Would you like a silk parachute to make underwear from?
I was a little surprised when my dad greeted me on my return home for Christmas with this questions! But, I was delighted to accept this somewhat unexpected offer.
It does raise the further question, which has probably occurred to you reader, why does my dad have a silk parachute? Well, ... my dad and uncle jointly own a large seventeenth century house in south Wales, Treowen, where they grew up with their siblings.
All along the front of the house under the snow covered roof is an 80 foot in length attic, known in the family as the long attic (I think you will agree at 80 foot it is long). As the long attic is not currently habitable, it has no floor and knee high roof supports (imagine a hurdle track with hurdles made of solid oak), it has been used by the extended family as a dumping ground for the last 50 plus years.
My uncle and father have decided to do work on the long attic to make it habitable, and this has meant they need to clear out generations of 'junk', Over the last month they have been producing all sorts of things from the attic; old letters and school reports, two pallet of books, old furniture and a silk parachute. No one is quite clear what the parachute was doing there, or how it got there in the first place, but it's mine now :)
I've washed it, which has removed the 'attic' smell and most of the bat droppings. The silk is now clean and mostly still in great condition, but it is a not very attractive beige colour. My dilemma now is what to do with the parachute?
I did a bit of research online into the historical use of parachute silk in women's clothing, and during the second world war they were used to make underwear and even wedding dresses. I'm not surprised at this as there is a huge amount of fabric in the parachute.
Not currently in need of a wedding dress I think underwear is they way to go, so in keeping with the wartime theme I consulted by grandmother's copy of Sew and Save. Published in 1941 this handbooks gives advice to women who want to be 'attractively dressed' on the ration. It covers everything from planning your wardrobe, to making and mending your clothes. Interestingly the chapter on 'Making your own undies' has been heavily underlined and annotated by my grandmother. I like the idea that 70 odd years latter I could be making the same things she did, following the same instructions.
Not a great picture, but hopefully you can see. I like the advice she has underlined about how many pairs of undies you need in stock; three is seems - 'one set on your back, one in the wash, and one clean and ready for any emergency that may crop up'. Good advice.
I've never owned one, let alone, three pairs of silk undies before, but hopefully I will soon...