The Laundrymaid – Clear Starching

A transcription from John Perkins “Laundry Maid -Every Woman Her Own House-keeper; Or, The Ladies’ Library, Containing the Cheapest and Most Extensive System of Cookery Ever Offered to the Public. … Also, The Family Physician; Or, A Complete Body of Domestic Medicine.” 1796

This we conceive to be an article of so much use in female economy, as to deserve very particular attention. Involving Muslins, you are to fold every article double, putting the selvedges together, then the ends together, and wash it the way the selvedge goes, to prevent the fraying ; next take very clear water, but not too hot, for that makes them yellow, and strain the water through a clean cloth into a pan ; then take of the best soap a quantity proportioned to your wash, put it upon a clean stick, beat up your lather ; but let it not be with a whisk, for that will make the water yellow, and also leave splinters, which will tear the muslin.

After the lather is beat, put in your foulest muslins, one by one, so let them stand to soak out the dirt then wash them one by one, to prevent tearing ; whilst the water is warm squeeze them very hard between both hands, for for fear of leaving the dirty suds in them, and as you wash them out, shake them open into an earthen dish ; let your second lather be beat up as your first, only let the water be hotter, but not scalding hot ; but wash whilst they are warm, and squeeze them as before i as to your third lather, let your water be scalding hot, but not boiling, for that makes the water yellow; then put some powder blue into a cup, with a little more water than will just wet it etc; shake the cup about, afterwards pour it into the scalding water, and stir it about till you perceive it blue enough ; then take soap, beat up your lather as before, put your yellowest muslins in first, and let them be covered over with a clean cloth : you may wash them out whilst warm, or let them stand all night, it will do them no harm, but clear them.

Observe when you wash them out, to take care and wash the blue out, then lay them in clear pump water, and if you have not time to starch them all at once, put no more in your starch than you can finish in one day, for lying in the starch makes them look yellow. But let them be put in pump water, till you have time to finish them, but do not exceed two days. Most starchers boil their muslins ; but it certainly wears them out : the scalding, and letting the muslins lie therein, does them more good than a boil. Likewise, observe never to soap your muslins, for washing out the soap will cause you to fray them. To rinse Muslins before you starch them. Take pump water in a clean pan, take a small quantity of blue in a cup, and put a little pump water to it ; shake it about in the cup, and pour a little of it into the rinsing water ; then with your hand stir it about ; put your whitest muslins in first, one by one, squeezing them out one by one, as you put them in ; but put no more in than two or three at a time, or the blue will settle upon them ; in which case rub them with your hand lightly in the water, and it will come off and if any of your muslins be yellow, you must make the rinsing water a little bluer ; after you have rinsed them all out, squeeze them one by one between your hands very hard, because they will not take the starch if any water is left in them, and pull them out with Very dry hands, one by one ; double them, lay them upon a clean dry cloth, in order to starch them. Some people starch them dry, but they ought not, for it makes them look yellow and stiff, and is also very apt to fray them.

To make Starch for Muslim. Take a pint of pump water to a quarter of a pound of starch i put the water in a clean skillet, and put it over a clear fire till it is luke-warm ; then put in your starch, keep it stirring slowly one way, till it boils, and no more ; if it boils too much, it makes it yellow ; pour it into a clean pan, cover it with a clean plate till it is cold, then take some upon your hand, and some blue in the other hand, mix them together, but make it not too blue, for the less blue the better, so it looks a little blue it is enough: you need not make any more at a time, for if you keep it above a week, it will make your muslins look yellow. Take your muslins doubled as before, one by one, in your left hand, and with your right spread the starch, but not too thick ; first on the one side and then on the other, but do not open them.

When you have starched your muslins, lay them in, the same earthen dish, kneading them with your double fist, till the starch sticks about your hands ; then, wringing them very hard, wipe them with a dry cloth ; after that open them, and rub them very slightly through your hands. In clapping the muslin, take the opposite ends of each piece in your hands, and clap them very hard, but wash your hands as often as you perceive any starch or wet upon them ; pull out the muslin very well with both hands, to you and from you, to prevent them fraying  and be sure your hands are exceeding dry; for if any of the starch remain upon them, it will fray as you pull it out ; hold it against the light, to see if it is clapped enough.

But if you observe any thing that looks shining, which is the starch, you must rub it over gently with your hands, but always dry ; so that when it. is clapped enough, you will observe it to fly asunder, and not stick to your hands. Observe to clap very quick and very hard, and when you see no shining, it is. enough : you must never clap by the fire but in frosty weather, for ‘ that spoils the colour. Let all muslin be ironed upon a clean soft woollen cloth, two or three times doubled ; the thicker the ironing-cloth, for worked muslins, the richer the work will ‘ appear.

You must always iron on the wrong side. — See Linen. Cambricks and lawns, in the washing and rinsing, must be managed as you do muslins but you must make a very thin starch, dip them in, and squeeze them out very hard, and clap them very carefully, for they are very apt to slip ; then fold them up, and put them into a dry, clean pan, when they are clapped : if you touch, touch them with any wet, it will leave a sort of thick look, and so will also muslins : you may iron them, as well as coarse muslins, within a damp cloth, laid over and under them, but not with too hot an iron and also iron them on the wrong side, as you do thick muslins. Aprons and handkerchiefs may be starched in a very thin, but thicker than water starch; a small matter of clapping serves them, but observe that they are clear : you must also pull them out towards the gathers, to prevent fraying them. Every way double them, and lay them on the board as even as you can, and let them lie till they are pretty near dry ; then spread them single, and iron on the wrong sides.

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