Good grooming is one of the most important aspects of living with comfort and dignity, and the earlier it's learned, the more ingrained the habit becomes. Anybody who is well groomed, no matter whether she is beautiful or plain, can retain that important commodity of self-respect. And self-respect is something a woman can keep all her life, when she no longer has youth or beauty on her side.

Most adult women have established their own standard of grooming, and need no advice or training on the subject. But let us go back to the other end of the scale.

What advice would I give to a girl, say in her early teens, about the way to cultivate the habits of good grooming? I think the advice I would give goes along these lines:

The three most basic features of good grooming are:


The ideal way to be well groomed at all times is to prepare each evening for the following day. This is the sort of idealistic advice which not everyone is able to take, but it's a question of establishing a good routine.

I once had a colleague who followed a set ritual when she arrived home from the office each day. She wouldn't eat a meal or even stop to chat until she had removed her dress or suit, brushed it and removed any stains, and hung it on the back of the bedroom door to air; taken off her blouse and underwear and stockings, changed into clean clothes and washed all the discarded items. Then she would clean her shoes, stuff them with tissue paper and put them to air. Finally she would come down stairs to eat her evening meal.

Now of course there are not many adults who would be able to follow this strict regime; married women who work return home to various responsibilities—preparing a meal, washing up, perhaps catching up with the housework.

But a schoolgirl or young woman at work could try to get into the habit of preparing certain things for the following day before she goes to bed. Here is a checklist she might follow:

  • Check shoes, clean if necessary.
  • Put out top clothes for the following day. Put out clean underwear and stockings.
  • Have clean gloves ready if summer gloves are being worn.
  • Put ready a clean handkerchief.

Be ready in time in the morning to give your self a second glance to ensure you are dressed tidily. If your home has an arrangement of mirrors which enable you to see yourself full length from behind as well as from the front, this is ideal. You will then see yourself without any illusions—the back of your hair (is it too flat or too ruffled ?),your posture (are you slouching?), your dress or skirt (is it crumpled or marked ?), your stockings (do they have runs ?), your shoes (are they scraped and down—at-heel, or dull and unpolished?).

Mirrors like this, well-lighted and uncompromising, can be a girl’s best friend, and a chastening experience too, for they enable you to see yourself as others see you.

For many people personal tidiness is part of their nature, but if you are like the young daughter whose father said despairingly: ‘She hasn’t a tidy thought in her head’, it will be a fairly uphill battle to ensure that your grooming is good enough to stand up to the critical glances of those around you. For it's an inescapable fact that you are judged to a great extent by your appearance, and it's not a bit of good wearing a beautifully-made garment which you have created and then spoiling the effect by careless grooming.

Handbag tidiness is important too, though it must be admitted that many of us feel our hand bags would hardly bear inspection, with papers, cosmetics, tickets and oddments mixed in together. Try to dust your bag often, tidy it regularly and polish or wipe it (depending on whether it's leather or simulated leather) from time to time. When you tidy it, brush out the inside to remove any dust and loose powder, and wipe it out with a pad of cotton wool dipped in spirit cleaner or carbon tetrachloride. (Note the warnings about the use of carbon tetrachloride).

Any marks from a ballpoint pen can usually be removed with methylated spirit (denatured alcohol), and lipstick, too, may respond to the same treatment although some red dye may re main which you could treat with diluted hydrogen peroxide.

For plastic handbags there are proprietary liquids which clean and shine the surface at the same time—handbag shops usually stock them.

Care for the clothes you have made

When you have made a garment for yourself, you will want it to last and this means you must take care of it. When you take off a dress or a suit, you should put it on a shaped hanger. A skirt should be neatly folded over the lower rail of a double hanger. A dress or jacket should be fastened properly, the sleeves pulled straight and not tucked in.

Brush the collar to remove any hair or specks of dust which have settled on it. Hang the garment out in the bedroom until morning to allow any body moisture to evaporate, and then put it into the wardrobe. Try to wear clothes in rotation, rather than every day, to give the fabric time to rest and recover its resilience.

Stain removal is dealt with at the end of this section.


Modern dry-cleaning doesn't , contrary to popular belief, wear out clothes. The only clothes which do weaken after cleaning are those that have been left dirty for far too long. In fact, dirt and grit left on the fibers of a fabric can do far more damage than regular dry- cleaning.

What the cleaning process does, however, is to remove some of the original dressing used to make the fabric appear of a better quality. (This is yet another advantage of home dress making—you can choose better quality fabrics from the start.) The re—texturing process which many dry—cleaners offer can restore some of this finish.

