Victorian London - Publications - Etiquette and Advice Manuals - The Lady's Dressing Room, by Baroness Staffe, trans. Lady Colin Campbell, 1893 - Part IV

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[-336-] PART IV

LITTLE HINTS.

How to Take Care of Jewellery.

    Pearls.-If pearls are shut up with a piece of ash-tree root, it prevents them losing their colour. Should wiseacres laugh at this recipe, let them laugh, and believe the experience transmitted in old families from generation to generation. This precaution will prevent them even from growing dim, and is well worth knowing for those who possess finely-shaped pearls of fine quality, which might perish at the end of a hundred years.
    It is wel to take an experienced connoisseur with you when you buy coloured [-337-] pearls, as they are easily imitated. The beauty and "skin" of the real pink pearl is evident to the most superficial observer.
    Pink pearls set with white ones and diamonds form - the most beautiful of all ornaments. The pink pearl of the Bahamas looks at first sight something the colour of pink coral, but is of a softer shade. It is not only lustrous, but its velvety surface has also charming iridescent effects.
    The value of a pearl depends on its shape, size, "skin," and shade of colour. When it is round, it is called button-shaped; when irregular, baroque.
   
The happy possessor of a row of pearls the size of wild cherries may be interested to know that in the seventeenth century they went by the name of "esclavage de perles," and that the knots of diamonds sometimes suspended from it were called "boute en train."
    Pearls are said to foretell tears. But women of the people, who do not possess a [-338-] single one, weep as much as the duchesses whose jewel-cases are filled with these most beautiful of feminine ornaments.
   
Diamonds. -Diamonds should be brushed in a lather of soap, and rubbed afterwards very carefully with eau de Cologne. Diamonds shaken in a bag of bran acquire extreme brilliancy.
    To discover whether a diamond is real, make a hole in a card with a needle, and look at the card through the stone. If it is false, you will see two holes in the card; if it is real, only one. Or, again, put the gem on your finger, and look through the stone with a lens; if it is false, you will see the grain of the finger perfectly well, but it will not be visible if the diamond is real. The setting cannot be seen through a real stone, but it can be seen quite clearly through a false one.
   
Gems.- Cut stones should never be wiped after they are washed. A soft brush dipped in a lather of white soap should be [-339-] used to clean them. They should then be rinsed, and put on their faces in sawdust till they are quite dry. Sawdust of boxwood is the best.
   
Gold Jewels.- Gold ornaments should be washed in soap and water, and well rinsed afterwards; they should be left in sawdust for some time, and when they are quite dry, rubbed well with chamois leather.
    Opals.-Russian superstition has caused this many-coloured gem to be looked upon as a fatal stone. But medieval alchemists did not agree with the subjects of the Czar about this. They maintained that the opal renewed affection, and kept the wearers from all evil, from all contagious germs, and that it also preserved them from syncope and all diseases of the heart. The Orientals allege that it is sentient, and that it changes colour according to the emotions of its wearers, flushing with pleasure in the presence of those they love, and paling before their enemies. 
    [-340-] "The ancients," says Buffon, "held the opal in high repute," for its beauty chiefly. Charming things have been said about its varying tints. "Its light is softer than that of the dawn." "It might be said that a ray of rose-coloured light lies captive under its pale surface." It has been called the "tear-drop of the moon." It has been dedicated to the month of October, and those who are born in that month should prefer it to all other gems.
    I might say much more about it, but I am forgetting that my object was simply to say how to restore its polish when it has been scratched and dimmed by wear. Rub it well with oxide of tin, or with damp putty spread on chamois leather, and finish with chalk, powdered and sifted, also spread on chamois leather and damped. Then wash the opal in water with a soft brush. If you are very careful, you can do all this without taking the stone out of its setting.
   
Silver Jewellery.-Filigree silver can be cleaned in various ways when it has become black and dull. It should be first washed in potash water, not too strong, and well rinsed. The objects should then be immersed in the following solution :-Salt one part, alum one part, saltpetre two parts, water four parts. They should not be left in this for more than five minutes, then rinsed in cold water, and wiped with a chamois leather.
    Or they can be washed in hot water with a brush dipped in ammonia and green soap, then steeped in boiling water and dried in sawdust. They should always be put by wrapped in silver-paper.
    Oxidised silver should be steeped in a solution of sulphuric acid one part, and of water forty parts.
    Silver ornaments can also be cleaned by being rubbed with a slice of lemon and rinsed in cold water, then washed in a lather of soap and again rinsed, this time in hot [-342-] water; dry them with a soft cloth, and polish with chamois leather.
    Nickel and silver are kept bright by being rubbed with flannel dipped in ammonia. Tarnished amber should be rubbed with powdered chalk wet with water, then with a little olive-oil on flannel, till the polish has reappeared.
    Ivory can be whitened with a solution of peroxide of hydrogen. Letting it stand in spirits of turpentine in the sunshine will also have a good result. A simple way of cleaning ivory is with bicarbonate of soda; rub it with a brush wet with hot water and dipped in the soda.

