Urban Farming

A Lesson in Ironing

Fashion for the 1970s hipster.

Fashion for the 1970s hipster.

(Dear Neighbors North Readers,
The following is a two-parter on coat-making and ironing.)

The Urban Farmer is sewing a vintage Simplicity 1970 trench coat. The trench has several mouth-watering details: patch pockets with flaps cut on the diagonal, yokes front and back, and sleeve tabs.

Front yokes before assembling onto trench front.

Front yokes before assembling onto trench front.

A trifecta of functionally useless elements, but they give trench punch. Trench also features two-part, dolman sleeves for ease of movement. A wrap coat, it will be easy on, easy off. Well-suited for the woman on the go.

The look is Nixon-era sporty; sassy but not overly bold; fun yet demure. It approves of liberated women, but draws the line at supporting the ERA. Hold on, little lady. Don’t raise the glass ceiling too high.

Note diagonally cut pocket flap, also note interior lining.  Now that's couture.

Note diagonally cut pocket flap, also note interior lining. Now that’s couture.

While the patch pockets are fairly roomy, trench lacks an inside breast pocket. Its wearer is expected to tote her essentials in handbag or purse. Also, the whimsical wrap style would be shocking if found in men’s wear. For the less fair sex, it’s all about power, cutting to the chase, getting down to brass tacks. Whimsy is a no-go for male personages.

Trench employs belt loops fashioned from thread. Thread loops are quiet. They don’t call attention to themselves. They don’t detract from the “line.” Downside: they aren’t particularly sturdy.

The Urban Farmer wonders how the gingerbread man would have fared when he needed to run from the greedy husband and wife if he’d been wearing a coat with flimsy thread belt loops. Fortunately, she lives in a time of greater acceptance for clothing functionality in women’s clothing. She will swap the thread loops for fabric ones.

Perhaps surprising to the non-sewist, a sewist’s success in turning out fashionable garments depends in part on her frequent and skillful employment of the iron. Do not be fooled. Careful cutting, pinning, and basting alone will not guarantee a well-turned out article.

This morning the Urban Farmer is pressing seams with her Rowenta Comfort Iron with “vertical and burst of steam.” She fills the reservoir with tap, not distilled, as per Rowenta’s manual; dials up to “wool;” gets her press cloth to hand; and waits for vexations. The Rowenta sputters and spits. It piddles onto the plaid then clamps its steam holes shut. It’s erratic and unpredictable. Rowenta Comfort refuses to steam when the Urban Farmer wants steam. When she wants zero steam, it sends out buckets. More spray hits the floor than the cloth. She can’t finish pressing one seam open before the reservoir needs re-filling. Pressing open the underarm and side seams, a task which should take no more than ten minutes, takes an hour. Afterward, the Urban Farmer is on her hands and knees mopping up puddles. Very vexing.

The Urban Farmer has had it. She is steamed. She digs up the 1-800-Rowenta number and stomps to the phone.

The woman to whom she complains wants a model no. It’s conveniently located beneath the sole plate. Only it’s not. The Urban Farmer rattles off all the letters and numbers found on the silver-colored label beneath the sole plate.

“No. That’s not it,” the woman says.

The Urban Farmer tips the Rowenta Comfort this way and that; puts on her readers to make sure she isn’t missing something. She can’t find any other no. She repeats the sole plate gobbledygook.

“That’s not it,” the woman says.

The Urban Farmer tries not to panic. What if the woman hangs up? What if the woman says that, without a model no., security concerns preclude her from helping the Urban Farmer?

Miraculously, after a third go-round of hunting for the Rowenta Comfort’s non-existent model number, the woman gives the Urban Farmer the go-ahead to proceed with her story.

“You bought your iron over a year ago,” the woman says. “it’s no longer covered by warranty.”

“Yes,” the Urban Farmer says. “I understand that.  But I spent sixty dollars for this iron. An iron should do a better job than this. It should not sputter and spit. I shouldn’t need to mop the floor afterwards.”

“Have you called us about this before?” the woman asks.

