Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Golly! Aren't you glad we don't have to iron everything anymore? When I was in my midteens my mother taught me to iron my dad's white cotton long-sleeve shirts. It was a step-by-step process that began with moistening the clothes to just the proper dampness. This was done with a "sprinkling bottle".

The sprinkling bottle is a lost art form of past generations. I remember making mine when I was in the fourth grade. Sometime before Mother's Day, the teacher instructed everyone in the class to bring in an empty ketchup bottle (but it's a secret, don't tell your mom what it's for). What kid doesn't love a secret?

After the ketchup (or pop) bottles were "smuggled" to school, the process began with a flat pan with paint of varying colors swirled to create a marbleized effect. We would each roll our bottle in the paint and then it would be set aside to dry. The next day, it would be fitted the standard sprinkling top--a cork topped by an aluminum head full of holes.

The Friday before Mother's Day, we would wrap it in white tissue paper with a little tie of crinkly ribbon and take it home for the big presentation on Sunday. I don't remember my mom's reaction when she opened it--or her reaction when she received three more in the following years from my siblings. In any case, they were in use for many years.

Eventually the cork base would crumble away and once that was gone, well, what possible use is there for a painted bottle? It went in the trash. As a result, when I went online to find a picture of an old-fashioned genuine Mother's Day sprinkling bottle, I checked Google images, ebay and Yahoo. All I could find was a single picture. It's not painted, but this is what it looks like:

After the clothes were sprinkled, they were rolled up and packed together in a laundry basket or plastic container. Some people would put them in the refrigerator. I think that was to keep them from getting mildewed it you didn't get to the ironing the next day. If the stuff got mildew, then you'd have to wash it again and hang it out in full sun to kill the mildew--if that failed, you'd have to soak it in bleach!


Sparrow chic said...

Luckily, ironing was not a big thing as I was growing up ! ( Thanks Mom ). The stories I tell my kids are different. Like growing up without air conditioning, sooo, we set up the tent to sleep outside. Or running to the neighborhood grocery to buy .25 worth of candy, and coming home with a bagfull. Now that was heaven !!!

MimiRock said...

Lovely post--brought back lots of memories. I always dreaded ironing until I read a book by Margaret Atwood that had a character who loved to iron because of its "therapeutic value." I began to think about the smooth rhythmic motion, the heat, and the fresh, clean fragrance and I began to appreciate it more. Men's shirts are still a challenge, however.

Olde Dame Penniwig said...

I ironed for our entire family when I was still so little I had to stand on a chair to reach the board. My mother even had me iron sheets, pillowcases, and TOWELS. Let's not even get into the FOLDING that was waiting once things were ironed!!!

Oh yes, I remember sprinkler bottles! And starch, too. And having a little piece of wax paper pinned to the end of the board on one side, and a little piece of paraffin that had been "ironed" into the cover next to it...

Thanks for the memory!!!

Ms Sparrow said...

Wow, what a wide variety of memories are triggered by ironing.
I always hated it because it was such drudgery--and because I never could get it perfect.
Penniwig-why in the world did your mother think sheets and towels should be ironed!? That sounds like slavery!