How to Take Care of Furs, Feathers, and Woollen Things.

    Many things and substances are highly spoken of as preservatives against insects.
    Pliny relates that the Romans used lemon to keep moths and their grubs from their woollen garments. 
    [-343-] Nowadays some people use horse-chestnuts, others cloves, others walnut- leaves, others again kitchen salt, to keep this destructive insect from furs, feathers, and woollens; they vaunt the efficacy of these remedies, transmitted from one generation to another.
    Generally, however, cedar-shavings, pepper, and large lumps of camphor (if powdered, it evaporates too quickly) are unanimously considered the best preservatives.
    Whatever you prefer to use, you must be careful to shake, beat, and brush the fur the wrong way up, as well as everything you are putting away, when the season for wearing them is over. Sprinkle them then with pepper, and scatter pieces of camphor, or anything else of that kind you like, among them; pack them, well sewn up, in clean linen, and put them into a well-dusted case, into which you should also scatter some of the same disinfectant. 
    [-344-] Cigar-boxes are the best receptacles that you can choose for your feathers when you are not wearing them.
    If you have trunks of cedar-wood, or cupboards lined with it, you will find it quite sufficient simply to shake and brush your things before putting them away.
    There are yet other preventives against moths. A liquid may be made by mixing half a pint of. alcohol with the same quantity of spirits of turpentine and 65 grammes of camphor; it should be kept in a stone bottle, and well shaken before used. When you are putting away your winter clothes, soak some pieces of blotting-paper in the liquid, and scatter them about in the cases; after the things have been wrapped up in linen, put a layer of the paper under the things, and others over them and at the sides.
    Another plan is to cover an old brandy barrel with pleated cretonne trimmed with brown guipure. Wrap up your furs and [-345-] best woollen things in linen, and put them into the barrel; it will not look amiss standing in the corner of your dressing- room, with a pretty plant on top of it, and is the safest place possible for your things at the dangerous time.
    If you have neither cedar-boxes nor barrels, it will be sufficient to sew up your winter garments in linen bags, taking the same precautions, and then hanging them up in a dark cupboard.
    Dark furs are cleaned by rubbing them the reverse way with warm bran, and light ones with magnesia.

How to Clean Lace.

    Many ladies have their valuable pointlace washed before their own eyes whenever it is absolutely necessary, for good lace should be washed as seldom as possible. It is, however, easily cleaned. Make a lather with hot soft water and glycerine soap. Roll the lace on a glass bottle covered with [-346-] a strip of fine linen, and leave it in the lather for twelve hours. Repeat this three times; then rinse it slightly by dipping the bottle in clear soft water, taking it out almost immediately. The soap which is left in serves to give a little stiffness to the lace when it is ironed. Each point must be pinned down before ironing it, which should always be done on the wrong side, with muslin over it. When it is done, all the flowers which have been flattened should be raised with an ivory stiletto.
    Lace can also be cleaned by being put out in the sun in a basin of soapy water. It is then dried on a napkin, the points being pinned out as before, and very gently rubbed with a soft sponge dipped in a lather of glycerine soap; when one side is clean, do the other in the same way, and then rinse the lace in clear water with a little alum in it, to take out the soap; sponge it with a little rice-water before ironing it, and raise the flowers as above. If lace is not very [-347-] much soiled, it can be cleaned by rubbing it very gently with bread-crumbs.
    Blonde lace should boil for an hour in water with a little blue in it; this should be repeated twice in fresh water, and the third time the blue should be left out. It should not be rinsed. The blonde should be put into gum mixed with a little brandy and alum, then it is lightly sprinkled with sulphur, and ironed while it is damp.
    Valenciennes should be rolled up in a convenient-sized packet, then sewn in a bag of fine white linen, and soaked for twelve hours in olive-oil, and boiled for a quarter of' an hour in water in which a little white soap is cut up. Rinse it well, dip the bag in a thin rice-water, then unsew it, and pin the Valenciennes out flat, to let it dry. Iron it with muslin over it.
    Black lace should also be folded up so as to form a small lengthy packet (which should be kept together by being well tied up with strong cotton), and then dipped [-348-] into beer. Rub it in your hands, but very gently, to clean it. Squeeze it so as to get the beer out, but do not wring it, and roil it up in a cloth. Iron it when it is more or less damp, according to the amount of stiffening that you want, placing it right side upwards upon a thick blanket, and covering it with muslin to prevent it looking shiny.
    When you put away dresses trimmed with lace, cover up the lace with silver- paper.
    To clean silver lace or braid, enclose them in a linen bag, plunge the bag in a pint of water to which 2 ounces of soap has been added, and boil; then rinse it out in fresh water. Apply a little spirits of wine to the parts that are tarnished.

