Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Sometimes You Need the Right Equipment

Tuesday, April 23, 2013
When you love old things, and you want to use them, you also need to care for them. Clean them. Restore them.

We live in an easy-care, no iron, no fuss world today. Everything gets tossed into the washing machine and the dryer, and it's so easy we wash everything each time it's used, even if it isn't really dirty.

Our fore-mothers didn't do that. Laundry was a chore that took up a full day, or more, of labor. Don't throw that blouse in the wash! You only wore it a few hours! Air it out and wear it again!

But because they did take on the heavy work of caring for their clothing and their linens, they had the right equipment for it. Vintage irons are heavier and they get hotter, so they do a better job with pressing cotton and linen. Nothing touches Fels Naptha for working on stains gently. 

You need the right equipment.

Today was one of those gorgeous sunny days of early spring. The air was cool, but the sun was bright and warm. A perfect day for hanging laundry outdoors in the sunshine.

And a perfect day for blocking and stretching my vintage lace tablecloths. Because I have the right equipment for it. I own a genuine Quaker Curtain Stretcher.

Back in the early part of the 20th century when cotton lace curtains (often from the Quaker Lace Company) were common in every window, those curtains got washed, starched, and stretched at least once a year. Today, my lace curtains are mostly easy care and go straight from the wash to the pole and just hang to dry, but my vintage Quaker Lace cotton tablecloths have to be blocked or they don't fit my table anymore when they dry!

Just like a cotton sweater draws up as it dries and has to be blocked back into shape, cotton lace will draw up. My tablecloth will lose as much as 5 or 6 inches if I don't block it.

So I hauled out my Curtain Stretcher, which is really just a big wooden frame (helpfully marked off in inches) with rows of needle sharp nails all the way around. It's adjustable, and you impale the edges of the tablecloth on the row of nails, and carefully s-t-r-e-t-c-h the lace and across the frame until it's square and taut. And then let it dry in the sunshine.

Sure, it takes longer than throwing the tablecloth in the dryer, or even hanging it on the line (where it's impossible to get it blocked and square), but nothing looks better than a real cotton lace tablecloth.

It was worth it--if only because it gave me the chance to explain just what the hell I was doing to the houseful of college girls who live across the alley from me.

I love having the right equipment!


cj said...

Wow! I wonder if there's instructions on google for making these stretchers!

Peggy said...

Well, I DID find one of the original patents with detailed drawings. If you are handy, you might be able to use them as instructions for building your own!


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