To Clean a Bonnet

Miss Leslie’s Lady’s House-book; a Manual of Domestic Economy Containing Approved Directions for Washing, Dress-making, by Miss Eliza Leslie, 1850.


Having separated the crown from the brim and the cape or neck-piece, and removed the lining and wire, the next thing is to take out whatever stains may be found in the bonnet, the crown of which should be put on a wooden block. For grease, rub on with your finger some powdered Wilmington clay, or a little magnesia; and in an hour or two brush it off, and renew the application, if necessary. For other stains use either cream of tartar or salt of sorrel, put on a little wet. If salt of sorrel,must be washed off again almost immediately, lest it injure the straw by remaining on it. Afterwards (keeping the crown still on the bonnet-block) go over the whole surface of the bonnet with a brush dipped in a weak solution of pearl ash in lukewarm water, (a tea-spoonful to a quart.) Then scour it off at once, with a strong lather of brown soap and cold water, put on with a clean brush. When all the bonnet is well cleaned, rinse it in cold water, and hang it in the sun to dry. Bonnet cleaning should never be undertaken in damp weather. When the bonnet is perfectly dry, you may proceed to whiten it. Fill a chafing dish or portable furnace with burning charcoal; carry it into a small close room or into an empty press or closet, and by a line suspended across, hang the bonnet over the charcoal, at a safe distance, so that it will be in no danger of scorching. Then strew over the coals an ounce or two of powdered brimstone, and immediately go out and shut the door, seeing that no air whatever can get into the room. After the bonnet has hung in the vapour six or seven hours, throw open the door, (having first left open an outside door or window, so as to admit immediately the fresh air,) and go into the room as soon as you find you can do so without inconvenience from the fumes of the charcoal and sulphur. Then bring out the bonnet, and hang it in the open air till the smell of the brimstone has entirely left it. If the day is windy, so much the better; but the bonnet must on no account be hung out if the weather is damp, and it must be brought in before sunset. If it is not sufficiently white, repeat next day the process of bleaching it with charcoal and brimstone.

The next thing is to stiffen the bonnet. To make the stiffening, boil in two quarts of soft water, a quarter of a pound of vellum shavings, (the vellum of buffalo’s hide is best,) filling it up occasionally, if it seems to be boiling too dry. It must boil or simmer slowly for six or seven hours. Then, when you take it from the fire, let it stand a while to settle; after which,

pour it off into a basin, and it will become a thick jelly. To the sediment left in the pot, you may add a second two quarts of water; and after a second boiling, it will form another jelly or sizing, strong enough for similar purposes. When you are going to use it for a bonnet, melt up a pint of this jelly, and mix with it a small half-tea-spoonful of oxalic acid, (not more, or it will injure the straw,) and then with a clean sponge or brush go all over the bonnet, inside and out, with the sizing. Dry the bonnet; and when quite dry, go over it again with a second wash of the stiffening. Dry it again, and then spread over it a wet piece of jaconet muslin; or damp the bonnet all over with a sponge and lukewarm water, and then cover it with a fine white handkerchief, while you press it hard and evenly with a warm box-iron, exerting all your strength. The crown must be pressed while on the bonnet-block; the brim may be done on an ironing-table. Afterwards expose the bonnet to the air, till it becomes perfectly dry; and next day it will be ready for putting together, lining, and trimming; first mending whatever defective places may be found in it.

The front of a bonnet will keep its shape much better if the wire is thick and stout. In lining a bonnet, the best way for a novice in the art, is to pin a large sheet of thin soft paper on the outside of the brim, and (having fitted it smoothly) cut it of the proper shape and size, allowing a little for turning in at the edge. Then pin the paper into the inside of the brim, and if it fits perfectly smooth, cut out the silk lining by it. A piece of oiled silk sewed all round the inside of the crown, at the joining place, and extending down a little upon the brim, will prevent the stain from perspiration, that so frequently disfigures that part of a bonnet.

—Without a regular cleaning in the preceding manner, a discoloured straw bonnet may be improved in appearance, if previous to putting on a fresh trimming, you stretch the bonnet on a block, (or something that will answer the purpose,) and go all over it with a sponge dipped in lukewarm water, in which has been dissolved pearl-ash, in the proportion of a small tea-spoonful of pearl-ash to a pint of water; afterwards rinsing it off, wiping it hard with a flannel, and drying it well. Next, go over it with a clean sponge dipped in strong rice-water, which will be the better for having dissolved in it a half-teaspoonful of sugar of lead. Then dry the bonnet, and having damped it all over with a wet sponge, cover it with thin muslin, and press it hard with a heavy and moderately warm iron.

TO TAKE CARE OF BEAVER HATS A hat should be brushed every day with a hat-brush; and twice a day in dusty weather. When a hat gets wet, wipe it as dry as you can with a clean handkerchief, and then brush it with a soft brush, before you put it to dry. When nearly dry, go over it with a harder brush. If it still looks rough, damp it with a sponge dipped in vinegar or stale beer, and brush it with a hard brush till dry.

A good beaver hat should always, when not in constant use, be kept in a hat-box, with a hat-stick extended inside of the crown.

Published in: on May 18, 2013 at 8:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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