Monday, July 05, 2010

Clothes in Wind

Wash Day, 1898 by Edmund B. Leighton

My Wash day, July, 2010

The Wind
I saw you toss the kites on high
And blow the birds about the sky;
And all around I heard you pass,
Like ladies' skirts across the grass--
                  O wind, a-blowing all day long,
                  O wind, that sings so loud a song!

I saw the different things you did,
But always you yourself you hid.
I felt you push, I heard you call,
I could not see yourself at all--
                 O wind, a-blowing all day long,
                 O wind, that sings so loud a song!

O you that are so strong and cold,
O blower, are you young or old?
Are you a beast of field and tree,
Or just a stronger child than me?
                O wind, a-blowing all day long,
                O wind, that sings so loud a song!

- Robert Louis Stevenson

One of the perks of being at home full time is that moments of work are often moments of pleasure too. Hanging clothes on a line takes more time, but the wind and the sun on the clothes sanitizes them, lightens stains, brightens whites, puts starch in them and gives them a fresh scent.  This effort carries on into the rest of the home, where, for days after, I enjoy the fresheness of the sheets and towels. A half a cup of vinegar added to the water during the rinse can take away the stiffness that occurs when line-dried, if preferred.

It is a pleasure to look out the window and see the clean laundry flying in the wind, on the line.  I prefer wood clothespins, as they seem to last longer, and I always give the clothes a shake and a snap to free them of any leaves or other things from the outdoors.  It is nice to be home with all the conveniences, but there is something more to washing clothes than just getting the laundry done. I enjoy the process of hanging them on the line, where I can hear all the different bird sounds and look at the grass and trees dancing in the wind, and remember past times, when most people hung their laundry out.

I have hung a bit of string between two posts, and added tiny clothespins for any small children who want to hang their doll clothes. When women, young or old, are home, it means they have time to show a small child how to hand wash clothes in a little pan, wring them out and hang them up. Then, they enjoy un-pinning them from the line and putting them in a pretty basket and bringing them in to fold or iron.  

Hanging clothes outside takes more time but it can be relaxing time if you are not in a hurry and will enjoy the time. It cuts down on the expense of using a dryer, as much as $100 dollars a month for some people. Not all clothes benefit from line-drying. I find that cottons benefit from line drying, the most, and I enjoy washing newly-purchased cotton fabric and hanging it on the line.

You will notice the painting by the Edmund B. Leighton, with the laundry hung over bushes. That is the way people used to do it. The air could dry the sheets and large items quite well if they were hanging on a bush.


Mrs. Kelley Dibble said...

I live/travel full-time in an RV with my husband while home from the foreign field. Oh, how I miss a blustery day and singing at the clothesline.

Clara said...

I agree!! I enjoy hanging the washing outside... our chickens are cooped across the yard from the clothesline, and I love that country feel as I hang the washing and watch/hear the chickens & rooster going about their day! :)

Anonymous said...


Did you make the pink bit of fabric in your last picture up to look like a rosebud on purpose? Just wondering. Wonderful post; I, too, enjoy hanging laundry. Unfortunately I tend to forget it on the line and am rather tired at the end of the day when it is time to take it down. I really like your idea of the little children's clothes line. My daughter just did all of her "baby" clothes (doll clothes) and "baby" sheets by hand in the sink this morning and hung them all out. She is just nine, so the clothes line is quite a "stretch" (no pun intended!) for her.

Thank you for blessing us all with your wisdom and experience. I have appreciated you so much through the years; you will simply never know how much you have helped me!

C. C.

Anonymous said...

I hang 100% of our laundry on the line, weather permitting. There's nothing like the feel and smell of sheets dried in the sun.

After a cold and wet winter, I look forward to line dried sheets almost as much as to fresh, home-grown tomatoes.

Anonymous said...

This post reminds me of wash day at my grandmothers. Since my parents and aunt and uncle lived on the same three acres that my grandparents lived on we all did a lot of the same things on the same days.

Washing clothes at my grandmothers was done in a little wash shed in the back yard. She had a washer and dryer and a double deep sink in there. Water and electricity were piped to the shed.

The walls inside the shed had shelves over the deep sink that held powdered washing soaps, dark glass gallon size bottles with a finger handle on the neck for Purex bleach solution and a big bar of Fels Naptha laundry soap for working the clothes on a scrub board to get out the extra stains.
The fancy stain remover we had back then was called Elbow Grease".

The washing machine was a wringer style that had a big round tub sitting high off the ground on legs with casters in them so as to roll the washing machine up to the deep sink. The drain hose had a hook at the end that hung over the edge of the sink and the wash water was drained into one side of the deep sink.

