My Grandmother Irene’s Tailor Company in Kingston, Jamaica

My Grandmother Irene was a Certified Tailor in the world of Men’s Fashion when fine clothing and “haute couture” made trends during the 1930s and 1940s, at a time when Coco Chanel featured tailored clothing for men and women.  In fact, Grandmother Irene met Coco Chanel, the French fashion designer in person for tailoring business referrals and fashion shows at the time.  Grandmother Irene became the manager and owner of a Kingston Tailor Manufacturing Company in Jamaica, Cuba, USA, London, England, France, Italy, and Spain in Europe.  Thanks to my Grandmother Irene and her sewing mistresses friends, I have always had fine fashion garments to wear.  My parents always ordered custom-made dresses designed, embroidered, and sewn by private seamstresses for special occasions.  One of the seamstresses who sewed for our family was named Ana Dela, the mother of Ana Maria, wife of Marcelino Simons, who was related to my Aunt Silvia Simons, daughter of the Engineer Dennis Simons from Kingston, Jamaica.

During the summers, Grandmother Irene offered to teach me how to sew in her antique Singer foot-pedaling sewing machine for fashion, as the French say “haute couture” for custom-made, tailored clothing, “sanforized”.  Grandmother Irene showed me her vintage sewing templates for custom-tailored fashion clothing from Europe, and taught me how to use the fashion sewing templates to cut tailored clothing for ready-wear.  I still have a sample garment which Grandmother Irene sewed to show me how to use Sanforization for men’s shorts.

Sanforization is a process of treatment used for cotton fabrics mainly and most textiles made from natural or chemical fibres, patented by Sanford Lockwood Cluett (1874–1968) in 1930.[1] It is a method of stretching, shrinking and fixing the woven cloth in both length and width before cutting and producing, to reduce the shrinkage which would otherwise occur after washing.

The cloth is continually fed into the sanforizing machine and therein moistened with either water or steam. A rotating cylinder presses a rubber sleeve against another, heated, rotating cylinder. Thereby the sleeve briefly gets compressed and laterally expanded, afterwards relaxing to its normal thickness. The cloth to be treated is transported between rubber sleeve and heated cylinder and is forced to follow this brief compression and lateral expansion, and relaxation. It thus gets shrunk.

The greater the pressure applied to the rubber sleeve, the less the shrinking afterwards. The process may be repeated.

The aim of the process is a cloth which does not shrink significantly during clothes production by cutting, ironing, sewing or, especially, by wearing and washing the finished clothes. Cloth and articles made from it may be labelled to have a specific shrink-proof value (if pre-shrunk), e.g., of under 1%.