Washing and Ironing. Two words I usually Do Not Enjoy, especially when put together. I used to iron everything years ago, the way my mother taught me, and her mother before her…but then life got busy. Now, ironing is a reserved activity for something truly special: the mens’ suits, daughter’s dresses, and my above the normal clothes. As the events of the past two days turn out, there was a special reason to be ironing.
The reason? Ecclesiastical Linen.
That’s right. Linen. Linen is the reason for doing the laundry today. When I recently framed up the Easter Set Pulpit Fall Design here: https://ecclesiasticalsewing.wordpress.com/2014/08/15/all-framed-up-and-ready-to-stitch/ that design used the last piece of linen in my collection that had been preshrunk and ironed. Bother. Well, over the past year or so, whenever Hedgehog Handworks had one of their sales, I purchased linen. I have several favorite linens which are purchased from Hedgehog Handworks. They are Alba Maxima, Alabaster Angel, and Ecclesiastical Linen. Hedgehog Handworks carries many more linens, but these are my favorites for the type of embroidery I do. There were various yardages for all three types of linen in the stash, but there they were, in the original bags, marked as to type of linen, and all unshrunk. Bother. No going forward with framing up anything else until the laundry is done.
But wait… that is not all. There is also a linen cambric. This linen is very different from the linens I purchase from Hedgehog Handworks. It is a lighter weight linen suitable for whitework for various items such as Fairlinens (this is the main linen on top of an altar), and smaller linens such as purificators, palls, lavebo towels and corporals. There were several precut purificators, and 5 yards of this linen, all of which are still unshrunk. Bother.
Well, it is really not that bad. Instead of turning this into an Eor type of day, (apologies to Winnie the Pooh), it was time to have some fun. I had been holding off, waiting for a day when I could to all of the linen preshrinking at one time. Today was THE day. Out came the largest pans I own in the kitchen, and the process began. First, there was the getting each piece entirely wet process. Next, there was the plunge into hot, and I mean HOT water. After a few minutes, there was the plunge into the coldest cold water to be had. Wait a few minutes, then repeat the process two more times. The final step was to plunge linen into hot water and leave until the water cooled down. My camera was downstairs during the plunging part, so there are no photos.
Some may choose to throw their linen in the washer and shrink it. Not me. My washer is old. This is expensive linen, and it deserves the time and care taken to do the preshrinking by hand. That is my opinion, but if using a washing machine works for others, that is great!
Once the water is cool, a final quick rinse, a roll up in a white terry towel, and off to the ironing board. The ironing board part is a bit tricky. There is always the danger of scorching the linen when ironing it dry. I prefer to have is air dry part of the way and to finish it by pressing. I use stem to aid with stubborn wrinkles. I start in the center and work to the outer edges, trying to make sure that piece remains squared up.
Once the linen is pressed, the fibers may still retain a bit of moisture for a while, and I leave the pieces out flat to continue air drying overnight. I check them again the next day to see if they need touching up in a few spots. Some linens require this more than the others.
I find the light weight linen cambric presses very nicely. I love this lightweight linen! It has body, and is still light weight.
Alba Maxima is one of my favorite linens to use for Ecclesiastical Embroidery Designs, but is takes some work to get this linen pressed out. When it is wet, it almost has the weight and appearance of canvas. Almost. The trick to pressing this linen is to minimize wrinkles in the first place during the shrinking process. Try not to wring this linen. Those wrinkles that come from trying to wring out excess water become a challenge to press out.
This photo shows a piece of Ecclesiastical Linen prior to pressing.
The Ecclesiastical Linen does take a little work as well to get out the wrinkles that come if you wring it out, so avoiding that helps.
As this was pressed, the linen fibers are fine and even, and the linen presses up very nicely in the end. The photo above is the piece of Ecclesiastcal Linen after pressing. This is such a wonderful linen!
Next up: Alabaster Angel. Let’s see how that presses. Surprisingly, this linen presses very nicely as well. It looks great after the final press.
After working with all three linens from Hedgehog Handworks, my favorite linen to press has to be the Ecclesiastical Linen. It presses like a dream – if that is possible when it comes to pressing linen. What seems to help when pressing all of this linen is to go over the entire linen piece once. The goal is to remove most of the excess moisture. The piece may still feel slightly damp, but it should no longer be wet to the touch. After the entire piece has been gone over once with the iron, it is time for steam. PLEASE be sure if you use steam, that you have an iron that you can trust. Do not use an iron that has a history of spitting, sputtering, or hissing, especially if at any time it spits or sputters out rusty colored water or steam. I like to go over the linen a second time, using the continual steam setting and work a section at a time until it has a smooth and even surface. While doing this, it is important to never stretch the linen, or to distort or skew the grainline. On occasion there are bubbles from an area that is still damp. Gently go over the damp area with the bubbles a few times until it starts to dry. Carefully ease the bubble part into the rest of the linen that is dry. I must say, the more linen I ironed, the better job each piece received. Practice does make perfect. And I can honestly say I am very glad that I do not have to iron linen tablecloths and napkins or other items on a regular basis! So it really was not a bother to do the washing and ironing after all.
How about you? Do you have linen pressing stories or tips to share? Please leave a comment with your tips and hints.
Solo Dei Gloria
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Filed under: Church Linens, Ecclesiastical Embroidery, Ecclesiastical Embroidery Design, Ecclesiastical Sewing, Hedgehog Handworks Tagged: Alabastar Angel, Alba Maxima, Church Linens, Ecclesiastical Embroidery, Ecclesiastical Embroidery Design, Ecclesiastical Linen, Ecclesiastical Sewing, fairlinen, Hedgehog Handworks, Lavibo Towel, Linen, pall, preshrinking linen, Purificator