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Entries in laundry (23)


The Importance of Being Ironed

I have heard people boast quite proudly that they never iron anything. (Women, that is to say – men I never hear mention ironing.)

For some reason, these women see this laziness as a badge of honour. They have conquered their mother’s slavishness to the tyranny of the iron, and surpassed their sisters who are still foolishly clinging to the old ways.

This is wrong. (See picture above for abject example of said wrongness.)

There is also an urban myth that fashion magazines just love to bandy about. To placate those women liberated from the ironing board, fashion editors suggest you hang your wrinkled garments in the bathroom while you are having a shower. The steam, they say, will magically smooth out those wrinkles. You won’t have to lift a finger!

Wrong again.

Maybe this would work in a Swedish sauna after an hour or two, but in a domestic bathroom? No. It doesn’t. Take it from me: I have tried it.

Why iron? … Why bother trying to look chic, and stylish. Give up. Go polyester.

Why iron? I may as well ask why bother wearing nice clothes made from pretty fabrics such as silk. Why bother trying to look chic, and stylish. Give up. Go polyester. Polyester is such a comfy, sexy fabric. You can just chuck it in the machine, drip-dry it on the line any old how, fling it on straight after and look a million dollars.

I agree, ironing is one of the most fatiguing of household chores, but it must be done. Invest in a good-quality iron and solid ironing board – don’t bother with those cheap versions; it’s false economy. You will end up cursing its flimsy construction. A nice, padded ironing board cover is a necessity too, unless you wish to press in grill patterns onto your clothes. (If you can afford a professional steam iron, I am green with envy.)

See how pretty this silk tee looks now, ironed?


The Wardrobe Whisperer

Illustration by Lulu, for Australian In Style magazine, Jan 2005 I just love these articles on whipping your wardrobe into shape that fashion magazines regularly publish. It’s particularly fascinating when they deconstruct a real person’s closet (as opposed to a celebrity with a stylist and a limitless budget). Here are a couple of oldies from Australian In Style magazine, from 2005 and 2006, but they are full of practical tips that are still relevant today.

It’s jewellery storage that gives me the biggest headache – I have a huge collection. I particularly adore those old wooden coin sorters (on the fourth page), and have been looking for some for years, but they are very hard to come by. The best I’ve been able to do is ceramic egg trays – they are really cute. The only problem with these open trays is that they do collect dust. Last weekend I found an odd vintage wooden tray that is divided into compartments exactly the size of bangles. The tray has a handle too. My entire collection just manages to fit!

So scroll down for a read and get motivated (click images for larger versions). And please excuse me – I’ll be whispering to that giant basket of ironing I just made today. 


Thou Shalt Launder Thy Clothes With Care


So you’ve feng shui-ed your over-crowded wardrobe, you’ve gone shopping to fill the gaps, and you can now step back and feel a little glow of satisfaction as you admire the results. But just how long will your closet remain in this pristine state? Will you be able to locate any given garment when you are in a rush in the morning, and will it be in a condition suitable for wear? Quite apart from these practical considerations, it’s impossible to look truly chic if your clothing is dirty, torn or crumpled because you’d just picked up from the floor that morning (after treading on it a few times with your spiky heels).

The most important aspects of maintaining your wardrobe are storing and laundering garments correctly, especially if you have invested in high quality labels and delicate items – you can’t simply chuck these into the washing machine at the end of the week.

This doesn’t mean however you need to send everything to the dry cleaners. Too much exposure to dry cleaning chemicals can be damaging to fabric, not to mention hard on your wallet too. Very often clothing manufacturers suggest dry cleaning a garment to cover themselves from damages claims, but most fabrics can be hand washed gently – read the label and use your common sense. This is something you need to consider before you make a purchase – factor in the cost of dry-cleaning in the future, or the time you will need to invest in hand washing. Are you still willing to make the purchase?

Read on to learn how to maintain your wardrobe through appropriate storage and careful laundering …

Click to read more ...


Dress Like an Egyptian

Nothing says summer like cool blue and white stripes. Linen knit from flax, by Zara.When I was a teenager I remember being warned against linen fabric: “It’ll crease terribly,” doomsayers were fond of declaring. Linen suffered from a bad reputation in the fashion world, but it had a renaissance in the 1990s, when about 70% of linen production contributed to textile apparel. This was a huge leap from the 1970s when only 5% was used by the garment industry.

Jaw-dropping: a field of growing flaxFlax flowerLinen, a fibre made from the flax plant, has been used for millennia. The ancient Egyptians wrapped their mummies with it; in the days of Homer warriors used linen to make a type of body armour called a ‘linothorax’, while in the Middle Ages it was used for shields, bowstrings and gambeson (a type of jacket worn as armour). From pool cues and bread couches (a kind of mould to hold dough), to canvases and dollar bills, linen has many and varied uses.