You may notice that woolen garments often have a thin, flat look when they return from the dry-cleaner’s. This is because the natural moisture always present in wool has been reduced. You can put this to rights quite quickly by hanging the garment in a steamy atmosphere — for example in the bathroom—for a few hours.

Coin-op dry cleaners

Many launderettes have now installed coin- operated dry-cleaning machines, where you can dry-clean a load of garments—usually 8 to 12 lb.—while you wait. Many garments will dry- clean in this way very satisfactorily. Remember, however, that although the cost is much lower, and normally the results are good, they don't provide the advantages of a good dry-cleaning works, where there is a special section to deal with very stubborn marks.

The coin-op machines will normally remove simple grease—based stains, but it's possible that water—based stains will not come out. These should be treated beforehand with water to remove any water—soluble particles, and the article should then be completely dried before being taken to the coin-op machine. Any mark that remains will probably be grease, and the machine will deal with it.

In some coin-ops you may be provided with a ‘steam gun’ to treat stains before putting the articles in the machine. Always use it with a circular motion and keep it moving at an angle of roughly 45 degrees to the fabric. Do not hold it straight down on to one patch of material— the force could make a hole in the fabric.


Whether or not you will be able to launder at home the clothes you have made will depend on the way in which you have made them and the fabrics you have chosen. Provided the main fabric and any lining fabrics are washable, you should be able to launder the article by hand, and if seams are well-finished and trimmings well-chosen, you should be able to machine- wash it too, if you prefer. The charts in a previous section describe in detail the washing treatments suitable for all the main fabrics.

It is important to remember that any garment which needs frequent washing, such as a child’s dress, a baby’s bib, a little boy’s pair of trousers o a small girl’s overall, will be useless if you have concentrated on its decorative qualities at the expense of its practical potential. A baby’s bib such as one often sees for sale, with a bias binding edge and perhaps an appliqué motif in a bright color, or lined with plastic and edged with flimsy bias binding, and even with bias binding ties, is a poor buy, and a waste of your time to make. Any raw edge finished with bias binding will be completely ruined after a few washes in any normal domestic washing machine—the bias binding is pulled away from the raw edge, which in turn will quickly disintegrate too. Practicality is just as important as prettiness where washable garments are concerned. It you make toweling bibs, turn in and finish off the edges well (the new machines with their stretchy zigzag stitches are an ideal way of finishing turnings on toweling). It is in any case possible to make such articles highly decorative without spoiling their washability. If you add a trimming, see that the color isn't likely to run and that it's stitched down very thoroughly, not just stitched down in one or two places.


While preparing this guide I have had some interesting comments on darning. A school examiner told me: ‘We don't insist on the children learning patching and darning these days, because people have a different attitude to clothes now. If a garment needs repairing they tend to throw it away and buy a new one.’

Another revealing comment came from a demonstrator consultant from a sewing machine manufacturer, who visits schools and colleges:

“Some of the students bring me a darn which they have been working on. Usually it's well sewn, with fine, close stitches, and sometimes it has taken them a whole term of sewing lessons to complete. I show them how the same hole can be darned on a sewing machine in less than five minutes, and the darn is almost invisible.”

From these two statements one could conclude that nowadays no-one darns anything, and if they do, they use a sewing machine. But of course many mothers do still have to darn house hold linens and their children’s clothes, and many families don't have a sewing machine on which they can darn.

Perhaps the wisest course is to learn both ways of darning—by hand and by machine. I don't think it a waste of time for a girl to practice making at least one darn by hand. She may not have to darn her husband’s socks when she marries because they will probably contain nylon or some other synthetic fiber. But sheets can develop small holes, a small daughter may put her heel through her skirt, or cut a hole in her best dress with scissors, and the cat may claw at a curtain or furniture-cover. I am sure few families would be in a position to throw such articles away and buy new ones just because of a small tear or hole. If there is no sewing machine, it will be important to know how to hand-darn. So here is the classic method of darning a hole in a piece of cloth or wool:

Thread a needle with thread or wool suitable for the article to be darned. Choose a color which matches as nearly as possible. Use the thread or wool single unless the article is excessively thick, If the hole has ragged edges with many frayed threads, press with a damp cloth to neaten. Cut off any threads too frayed to blend in.

Placing the article on a flat surface, run a line of tacking stitches in a round or oval shape around the area to be darned, making sure that the darn will be large enough to cover the thin places round the hole.

