your most dreaded and hated task — tackled and analyzed.
Let's look at that nasty chore from a slightly different angle. Maybe you will find a soft spot in your heart for the little iron OR maybe you won't. Either way, you will learn a little history and get some ironing inspiration!
So... at the most basic level, ironing works by loosening the ties between the long chains of molecules that exist in polymer fiber materials. With the heat and the weight of the "iron", the fibers are stretched and the fabric maintains a new shape when cool. The need to press fabrics with smoothing tools date to neolithic times but the Chinese were the first to use heated metal to press cloth. The process consisted of filling metal pans with hot coals and pressing them over stretched cloth. (And you thought ironing now was laborious)
Egyptians added the handle sometime around 2000 BC (Don't you know that was huge). Blacksmiths started forging simple flat irons in the late Middle Ages and the shape of the modern iron with the solid iron base evolved around the end of the 17th Century. Plain metal irons were heated by a fire or on a stove until electric irons arrived early in the 20th Century. (thank goodness) Think about it. You would need at-least two irons going at all times (one iron in use while the other re-heats).
But Like... Why Do We Even Care?
Well... apparently somewhere around the 12th Century, East met West through trade. Fashion became heavily influenced by the possibilities of starching and pressing. People of high regard began to wear ruffled and fluted collars that demanded both heat and pressure. (Sigh... it was our vanity all along!) Furthermore, fashion informed the formation of the iron's shape: the smooth pointed shape facilitates the ironing of pleats, collars and small details and the notch in the nose allows you to iron around buttons. (They really tried to make it easy on us.)
Even today, we associate a starched and pressed shirt with an important meeting, a formal gathering or special event.
Why yes, that's the name of one of the first popular electric irons marketed in the US. That just says a mouth full right there. This iron featured an iconic handle and included a thermometer (revolutionary). But look at how cool it looks. Gotta be honest... I wouldn't hate using one of these retro beauties. Would you?
Life has become a lot more fast paced and a little more "fast casual"... eliminating the true need to be pressed and proper ALL the time. However, we think it's possible to take pride in your laundry and enjoy a night parked in front of the TV and do some ironing. It's also very possible and maybe even preferable to enjoy your laundry fresh from the dryer (always tumble low and slow, y'all). But it is fun to think about the history of the iron and where we are now with the invention of permanent press techniques, wrinkle release sprays and finishing techniques that limit the use of the iron.
Maybe we should think about it as less of a chore but more of an art form. Maybe we can take out or find an old American Beauty and feel like the Domestic American Goddess we all have hidden inside us somewhere. Maybe we toss the metal clunker out altogether and cling to our dryers and release sprays. It's America and the choice is up to you!