Yesterday I was visiting with my Mom, and I noticed that she was wearing a pair of brown, orlon socks. Those socks had been my Dad's. That may not seem significant to you, but my father left this earth in 1985, twenty-eight years ago! I remember him wearing those socks, that were probably bought at Brill's store, on N.Main Street in East Hampton. The store is long-gone, but those socks live on, albeit with a hole in the toe!
I came home to remark to my husband about those socks. As one thought lead to another, we both remembered learning how to darn socks. Nobody knows how to darn a hole in a sock any more. Mom taught me how to do it, I think when I was in the Girl Scouts and working on a Homemaker's badge. Mike's Grandmother taught him the skill, although, having seen his mending of old jeans from his days as a single guy, I can't imagine how skilled his work was! There was a tool ....little wooden 'eggs' on a handle...called darning eggs. It would be placed inside the sock behind the hole. First you would surround the hole with small stitches. This prevented the sock from 'unraveling' further, and secure the place to begin the darning. Then you would begin the 'patching of the hole' by passing the needle, loaded with 'darning cotton' thread from one side of the circle to the other without pulling the hole closed. After the circle had been covered with these threads going in one direction, you would turn the hole, so that the threads ran 'top to bottom', and you'd begin to weave the needle through the vertical threads in a horizontal manner. When you were done, the hole was patched.... not terribly comfortable to wear, as I remember, but patched, none the less.
The 'darning' gave us conversation of other things. My Grandma had a 'rag bag', a handmade fabric bag which held bits of old clothing, soft cloths, etc. which was used for cleaning or dusting purposes. It was hung on a hook on the inside door trim of the living room closet. Sometimes I'd be sent to fetch a rag from it for some household job. Other times, I'd pick through for a pretty piece to practice sewing stitches on.
There were rag rugs in my Grandma's house, 'scatter rugs' they were called then. They were about the size of a door mat, made of strips of cotton fabrics that had been rolled to give them body, and then stitched together to form small rugs to put in doorways or in front of the kitchen sink. They'd be taken outside daily and shaken to free them of dust and dirt. I don't remember, but I would imagine they were washed now and then, and hung on the line to dry.
Oh yes, and clotheslines! They are nearly a thing of the past. Many subdivisions don't allow them, which is an awful shame, I think. There is nothing like fresh air drying for things like bed sheets! Everything smells better when hung outside to air in the breeze, and white things are so much whiter when hung in the bright sunlight! Grandma had a clothesline in her yard....a square that was formed by four old tall posts, which were probably once growing locust trees. The rope was hung high on those posts and strung from one post to the next, and tied taut. Since the rope always seemed to stretch under the weight of wet clothing, there were long poles that had a fork at the top to catch the ropes and were then propped on the other end against the ground, lifting the clothing to prevent any reaching to the ground. We kids learned early to stay away from the clotheslines! Dirty hand prints on the newly washed sheets was frowned upon.
Laundry day wasn't as easy as it is for women today. There was a galvanized wash tub on Grandma's back porch wall. It was filled with boiling water and things were scrubbed clean on a wooden framed, rippled glass, 'scrub board'. Not only did the wash get scrubbed, so did knuckles!
Grandma had another large kettle that was placed on the stove, and in it went white things to boil. When they were clean, they'd be lifted out with a long stick, and rinsed a few times in the tub of clean hot water, then wrung out by hand, and hung out to dry. When it was dry, the wash was folded and most things had to be ironed. Grandma had electricity, and an electric iron, but whatever was in the basket to be ironed had to be 'sprinkled' . There was a bottle used for that purpose, with a cork at the top, with a cap with small holes in it. You shook the bottle upside down, allowing a 'sprinkling' over the items, then they were rolled, so that they were damp, but not wet, all through the item. Then they'd be unrolled on the ironing board and pressed free of dampness and wrinkles.
Things aren't the same today, for sure. For all our complaining, women have it easy today. We throw holey socks away. They don't even go in the 'rag bag'. Who even HAS a rag bag for cleaning? We have paper towels, or Clorox wipes to do the job of a rag. We rarely do hand washing, and almost never hang laundry outside anymore. Would a teen of today know what a 'sprinkling bottle' was used for if they saw one? Do they ever iron anything these days? Life moves on.... bringing new gadgets that kids adapt to quickly, amazing things that some of us 'oldies' wouldn't know what to do with....or want to. Generation Gap... well, I'll say!