Garments made from linen are expensive however, and this is due to the labour-intensive manufacturing process. The crops must be nursed along, being more difficult to grow, and more expensive to produce than cotton. Flax thread is difficult to weave without breaking threads because it is non-elastic. Those random slubs, or knots visible in some fabrics are actually flaws, associated with low quality – fine linen fibres will be very consistent. The rewards of perseverance are there: fabric is cool and smooth to the touch, lint-free and unlikely to pill, and it softens the more often it is washed.

Flax fibre looks at first glance like sheep’s woolAs for the dreaded wrinkling: this is due to linen’s poor elasticity – it does not spring back readily and formal garments must be ironed often. Happily it is a hardy fabric, and is the only one that is actually stronger when it is wet, although constant creasing or folding in the same places will weaken those threads. Interestingly linen fabric can absorb and lose water rapidly, and can gain up to 20% moisture without feeling damp, which is why it is perfect for hot weather. It was the Egyptians’ favourite fabric, and they wore only white in the desert heat.

Linen weave is a plain, almost coarse weave with large holesAlthough I overcame that early fear instilled by some nameless adult, today I particularly love linen knit fabrics: the somewhat loose (almost holey) weave makes up such light, airy garments. I own two tees by Zara made from flax linen (the term ‘linen’ can also be applied to garments made from other fibres such as cotton or hemp when the textile features a linen-style weave) and they have held up beautifully over two summers and are so comfortable to wear. In a hot climate, you just can’t do better than to dress like an Egyptian.

Click on any of the images and jump through to learn much more about the history of flax and the manufacturing processes of linen.

Botanical drawing of the flax plant


The Pony Still Prances

I loathe mending clothes with every fibre of my being. If I can fob it off onto a) a tailor or b) my seamstress sister Blossom, I do. When I am forced to by serious wardrobe malfunctions (ie, clothes falling off one such as happened to me at a recent wedding when a button tore on a fragile 60s dress, forcing me to keep my coat on in the church even though I was about to expire from heat exhaustion) I will sew on a button, or mend a torn seam.

Likewise, ironing is something I leave for months at a time. Preferably when an entire season’s worth of clothing has accumulated in the ironing basket or I have run out of clothes – whichever comes first. Luckily I own a lot of clothes. It is not as torturous a chore as mending, and I can just about muster the energy if I can watch a DVD at the same time. (As long as I have seen the film or episode before, and it’s not in a foreign language – otherwise it’s far too interesting.)

But laundering. I am fanatical about proper laundering. I even have a laundry section on this website (see tag cloud, right).

Let’s first digress and look at some romantic pictures of laundering:

Women Washing Clothes by a Stream, Daniel Ridgway KnightThis woman takes her washing very seriously – as she should, c. 1900–1930It is important to look cute while handwashing, c. 1940s

Clothes will last much longer if they are treated kindly. I remember once a friend told me she just chucked everything into the machine. I was aghast. I had to be picked up from the floor and resuscitated. She was, in fact, one of my inspirations to start this blog. I thought, if there is one young woman who doesn’t know how to properly launder cashmere, there might be hundreds out there. It was my duty to impart my wisdom.

… if there is one young woman who doesn’t know how to properly launder cashmere, there might be hundreds out there.

Today I am going to discuss sequins. There are two sorts of sequins: new ones, and vintage ones.

Take the vintage ones to the dry cleaner. That is all.

If you need convincing, read this cautionary tale: I once owned a delightful short-sleeved, soft black cashmere vintage cardigan that was trimmed in pearl beads. I handwashed it gently in cool water … and watched in horror as the pearl coating floated off the beads, leaving dull plastic behind. The cardigan subsequently went back to the charity shop. It was a lesson to me. Learn from it.

For new shiny garments that you particularly like, obviously check the washing instructions on your garment. Even if it says dry clean only, it may be handwashed gently (at your own risk, but I take such risks all the time and I have not come to grief thus far) and laid flat to dry on a towel or clothes airer. For more detailed instructions click here (although I would not use warm water if the garment is silk). Very delicate evening wear I would take to a dry cleaner.

For new shiny garments that are minimally sequinned and you bought from a charity shop for $4 and don’t particularly care if they live or die, stick them in a lingerie bag and wash with your normal clothes on a gentle cycle. They should be fine; mine was. The pony still prances.

Now if only I could find it in the depths of the ironing basket so I could wear it again …

And my most favourite image of all … Hang onto your clothes like grim death in case they try to escape the washboard. Don’t try this at home! Ph George Marks, c. 1930s