Getting Ready for Dressmaking and Renovating

This is the fourth article in April of the School for Housewives 1905 series published on Apr 30, 1905, and an article about how to get ready to spruce up the housewife’s wardrobe.

School for Housewives – Getting Ready for Dressmaking and Renovating

How to Lighten the Springtime Burden

The general unrest of springtime – which is the stirring of new life, and dissatisfaction with the old and rusty and half-worn things of the past season – is contagious. It is a wholesome indication in all forms of life. It means progress, a reaching forward toward something better, cleaner and higher than that we now have. It signifies growth and reformation.

Which bit of moralizing introduces and may reconcile us in part to the discouraging drudgery of a part of the spring work which falls to the part of every housewife of modern means.

When trunks and boxes and drawers have given up their stores of partially worn garments, quite too good to be thrown, and quite unpresentable in their present condition, the stoutest heart quails at the thought of the task set before the owners and wearers of the uninviting assortment. Silks are shiny and creased, woolen stuffs are ring-streaked in faded folds, and spotted with dirt, and speckled with grease; organdies and ginghams are crushed and limp; laces and flabby.

“If I were rich,” – cried a housemother in despair, but yesterday – “I would bundle the whole lot of horrors out of doors, without giving them a second look.”

Since we are not millionaires, let us be wise and grasp the mettle of present necessity. The situation, when faced courageously, has redeeming features.

Since Burns’ cotter’s wife –

“Wi’ her needle an’ her shears
Gars auld claes look amaist as weel’s the new” –

Notable mothers have expressed the oil of honest satisfaction from the practice of the like cunning art. There is a glow of hopefulness in bringing order out of confusion, prettiness out of homeliness and livelier glow of complacency when the renovated last season’s gown passes for new.

Now to particulars.

In preparing to turn and make over a silk dress: rip each seam carefully, clipping the stitches instead of tearing apart. Ripping is an art. Unless you have some old-fashioned body – a pensioner, may be, who is willing to do this with painstaking learned in an earlier day – do the ripping yourself on stormy evenings when John has time to beguile the task of weariness by reading aloud to you as the sharp scissors are piled. When all the breadths and sections of waist and sleeve are separated, brush the dust out and wipe off both sides with a bit of old flannel. Spread, breadth by breadth, upon a doubled clo9th and sponge with warm water (not hot) in which potatoes have been boiled until mealy. Strain the water before using it. It should be damp when ironed – on the wrong side, of course – leaving the right free from the gloss of the iron. If there are grease spots, sponge with ammonia before ironing.


Colored silks may be treated in the same way, unless the colors run under water. Try a piece first.

A mixture of equal parts of naphtha, alcohol and chloroform is an excellent cleansing agent. Being very volatile, the bottle must be kept closely corked.

Worsted stuffs of all grades may be washed in gasoline without fear of fading or shrinking.

If you can do this out of doors, it is best to take all you apparatus into the open air, with no fire or artificial light near. If, as is more probably, you must work in the house, shut yourself into the bath room and set the window open wide. Lay the breadths – several at a time – in a wash basin, cover with gasoline, put a close lid upon bowl or boiler and leave for half an hour. Lift then, wetting your hands as little as may be, and shake and suse alternately for two or three minutes. Do not rub. Hand in the air to drip and dry, and the work is done. In the bottom of the bowl a heavy deposit of sooty matter shows how soiled the cloth was and how through is the purification. When all the dirt has settled, pour off the clear gasoline cautiously and use for the next supply of clothes. If the cloth is badly soiled, throw away the first lot of gasoline and rinse the articles to be cleansed in a fresh supply. Gasolene will be remove grease. Therefore, before using the bath I have described, cover grease spots with a paste of fuller’s earth or of French chalk, and leave on all night. Next day cover with blotting paper and “draw” out the oil with a hot iron.

Renovate rusty, limp black lace by dipping it several times in water in which black kid gloves have been boiled for an hour, then left to soak until the water is tepid. Squeeze the gloves hard before removing them. Use a quart of water for a pair of gloves. There is coloring matter as well as stiffening in the water thus treated.

Marion Harland

Housewives, Their Cares and Joys Discussed in Council
Good Things for the Table – Recipes That Are Recommended
The Little Things That Soon Wear Out

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