Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Never Ending Piles of Laundry

Last week we talked about washing, or not washing our quilt fabric.  There was a lot of discussion and personal input.  Some said they only do wall hangings which can be heavily embellished, so there was never any thought to laundering.  Others are "recycling" found fabrics.  We all agreed those needed washing before adding to our stash.  Thanks to everyone who chimed in with their thoughts on the subject.

But all this "laundry talk" got me reminiscing about laundry day(s) when I was growing up.  It was a big production even with only 3 kids.  My husband comes from a family of 7 kids - I couldn't even imagine!  Of course, he was a "city" kid and his family was probably "automated" before my "country farm" family.  But it was still before disposable diapers and other modern amenities.

We, my mom and I, started by sorting all the laundry.  Yeah, that part hasn't changed.  Laundry was washed in a wringer washer and three laundry tubs.  This wasn't the actual wringer, but very similar.  The three tubs were arranged around the washer and were for rinsing and fabric softener after the wash cycle.  We didn't start with fresh water every time.  Laundry was like children - we all got the same bath water!

I was fascinated by the wringer.  Mom fed the laundry into the wringer with a stick.  Stirring the hot steamy water and picking out the garments one at a time to feed through the wringer. After convincing her that I was equally adept at the process, she gave in and allowed me to "feed the beast."  My attention span was short and it wasn't long before "the beast" attempted to suck me in with the laundry!  Luckily Mom was close and came to my rescue by releasing the rollers thus freeing the laundry and her youngest.  Needless to say, I was done with that machine and thought hanging laundry outside on the line was much safer!

We filled the backyard with laundry lines.  There were two permanent ones and several temporary lines that ran between trees.  They were "solar" dryers before solar was cool! Laundry was hung and taken down when dry only to be replaced by a freshly laundered load of sheets, tablecloths, linens, towels and the usual laundry.  When I was talking with my Mom recently about this blog, she reminded me about the wire frames she used to put inside my Dad's pants while they dried to assist in placing a crease.
A small pan of starch was mixed on the stove.  Not sure why we heated it, maybe to make it last longer.  It was for the things that needed a good crisp finish.

After the laundry dried, we folded as we took it down or piled it in baskets to be ironed.  I never understood the process of making it damp after we had just hung it to dry.  But sprinkling with water from and old pop bottle was the next step.
 And when I went to my mom's to take this picture, there it was right below the kitchen sink where it always had been.  (My husband was amazed!  I wasn't.)  Laundry to be ironed was dampened, wrapped in a large sheet of plastic and put next to the iron for the next morning.  It was time to feed the chickens, gather the eggs, and make dinner.

The next morning's chore was ironing.  
We had a special "beast" for that, too.  I thought everyone had one - an Ironrite Ironer Mangle.  Even Grandma, my Mother's mom, had one.  Ours sat in the dining room and was disguised as a very nice piece of furniture - covered by a wooden cabinet.  

Grandma's was white, but had it's own chair, and sat in the basement on the farm.  When Grandma and Grandpa retired from farming and moved to town it went to the garage.  She used it occasionally.  But by then, we were all into Permanent Press. 

 The Ironrite was wonderful for all those sheets, table cloths, etc.  It had a cloth covered roller that pressed the fabrics against a very hot iron plate.  You operated the roller with knee controls.  When I started quilting, pre-washing all my fabrics, and was ironing yards of fabrics, I often thought of that machine.

Loads, stacks, piles, and neatly folded and put away.  Then we did it all again...next week.

Friday, February 14, 2014

To Wash or Not to Wash...

To Wash or Not To Wash...

This is my maiden voyage into the blogging hemisphere so be gentle with me here.  My quilting dreams have morphed from the brick and mortar store, to an internet store, to a presence on social media on the internet. 
So I thought Id talk about how I got to "here" and recent conversations on some quilting boards and in a class I was teaching earlier this month prompted me into my first Blogging subject - laundry.  Now there is dirty laundry, airing the laundry, do the laundry, clean laundry that my children return to the floor only to be washed again - you know the type.   No, this conversation began with, "Do I wash my fabric before I start quilting?"

The answer was a definite "Maybe" or "Sometimes."

If you are working with fabric that has been hand dyed, or may have dyes that are going to bleed on to other fabrics, the answer is "Yes, you should pre-wash."  Synthrapol is used in the dyeing process and can be useful for rinsing out excess dyes remaining in hand dyed fabrics.  Retayne is another product
that helps set colors in fabrics so that there is no further "sharing."  The idea is to remove any excess dyes that remain in fabrics - particularly reds, purples, browns, and blues.  If it's midnight, your LQS is closed, and you need to start tomorrow, you can always fall back on HOT water and white vinegar to set the colors.  And no, you can't put them in the same load.  You must wash colors separately.
So now you've washed your fabrics...

And that crisp finish is gone.  How do you get that back into the fabrics?  There are a few solutions.  First, there  is good ol' fashioned starch.  Remember that from laundry days past?  Well, you have to be my age or older.  For the younger crowd, you'll fine this product right in the laundry isle of your local grocery store.

 To give your clothes a crisp edge, simply mix equal parts of water and Sta-Flo® starch into a standard household spray bottle. For a light starch feel, add two parts of water to one part starch.

So, now, one word of caution, well, several.... If you are going to finish this quilt and not get distracted as we quilters do and move it to the UFO pile.  Don't use starch.  Silverfish, and yes, we all have them, will find your fabric!  Bad news!!  And if you do finish the quilt, it will need to be washed to remove the starch.

In recent online board conversations, several "recipes" for making your own "starch products" were shared.  I'll let you do your own internet searches.  I can't recommend or say I have tried any of them.  One included vodka as an ingredient.  Now if I were going to use vodka in my sewing room I certainly wouldn't be spraying it on my fabrics!

A better idea is to use something like Mary Ellen's Best Press Starch Alternative.  It does not leave little white flakes like starch and it comes in many delicious scents or unscented.  And best of all...no concerns over bugs in your fabrics or quilts.

One additional thought on washed fabrics - If you are one of those quilters who wash every fabric as soon as you add it to your stash - how do you know for sure you washed it?  I run my fabrics' cut edge through the serger to prevent that hideous ball of unraveling that cottons are prone to form.  Don't have a serger?  Pinked edges or a zig zag on the sewing machine works just as well.  When I see that edge I know that a fabric has been washed.

But since I don't like to do laundry, and can't wait to cut into that pile of fabric I just brought home from the LQS, I seldom wash my fabrics.  

Your thoughts?

But all this talk of laundry has led me to the subject of my next blog - how much work the laundry used to be.  What a production it was!!  So stay tuned.  Until next week!