Use a darning mushroom, in a color which will show up against the material being darned.

If you are darning a knitted article where stitches have run, use a fine crochet hook to pick up dropped stitches.

Now with the needle threaded, begin darning with the grain of the fabric (or with the direction of the row in the case of knitting). Start at least in. beyond the edge of the hole—or further away if the thin area is extensive. Make the first line you darn equal to .the length of the hole at its widest point.

Weave the needle in and out with small stitches, crossing the ‘gap’, and when you reach the end of the row, turn round and start to darn back down the fabric again, making sure that the second line of stitches is parallel to the first but very slightly longer. Leave a loop of thread or wool at the end of the first and subsequent rows—this will allow for shrinkage in the wash and elasticity in wear. Continue to darn; increasing the length of each row so that the final shape of the darn is round or oval. If you do it in this way, the edge of the darn will not pull on one thread or strand of the fabric.

Similarly, decrease the length of each row as you work over the second half of the hole.

In a knitted garment, take care to pick up all the loops, to prevent laddering.

Now begin crossing the darn at right angles to the first stitches, weaving under and over alternate threads. Try as far as possible not to pick up the fibers of the fabric itself when crossing the darn, but only the darning threads. This will give a neater, woven look. Try, too, not to split the strands as you pick them up. Turn to the back of the work, neaten any raw or ragged edges by securing them to the back of the darned patch.

Press the darn on both sides, using a damp cloth.

How to darn by machine

This will depend on the type of machine you have. With a straight-stitch machine, darning is done with a spring darning foot. The feed dog is disengaged, either by using a feed cover plate or making a simple adjustment to drop the feed teeth. If you have a zigzag machine, you again disengage the feed, but normally no foot attachment is required. In this case, darning involves making a series of zigzag stitches over the area. Three—step zigzag, where available, or the five-step serpentine stitch, which some machines offer, are both ideal for darning.

The work to be darned is fitted into a darning hoop — either an 8 in. hoop or a small hoop for darning socks. The hole may be backed with a piece of muslin to give added strength.

The instruction book with the sewing machine should give advice on the way to darn with the model you are using. If you don't find this information sufficient, it's worth writing to the manufacturers to see whether there is any additional literature which would help you.


Keep a few stain-removal agents handy for immediate use on stains. You can buy various kinds of proprietary stain-removers; and if you follow the directions carefully, you will be able to remove most stains, provided you treat them speedily enough. A useful substance to keep in the house for removing grease stains is carbon tetrachloride. A little on a pad of cotton wool will freshen a collar extremely well, and grease or greasy food stains can be removed quickly and easily. Carbon tetrachloride is available from any chemist or drugstore. Warning: it's very important to take certain safety measures, as carbon tetrachloride, wrongly handled, can be very dangerous. Always have a window open when you are using it, for the fumes, though not flammable, are poisonous. Always keep it out of reach of small children. Never use it in a room where there is afire but no ventilation, or the fumes may cause you to become unconscious. Never iron over a piece of fabric which you have just treated with carbon tetrachloride: wait until it has had time to evaporate completely. The last rule sounds faintly tongue-in-cheek, but I am assured it's textbook advice for dry-cleaning operatives: it's dangerous to use carbon tetra chloride if you have had anything alcoholic to drink (obviously this rule assumes an excess of one or the other—or both) and those who take sleeping tablets are also advised to treat carbon tetrachloride with particular caution.

Probably the most dramatic type of stain remover which has come on to the market for washable clothes is the range of enzyme products —the enzyme pre-soak powders such as Biotex, Big S and Luvil, and the enzyme detergents such as Ariel, Radiant and Drive. These are almost invariably effective in removing protein stains, and sometimes non-protein stains too, provided you use them intelligently. Never for get that most enzyme products will be ineffective at temperatures above 60°C (140°F)—normally the temperature of the water which comes out of your hot tap.

