Virginia Barton

17 March 2015: Dashing Away with a Smoothing Iron


17 March 2015



The temptation to follow up last week’s CP on washing is irresistible. How, for example, did an Elizabethan iron his ruff, or a Roman the pleats in his toga?

The flat irons of my youth have, thank the Lord, been replaced with electric irons. Even the tiny iron used for goffering could inflict considerable damage to the foot if dropped upon it. As for the whoppers used for linen sheets – well, they could easily break a toe or two.


The most interesting ironing system I have come across is that of BH and his fellow Cadet Officers  camped in Palestine during WW2. They slept on camp beds on which was placed first a  palliasse and then a sheet.

The smartness of one’s uniform was paramount. To achieve a knife-edge crease to the trousers (in the winter made of thick wool), the cadets moistened them and laid them carefully between palliasse and sheet – and then slept on them. The heat of the body and the dampness of the trousers had the effect of a steam iron.

“Tut tut, you’ll get rheumatism.” Says Nanny.

Apparently not.





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