How to Clean and Wash Woollen Materials.

    Pink cashmere should be cleaned in a cold lather. Do not try putting any colouring into the water; you will spoil the stuff. 
    [-349-] Rinse it well in cold water, and dry indoors in a subdued light.
    For cleaning serge, use a strong decoction of the root of soapwort, which will make it very white and soft to the touch. Soap hardens materials, and always makes them a little yellow.
    Knitted and crocheted garments should be washed as follows :-Cut up a pound of soap into small pieces, and melt it till it is as thin as jelly; when cold, beat it with your hand, and add Three spoonfuls of grated hartshorn. Wash the things in this liquid, and rinse them well in cold water.
    Plunge them into salt-and-water to fix the colour, if they are coloured. Put them in a bundle before the fire, and shake them frequently to dry them; never spread them out for this purpose.
    If you want to refresh a faded black cashmere, rub each breadth separately with a sponge dipped in equal parts of alcohol and ammonia diluted in a little hot water.
    [-350-] Merinos and cashmeres should be washed in tepid water with some potato grated in it, and well rinsed in fresh spring-water. They should not be wrung out, but spread out singly on a rope, where they can drip till they are two-thirds dry, and then ironed.
    Black cashmere can also be washed in Panama-water (that is to say, water in which Panama wood has been boiled), ivy-water  (prepared in the same way), or ox-gall; this last is also very good for green cashmere. Here is another way of cleaning black cashmere :- Pick it to pieces, carefully taking out all the threads, cover the stains with dry soap. Put 6 ounces of mustard-flour in six quarts of boiling water, and allow it to boil up for two minutes. Strain it through a cloth, and let it cool till you can bear your hand in it. Put the stuff into an earthenware crock, and pour the mustard-water over it. Soap carefully, especially where it is stained, rinse it several times till the water runs clear, and stretch the material on a [-351-] rope. When it is quite dry, cover it with a damp cloth, and iron it. 
    Coloured flannels should be washed in a warm lather, but never rubbed with soap. Shake them well, so as to get the water out as much as possible, and hang them up to dry.
    Blue flannel must be washed in bran- water without soap; to preserve the colour, throw a handful of salt into the water it is rinsed in.
    The juice of potatoes will remove mud- stains from woollen materials. 
    The white woollen fichus in Russian or Pyrenean wool, which are so useful in winter, can also be easily washed at home. Prepare a lather by boiling good white soap in soft water, which must be beaten continually while the soap is dissolving; then plunge the fichu into it, after having soaked it in clear tepid water. Squeeze without rubbing it, and repeat a second time; but this is not all. Dilute well two spoonfuls of powdered gum [-352-] arabic in rather less than a quart of luke-warm water. When the liquid is thick, dip the fichu in, and squeeze it with your hands several times. Wring it out first in your hands, and then in white napkins. Dry the fichu by stretching it out and fastening it along the edges on a cloth, and covering it with another.

How to Clean Silks.

    Silks can be very well cleaned if carefully done. Mix well together 12. drachms of honey, the same quantity of soft soap, and 12/10 ths of a quart of brandy. When the dress is unpicked and spread on a table, brush it well with the mixture. Rinse twice, and a third time in a tub of water in which 15 drachms of gum have been melted. Hang up to dry without wringing, and then iron it on the wrong side.
    Another recipe :-Grate five potatoes in some clear fresh water. If your silk is a thin one, cut up the potatoes instead of [-353-] grating them, and in any case do not forget to wash them well before using. Leave the water to stand for forty-eight hours, and then strain it. Dip the silk into it several times, taking care not to crush it; spread it on a table, and dry it well with a clean cloth on both sides. Iron on the wrong side. If the silk has any grease-stains upon it, they must be taken out first, either with chalk, or with magnesia and ether, or with yolk of egg and water.
    White brocade should be cleaned with bread-crumbs ; plain white silk (not satin) as follows :-Dissolve some soft soap in water as hot as you can bear it. Rub the silk between your hands in this soapy water, giving the stains extra attention, and rinse in tepid water. To dry, spread it out pinned on a cloth.

How to Clean Velvet.

