Wovember Words: Wool in Good Housekeeping’s Home Encyclopedia

As a prequel to this evening’s planned Friday night Vi-EWE-ing post, for this morning’s WOVEMBER WORDS we are examining the context of WOOL in the 1950s household management and laundry as described in Good Housekeeping’s Home Encyclopedia, first published in 1951.

'Colourful modern bed linen' from the Good Housekeeping Home Encyclopedia, facing p32

‘Colourful modern bed linen’ from the Good Housekeeping Home Encyclopedia, facing p32

(from Fabric and Fibre Glossary);

Wool: The most widely used of the animal fibres, wool is woven into attractive and hardwearing fabrics for both clothing and furnishings and it is also of course made into a wide variety of hand and machine-knitted garments. In addition it is used in the manufacture of such articles as blankets and carpets.

Wool is absorbent, soft and warm. If woollen fabrics become creased at normal temperatures, they will recover their original shape when allowed to “rest”. Wool needs careful washing to avoid matting and shrinkage of the fibres (see Laundrywork), but the risk of shrinkage has been reduced by modern manufacturing processes. It has also become possible to mothproof wool during the manufacture and more recently processes have been developed by which it can be durably pleated and given a drip-dry finish.

(from Laundrywork);

Woollens: Knitted woollen garments are best washed by hand. Use water at a maximum of 104*F (40*C.) With a lather of neutral detergent or pure soapflakes; alternatively, use a special product for washing fine woollens which with lather in cool water. Do not treat with a chlorine bleach and do not boil. Wash by kneading and squeezing, taking care to avoid rubbing the wool, as this matts and shrinks it, and support the weight of the wet wool throughout the washing process, to avoid stretching. Rinse very thoroughly in 2-3 warm waters. Woollens may be spun or wrung to extract the water between rinses and before drying, provided the garment is handled carefully. Dry flat, away from direct heat; woollies should never be dried in direct sunlight, as this has a yellowing effect on wool.

To whiten yellowed woollens, use a hydrosulphate bleach (sold as a commercial preparation); the usual proportion to allow is 1 heaped tsp. to 2 gallons lukewarm water. Follow the directions on the container and take care to rinse thoroughly. Alternatively, use 20-vol hydrogen peroxide (allowing 1 part to 7 parts water) or add 2 oz. borax to 2 gallons water. Follow the directions on the packet or bottle and be careful to rinse thoroughly.

If coloured woollens show a tendency to run or streak on drying, wash them quickly in cool water with a liquid or cold-water soapless cleanser. If soap is used, a vinegar rinse (use about 1 tbsp. to 1 gallon) will neutralise any traces of alkali present. Finally, give a fresh water rinse.

Dry coloured articles with a cloth placed between the layers; hang striped garments vertically, to prevent the colours merging.

Felted, shrunken woollies may be improved by a wash with non-alkaline soapless cleanser, and the garment should be carefully pulled into shape while wet, then pinned out flat to dry. Prevention is better than cure with this trouble; as already mentioned, it is important to avoid rubbing and to wash by gently kneading and squeezing. Temperatures which are too high or which vary widely during washing, rinsing or drying are frequently the cause of this trouble.

'Gay carpets to stand hard wear' from the Good Housekeeping Home Encyclopedia, facing p33

‘Gay carpets to stand hard wear’ from the Good Housekeeping Home Encyclopedia, facing p33

‘Good Housekeeping’s Home Encyclopedia’ sixth edition, © National Magazine Company Limited, published by Everybody’s Publications Ltd., London, 1963

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This entry was posted by Felicity Ford.

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