Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style

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Entries in laundry (23)

Sunday
Feb102013

The Incredible Shrinking Knit

Laundry labels are sewn into garments for a reason. Usually it is best to pay attention to them. Except when it says ‘dry clean only’. I try to get away with handwashing whenever I can, although once it backfired on me. I thoughtlessly threw in a lovely dove grey fine gauge 100% wool knit by Calvin Klein thinking it was certainly washable, only to find it shrunk to doll size. I was rather cross with Calvin.

But there was one occasion when an accidental hot machine wash worked for me rather than against me.

Years ago whilst enjoying a little shopping spree in Hong Kong, I purchased a knit from Max & Co in a size too large for me. I do not know what possessed me to do so. It was too big in every respect, but in particular, the sleeves hung loosely past my fingertips by many centimetres. I loved this Guinevere style knit with its juliet sleeves however, even if it made me look like I was dragging my knuckles on the ground, and I continued to wear it.

I loved this Guinevere style knit … even if it made me look like I was dragging my knuckles on the ground …

One day I chucked in a dark wash – all underthings and spencers and stockings and such. Or so I thought. When I pulled everything out at the end of the cycle I was horrified to find I had inadvertently thrown in this enormous knit! But when it dried, I found that the machine had magically shrunk the jumper a whole size down and it fit me perfectly.*

So you see, sometimes it really does all come right in the wash.

* DISCLAIMER: Attempt at this at home entirely at your own risk. SNAP cannot be held responsible for any knits that have been shrunk too much, felted or otherwise mangled.

Laundromat image from The Magical Miss.

Monday
Jan072013

Pale and Interesting

The Vintage Hat Series: 1960s black cellophane straw lattice hatQuite a long time ago I decided that tans were not for me. For one thing, I found it extremely boring to lie in the sun carefully broiling each side like a pale jellyfish, and another, living in Australia made it a serious health hazard, what with holes in ozone layers and wicked burning rays. Of course, as a child and young teen I was as brown as a berry (as they say), simply from playing in the sunshine. But by the time I reached my mid-teens, I decided I would much rather be pale and interesting.

See more parasols on PinterestAt some point I conceived a passion for hats. I am not sure if this was serendipitous – coinciding with Australia’s first skin-cancer awareness campaign* – or if it was actually inspired by my loathing for sunscreen. It’s so gross and sticky, although I should hasten to add I do wear it when swimming. In Australia, however, a hat – unless it has a simply enormous brim – is not enough. I decided to revive the usage of parasols. My very first parasol was a Victorian-inspired calico and Battenberg lace affair that I bought nearly twenty years ago in Queensland. I still use it.

[the hat’s] resemblance to my lace parasol and its dubious ability to protect me from the sun is mildly amusing …

Last year I purchased on eBay a quaint 1960s black cellophane straw hat that is woven into a lattice pattern. I’d never seen anything like it before. Its resemblance to my lace parasol and its dubious ability to protect me from the sun is mildly amusing though. (If you act fast, here’s a similar hat on eBay from Cat’s Pajamas Vintage on sale right now). Unfortunately the hat arrived quite crushed in its box. It would have to be revived.

A different millinery seller had thoughtfully included an instruction sheet for the care of hats with another purchase.

Restoring straw hats

Poor, crushed hat

Brush off any dust with a soft brush. If you need to reshape the crown hold it upside down over steam and move it about for a couple minutes and then place it on a wig stand or stuff the crown with tissue or soft t-shirt material – never, never use newspaper because the ink will transfer. Let it cool and the shape will be restored.

The procedure is simple, but beware of burning your fingers. And the verdict? The shape of the hat has improved, but I do think it could do with another session in the sauna. I may have more luck using a kettle, with the steam coming out with more force, or else the problem lies in it being made from cellophane, rather than natural straw.

Getting my fingers burnedOn the first occasion I wore the hat to work, all the girls exclaimed in delight. In fact, I was so tickled by it when I saw an almost identical white version on eBay I had to buy that too. Just what I need: another holey hat for the summer sun.

For more information on hat care, visit Hat Shapers.

*Australia’s first skin-cancer awareness campaign slogan: “Slip, Slop, Slap – Slip on a t-shirt, slop on some sunscreen and slap on a hat.”

Tuesday
Apr172012

Washing Habits: On the Line

Living in the same apartment for 12 years and sharing a communal laundry, I have had ample opportunity to observe – and be surprised by – the laundering habits of my neighbours. Particularly in the way people hang their washing on the line, all higgledy-piggledy, pegs jammed any which way, and altogether arranging their laundry so as to take the maximum length of time to dry.

I don’t know about you, but my mum taught me stuff. I undoubtedly didn’t want to listen and wasn’t at all interested, but through a process of unwilling osmosis, absorbed her wisdom over the years.