    If you have a good lady's-maid, you can easily get her to renew your worn, stained, [-354-] or shabby velvet garments. It is necessary to unpick them, whatever they may be, so as to clean each breadth or piece separately.
    Heat a thick plate of copper of suitable size; when it is very hot, put on it a cloth folded several times, and damped in boiling water. Then spread the velvet on it right side up, and do not be surprised to see a very thick black steam rising from it. At this moment pass, very lightly, a soft brush over the velvet. Take it off, and dry it by stretching it out on a table; when dry, it wil1 be as good as new. If you are not going to use it at once, wrap it up in silver- paper.
    When velvet is crushed and flattened, it should be held stretched over boiling water, with the wrong side exposed to the steam, and then brushed up the reverse way.
    Before putting away dresses and garments of all kinds made of velvet or plush, they should be well dusted. To do this, shake very fine dry sand on them, and brush [-355-] them till the last grain of sand has disappeared. To take off mud-stains, brush with a soft brush dipped in gall diluted with some nearly boiling water, to which a little spirits of wine has been added; repeat if necessary. Lastly, sponge a weak solution of gum on the wrong side of the velvet.

Stains.

    Spots on a dress are disgraceful; they should be removed the moment they are discovered.
    Ink-stains on wool and cloth can be removed with oxalic acid; but to prevent it from taking out the colour, put some strong vinegar over the stain. Lemon, milk, the juice of ripe tomatoes, etc., are infallible for stains in white materials.
    Should the colour of a material be accidentally destroyed by any acid, it will re-appear if the place be rubbed with ammonia. Candle-grease can be removed with eau de Cologne. 
    [-356-] Varnish or paint stains should first be covered with butter or sweet oil, and then rubbed with turpentine. If it is an old stain, replace the turpentine by chloroform, which should of course be used with precaution.
    Sherry will take out stains of claret; they must be gently rubbed with it.
    Blood-stains should be soaked with petroleum, and then washed in warm water.
    Fruit or any other stain should be removed by rubbing according to the grain of the material, and in no other direction.
    Grease - stains are the most unsightly, more especially as they gradually increase in size. Fortunately, there are means to get rid of them. Before trying to take them out, place over them a piece of blotting~ paper, iron with a hot iron, then use soap and water and ammonia. Chloroform and a mixture of alcohol and ammonia are also efficacious.
    [-357-]  Stains can likewise be damped with ammonia and water, a piece of white paper placed over them, and ironed with a hot iron. Or they can be rubbed, on the wrong side of the stuff, with chalk, which should be left on for a day; then split a visiting-card, lay the rough side on the place, and iron lightly.
    Many people prepare balls for taking out grease, so as to have them ready to hand. Make a stiff paste of fuller's-earth and vinegar, roll it into balls, and dry. To use it, grate the ball over the stain, which you must damp first. Leave it to dry, and then remove it with tepid water. Here are three more recipes for lotions and mixtures for removing stains:-
    (1) Twenty - six parts of very pure spirits of turpentine, 31 parts of alcohol at 40, and 31 parts of sulphuric ether. Cork the bottle, and shake well to mix the ingredients. In using the mixture, spread your material over a cloth thickly folded; damp the stain with the liquid, and rub [-358-] lightly with a soft rag. If it is an old stain, warm the place first.
    (2) Mix equal parts of ammonia, ether, and alcohol. Wet the stain with a sponge, then put a piece of blotting-paper over it, damp it with the mixture, and rub the place. In an instant it is absorbed, and dispersed by the sponge and the paper.
    (3) Here is a recipe which no stain will resist :-Pour two quarts of clean spring. water into a large bottle, add a piece of white amber about the size of a walnut, a piece of potash the size of a hazel-nut, and two lemons cut into slices. Let it stand twenty-four hours. Strain, and keep it in well-corked bottles. Damp the stain with it, and rub the place with fresh water immediately afterwards.

Little Hints on Various Matters of Dress.