“Yes,” The Urban Farmer says.  “I’m sure I have.”  (Truth be told, she is not sure.  She called Rowenta about something, at some point.  But it might have been about an earlier iron.  Strange as it may seem, this is the Urban Farmer’s second Rowenta iron.  Oh, why didn’t she stick with Black and Decker!)

The woman checks. She can’t find a record of any previous calls.

“Look,” the Urban Farmer says. “I know I’m past the one-year warranty period. I’m sorry I can’t find a model no. But I am sick sick sick of this spitting and mopping. The steam function goes to sleep every time I set the iron to horizontal.”
She is becoming short and terse.  She is behaving badly. She isn’t letting the woman get a word in edge-wise. She is becoming whiny.  “I know how to iron. I’ve been ironing for forty years. Your irons start at sixty dollars and go up from there. How can you make a product whose steam function doesn’t work. Steam is basic. Irons are basic. What is wrong with your company?

“I will never buy a Rowenta again. I will tell everyone I know not to buy your irons. Sixty dollars?” she says, repeating herself, “How can you charge that kind of money for an iron that spits? When a person spends sixty dollars for an iron, she should get an iron that works. The variable steam function doesn’t even work! If I dial it to zero or max steam, I get spit and sputter. I never get variable. And then I’m on my hands and knees mopping iron piddle.

“Is there someone else I can speak to? Someone higher up? I know you’re just the first line person and probably can’t help me, but I’d really like to talk to someone who can.”

Call center woman will have call center supervisor return the Urban Farmer’s call.

“Thank you.” The Urban Farmer doesn’t know what the supervisor can do. But at least she will have done all there is to be done. She will have let Rowenta know what she thinks of their shoddy product. The Cadillac of iron. Hmpf. Who are they kidding.

Pierre calls in the p.m. Pierre’s manner is understanding, gracious, and soothing.  He would never tyrannize a gingerbread man.  Pierre does not insist she locate the non-existent model no.  Nor does he chastise her for presumably, waiting until today, when her Rowenta Comfort is well past its warranty period, to voice her complaints to the call center.

The Urban Farmer explains how she is a seasoned ironist. She has been wielding irons since third grade. She also lays out her sewist credentials. In all her years ironing, she has never experienced this degree of iron impertinence. She explains that she needs an iron she can rely on. “When I set the dial to steam I want steam. When I set it to non-steam, I want dry. Zero. No steam.” She refrains from telling Pierre how it is beneath her dignity to be on her hands and knees mopping up iron spittle. That, too, would be beneath her dignity.

Pierre offers her a deal. Rowenta will absorb the cost of shipping and handling and repairing the Urban Farmer’s Rowenta Comfort at its Bellevue repair center. The entire process may take from one to two weeks.

“Two weeks? I can’t be without an iron that long.” What about Co-hab’s shirts? What about work on trench?

“We can try to expedite it,” Pierre says.

The Urban Farmer reluctantly agrees. Pierre is extending an olive branch. She supposes she can borrow her sister P’s iron.

The next morning she gathers up all Co-hab’s shirts for ironing before shipping off the Rowenta Comfort.

The iron works fine. It steams when she wants steam. It doesn’t spit, nor does it sputter. It’s doesn’t leave some shirt areas soaked while others are bone dry. Lake Rowenta does not form beneath her feet.

Ironing proceeds without a wrinkle. This gives her pause. Why was yesterday’s ironing nothing but vexation? She has dialed the iron up from wool to cotton. So, the iron is hotter. She recalls long ago lectures about the nature of steam; studying vapor vs. pressure and temperature graphs. Of course. PV=nRT. It all boils down to Pressure and Volume vs. Temperature. How can she expect steam when she’s set the iron in the gray area of wool. Rowenta is not at fault. It’s been operator error all along.

She dials Rowenta; she called in yesterday and gave a call center employee a hard time. Unfortunately, she didn’t catch the woman’s name. “Please give her my apologies. Please thank Pierre for being so patient and kind. Please tell him I won’t need to send the Rowenta in for repairs after all.”

The Urban Farmer hangs up the phone. All these years, she thought she understood ironing. It’s another lesson in how little she knows.

Trench is half-way there.  Keep going, Urban Farmer!

Trench is half-way there. Keep going, Urban Farmer!


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