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Friday, 26 February 2016

Sepia Saturday 319 : 27 February 2016


My Mother used an iron like this one.

I was a keen participant to iron handkerchiefs as these items were in  constant demand in wintertime. When I advanced to tea towels the first excitement was gone, When I advanced to shirts and such I fled the scene.
We children had also a very small Iron to iron dolls dresses. It was small, shaped like a mouse and inside it had an iron mouse to heat up on the stove.. I should have kept it. It was well made with a small, polished wooden  handle. 




An 18th century coal iron

In China,  people were  ironing using hot metal before anywhere else. They filled pans with hot coals. A hot  pan was pressed over stretched cloth . This method was already used some thousand years ago.
While people in Northern Europe used stones, glass and wood for smoothing. In the west blacksmiths forged smoothing irons in the late Middle Ages.
Cast iron sadiron;The sad in sad iron or sadiron is an old word for solid.





Gas Iron


Flat stones were used to rub over woven cloth to smooth it, or to press folds. Linen smoothers made of dark glass were found in  Viking women's graves. Many of those were in use across medieval Europe.  The linen might have been dampened befor using the glass smoother. It is not sure if the glass was made hot before its use.


Glass linen smoother with handle.


Smoothers were also called slickers, slickstones, sleekstones, or slickenstones.  Some were also made of hard wood or  marble. 






Iron with  exchangeable handle

Metal irons were heated by a fire or on a stove. Irons  were made of stone, like  soapstone irons from Italy. Earthenware was also used.



Flat Irons, Flea market Paris

Ironing without the benefit of electricity was a hot, arduous job. Irons had to be kept clean, sand-papered and polished. They had to be  lightly greased to avoid rusting. Beeswax prevented irons sticking to starched cloth. Constant care was needed over temperature, decide when the iron was hot enough, but not so hot  to  scorch the cloth. 

Late 19th century iron designs experimented with heat-retaining fillings. Designs of this period became more and more ingenious and complicated, with reversible bases, gas jets and other innovations. . By 1900 there were electric irons in use on both sides of the Atlantic.

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Courtesy Pinterest and  
 http://www.oldandinteresting.com/antique-irons-smoothers-mangles.aspx




20 comments:

  1. I know what you mean about dimishing enthusiasm as the garments got bigger! A nice gallery of irons.

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    1. It was quite interesting to read about all those old timers. Next will be a robot who irons on command, my wish.

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  2. The handkerchief ironing seems to be fun for most little girls. Your iron mouse sounds delightful.

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    1. I actually remembered the iron mouse when I was thinking about how I learned to iron hankies. I had absolutely forgotten about it.

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  3. Great to learn about the glass linen smoothers. I do remember the joy of learning to iron, up until I learned how to do my father's shirts and was expected to do them weekly as a chore.

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  4. My grandmother was a dedicated iron-er who even did bed sheets. From youth to old age she probably used many of these vintage irons.

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    1. It seems all grandmothers liked ironing. I am a grandmother now and I still don't like to iron. I think I never have ironed bed sheets, some used to iron them.

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  5. Interesting history. I especially like the attractive design of the iron with the exchangeable handle.

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    1. As they generally used two irons one to use and one to heat, it was handy to have a wooden handle to exchange. Some used just rags to hold the hot handle of the iron.

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  6. Very good collection of old irons. Goodness, and Mike reminded me that my grandmother used to iron the sheets too. Thank goodness for no-iron materials!

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    1. We are lucky to live in a different century! Imagine what fate could have had in store for us as washerwomen or ironing gals! http://www.smh.com.au/world/the-slaves-of-magdalene-20131215-2zfwd.html

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  7. As others before me have said - a very nice collection of old irons. I was particularly interested in the glass linen smoother used in Viking times. You also mentioned a soapstone iron used in Italy. I wonder if the Vikings also used soapstone irons as they harvested soapstone to sell in the markets. I'll have to check. Really enjoyed this post!

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  8. Perhaps they might have made soapstone smoothers, yet nothing is mentioned of finds of this kind.

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  9. Enjoyed seeing the different types of irons. Never realized all the upkeep involved with the old irons.

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    1. Washing and ironing must have been exhausting for women who could not afford help. Luckily in many villages women would come together and help each other with the big task of washing and ironing.

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  10. I can remember my mother using flat irons when I was young. You took it off the wood stove then spat on the underside to hear the sizzle to know it was hot enough to use ! - boundforoz

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    1. Experience was necessary to get it right.

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  11. I had never really thought about the history of irons before, though I remember at my grandmother's house they had no electricity, only gas, and used a heavy flat iron. Thank goodness for advances, as ironing is amongst my least favourite household tasks.

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