    Faded ribbons can be cleaned in a cold lather; they should be rinsed, shaken, and [-359-] spread upon the ironing-board, covered with muslin, and ironed while damp.
    Long crape veils falling from the back of the bonnet, and crape trimming on the dresses worn in mourning, are often more spoilt by the ignorance of the lady's-maid than by the rain. Crape should be quickly dried by being spread out, but never put near the fire. If it is stained with mud, wash it in cold water, and dry it without exposing it to the sun, the air, or the fire. If the crape has become limp, put it round a wooden roller, damping it throughout with brandy. Milk may also be used to damp it, and will restore the colour, but it should be carefully sponged afterwards. The black thread stockings which are worn in mourning during summer are washed as follows :-You must not use soap, but a sort of lather made with bran (about a teacupful), shaken about in tepid water in a muslin bag. Wash your stockings in this; when you take them out of the water, roll them [-360-] up in a clean cloth, wringing them out well, and dry them by a quick fire, not in the open air.
    By this process the stockings will keep a good black instead of turning brown. If this precaution has been neglected, and they have turned rusty, the colour can be restored by boiling them in a quart of water, to which have been added some shavings of logwood.
    A felt hat may be drenched without being spoilt, but do not let it dry without brushing it. Unpick the trimming at once, begin to brush round the edge, and continue in the same way till you come to the middle of the crown, then place it on a block, and let it dry before putting it away. It will be as good as new. Nothing is better for preserving white dresses than wrapping them up in blue paper. Although you should be careful not to crush the trimmings, the garments should be so covered as to entirely exclude the air. They should [-361-] then be hung up in the wardrobe. White silk dresses should have a second covering of linen. The bodices should be put separately in boxes of their own. The trains should be left hanging their full length.
    To clean the collars of garments, dissolve one part salt in four parts alcohol, put~ it on with a sponge, and rub well.
    Cloth, serge, and felt hats may be cleaned with a short hard brush dipped in spirits of ammonia. Brush till the grease- spots have disappeared.

[-362-] APPENDIX.

Stings of Insects.

    COUNTRY life has one great drawback: we refer to the unbearable stings of mosquitoes or gnats. If you are stung, run into the garden for a leek or an onion, and rub the place with it. This is, no doubt, a remedy as heroic as it is excellent.
    The leaves of scented verbena keep off unpleasant insects; and washing with vinegar and water or syringa-flower-water preserves the skin against their onslaughts. Honey-and-water allays the irritation produced by them; use a teaspoonful of honey in a quart of boiling water, putting it on the place while the liquid is tepid.
    Flour applied on the sting takes away redness, itching, and swelling. A good and easy remedy can be made by covering it [-363-] with a little soap and water, letting the lather dry on the skin.
    Lastly, a small quantity of menthol mixed with alcohol is excellent as a lotion for the painful stings of wasps, bees, gnats, and nettles.
    Many people use little sticks of butter of cocoa as a cosmetic. If a little cocaine (2 per cent.) be added to it, and the sting rubbed with the stick, it will procure immediate relief, and the irritation will diminish at once.
    If a bee has mistaken red lips for a rose or a white brow for a lily, and if you have nothing better at hand to cure the wound inflicted by the busy insect beloved of Virgil, rub the sting with a bunch of parsley for several minutes. Chloroform is also very useful for mosquito bites; it diminishes the swelling, the irritation, and the pain which they cause. Ammonia is equally good for these little bites. Before applying it, remove the sting which the [-364-] insect may have left in, and then dab the place with the alkali.

Migraine and Neuralgia.

    External applications of oil of peppermint are much recommended for the terrible pain of neuralgia. The simple remedy recommended by a country doctor of poultices of black night-shade (plant and berries) is rapid and permanent in its effects. The same doctor ordered a spoonful of common salt to be taken directly a patient showed the first symptoms of migraine, and the indisposition disappeared in half an hour: a harsh remedy, certainly, but, to save hours of suffering, worth trying.
    It is stated that the Queen, who was very subject to bad headaches when she was middle-aged, used to have her temples lightly stroked with a camel's-hair pencil, which cured her in a quarter of an hour.
    A negress has been known to relieve her mistress from the same distressing com-[-365-]plaint by applying slices of lemon to her temples, and pressing her head firmly.

Inflammations.

    Poultices of cooked apples are good for styes and inflammation, of the eyelids. Crushed leaves of bindweed applied to styes are also very efficacious.

Insomnia.

    Pillows stuffed with camel's-hair, and covered with the skin of the same animal, are useful against insomnia.
    Hops have the same properties, and so have onions. Sleep on a mattress of the former, and inhale the latter.

Hay-Fever.

    This indisposition concerns us, for it makes the sufferer look ugly and almost ridiculous. Its symptoms are well known: a red and swollen nose, eyes full of tears [-366-] a smothered voice, constant sneezing, etc. etc. No beauty can withstand it.
    It should therefore be struggled against from the beginning. Aromatic vinegar is much used as a remedy in England; a little is poured into the hand, and is inhaled up the nostrils till it is quite evaporated.
    Some doctors recommend inhaling salt water several times a day, others ammonia (the bottle containing it being held to the nostrils for a minute at a time, and then withdrawn); and a little camphorated powder used like snuff sometimes has good results.

FINIS.

[nb. grey numbers in brackets indicate page number, (ie. where new page begins), ed.]