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In the Good Old Days Antiques Corner This Week in History
Antiques Corner

Stretching Socks

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Question: I love the shape and visual appeal of old wooden sock stretchers. Can you tell me more about them, such as when they were used and the purpose of the holes? This particular stretcher is unmarked; would a mark make it more valuable?

Answer: In days past, Monday was washday and Tuesday was ironing day. These wood stretchers were used in home laundries in the 19th century and well into the 1900s to prevent wool hosiery from shrinking after being washed. Most examples have circular holes through them to facilitate air circulation. Some were marked with a maker's name and a numeral indicating a size; although marks make stretchers easier to identify, they don't add to the value. Wire stocking-form stretchers began replacing their wood counterparts in the 1900s. The introduction of nylon-blend socks after World War II made stocking stretchers obsolete. Those that have survived three-quarters of a century of non-use are touted as primitive decorations for the kitchen or laundry room. Matched pairs are readily available and usually priced $25 to $50 on internet sites.

-- By Tom Hoepf, associate editor of Auction Central News

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