The Proper Care of Natural Fibers

A reader shares her grandmother's sage advice on the proper care of natural fibers, including quality clothing, woolens, cottons, silks and leather.

| September/October 1982

A reader shares her grandmother's sage advice on the proper care of natural fibers and maintaining quality clothing for years to come. 

Eighteen years ago, when I was still in high school, I bought a pure wool skirt for the then extravagant sum of $15.95. My mother scolded me for spending so freely . . . but my grandmother came to my defense, reminding Mom that quality wool wears well. She predicted that my purchase, if given proper care, would last for a good many years.

Well, I'm running a household of my own now, and Gram's prophecy has turned out to be correct. I still wear that skirt . . . and with it, I often don a 30-year-old sweater that belonged to my mother, and a pair of leather boots that have weathered six years of wintertime salt and slush. Furthermore, on special occasions I wear a silk blouse my mother bought 35 years ago . . . and match it with a hand-me-down cotton skirt of about the same vintage.

Of course, most hardworking jeans and flannel shirts can't be expected to last forever, but you can get many seasons of use from your "good clothes" if you simply follow some practical advice regarding their selection and care. My grandmother taught me that real thriftiness involves buying only quality clothing . . . maintaining the proper care of natural fibers . . . wearing and storing it properly . . . and keeping them clean and in good repair. And her advice applies not only to such natural fibers as wool, cotton, and silk, but to leather goods as well!


In her time, Gram never had to deal with synthetic fabrics, and I've chosen not to. The "real thing" may often be more expensive initially, but fine natural-fiber cloth lasts longer and is far more comfortable to wear than synthetics, which don't breathe and tend to trap moisture against the skin.

According to my grandmother, the poor can afford only the best . . . however, when she said "best" she didn't necessarily mean "new". If you shop carefully (and especially if you possess the sewing skills needed to update a somewhat outmoded find or alter a garment to fit), you can often unearth once expensive quality clothing — for very reasonable prices — at thrift stores and garage sales.

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