Hello History Lovers!
The tradition of January White Sales was the inspiration of a Philadelphia department store mogul John Wanamaker in 1878. As a way of stimulating sales during a slow time of year, the White Sale offered customers excess bedding at discounted prices. Of course sheets at that time came in only one color–white–hence the name. Eventually, other household linens were offered at sale prices as well. The White Sale ads included in this post also show reduced prices for fabrics necessary for sewing household linens. The frugal homemaker would buy yardages of fabric in order to sew her own items including underwear for her family thus gaining further savings.
An article in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, January 1922, offers advice on how to recognize a bargain, as well as, tips on how to sew and care for linens as economically as possible.
January White Sales
Practically every store in the country has one week in January devoted to the sale of all types of white goods from yardage materials to table linen, bedding, towels, and so forth. It may be stock that has been on hand and has been reduced for the occasion but more frequently it is apt to be merchandise especially purchased for the sale and both at a price that enables the merchant to sell at a lower than usual figure.
To get the most and best out of these January white goods sales we should know the normal prices of standard goods and have a list of articles needed carefully thought out. The buyer is then prepared to recognize bargains when they occur and may take advantage of them.
It is common practice with many householders to buy nainsook, cambric, or long cloth at the January sales by the ten or twelve-yard bolt and commence work upon the summer underwear for the family. If there is a considerable amount of underwear to be made, much may be saved by cutting from the large piece. If all the patterns are gathered together at the beginning of the cutting and various pieces of each pattern are marked with some distinguishing color or emblem so that they can be easily sorted after the cutting, it will be found that pieces of different patterns will often fit in so that only a fraction of an inch is wasted. If only one garment is cut, the larger pieces are of such curves and angles as to prevent such close-fitting or dovetailing.
It is a great back-saver to raise the table about eight inches for the cutting-out operation. Lay all the patterns in place and pin before starting to cut. When certain that they are placed to the best advantage, cut and sort before removing the pattern.
Sheets and Pillowcases
Now is the time to replenish sheets and pillowcases, but whether it is better economy to make them or purchase them ready-made must be determined by each housewife for herself. If the time spent in the making is considered, there is little advantage from a money standpoint in making them, as the cost of ready-mades compares very favorably with that of the homemade; but there is an advantage in making them if one does not desire the standard sizes in which the ready-mades can only be procured.
Some states have laws regulating the size of sheets for beds in hotels and rooming houses so that the lodger may be protected against contact with the blankets which are less frequently laundered. In the home, we should be equally careful that the sheet is long enough to protect the sleeper. The feet are entitled to the same protection from cold as the rest of the body and so the sheet must be long enough to ensure secureness at the foot of the bed, and there should be from twelve to eighteen inches at the side according to whether one or two occupy the bed. Therefore, the sheet should be from twenty-four to thirty-six inches longer and wider than the mattress. Too large a sheet is hard to handle and launder and is therefore as much to be shunned as the too-small sheet. They should always be torn to be straight or they will never be satisfactory. Ready-made ones that have been torn will be so stamped.
Making the hems of sheets of the same width ensures more even wear as either end will be used at head or foot, and should be made long enough to properly tuck in at the foot.
If beds are of several sizes, the size of the sheets should be plainly marked so that they may be easily sorted in putting away the linen and also that they may be readily found if needed in the absence or illness of the housewife.
Pillow tubing is more desirable than seamed muslin as the ironing usually causes the greatest wear at the seam. Rip the bottom seam of the tube’s case after it begins to show signs of wear and turn the tube so that the former edges are in the center and sew a new seam at the bottom. This gives the case more even usage.
January is a good time to stock up on towels for both the kitchen and personal use. Linen is preferable to cotton. Crash and huckaback, are more serviceable than damask although the latter is more beautiful. Here again, the question arises as to the advisability of making or buying ready-made. Usually, a savings is made in making the crash towels but with the others, it is merely a preference of handwork to machine work for if one counts the value of time no money can be saved by making.
Linen Closet Design
In planning a new linen closet, it will be found a great convenience to make the shelves slide, with a slight ledge on the front and sides and a higher back. These can be drawn out similar to drawers but are less expensive to build and are less cumbersome to handle. They work similarly to the wire racks supplied in the cupboard sections of some of the kitchen cabinets.
A Hope Chest
A good New Year’s gift that Brother can make for Sister, is a Hope Chest and there she can accumulate linens and loveliness’s “against” the happy day!
–Georgia Belle Elwell
The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, January 1922, Page 677; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.