Simple tests to learn value of cloth
“None but the expert,” said a Chicago dressmaker who figured prominently at the recent convention, “can distinguish the quality of a piece of goods on inspection.”
It takes long experience to acquire that intuition, as it were, by which the choice is known from the indifferent. Not all, by any means, can ever acquire the faculty, and those that can are able to command large salaries as buyers. On the other hand, shoppers are constantly deceived by flagrant impostors, which, by the operation of a few simple tests, can easily be detected.
“Of the goods sold as ‘all-wool,’ there is not one-tenth that is genuine. In the greater part, the main component is cotton. The test is simple. All that is necessary is to pull out a few threads and apply a lighted match. Cotton will go off in a blaze; wool will shrivel up.
“To distinguish true, pure linen from the counterfeit article is even easier. The intending buyer need but wet her finger and apply it to the goods. If they be pure linen, the moisture will pass straight through; the spot touched will be soaked at once, and almost immediately one side will be as wet as the other.”
“Frauds are more numerous in silk than in any other fabric, but here, also, the material of adulteration is cotton. Its presence can readily be discovered. Draw a few threads out. The pieces of cotton will snap off short when pulled, while the silk will stretch and permit a considerable pull before breaking.
“Concerning silk. It may be remarked that the stuff our grandmothers used to talk about that ‘stood by itself,’ is not necessarily the best. Modern ingenuity has devised means of giving the poorest article the body requisite for this purpose.
“Shellac and other sticky substances mixed through the fabric, will produce as stiff a silk as ever graced the closet of an ancestral mansion. Such stuff is quite worthless. It rots away in no time. As a matter of fact, the silks most prized at present are of the soft variety, with no more rigidity than muslin.
“Counterfeit machine-made lace is often offered as the genuine hand-made article. At first glance, it is identical with the real thing. Even one who is not an expert, however, can distinguish the difference with a little care. Machine lace is always exactly regular in its pattern, every figure the same shape, length, thickness, and so forth. In the handmade article, there are always little irregularities.”
Image: Embroidered cord silk (1904), courtesy NYPL