  • Alcoholic drinks. Sponge immediately with clear warm water, pat dry with a clean absorbent towel.
  • Ball point pen. Methylated spirits is the most effective, but not on rayons or Tricel which it might damage. Second bests include carbon tetrachloride or cleaning benzene.
  • Beach oil. Eucalyptus oil is undoubtedly the finest for removing this black oil from clothes, shoes and body. Use it in the open air if possible—it is very pungent in a small room. An alternative is lighter fuel—useful if you are on a beach with no likelihood of obtaining eucalyptus oil that day.
  • Beer. Sponge with clear water, pat dry. Neglected stains may come out gradually after several machine-washes, or you can try soaking the mark in warm water with ammonia (1 tsp. to 2 pint water). For unwashable garments where home treatment proves ineffective, dry-cleaning will be the best answer.
  • Black grease. Grease from a car axle or a bicycle or a lawnmower presents two problems. You have to remove the grease, which is relatively easy with carbon tetrachloride which you can purchase from your chemist. Then there’s the black stain which will probably linger on. Re move this by thorough washing if the fabric is washable, using water as hot as the fabric will allow, plus a light nailbrush. With unwashable fabrics sponge with the grease solvent, then if the stain remains, sprinkle the area with french chalk, talcum powder or fuller’s earth. Rubbing well with the fingertips, sprinkle on a little solvent, and when it has finally evaporated brush off the powder.
  • Blacklead. Use turpentine on a clean cloth.
  • Blood. Only one treatment is worth pursuing these days: an enzyme powder such as Bio-Tex, Big-S or Luvil. Almost invariably effective, if used according to directions.
  • Car oil. As for black grease.
  • Cellulose paint. Sponge with acetone or nail varnish remover. Do not use either, however, if the fabric is an acetate or Tricel. For these fabrics, use amyl acetate.
  • Chewing gum. A cure for chewing gum stains seems to have been given in every stain-removal guide published since the stuff was invented! Perhaps modern chewing gum has changed since the ‘old days’ but personally I find it leaves not so much a stain as a sticky mess. I suppose if you left it there long enough it would ‘magnet’ in all the surrounding dirt and thus become a stain. In the event of your finding chewing gum stains, however, scrape and pull off as much as possible. If the article is small, for example, a child’s dress or a cushion cover, put it in a polythene bag in the refrigerator to make the gum harder, more brittle, less clinging. Or try rubbing the area with an ice-cube—the time honored method which I can never make to work. Clear up the residue of the gum with carbon tetrachloride.
  • Chocolate. Scrape off any solid chocolate with a blunt knife, then treat as for the coffee stain below.
  • Cigarette burns. A light scorch mark maybe improved by applying a thick paste of borax mixed with glycerin. Leave it overnight, then either brush off the paste or wash the article, depending on the fabric. If the fabric isn't washable you should still sponge it, wringing out the cloth frequently in fresh warm water, to remove all traces of the borax and glycerin. Bad burns will require invisible mending— you can use your sewing machine for this if it's suitable. If you have never tried darning before, put in some practice first on sample scraps of material. If the burning is extensive you may have to use a piece of the same fabric and apply a patch. If you haven't kept left-over scraps, you may be able to cut a small piece out of one of the seam allowances.
  • Cocoa. As for coffee. See below.
  • Cod liver oil. This clings limpet-like if allowed to settle. Whisk off as much as possible with a cloth or tissue, wash immediately if the fabric is suitable, or use carbon tetrachloride on the dry fabric if it's not. If the stain is stubborn, re treat; and if that's unsuccessful try having the garment dry-cleaned straight away, making sure to tell the assistant what the stain is.
  • Coffee. Tackle the stain immediately. Mop up the coffee with a dry, old towel, then with a clean cloth and warm water, sponge the fabric vigorously. If the article is washable, wash immediately, first in warm water only and then increasing the temperature, if the fabric can take it. Leave the mark soaking in a good solution of very hot water and washing powder. Neglected stains may require a visit to a dry-cleaner. Point out the stain and be prepared for the fact that it may now be indelible. A borax solution (1 level tablespoonful per pint of water) is often recommended as an alternative solution for soaking the stain, but I have derived very little benefit from this method. I prefer to soak overnight in enzyme wash powder suds.
  • Dandelion. Sponge with methylated spirits (not on acetates or Tricel). Wash if the article is washable.
  • Dye. If the article is white, or so badly streaked that total removal of its color is the only answer, use a color-stripper called Dygon. Re-dye if necessary. If you are not going to re-dye, wash the article thoroughly in a hot, fairly strong detergent solution to remove the yellowish tinge. Leave it to soak in the suds if necessary.
