Cast Iron Crinkle Cutter Part I

This is super exciting!  A significant part of my nine month sewing plan is to increase my Regency wardrobe pieces so I have more options for varying weather conditions and activities, including accessories. I’ll list my plan in another post sometime soon-ish, but let me jump forward to say that it includes a chemisette.

Well, there  aren’t many extant chemisettes that I know of and it doesn’t seem like many other people are able to reference a wide variety either. Janet Arnold has patterns for some of them in Patterns of Fashion I… and I didn’t originally want to go with one of those (because, you know, it seems like everyone does and I like to be different), but after researching and realizing that Janet Arnold has the monopoly on extant chemisettes I decided to just go with it. I also do really like the chemisettes she has… I particularly like the ones with the mushroom pleated collars. And that style will work well for my wardrobe planning, because I want to make high necked walking dresses, spencers, and pelisses, and I like the idea of the mushroom pleating filling in the high necklines. Plus, the Regency was full of 16th century style references and ruff-like things.

All of that to explain that I looked into ways to make mushroom pleats. I discovered that the best way is to use a fluting iron: a special type of iron that produces small pleats. I got super excited and bought one on ebay for about $20.

Here it is: a fluting iron!

I also did research about different types and brands of fluting irons. This website  was super informative about different types and their values. This one also has good pictures and information about fluting irons and their use. Essentially there are three types. I bought the rocking sort, which is an iron and a base; there is also the rolling sort, which has a rolling device (like a paint roller) and a base; and then there is the cranking sort, which has two rolls that wring the fabric through to create the pleats.

The rolling sort.

The crank sort.

I chose to buy the rocking sort of fluting iron because of the price. There are enough of particular brand I bought (Geneva) in circulation today that they are relatively inexpensive. The type bought was patented in 1866, as you will see.

Proof of manufacture and name.

The iron on its side and the base.

I also did research about how to use a fluting iron and how to get your pleats to stay in your fabric. It sounds like the best thing to do is use a homemade mixture of cornstarch and water to starch your fabric before pleating it. Once I try it I’ll report on how that works! One thing that did stump me for a day or two was how I plan to heat this thing and which part to heat. A lady in the 19th century could have heated either part on her cast iron stove, but I was thinking”I don’t have a cast iron stove… how am I going to heat this??? Do I heat the iron, or the base?”  Well, one of those questions was easily solved by using my eyeballs…

Duh!

Isn’t it fabulous that the manufacturer included some sort of direction? I was thinking of putting either the base or the iron in the oven… And then it occurred to me that I do have a stove, even if it is not a cast iron stove… So my current plan is to heat the base on the stove, and then somehow figure out a way to take it off the stove, so I can use it without fear of burning my fabric by having it touch a hot burner. I’ll have to report back on that part of the adventure, too!

You can see that the iron and base are a little grimy, so I also need to consider cleaning them before I try using them. I have not yet researched methods of cleaning cast iron. I imagine you can use similar methods as to what you might use to clean a cast iron pot? If you have ideas about the cleaning, please do share!

The two pieces are smaller than they appear, but because the iron and the base are cast iron, they are actually rather heavy. Until I use them (and probably after I do) they will be a door stop… they work really well for that purpose! And they add a bit of history to the room. Mr. Q has dubbed the fluting iron the “Cast Iron Crinkle Cutter” because he thinks it looks like something you might make crinkle cut fries out of… which makes me laugh. So here’s a picture of the Cast Iron Crinkle Cutter being a door stop, which also helps to show scale!

Not as big as you might think!

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10 responses to “Cast Iron Crinkle Cutter Part I

  1. Dear Quinn,

    what an exciting project!!! Congrats on your purchase!
    One can never have too many frilly chemisettes! I love the idea of trying to do this with a fluter, wish I could get one, too.
    When I’ve done my Chemisette I used an iron (lots of determination) and a spray bottle with a water/vinegar mixture and it worked fine. I’ve read that this mixture is good for the fabric and really it molds/forms the pleats, but still makes the tissue feel soft.
    I guess I would put your fluter into the oven…When I remember it right Kathrine of koshka the cat has given a tutorial on using a fluter.
    The thing I always wonder about is how to clean my chemisette without ruining the gazillion of pleats?!

    I’m looking forward very much following this project.
    Sabine

    • Oh, yes, Sabine! I forgot to mention that vinegar can also be used to set pleats. It definitely sets pleats well, but I am a little worried that the vinegar smell might linger in my cotton batiste which is why I decided to try cornstarch. Did the smell linger when you used it?

      The laundry issue is one that still needs to addressed… I don’t plan to wear the chemisette for activities which necessitate sweating (like dancing…). And I plan to mount the ruffles to a narrow neckband so I can remove the neck band (and therefore the ruffles) to launder the body of the chemisette without losing my pleats.

      I did come across Katherine’s video tutorial: http://koshka-the-cat.blogspot.com/2011/04/1866-geneva-hand-fluter.html
      It is helpful to see the fluting iron in action, but I wish the video included more details. It’s such a close up and I would love to see it with the camera a bit farther away. I’ll definitely review it before attempting my own pleats, though!

      • The vinegar’s smell does not linger in the fabric. It really works well and I also take vinegar instead of fabric softner with my regular laundry!

        The idea of adding a seperate neckband is nifty! Maybe I’ll add an easily removeable second neckband to my chemisette. Thanks for the inspiration!!!

        Sabine

      • You’re welcome! Thank you for the reminder about the video tutorial and mentioning vinegar! I’m glad we could trade good ideas. 🙂

  2. I’ve heard that a hot plate works well, or putting it in the oven on a cookie sheet at around 200 works well too.

  3. Dear Quinn,

    When I read about using your eyeballs, and saw the Heat This part of the fluter, I really did start laughing, loudly. What a funny, funny moment.

    Will look forward to hearing about your experience with the fluter. It might end up really working well with the vinegar. I have one of the crank-style fluters. It’s heated by inserted heated iron rods into tubes, but mine lacks the rods. Am still looking for two of them.

    Very best,

    Natalie

    • Oh, good, I am SO glad you laughed out loud with me!

      Have you used your crank style fluter? I read somewhere (can’t remember where…) that you can go to a home improvement store and buy metal rods that will fit into the rollers.

      Thanks for the encouragement to try vinegar. It sounds like something I should attempt.

  4. Great post, Quinn. I love Mr. Q’s musings about other uses. As for vinegar, I’ve used it in laundry as well & the smell doesn’t linger. You might give it a try. This is the white vinegar, not apple cider variety! :o)

    I’d echo the suggestion about heating the iron in the oven, using a cookie sheet… & pot holders or mitts so you don’t burn your pretty little paws.

    With regard to cleaning, fine steel wool works well on cast iron. Depending on how clean you want it, there are myriad products on the market to clean cast iron. If it’s rusty, try Rust-o-Leum or similar product.

    Happy crinkling… I mean pleating.

    Huggzz!

    ~ Mom

    • Yes, thanks for the clarification about vinegar type… That is important! 🙂

      Thanks for the mention about pot holders (which does seem obvious, but it is smart to clarify and remind each other about these things!) and the cleaning suggestion. I figured you would have a good idea for me!

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