Monday, April 07, 2008
Ironing Old Linens
When you deal in old linens, ironing always looms large and isn't my favourite occupation. Or wasn't until now. I have to confess here that the 'ironer in chief' for The Scottish Home is my husband. Well, he's an artist and there has to be something artistic about ironing hasn't there? But over the years we seem to have accumulated a collection of steam irons, none of which have worked well, or for very long.
When people see me buying old linens at auction, their most frequent comment is something like 'oh yes, lovely stuff, but what about the ironing?' In the old days, of course, the linen tablecloths would be processed by commercial laundries - most of them have their old laundry marks or tapes still in place - or perhaps by servants in the bigger houses, working mangles, to realign the fibres before pressing.
Wash an old linen tablecloth these days (a process made much easier by modern stain removers - they can even cope with ancient teastains, with a little care) but once dried it will seem crumpled beyond redemption. It's one of the ways of telling the difference between good cotton - which, whatever anyone tells you, can feel as smooth and dense and cool as linen - and real linen. In fact a little investigation online shows that on occasions the only way to tell is to examine the textile under a microscope. But if you wash it, linen will mostly crumple as it dries. Cotton will mostly stay reasonably smooth.
But now, we have discovered the steam generator iron, and our lives have been transformed.
These are, it has to be said, expensive. We bought one for the business, and we keep it for the business so that the lovely smooth ceramic sole plate stays clean. It sits on a reservoir of water, which generates steam under pressure. This comes down a cable and you literally iron using pressured steam. It works, even on crumpled linen, which comes out unbelievably smooth and beautiful. But it's a temptation to use it on everything, because the difference is truly amazing. Never has ironing been such an effortless pleasure - friends, I could SELL these things. We bought ours from Tefal and although it was one of their cheaper models, (the Tefal Pro Minute, if you want to look for it online) we have been absolutely delighted with it.
So if you want to use wonderful old linens in your house, on your tables, and beds - and really, there is nothing quite like them - perhaps you should consider investing in something more sophisticated by way of an iron. Never thought I could be this enthusiastic about ironing, but I suppose it's all about having the right tools for the job!
Posted by Catherine Czerkawska at 10:46 am