Releasing creases: How it all began


Holland, home of tulips and other spring flowers, is famous for pressing irons of distinguishing designs and sizes.

Although devoid of natural iron deposits and lacking molding facilities, Holland created impressive ironing devices. These ironing instruments were made of iron, steel, brass glass and had wood for parts. Heatless iron utensils also developed, which were uncommon.

The history of these ironing devices began possibly over 300 years ago.

Slickstones were a pressing tool, and another name given to this round black and white glass was linen smoother.

The round flat types were held in the palm of the hand, a grip that allowed more ease and improved manipulation. This procedure is still retained by a few folks in Holland.

Another heatless pressing device is the mangling board. This is a simple instrument, a round roller-shaped piece of wood. The smoothing is done by use of sturdy, rounded ends and a flat board perhaps twice as long as the roller board.

Often the flat mangling board is decorated with chip carving. By employing the flat board and pressing down firmly on the fabric, wrinkles disappear and the fabric is quite smooth.

A further development of the mangling principle is the box mangle. This is a box filled with heavy stones and applied onto the fabric in the same way as the flat mangling board.

Often two people were required to operate this heavier mangling device. Toy box mangles were also made for the young girls to play with.

Linen presses look like screw-down proof presses, which were used by older printing firms. These applied firm pressure between the two plates – a top one fastened to the screw-down device and a flat bottom one. Left under pressure for a length of time, all wrinkles vanished.

Pleats in clothing were created by the use of wooden crimpers and were predominantly Dutch. These had rolling parts of matching design, and they made small elaborate crimped hats for ladies. Other European nations used these crimpers, but many were used with fluted iron parts.

This nonheated rubbed, mangoled or ironed attire was worn by the Dutch royalty and court members for quite a few decades. It was later in 1600 that records actually report the use of charcoal-heated irons in Holland. Those reported were made of copper or brass.

Iron foundries were absent from the Netherlands at that time. These early brass or copper irons were supplied with a stand. Under the plate where the handle was fastened, fluted vents were cast to allow the charcoal or peat fumes to dissipate.

The tear shape is found in all Dutch irons. A small latch on the top permitted access to the fire-holding part. A low-income version called the Drenthe iron was most common. Instead of copper straps supporting the top, the fluted sides held it up. The sole, or bottom, was cast steel.

A more affluent type was called the Hollander and had a brass sole and more fancy vent holes. The handles were more elaborate and instead of a plain, swinging latch with an upright to manipulate it, the spring operated on a clothes pin-shaped latch.

Old irons have a hidden seam where the iron or brass parts are united. Reproductions are more obvious and often sensed by touch.

Because more brass irons were made by Dutch iron manufacturers, a substitute for iron ore was adapted. This became a national character of Dutch irons. To heat these irons, a small brass box with handles at each end was used. Charcoal or peat was burned inside, and the irons were placed on top for heating.

My mother used a charcoal iron made of steel when I was young in the 1930s. The charcoal iron worked well, but the fumes were not appreciated.


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