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Thursday, 13 December 2012


By Johna Ferguson

I’ve always wondered what kind of person hangs clothes one way or another, a logical or emotional one or is it something we learn from the way our mother’s or others hung theirs. I remember when I was young, my mother taught our new maid how to hang the clothes on the lines properly; well at least in her mind.

First she must make sure that the lines have been wiped clean. Then followed the clothes hanging concert. First my father’s seven white linen handkerchiefs and other handkerchiefs. They must be hung singly, clothespins in the corners so the sun could bleach them out.

Then my father’s white shirts, hung of course from the two side seams at the bottom, sleeves hanging down so they swung freely in the breeze. Next came any small whites or light colored things: wash cloths, underwear and nighties. After that the larger light colored things: towels, tablecloths and blouses.

Finally the dark things: Levis, dark teeshirts, sweat shirts - well I’m sure you get the idea. The only thing is they were all hung with clothespins at the side seams of the garments.

To this day, that is how I hang our clothes but our next door neighbor, my mother’s closest friend, did just the opposite. Our yards were joined as one and her lines were right next to ours.

She told her maid to hang the clothes the quickest way possible, so she just draped them over the lines willy nilly - colors mixed with whites, heavy things with light-weight things and clothespins in available corners.

When my husband and I lived in our first apartment, we shared a laundry room with the other tenants. I remember one very arty, young woman also tossed her clothes on the lines any which way but as she said, “They eventually dried and some of the wrinkles were so interesting,” so who’s to judge.

Now that I’m back from China, I wonder who taught the women there how to hang clothes. Funny thing is they all do it the same way so maybe it’s one of those strange inborn traits.

They hang a teeshirt, for example, folded over the line and put a clothespin right in the center. That means when you wear it you will have a bump on your chest and back from where the pin was.

Jeans or pants they fold over the line and put a clothespin in each leg, right above the knee, so when you put them on that bump would also show unless one had bony knees.

A jacket they fold in half and let it hang down on both sides and put a clothespin at the collar edge in the center of the back and also at the bottom edge so when one wore it, the middle back clothespin indentation showed.

They don’t usually have irons so I people just went around with bumps here and there from where clothespins were.

Not having been to other countries, except for short visits I have no idea about their laundry hanging habits but I think I’ll try to follow up on them. If you have any interesting facts on the subject let me know so I can complete my survey quicker.

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Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Hi Johna, I did learn from my mother and she liked a tidy line, plus I fold all towels in thirds, not in half, just as she taught me. We are such creatures of habit.


I would have a difficult time telling you how I hang my clothes on the line because...The day they invented the dryer, I bought one and never looked back at a clothesline again.

But, I can add to your research on clothes drying methods by telling you how the nuns in our parish dried their clothing in the 1930's when I was a kid.

First, they planted tall bushes all around their property so no neighbors could peek at their laundry.
Then, they spread white sheets on their beautiful thick grass so they could lay their undies and nighties in the sun to dry with no prying eyes,except mine, looking at them and giving their underwear secrets away.

What they wore under their habits was second only to what a Scotsman wore under his kilt in our curiousity..

I snuck through their bushes one Monday and saw their undies and things, so I was now an authority on convent lingerie.That was about 75 years ago and I still don't know what is worn under a kilt...

Dear Jonah,
The only time I see clothing hanging on a line is in Amish country. No electricity in their houses means no modern dryers.

An aside: Look in the barn and you will see many modern conveniences...

I have never studied their pattern for hanging these clothes on a line, but will give you a report when I have collected this data.

Great column and wonderful comments as always...been working, and computer at home on the fritz, so missed many months of these daily wonders, will catch up during this cold, cold winter...regards and thanks for the great reminders..we hung our wash on a clothes line strung between tenements on l0th avenue midtown Manhattan..Being the oldest, I was the first to get to help, I was a fraidy cat and feared falling over the windowsill, but managed to learn it and do well..taking it in was always problematic..two parents, four children, four rooms, small rooms at that and one closet..so A. we didn't have many clothes and B. my parents had a dresser and we four had one too..I never got asked to fold and sort much because I must have fouled it up few times..when we were relocated to projects, my Mother bought one of those wooden contraptions that went up in bedroom once a week for the wash..again, not many clothes back in those days..before permanent press too and Catholic school uniforms were the biggest item..the clothes dryer (hmm) and the ironing board, relics of the past..funny the details of life here and abroad and how they shape our skills or lack thereof..

Hi Mary Follett:

Happy to see you back here. I was wondering where you were and hoping it was only your computer who was sick....

Glad that was the case!

Johna - Good grief! The hanging out of laundry is far more complicated and technical than I had imagined.

As others have said, thank God for the development of the clothes dryer! - Sandy

A boy's perspective....When my mother started working, my after-school task on washday was to empty the washer and hang out the wash -- shirts and pants by the bottom seams etc.

Then my father brought a 'mangle' home and I used that for awhile to press my shirts and pants -- pressed Levis were de rigueur. I thought hanging clothes was fun, until I discovered how much fun girls were.

Later on, my only connection with clothespins was when someone showed me how to make match-guns from them: http://tinyurl.com/c47nn2m

Though they sound really dangerous, as far as I knew no one ever used them for injury or damage, just to impress the girls and the other guys.

I always wondered who exactly dreamt then up.

I have a dryer and use it. However, when the weather permits, I cannot resist foregoing the dryer and hanging my wash outdoors.

We have rather tall shrubbery against our fenced in yard although if one has any real interest to see what’s hung out that day, it wouldn’t be too difficult. I especially like the feel of sheets that have dried in the sun.

I’ve lived in my house for over thirty years and have yet to witness any other person hanging out their wash. Perhaps they also have tall scrubs keeping the clothesline hidden.

Maybe I’m just an oddball at heart.

I have to admit that I have been persnickety when it comes to the proper way to hang clothes. So much so that my husband stopped helping hang the laundry. That was a turning point in my life.

I do business in a town where they do not allow people to hang out their laundry, which, to me, is criminal to deny people the power of using the sun to dry clothes. Shows how crazy we are to use fossil fuels. But I live in a town where we can hang them out, and it's so great to have that fresh air smell. I sent our sons out one day to hang up the clothes and omygosh, what a mess! So we'll be working with them about just doing a good job. I laughed at the clothespin bumps you spoke about. That seems so extreme to me, but it just goes to show what some people consider important and others do not. Guess the artsy person and I would have been buddies.

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