My Short History of Ironing

As I stood at my ironing board touching up the buttonhole edge of several shirts, I got to thinking about ironing in the Good Old Days. I remembered gathering clothes from the line out in the yard, sprinkling the shirts and other things that needed ironing, then stashing them in a plastic bag. This was a great delaying mechanism, gladly welcomed by those of us in the League of Professional Procrastinators, because the bag had to sit for a few hours for the dampness to become uniform. The challenge was to get back to the task before the clothing mildewed in the bag.

My first ironing experience was with a small toy iron and a tot-sized ironing board, just like Mommy's. As I remember, the iron had a little light in it to simulate heat. I think that required a battery, but if it did, it was the only battery-operated item I had until my transistor radio in junior high school. I remember watching my grandmother iron with flat irons heated on her stove, and with a kerosene iron when they lived in the mountains and had no electricity.

I learned to iron with a full-size real iron before I began school, starting off on handkerchiefs and pillow cases — yes, we actually ironed such things back then, but not sheets. I soon went on to master shirts, dresses and the complicated items of clothing. I remember standing at a hot ironing board for hours, taking care not to press in creases, and taking care not to allow the iron to linger long enough to scorch fabric. Remembering even further back, I remember rayon that would shrivel and melt if the iron was too hot.

That was primarily during my childhood in the 1950s. By the time I had children, permanent press and clothes dryers were part of my life, but the ironing board never quite went away. There have always been things that required a certain amount of touch-up, and for several years I gave up trying to get away without ironing permanent press shirts properly. Not too many years ago I used to save the ironing until the closet was empty, then watch movies on television while I ironed.

Things seem simpler now. I believe technological advances have done something to cotton processing, because even 100% cotton shirts need very little pressing. Is it the fabric or the dryer? Perhaps both.

Today as I pressed, I realized I can do a dozen shirts in the time I used to spend doing a single one. There is no reason to move the ironing board near the television, because my work would last little longer than a commercial break. Do you hear me complaining? Definitely not! I'm just waiting for a dryer that will place the shirts on hangers in the closet and sort socks...

What changes have you noticed in laundry technology and other housekeeping tasks over the span of your life? How has your life been made simpler? How has your attitude about housekeeping changed?

Write on,

Sharon Lippincott, aka Ritergal


Tara said...

Funny you should mention how that was in the 1950's as you were growing up. I was born in the 70's and I know people my age who are clueless as to how to operate an iron. To this day, my cousin will either ask me to come and iron something or she will get rid of it if it wrinkles. I have always found it relaxing to do.

~*~ Jennifer ~*~ said...

Guess what?

I'm doing some research about ironing... going to teach a home ec class to some home school girls tomorrow. ::giggle:: Isn't that funny.

I remember my mom talking about people sticking their clothes in the fridge to post pone their ironing.

Funny -- You know what? I love ironing... I watch movies while I iron still today! Ü I like it so much I iron tags down on t-shirts. I'm a little anal... a little.

GREAT post! Enjoyed the read. THANKS.

Meghan Maguire Dahn said...

How fun! I'm in the midst of writing a poem about ironing - a combination of a historical perspective (ie: the days of cast iron irons) and my own experiences (that little triangular burn that's still in my left forearm).

Anyway, thanks for writing. Lovely post.