Sprinkling Before Ironing……Who Remembers Doing That?

Who remembers having to sprinkle clothes before you could iron them?  Perhaps you are so young that you have no idea what that means.  At the risk of sounding as old as dirt, sprinkling was something my mom did every week on ironing day (Yes, she did have specific chores assigned to specific days each week.) Being a kid at the time, her asking me to do any chore was usually followed with a heavy sigh and some excuse about homework, not feeling well, etc.  However, sprinkling was one thing I kinda liked doing.  What’s not to like?  Give a kid a squeeze bottle full of water and tell her to sprinkle the water onto the wrinkled clothes, then roll them up into a ball and put them into a bag.  Much more exciting than dusting or drying dishes.

I recently found myself remembering the days of sprinkling.  Over the past several weeks, I’ve been preparing for a Nancy Crow Strip-Piecing and Restructuring workshop that I’ll be taking next week.  I am so excited!  I have always wanted to study with Nancy and was thrilled when I found out I could get into this class.  The supply list includes lots and lots of one yard cuts of solid fabrics – a full range of values in all colors.  And…she asks that the fabrics be washed and dried to take care of any shrinkage.  Really??  OK.  Being the obedient student that I am, I have have spent hours washing and drying more than 100 one yard lengths of fabric.

Washed, dried and wrinkled.

Washed, dried and wrinkled.

Now, when 100% cotton quilting weight fabric comes out of the dryer, it is a wrinkled mess.  It’s interesting that some fabrics are worse than others, but none the less, it is all wrinkled and must be ironed.  And despite my now having a deluxe steam iron that wasn’t available 50 years ago, I found that the fabrics just didn’t press out nice and smooth.  So it was time to sprinkle.  I started out using an empty spray bottle, but it wasn’t long before I realized that this was going to be time consuming and a bit hard on my trigger finger.  And then the bottle just stopped spraying.  Wondering what to use for the task, I remember that I had brought the “sprinker” bottle from my mom’s house and tucked it away with some other miscellaneous “antiques”.

Mom's trusty yellow plastic "sprinkler".

Mom’s trusty yellow plastic “sprinkler”.  Love that it looks like a giant wooden clothes pin.

So I filled up my little yellow “sprinkler” and I felt like I was 6 again.  Best part was that it was so easy to use.  The bottle is still soft and the water comes out easily.  Much better than my modern spray bottle.

Sprinkled fabric rolled up and ready to sit in a plastic bag for a few hours.  Back in the day, the rolls might have been put into the refrigerator to keep the fabric from becoming mildewed and smelly.

Sprinkled fabric rolled up and ready to sit in a plastic bag for a few hours. Back in the day, the rolls might have been put into the refrigerator to keep the fabric from becoming mildewed and smelly.

And after letting the fabrics sit for a few hours, ironing was so much easier.  Good bye wrinkled fabric.

Pressed and smooth.

Pressed and smooth.

Now I am ready to go to my workshop – all washed, dried and ironed.IMG_1413

You can find “sprinkler” bottles on ebay and there are images and articles online about the antiquated sport of “sprinkling”.   I just think it is very cool that something so simple that I grabbed from my mom’s house turned out to be so helpful, and using it brought back a flood of memories.  I think my mom would have gotten quite a kick out of the fact I was sprinkling again.  But I still do not like to dust or dry dishes.

13 thoughts on “Sprinkling Before Ironing……Who Remembers Doing That?

  1. I still iron, love that crisp feel…and yes I remember the days being allocated to certain chores, how boring was that…total stepford wives…Monday wash, Tuesday iron…I now wash and iron whenever I want…

  2. I hate to iron, but when I sew I do wash my fabric beforehand, and thus generally have to iron it, and I press all my seams. For both activities I use a squirt bottle and wet down the fabric quite a bit before ironing. But I’ve never realized if I roll it up the wrinkles come out better, thanks for the tip.

  3. I definitely remember the sprinkler. My mom had a metal top with holes in it with a cork base that fit into the top of glass bottle. I probably have hers if I look. Love the memories.

  4. I had forgotten about the sprinkler, but pictured my mother’s as soon as i read your piece…hers was red (and the same shape and material as yours), and had a screenprinted clothespin in white on it. I’m sure it vanished years and years ago, as my mother stopped ironing as soon as she could get anything in permanent press. Thanks for the memories!

    • Thanks for sharing, Paula. Isn’t it funny how you remember the little things from our past? I was so surprised that the plastic was still soft and didn’t crack when I starting using it.

  5. Does anyone know what it is called to let the rolled up “shirt” sit? My late husband would sprinkle the shirt, roll it in a ball and let it sit before ironing. He called that something. It was a good word too and I can’t think of it! I can’t find it anywhere on the internet.

    • Can’t say I have heard of an official word for the “sitting” time. Kinda like marinating, I guess. I don’t recall my mom calling it anything special. Hope someone else might have an idea.

  6. Does anybody remember putting the bag of sprinkled clothes in the freezer to keep from souring if you didn’t get all the ironing done?

  7. My mom used an empty Pepsi glass bottle with holes in the lid, rolled clothes up and put in bag in fridge for hours then ironed. This was before steam ironslona

  8. I made a sprinkling bottle in kindergarten, a 7-up glass bottle that the teacher dipped in some sort of paint. and gave it to my mother. Fascinating!

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