  • Egg. I have never met an egg white or yolk that did not respond to the scrape/sponge/dab-dry treatment. A little liquid detergent added to the water used for sponging will help. If the garment isn't washable, merely scrape and sponge well. A newer answer for washable fabrics is the enzyme type product (see under Blood) which will act on the albumen in the egg.
  • Emulsion paint. A pernicious enemy—so immediate treatment is absolutely essential; even then the color may cling to some fabrics. You need masses of water, constantly changed, to soak the article. Do not use turpentine. If the stain has hardened before you can do any thing about it, try sponging with methylated spirits. If that fails, take your problem to the dry-cleaner.
  • Enamel paint. Sponge with turpentine or turps substitute.
  • Eye make-up. A special product sold for re moving eye make-up from your face can also, I have found, be used for washable articles. Be sure to wash the treated area thoroughly after wards.
  • Food stains. Wash as normal if the fabric can be washed. Where there are protein or albumen stains (gravy, egg, etc.) use a proprietary enzyme product.
  • Fruit juice. Soak immediately in plain warm water, adding 1 level tablespoonful of borax if wished. Neglected stains need soaking in a solution of2o vol. hydrogen peroxide—one part to five parts water.
  • Grass stains. Sponge with methylated spirits.
  • Gravy. See Food Stains.
  • Grease. Use carbon tetrachloride, changing the pad held behind the stain as it becomes dirty, and renewing the cloth also.
  • Indelible pencil. Use methylated spirits or acetone (except for acetates and Tricel fabrics, for which you use amyl acetate). Alternatively permanganate of potash (4 teaspoon crystals in ½ pint warm water) may be used on any white fabrics except acetates and triacetates.
  • Ink. If possible swamp the stained area with water until all loose ink has been rinsed away, then wash in hot soapy water. Allow the article to dry naturally, and if the stain still remains, professional treatment may be necessary. Tell the cleaner what kind of ink it's (e.g. whether it's washable ink, Indian ink, marking ink, etc.). The odd small stain may respond to a proprietary spot remover or ink eradicator. Or try dabbing with methylated spirits.
  • Latex adhesive. ‘Copydex’ provide their own antidote—a specially—formulated solvent which works. Nothing else in your stain-removal kit will have the same effect. Details on Copydex packs.
  • Lipstick. Scrape, then sponge with carbon tetrachloride or eucalyptus oil.
  • Mildew. Repeated soakings in a strong solution of soap powder such as Persil may work if you are patient. Between each soaking rinse and hang the article to dry to catch any sunshine, which will have a mild bleaching effect. Often mildew will fade after several normal hot machine washes. Or try diluted 20 vol. hydrogen peroxide (one part to four parts of water) if the fabric is white. Extensive mildew may need professional treatment.
  • Mud. The surplus mud is easily rinsed away—it is the discoloration that remains which is the problem. Wash immediately if the fabric is suitable, in water as hot as the fabric can stand. For non-washable articles the treatment is different: don't soak or sponge, simply allow the mud to dry and brush off the next day with a clean brush. Talcum powder rubbed in may help.
  • Nail polish. Sponge with acetone or nail varnish remover on pads of cotton wool. If the fabric is acetate rayon or Tricel, use amyl acetate instead to avoid damaging the fabric.
  • Oil paint. Oil paint needs turpentine, turps substitute or proprietary paint cleaner.
  • Perspiration. The enzyme type products mentioned above can help here. Soak the marked areas in a solution made up as directed. Wash the article thoroughly, and allow to dry. If any staining remains, or perspiration odor, soak the fabric again, in a solution of vinegar and water (one part vinegar to eight parts warm water).
  • Rust. The simplest and most effective is a proprietary rust remover. Other methods employ chemicals which are not particularly safe to have around the house.
  • Shoe polish. If the fabric is washable, wash in warm water with a detergent plus a little ammonia. Re-wash at the normal temperature for the fabric and allow to dry. If any staining remains, or if you can't try this method because the garment can't be washed, use carbon tetrachloride or turpentine.
  • Suntan oil. Sponge with carbon tetrachloride.
  • Tea. As for coffee. See above.
  • Wine. If you are at table, pour salt on the stained area and leave it to soak up the wine while you go to fetch clean cloths to sponge the stain. As soon as is practicable, put the stained cloth to soak in cold water, adding a little borax if wished. If the wine stain has dried and set, stretch the cloth over your washing-up bowl, hollow the centre of the stain lightly, sprinkle thickly with borax and then pour boiling water through. Alternatively, after soaking in cold water, put the article to soak in a strong solution of soap powder and hot water. Some people find that soaking in an enzyme product helps. If the article is a delicate tablecloth, the soaking will be far more effective than hard rubbing. If the garment can't be washed, try a proprietary spray-on product, which will probably remove the mark without harming the fabric.
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Saturday, 2010-06-19 20:48