The hiss of steam

Do you recognize this tool? I put it next to my iron as a clue.

This is a sprinkler and one just like it was my Grandmother's equivalent of a misting spray bottle kept on the ironing board. We've been doing a lot of ironing and steam pressing at our house lately and that's got me waxing nostalgic about a summer day...

Nanny and Papaw's porch was L shaped. In what would have been the horizontal side of the L was the deepfreeze, the old Ruud hot water heater and a storage cabinet. In the vertical side of the L was the back door, an armoire for back porch storage, and a cabinet that held all kind of canned things, like fig preserves and sweet pickles that had been colored an unnatural shade of green with food coloring.

The outside walls were sided half way up and the upper part was screen and Papaw used to stretch plastic over it in winter to keep the porch warm.

In the corner, where the two sides came together, there were shelves in the upper part and Nanny kept old bottles there; perfume bottles and old aspirin bottles and jars that her Avon cold cream came in. She told me once that she liked to see the sun shine through the bottles and onto the porch. Under the shelves was a vinyl covered love seat with chrome tubing arms and legs. It reminded me of the bench seat in the backseat of a car or a no-nonsense seat in a barbershop.

I remember napping on that bench with a book. Ivanhoe, or A Christmas Carol, or The Little Curiosity Shop; all old editions from the barrister book case in the dining room. I could read any of these old books when I was there, but I was only allowed to take one home, just one time. I got to take Ivanhoe to write a book report on it for school.

I'd love to go back and spend a day on the bench with a book while Nanny ironed clothes. All her clothes were washed in the Maytag machine that occupied a corner of the kitchen. There was no clothes dryer until she got sick and the aunts came in to take care of her. They wouldn't hang clothes out or iron Papaw's boxers, so a dryer was brought in and installed next to the old washer.

On this particular summer afternoon, I can remember the hum of the freezer and the bubble of the water heater. The crickets out in the yard were making lots of racket the way they do on hot summer afternoons. I was laying on the bench with a book and Nanny was ironing. First she'd sprinkle the clothes with water from a coke bottle that had a sprinkler, like the one in the picture, jammed into it. Then, she'd run her hand over the fabric to spread out the water droplets. The fabric was so stiff from being hung to dry that the water would sit on top until she slid it along and made it soak in. Then, she'd go over that with her white plastic iron that had blue trim and always had water in it to make more steam and a heating plate that was always spotless. Between those two steam sources, there was the constant hiss of water being evaporated and the sight of steam rising and a shirt being moved around the ironing board as she pressed section after section, flat and stiff. Or one of her pink cotton sheets, puddled on the floor; one puddle wrinkled and the other puddle smooth and flat with the ironing board between them like a dividing border.

I still iron like that. I spritz with my spray bottle, slide my hand across the fabric to get the water to soak in, then slide my iron across it. And, I listen to the hiss and watch the steam rise from my work. I find it very relaxing to iron. But I don't find time for it as often as I used to. And, I would never be caught ironing sheets or boxers. Table cloths and shirts are my victims and my iron has subdued many a yard of wrinkled quilter's cotton.

The steam press is quicker and follows much the same process; steam, stretch with a hand, press. But, it lacks that nostalgia that I always feel when I think about that afternoon that I watched Nanny iron. An afternoon that was perfect...probably because I wasn't the one having to do the ironing. Probably not so nice for her, ironing in the heat of a summer afternoon.


This morning, Austin is experiencing rolling power shutdowns to "conserve the power grid". Just as I was headed to the shower, all went black, inside and out. And, it was a dark and cloudy morning, so no natural light available. I pulled out my oil lamps and some candles and gave Sydney light so she could keep getting ready. Fortunately we have a gas stove, so I was able to make her breakfast by candle light. I didn't think about how wonderful overhead light is. It's hard to see into a pan when the light is beside the pan and not above it. (I promise it was dark. this picture was taken with a flash, but you can see the candles and lamp spread about. Had to use the hurricane lamp cover because I kept breathing out and putting my candle out.)

For Sydney, it was an adventure and we laughed about how most girls get dinner by candlelight. Breakfast by candle is rare. It barely put us off schedule and she still caught her bus and I was on time to work, proving my family is resourceful. She was texting people that were huddled around the fireplace as if the power was out for a day instead of for an hour.

Power came back as she was leaving for the bus stop and I got to shower, but before I left the house, it was down again. Hope it doesn't last long. It's as cold here as it was in Minneapolis last week. Thank Heaven it's not as cold as it is in Minneapolis this week.

Take care, stay warm, sew a lot. Lane


Impera_Magna said...

I do indeed remember those sprinkler tops being used to iron. My mother didn't have a dryer until I was almost out of HS... ah the memories!

I keep a couple of oil lamps handy in case of lengthy power outages... unfortunately, I don't have a gas stove.

Stay safe and warm!

kwiltmakr said...

I remember my mom ironing and using this neat old bottle with one of those sprinkler tops. She would sprinkle all the clothes and roll them up till she got to them. Hope your electric comes back on soon. We were lucky and didn't loose the lights/heat.

Anonymous said...

I remember my Grannie using a sprinkler bottle when she ironed. She'd sprinkler several items, roll them up, put them in a plastic bag, and place them in the refrigerator (which they called the ice-box, altho it wasn't)until she ironed them. She did the laundry with a wringer washing machine on the back porch. It had 2 tubs, one for suds and one for rinsing, with the wringer head mounted between them. She used bluing...I'm not sure what that was for. She hung the clothes on a line to dry. Her bedsheets smelled so fresh!

We're having the rolling black outs here too, south of Arlington. I hope this doesn't go on for days. We only have electricity for heat and it got pretty cold this morning. Brrr. Oh, and it wouldn't do for the Super Bowl to get blacked out...along with the rest of us! ;-)

~ PattiLynn

Piece by Piece said...

I remember using one of those sprinklers. What I did was dampen all of the clothes and roll them up into sausage shape, so that all of the fabric would get damp. The clothes that did not get pressed in an ironing session I wrapped in an old pillow case and put them in the freezer. I did this especially in the summer, as damp clothes could easily get mildewed.
We had another dumping of snow over night, thankfully not as much as the forecast had predicted, I had enough snow and long for the first signs of Spring.

9patchnurse said...

I remember those sprinklers! Stay warm and try to enjoy your adventure.