by June T. Bassemir
On “Ladies Night” in 1979 I was asked to give a talk to The Model A Ford Club of Long Island. These were my friends all dedicated to finding, saving and restoring the Model A Ford. I was the only woman in the club, having been introduced to it by a friend who knew that I had just purchased a 1931 Sport Coupe. He saw my need to get good advice for restoring the car to show room condition. Before long, other women came to the meetings with their husbands, but I was the only woman trying to do it myself. My effort was not to prove anything. I just wanted to have a car with a rumble seat, for I had never ridden in one.
My talk that night was called “How to Make Rags”. I was deadly serious but my male audience laughed at my opening remarks. Actually, it was a subject of great importance with vital information for those of us who are in the restoration business. Whether it is stripping furniture or working on a car; good, white, soft, clean rags at your elbow are an absolute necessity.
I was prepared to show them the right way to make a rag with one of my husband’s cotton T shirts. (He had taken it off the night before and I snatched it from the hamper just before I left the house.) With my sharp scissors in hand I showed them how to cut off the neck and sleeve seams. (Thick seams do not help when you get to the polishing stage.) The trick here in “making rags” is not to use any Polyester material as it doesn’t absorb anything. It’s like trying to wipe up some oil with a piece of glass. Only cotton cloth is to be used. Of course, the best items are: the already mentioned T shirts; flannel sheets (which take up too much room in the linen closet and anyway are hard to turn over on while sleeping …) real 100% cotton sheets (they never seem to wear out), old dishtowels (they are in abundance now that almost everyone uses a dish washer) and men’s flannel shirts. Egyptian cotton sheets are the best, but let’s not be fussy. They will give you more rags than you will use in a year.
When you cut up a man’s cotton shirt you follow the same rules as when you iron it. (But no one irons anymore.) You begin with the neck. Cut it off and discard it; then cut off the sleeves being sure to cut off and throw away all seams and cuffs. Slit the back into four nice square pieces, the right size for wiping up spills of most anything. The sleeves open up and produce two pieces. The front halves of the shirt are less productive because you have to cut off the pocket and both buttonhole strips, but save the buttons for your “Button Box”. There you have it: a pile of good clean rags for wiping your hands, dusting or cleaning up.
The talk was a success and at the end of it, I offered several piles of five ribbon-tied-up rags @ .50 cents a pile. The demand was great and all sold very quickly.
copyright June T. Bassemir, 2012