Experience is a good teacher, but knowledge so gained is often paid for at high price. It seems an easier way, with much saving of time, money, and energy, for girls to learn beforehand what to guard against in purchasing their household textiles for both clothing and furnishings. Our great-grandmothers were sure their household textiles would wear, for they followed every step of their manufacture and knew they were durable and honest. Conditions changed with the factory system of manufacture, and to-day women know very little about textile fabrics or the making of garments. This ignorance of manufacturing processes results in the increased cost of living by the wasteful expenditures made for household textiles. Women rely on the information given by clerks in stores, often to their sad disadvantage. As we have learned, about 15 to 20 per cent of the family income is usually spent on clothing and household furnishings for a family of four. Is it not necessary then that girls should learn to make the dollars earned buy just as much as possible?
There is need of a pure textile law in order that the adulterations of textiles may be defined. Some of us cannot afford to buy pure linen or all wool, but we do wish to know the percentage of adulterant in order that we may judge whether the materials will meet our needs. It is beyond the power of women now to control the making of fabrics, and the government, therefore, must help to maintain standards and proper supervision of textile labeling. Women can, however, study this problem, and with a knowledge of the manufacture and composition of textiles will come the power to choose wisely, for manufacturers have been able to perpetuate these frauds chiefly because of ignorance. (See the companion volume, "Shelter and Clothing,")
Some things to remember in purchasing household linens.
1. Design is important. French designs are the most beautiful in damasks, Scotch and Irish are good, and German patterns perhaps the least attractive. Weave often affects the wearing quality of linen as well as the appearance. The satin stripes and long threads on surface are apt to wear off quickly and they are sometimes introduced to cover defects beneath. They cannot stand heavy ironing as the closer, more even, weaves.
2. Linen is sometimes adulterated with cotton; if bought as union goods one may expect it. If bought for pure linen, ravel the material and untwist warp and woof threads. Do the threads appear long and lustrous ? The round threads are best. If cotton has been used, the ends will fly apart and fuzz, if linen they will appear more parallel and pointed at the ends when separated. The cheaper "all linens " are sometimes made from the tow or short refuse. If the fiber is short, it will not last as well as the long. Moistening with the finger was an old-fashioned test. A better one is to use a drop of olive oil. This test must be made at home. Water spreads more rapidly on linen than on cotton. The oil makes the linen fibers more translucent than cotton.
3. Cost is a guide. Linen is expensive. Is the price that which should insure a good article? If cheap, beware.
4. Feel the cloth. Is it cold and does it feel rather heavy when crushed in the hand? Many buyers in department stores judge by weight. In purchasing table linen less than 4 1/2 oz. to the square yard is not worth buying. Above that it improves. Reliable firms will tell the weight. Custom house inspectors judge by the picks or throws of woof to the inch.
5. Notice the finish. Is it full of starch and sizing which can be picked off? If so, in washing that will all disappear, leaving a loosely woven instead of a smooth satiny surface. Calendering and beetling make the material smooth and lustrous and reduce the thickness. Do not be deceived. It is better to buy a soft linen than one stiff with starch which will crack.
6. In buying table linen the goods received in December and January are apt to be the bleach of the previous summer. Remember that poor bleaching affects the wearing quality. One can sometimes tell by tearing a sample.
For quality, beauty, and variety of patterns, Scotch, French, and Irish linens are the best. German damask is excellent. The unbleached will wear much longer, is less expensive, and is bought by many housewives and bleached as used.
Damask by the yard for tablecloths is slightly cheaper. Table-cloths from 2 1/2 to 3 yards are good size for a medium family of five or six. One dollar a yard is a fair price for everyday linen. The cloth should about equal 1 dozen napkins in cost, and a cloth will usually wear as long as 1 1/2 to 2 dozen napkins. Napkins come in three sizes, 5/8, 17-22 inches; 3/4, 23-27. inches ; 7/8, 29-31 inches.
7. For family towels, huckaback is the most serviceable, although damask is used a great deal (see Fig. 78). Linen towels vary in price from three dollars a dozen up, according to size and quality. Dish towels of linen crash are very serviceable.
8. Bedding. Sheets can be purchased ready made in linen or cotton in various sizes. If they are to be made at home, buy sheeting that can be obtained for single, two thirds, or full-sized bed. If cotton, buy in bleached or unbleached condition. Purchase sheets which are long enough to fold over at the top and protect the blankets. There are several good brands of cotton sheeting. "Fruit of the Loom" is one of the best known.
Tubing for pillow cases may also be bought. It has no seams, and comes in several widths.
9. It is better to purchase a certain amount of new linen annually and gradually supplement that worn than to wait and have all wear out at once.
Some things to remember in purchasing silk.
