This is the actual original iron my Grandmother Rosa used to hand pleat fabric. For the past year I have been searching for family heirlooms and found out that this pressing iron was under lock and key with my Uncle Jack. When I showed the picture to my Father (Leon) he lit up like a Christmas tree and started spilling the beans.
As the story goes, in 1945-ish when my father was approximately seven years old, it was his responsibility to burn wood until it was amber like coal. This was used to keep the iron hot. Since pleating was a secret back then, my grandmother would work in a locked room and no one was permitted to see how she did her work, not even my father! She had two of these irons, one was kept inside the room with her and the other was kept outside the door on a small table. She would alternate between these two irons and my father’s job was to keep the irons hot. For approximately two years my father did this every day after school. When he was around nine years old, my grandmother finally let him inside the room to watch her work. That was the first day of my father’s pleating career 🙂
My Grandmother Rosa started pleating way before she got married. By the time she had my father, she had mastered her craft and kept it SUPER SECRET just like Mario Fortuny did. Apparently, my Grandfather Tomas was not too keen on my grandmother working. Back in those days it did not reflect too highly on the husband if the wife was working. However, there was no stopping my grandmother! Not only was she not the type to sit still but since the technique of pleating was so secretive back then, she was making a small fortune. My father says she was earning in one day what the average person would make in one week.
Even when I was growing up there were many secrets kept from me, things I would not even know were secrets until I was older. I was working in my father’s factory, but for me it was just one more step in the process. When I was older I was told specific things that were unknown to others. For example, as a child my father and I would walk past store windows that would display exquisite gowns and he would say, do you see that seam son? The reason why that is, is because blah. This went on for years. He went so far back in the process of making clothing that he would start explaining how the yarn was twisted like this and like that when the fabric was woven….blah blah blah. What can I say…I was a kid back then and I honestly only cared about Star Wars and light sabers. Now, I wish I had paid more attention 🙂
In any event…lets get back to my grandmother. I will tell you a secret of hers that had made a major difference in her pleating. Back then I would have been shot for repeating this bit of information but it is not so pertinent now. This was during a time when there were NO electric steam irons. You basically had a hot piece of metal and the fabric. The common misconception was you had to wet the fabric and then apply the iron until it dried. I hope you are listening because this was a BIG BIG secret back then. Now, if you are reading this and you are an old timer and you have worked with silks, you know wetting silks is a big NO NO. The fabric either gets stained or stiff….remember the chemical finishing processes we have today are not the same as 60 years ago. Today, silks are more resilient then they were back then. So what my grandmother would do is put a dry piece of fabric on top of the pleating, then put a WET rag on top of that. When she would put the hot iron on top of the rag it would push the steam down through the fabric yet the fabric would never get wet. This made a MAJOR difference in the quality of the pleating. That’s about all I am allowed to say about what went on in that room!