By Safire Santos
This week’s object is a fascinating Victorian fluting iron from the 1860s. The iron is black painted metal with a bar handle and separate bottom piece. The iron and the bottom piece have ridged grooves used to crimp the garment that was wedged in between. During the 1860s, there was a major trend in fashion. Women and men alike wore garments with crimped, ruffled, or fluted hems which were sewn onto the garments after laundering. A fluting iron was used to create these dramatic looks by producing pleats on hemlines, cuffs, and so on. The launderer ironing the garment would heat the iron on a stove top for a couple of minutes, pick up the iron using a rag, insert the fabric to be pleated between the top and bottom of the iron, and then manually roll the top of the iron back and forth over the fabric.
The job of ironing would be taken up by women or a servant who lived in the household. Every household would have had two irons – when one iron was being heated up on the stove, the laundress would be able to use the other in order to save time. Ironing was an all-day process that would start early in the day with laundering the clothes and leaving them out to dry. When the clothes dried, they would be starched and then finally ironed. Although there were many different types of fluting irons that were available at the time, the Geneva fluting iron that we have in our collection was the most commonly used.
We currently have a fluting iron in our Hands On History room in the DuBois Fort Visitors Center (81 Huguenot Street). Come by and try it for yourself!
“Fluting machines, ruffles, and the Dudley fluter.” HomeThingsPast.com.
“Ironing frills – from Elizabethan ruffs to Victorian ruffles.” OldandInteresting.com.
Katherine C-G. “1866 Geneva Hand Fluter.” April 7, 2011. The Fashionable Past.
MacKerell, Lynn. “What a Great Find!” November 8, 2010. Antiques for Today’s Lifestyle.
Oakes, Leimomi. “Rate the Dress: peaches and daisies in the late 1860s.” January 10, 2012. The Dreamstress.
“Podcast 18: Ironing Victorian Frills and Ruffles.” YouTube. The Oshawa Community Museum.