1. That pure silk is seldom manufactured. It is nearly always weighted, and a large proportion of weighting is to be guarded against, as it weakens the wearing quality. Up to 30 per cent is not harmful and helps the silk to take the dye. The fact that it is heavy in the hand does not always mean that it is a good piece of material and will wear well - the weight may be due to artificial "weighting " and not silk. Choose rather a softer pliable silk.
Courtesy of J. McCutcheon Co.
Fig. 78. - Huckaback towels.
2. Try the test for strength with the thumb (see "Shelter and Clothing," page 199) to see if the warp and woof threads are equally strong, or stronger one way than the other. If the latter, it will not wear well.
3. Fray out the threads. Do they break easily ? If so, the silk is not of good quality. If the warp threads are weak, the silk will split across, if the woof is weak, the silk dress will go in ribbons.
4. If you have time before purchasing, test a sample of silk by burning. Place in a porcelain dish and heat gently for thirty minutes. The silk will vanish and the weighting remain.
Burn the threads to see if there is cotton in warp or woof. Burn end of sample. If it is the same shape after burned, it is probably weighted.
5. Close weaves wear better than more loosely woven ones and soft silks better than stiff. Guard against buying soft silks, however, that are so woven as to pull in the seams when worn.
6. Are you buying material made of reeled or spun silk? Bargains are seldom found at silk sales. Should you expect to find pure silk at 50 or 60 cents a yard or as many yards of silk thread B as A on a spool? Remember that the demand for a cheap product means the production of cheap products. Wear something else rather than cheap silks.
7. Is the silk adulterated with mercerized cotton or artificial silk? Try the tests. (See " Shelter and Clothing," page 196.)
Some things to remember in purchasing wool.
1. Wool mixed with cotton makes a cheaper fabric and should not be sold for all wool. It wears well, but is not as warm as all wool. Garments made of it do not keep their shape as well. Wool-ens are often adulterated in felting. Pull the closely woven fabric apart and untwist the fibers to see if cotton is present.
2. The burning test will help in deciding on the composition. (See "Shelter and Clothing," page 198.)
3. A good woolen or worsted fabric can always be remade. The inexpensive is not cheap unless you wish something which costs little but does not look well or wear well. One should not expect to get blankets of all wool for two dollars a pair. They cost five or six.
4. Shoddy is one kind of recovered wool and is used to cheapen cost of all-wool material. It can be detected because of shortness of the staple of wool, but when mixed is difficult to see.
5. The weave of material affects the wearing quality. A close twill weave is more durable than a basket weave.
Some things to remember about color.
1. Blue. Dark blue in woolen material or gingham usually fades little. Light blue is not as durable in color.
2. Red. Woolen material of this color wears well and usually fades little. Red cotton when washed looks less brilliant. It soon fades by washing.
3. Black and gray. . Woolen materials of gray, white, and black or in combination are generally satisfactory. Cotton materials of gray or black are apt to show starch in washing.
4. Lavender, This is a poor color to buy. It fades easily in cotton goods.
5. Pink. Fades with washing. If a deep shade be bought it may be satisfactory.
6. Green. Usually very unsatisfactory. In good high priced ginghams it may not fade, but in cheap ones it is apt to turn yellow.
7. Brown. Good usually in ginghams, but likely to fade in woolen materials.
8. See chapters on costume design and dressmaking in "Shelter and Clothing," for suggestions in relation to colors one should wear.
The above brief suggestions must be considered in the light of the knowledge gained from the study of the chapters on textiles in the companion volume, "Shelter and Clothing."
In purchasing any materials for clothing or household furnishings, remember that demand causes production and those who are intelligent will make the right demands in the right places. Insist on the honest labeling of goods and demand that for which you pay. Why should cotton manufacturers label handkerchiefs which are cotton "pure linen," and sell them at ten cents ? We too should know linen cannot be bought at that price. The United States government employs experts to examine the standards of textiles used in making army, navy, and other uniforms, and will accept only those materials from the contracting manufacturers which stand their tests. If a fuller discussion of the buying of textile materials is desired, see Woolman and McGowan's "Textiles," particularly the chapters on consumer's judgment of textiles, on social and economic conditions, and on clothing budgets.
1. What rules should be borne in mind in planning to buy the furnishings for a home?
2. What should guide one in relation to where to buy ?
3. What methods of ordering facilitate shopping?
4. What is meant by the ethics of shopping?
5. What important facts should you have in mind in buying table linen?
6. What knowledge should you have before going to purchase a silk dress?
7. What will you think about in selecting colors for your garments ?
8. Mention five important facts to remember in purchasing wool fabrics.
9. How does the United States government protect itself in the purchase of textiles ?
10. What knowledge should a wise shopper possess ?