|Charles Courtney Curran 'Summer clouds' 1917|
Today I would like to talk about an aspect of household laundry with which we are less familiar nowadays, and yet it can be an enjoyable and satisfying part of our regular domestic tasks.
Here is an excerpt from a popular book published in 1893
The Easiest Way in Housekeeping and Cooking
Adapted to domestic use or study in classes
By Helen Campbell
"Starch is the next consideration, and is made in two ways,—either raw or boiled. Boiled starch is made by adding cold water to raw starch in the proportion of one cup of water to three-quarters of a cup of starch, and then pouring on boiling water till it has thickened to a smooth mass, constantly stirring as you pour. A bit of butter is added by many excellent laundresses, the bit not to be larger than a filbert. Any thing starched with boiled starch must be dried and sprinkled before ironing, while with raw starch this is not necessary.
To make raw starch, allow four even tablespoonfuls to a half-pint of cold water. Dip collars, cuffs, and shirt-bosoms, or any thing which must be very stiff, into this starch, being careful to have them dry. When wet, clap them well between the hands, as this distributes the starch evenly among the fibers of the cloth. The same rule must be followed in using boiled starch. Roll the articles in a damp cloth, as this makes them iron more smoothly; and in an hour they will be ready for the iron. In using boiled starch, after the articles have been dried, and then dampened by sprinkling water lightly upon them, either by the hand, or by shaking over them a small whisk-broom which is dipped as needed in water, it is better to let them lie ten or twelve hours.
All clothes require this folding and dampening. Sheets and table-cloths should be held by two persons, shaken and "snapped," and then folded carefully, stretching the edges if necessary.
Colored clothing must be rinsed before starching, and the starch should be thin and cool.
For ironing neatly and well, there will be required, half a dozen flat-irons, steel bottoms preferred; a skirt-board and bosom-board, both covered, first with old blanket or carpet, then with thick strong cotton-cloth, and over this a cover of lighter cloth, sewed on so that it may be removed as often as may be necessary to wash it. If a bag the size of each is made, and they are hung up in this as soon as used, such washing need very seldom be. Having these, many dispense with ironing-sheet and blanket; but it is better to use a table for all large articles, and on this the ironing-sheet can be pinned, or tied by tapes, or strips of cloth, sewed to each corner. A stand on which to set the irons, a paper and coarse cloth to rub them off on, and a bit of yellow wax tied in a cloth, and used to remove any roughness from the iron, are the requirements of the ironing-table.
Once a month, while the irons are still slightly warm, wash them in warm water in which a little lard has been melted. Never let them stand day after day on the stove, and never throw cold water on them, as it makes them very rough.
If the starch clings to the irons, put a little Bristol-brick on a board, and rub them up and down till free. If they are too hot for use, put in a current of air a few moments; and in all cases try them on a piece of paper or cloth before putting them on a garment. If through carelessness or accident an article is scorched, lay it in the hottest sunshine to be found. If the fiber is not burned, this will often take the spot entirely out."
(a filbert is a small hard-shelled nut by the way)
THE MODERN APPROACH
If we encounter starch at all nowadays, it is likely to be the foul smelling, aerosol spray starch that makes the ironing board and the floor like a skating rink, and leaves nasty little bits over the item we are starching! It is not necessary to buy this expensive and inefficient product
But using starch on cotton pillowcases, nightdresses, blouses, shirts and nice handkerchiefs, can transform them in an instant. There is nothing so pleasant to lay your head on at night, than a beautifully starched pillowcase. Shirts and blouses look fresh and of better quality when they are lightly starched, and a Victorian style nightie doesn't look or feel authentic without it.
|1896 Underskirt with 1891 Corset Cover (flickr)|
Here is a quick recipe for making your own spray starch
All you need are:
CORNFLOUR (US CORNSTARCH)
OLD, WELL-RINSED SPRAY-TOP BOTTLE
Dissolve about a teaspoonful or two of cornflour/cornstarch into the water and pour into your bottle. Give it a shake just before using. Add more cornflour if you find that you need more 'crisp-ness'
You don't have to own lots of nice cottons and linens. It is a pleasure to look after the ones that you have. This is an embroidered pillow slip which is in regular use
This Victorian Style, Rosebud nightdress is my favourite
Starching and pressing the trim neatly
You can see here, that often, you cannot press things such as nighties and pillowslips flat, because there is 'ease' incorporated into the design. When you are ironing them, pull out the ease. You will find that there will be less creases ironed in.
Only make as much starch as you need for the day. It does not keep very well, and it is best to make a fresh batch as required. Rinse out your bottle when you have finished, so that you do not have any sediment building up inside it.
It is tempting for the home-maker to be too much of a perfectionist when ironing or pressing items. I know this because it was my problem at one time. Please do not make this mistake. Enjoy looking after your pretty linens and keeping shirts and handkerchiefs looking smart and cared for. Perfectionism leads to unnecessary stress and can make you feel like a martyr, who is no fun to be around in the family.
Happy Starching, Ladies