Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Airing Out My Thoughts On Clothespins

I was reading over at In The Labyrinth where these hand-painted clothespins from Made with Love by Hannah were posted -- and my head exploded with thoughts about clothespins.

First of all, as I noted here about these vintage "Clean-Grip" figural clothespins, plastic clothespins do not stain, discolor, or soil the wet laundry like wooden and/or metal clothespins can; plastic clothespins don't splinter either. However, because the plastic ones -- adorable vintage ones or not -- were more expensive, most of us are more familiar with the wooden varieties. [Put a (clothes) pin in that; I'll get back to the familiarity of clothespins in a bit.]

While these hand painted wooden clothespins are utterly charming, I do have some practical concerns... I don't see them for sale at the site, so I don't know if these are varnished or sealed in any way to prevent the paint from adhering to wet laundry -- or, for that matter, even to sticking to or rubbing off on on dry textiles. (Something that as a collector of textiles should consider before even using them indoors to display items.) But in any case, there are practical matters to consider regarding painted wooden clothespins.

That said...

I'm sure most of us recall the various craft projects involving painting wooden clothespins we did as kids. I vividly remember painting the traditional wooden clothes pins to look like soldiers, adding glitter and pom-pons at the top for hats, to make ornaments for the Christmas tree in Girl Scouts. I also remember most of us were not familiar with this form of clothespins; we were used to the wooden ones with metal springs. But we knew what clothespins where. And not in some abstract or crafting-only way either. Back then, we saw laundry hanging on the line to dry -- often we'd helped to put it there.

This is another one of those things I've seen change, nearly disappear, in my lifetime of 46 years.

It's not (just) that appliances were part of the consumption mentality marketed to Americans, but that as more women entered the workforce (either as women's libbers who sought careers, like my mother, or as the economy forced both parents to work outside the home) hanging the laundry outside to dry was no longer practical.

I don't recall the pivotal moment when the habit of hanging wet laundry outside to dry ended in my childhood -- but I do distinctly remember having a conversation with my mother, when I was an adult with a child of my own, that drove the point home.

One early spring day she had called me at home, around lunchtime as she often did then, and asked how the day was going. I had told her I had just finished hanging the laundry out to dry. She was so jealous I could hear it resonate over the phone as she talked about that being one of the first real signs of spring, how the sheets smelled so good...

I asked her why she didn't go home and do the same? She sighed and said even if she had started the load of laundry in the morning and drove straight home to hang the laundry outside, there wasn't enough time to have it dry before it was dark. Plus, there was dinner etc. to deal with then. And once, she did hang the laundry out to dry while she was at work, but it rained and what laundry hadn't been blown to the ground was still covered in dirt splashing up from the ground, etc. One really had to be home to notice the weather changes and respond to it.

So despite the sensual delights in hanging laundry out to dry, and the economic savings too, the whole practice has become one based on the luxury of time.

Nowadays, kids likely aren't even familiar with crafting with clothespins. In part because crafting isn't what it once was. And because now the plastic clothespins are cheaper than wooden ones. But maybe we can change that *wink*


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