Garments – vintage or otherwise – are more delicate when they are wet, so it is always best to take care so your clothes will last as long as possible. Obviously it is best to read the care label on your garment, but apart from items that need to be dried flat, these don’t instruct you on the art of drying.

These are some tips for hanging washing I picked up from my mum:

  1. Make sure the drying surface is clean (dirt! spiderwebs! bird poo!)
  2. Turn garments inside out to prevent fading
  3. Dry knits, silks, and other delicate garments flat, and in the shade
  4. Hang garments by their thinnest sections, ie, trousers by their legs, not by the waistband which is the thickest part and will take longest to dry
  5. Peg garments on seams or find ugly peg marks in your dry clothes
  6. Hang dresses, coats etc on coathangers; fasten the coathanger to the line with a piece of ribbon so it isn’t blown away by the wind (or you may be able to find special hooks that clip to the clothesline in a hardware store) – it takes less space on the line too
  7. Preferably dry vintage garments flat, or folded over a seam; eg, the waistband of a dress
  8. If you do share a clothesline with your neighbours, it is only polite to hang laundry neatly with an economic use of line – don’t spread it out with big gaps in between each item – and don’t leave it out for days!
  9. Before you bring it in, give your washing a shake to smooth out creases and loosen any bugs and spiders that might have taken refuge inside
  10. Fold items neatly as you go – it makes it easier to put them away, and in case you don’t immediately, they won’t develop ugly creases until you muster the energy for ironing

Once upon a time women dried their laundry on scented bushes such as lavender so their garments would be impregnated with their delicious scent. These days we’ve been reduced to liquid fabric softener, sigh.

Women drying laundry on the gorse, Vale of Health, Hampstead Heath, by Scott McFarland

Monday
Feb132012

The Silk Disaster

On Chinese New Year, I wore my bright red silk dress on an outing to the gallery with an old friend. That night, I decided to make crepes for supper. Foolishly, I kept the dress on, and did not even don an apron. I must have been daydreaming, and you can guess what happened …

I poured the first ladle of batter into the pan, and naturally the oil splashed outwards and spattered all over my dress. Well, I can tell you I whipped that dress off pretty quickly, and ran to the bathroom in my underwear!

I put the soiled dress in the sink to soak, hand-washed it gently and hung it out to dry. The next day I made the sad discovery that the oil stains clung on. (Duh, oil and water don’t mix.) I did what I should have done immediately: desperately leafed through my handy pocket reference guide to removing stains.

… I whipped that dress off pretty quickly, and ran to the bathroom in my underwear!

Oil and grease stains were the worst of all to clean, I read, but it was possible to remove them by shaking talcum powder on the spots, placing paper towel over the soiled area, and gently applying the iron on a low heat setting. Exchanging clean paper as needed, the operation should be repeated until the powder has soaked up the oil. The garment should then be washed in warm, soapy water (not normally recommended for silk fabric).

But was it too late for my dress?

Hallelujah, it was not! Miraculously, the dress came good, and even survived a warm wash.

eHow has a few other suggestions in the unhappy event of your own disaster. 

Monday
Feb062012

Those Annoying Ribbons and their Irritating Propensities

Who, I say WHO, finds those useless ribbons attached to the insides of one’s garments as annoying and irritating as I do? A stupider sartorial invention I cannot at present think of, made all the more so when they are attached to t-shirts of all things.

I grant you, on OCCASION they can be useful to attach strapless dresses to hangers, or keep slippery silk blouses from slipping to the bottom of one’s closet, but in the main they cause more grief than relief. Observe:

The Spaghetti

These long ribbon straps (see fig.1, pictured top) hang inside sleeveless garments to torment one when one zips up a dress, snagging in the fastening; and when one is out, by managing to work free by some mysterious agent and hang down by one’s side like a long noodle. Both unattractive and irksome. Solution: cut them off.

on OCCASION they can be useful …
but in the main they cause more grief than relief.

The Choker

Another tricky ribbon that turns the process of dressing into one that bears some resemblance to putting one’s head in a noose (fig 2, above). Daunting, and uncomfortable. Also entirely unnecessary as t-shirts can be folded flat into a drawer and the ribbon is thus rendered entirely dysfunctional. Solution: cut it off.

The Dishabille

My personal favourite (fig 3, above), these two ribbons are sewn into the shoulders of garments and have a remarkable propensity to work their way outside a neckline to hang freely down the front (bad), or back (worse, since they are not immediately discernible). At best, they tickle on the inside and deceive one into thinking the straps of one’s brassiere are slipping, making one feel dishevelled and unladylike. Pesky and pointless. Solution: cut them off, cut them off!