use heavy irons; for thin materials, lighter irons, and for gathers, a narrow, pointed iron. Iron quickly with an iron hot, yet not hot enough to scorch. If the material becomes dry, dampen it with a soft cloth.
These directions were the most basic ironing directions. For detailed directions about how to starch and iron a collar, click here to see a previous post.
Was Grandma already remodeling the hat with the brown ribbon that she just got in April or it was it another older hat?