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I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Saturday, January 8, 2011

The dirty side of white shirts

I have just posted, finally, full shots of my first white shirt. I have another one half done down in the sewing room. It is quite different and I am looking forward to sharing that one with you soon.

I wore my first shirt to my first class of the semester this week and was very happy and comfortable in it.

However getting dressed for that class I encountered a major issue with 100% cotton white shirts.


Getting this shirt ready, it had been washed after one wearing over the holidays, took a lot of time. Ironing those puffy sleeves was no joke. Made me wonder if I need one of those little Martha Pullen round knob iron things.

Suddenly I was old school.

Should  I be using starch? I don't like the spray stuff, which I tried, too many inhaled chemicals I decided. My steam iron wasn't quite enough.

Made me think of the old Coke bottle with the shaker on top that my mother used to use to dampen ironing, and even of the semi-damp tablecloths she used to keep in the chest freezer in the basement until she could get around to ironing them.

How does a modern woman starch/iron a bunch of white shirts so they are really sharp, without spending 40 minutes each doing it?

Now I think I am pretty good at the ironing board as a sewer, but "the ironing" doesn't play the large role in my life that it played in my mother's or grandmother's.

My GQ style Guide advised men to do their own shirts, so they would last longer, to iron them wet from the washing machine and to use the ironing board backwards with the square end in the shoulders.

I am beginning to see why men send their shirts out, although that isn't something I am about to do with mine. 

If I press while I sew why wouldn't I iron after I have sewn?

Any great ironing thoughts and insights out there?


a little sewing on the side said...

Sorry no great insights on this, only commiseration.

I have noticed that when I sew knits, I like the ease of dressing. I wash them in the gentle cycle and hang to dry, then no ironing is necessary. But most of my knits (not all - so never doubt that a mystery remains) start to pill and look worn out after a few seasons.

So then I switched back to sewing woven shirts. They last so much longer, but they require ironing. Bah! I sewed a white shirt a few years ago with a cotton /poly blend advertised as "wash 'n wear". It only needs touch-ups. Side-by-side, a 100% cotton looks better than the blend. It just presses up nicer.

I wish I knew how to judge fabrics in advance. I guess they do start to show their true nature after pre-washing.
Anyhow, I have learned to iron my shirts and enjoy them, knowing they will outlast my knit tops.

Your shirt does look smashing.

LisaB said...

I don't have any great insights either. It takes 5-6 minutes to iron each of DH's dress shirts, but I don't use starch. It takes a little longer to iron my own shirts, because they have an elbow dart. That just makes the sleeves more fiddly.

My mom used the old Coke bottle with shaker top. Monday was laundry day, and Tuesday ironing day. After she brought the clean laundry up from the basement, she would spread it on the kitchen table, sprinkle it, and put it into a bag to await ironing the next day. I can picture the whole thing except for the bag. I bet she still does it, too. I'll have to ask.

BetsyV said...

I wish I had great insights on ironing. I'd do the one shirt/blouse the night before, and it never bothered me much, but I wore silk crepe shells a lot more often than cotton shirts/blouses. And I always had too many clothes in the closet to justify marathon ironing sessions - it would have to be re-ironed anyway.

Cotton is easier to iron damp, but be very very careful the iron isn't too hot. It's easy to scorch it too. Something about immediate application of fresh lemon juice to get the scorch marks out ...

The shirt looks fabulous, BTW.

LindaNan said...

All I can say is grin and bare it! There is nothing quite like a starched and ironed white shirt.8=)

I use liquid starch. I agree with you on the sprays. But no coke bottle for me. I treated myself to a qt bottle garden spray. I hang it on the edge of my ironing board. I prefer to let the dampened garment sit in a bag (or fridge) for the moisture to blend. In a pinch, I just iron away.

kbenco said...

As a veteran of puffy sleeved, cotton smocked dresses, I highly recommend scrunching up plastic bags to fill the puffy sleeve prior to hanging the wet blouse on the line to dry (is this possible in Canada in winter? a basement maybe?)This results in no ironing for the sleeves, which suits me just fine.

jennywren said...

I copy my mothers 'trick' of using a damp cloth when ironing. Something like a 12" square of muslin, wrung out in a bowl of water everytime it drys out and then just layed over the garment quick press and move it along. Safer for the garment and a more even dampness than spraying.
Love the blouse by the way.

Karin said...

I hate ironing. I tend to wear mostly tshirts, just to avoid the task! When ironing is unavoidable, I do it at night in front of a good tv show. I have an extra wide ironing board with off-set feet that can be adjusted very low. This way I can sit on the couch while I iron!

Regarding puffy sleeves, I read a tip that puffy sleeves can be puffed with a hair drier rather than ironing them. I don't have any sleeves to try it on, but it sounds like a neat idea.