When the clothes were through washing and rinsing, they were put through the roller wringer and all the excess water was wrung out. The clothes landed in a basket and Gram gave them a shake with a snap to ready them for the clothesline.

Gram had long wire lines stretched between two very sturdy trees in the back yard. She, mom and my aunt hung the clothes on these lines to dry and used one piece clothespins to attach them to the lines.

If a horse or goat pulled the clothes off the line or dirty hands from an unruly child soiled the clothes they'd have to wash all over again. Animals and kids were kept out of the yard on wash days.

We kids were always instructed to stay away from the wash or we'd get a lick of the switch. Oh, but it was fun playing hide and seek from your brother and cousins in those long sheets hanging so close to the ground.

A dryer was in the wash shed, but it was used only on rainy days. Gram always liked the sweet scent of fresh air on her sheets and clothes. Fabric softeners and dryer sheets hadn't been invented back then. We just thought soap and water was sweet enough.

When the laundry was dry mom, gram and my aunt would unpin and fold some on the spot and stack them neatly in a basket. Other things were brought inside the house to fold and iron.

Back then clothes were sprinkled with water and rolled up and ironed on the same day. If starch was used it was mixed with the rinse water. It didn't come from a spray can.

Anonymous said...

In Australia, line drying is the norm; dryers reserved for a run of damp weather only. even tiny townhouse or duplex back gardens have a clothesline installed as the norm and blocks of flats have communal clotheslines that, despite assumptions to the contrary, are very safe. Hanging out the towels on a beautiful Sydney mid-winter's day (around 17 degrees C; beautiful cold breeze, is a simple pleasure. the Hills Hoist (Rotary clothesline) is an Aussie invention, after all, and many back yards where room permits still have these (stationary lines used primarily in townhouse or block of flat gardens. Why waste money on a dryer when the sun is free?? We aussies boggle sometimes at you lot up North... :-)

Good work, Lydia!! Keep promoting good, commonsense home-making!

candy said...

I love this post!
I too absolutely love seeing clothes hung on the line. And the favorite!!!
Here in our new condo, were actually allowed to hang dry our clothes on our balcony...nobody does it but I will!!! :)

Anonymous said...

Hanging laundry is indeed a pleasure! I hung a load today, & three loads on Saturday. I cannot imagine just how much I would miss being able to take our laundry outside to dry, & have to rely solely on my dryer!


Anonymous said...

Oh I do so remember the little metal wash basin and clothes line and small pins to hang my doll's clothes on! Also we had small fold up wood ironing board and play irons. We even starched some of the clothes just like Mother did! I still have a wood ironing board although now it is adult size and still hang our clothes out. I just love hanging them out. From my kitchen window they look as pretty as a picture! I love the stiffness of the newly washed and dryed you bit of a rub down when first used!! :) They used to even sell the little sets of pins and string and wash bowls for little ones. Good memories to pass on to a new generation. Sarah

Anonymous said...

With so many women going to work outside the home, there was no time to hang the clothes, so the dryers were used almost all the time. That is the thing with women at home: you are supposed to have time for some of these details that working women do not. However, it is a problem if women fill up their time with so much activitity that they do not have time for what they stayed home for in the first place: to make meals and sew, garden, hang out the clothes, and more. Unfortunately, with all the machinery, it is sometimes easy to get busy with other activities. We must all return to the home, even the homemakers!

Anonymous said...

Yes, they do have a nice scratchy feel when used the first time--a great back scrub

Anonymous said...

I love to hang the washing on the line. I find it very relaxing listening to the blackbirds as I feel the sun on my face and the breeze in my hair. I'm finding it a little harder at the moment as my 11 month old daughter is a very active little crawler and I struggle to know what to do with her whilst I peg out the washing. I don't want her to hurt her knees on the patio! She is my third child, but by far the most active! Do any of you more experienced ladies have any advice on what I could do with my little one whilst I hang my washing as I love this outdoor time and want her to enjoy it with me.

Many thanks
Paula (UK)

Anonymous said...

I do love the sight of freshly laundered clothing blowing in the wind! And the sun-baked smell is unbeatable! Unfortunately, family allergies prevent us from line-drying. For those who can do it, I say "Go for it!"

The Lady of the House said...

Clotheslines are such a simple pleasure for me. Tending to my wash is actually the best thing about my day of housework. I get the wash going early in the morning and have it out on the line by 8:30. It is so peaceful at this time of day in my neighborhood. I let it sit out there all day in the summer and bring it in after supper. It is just too hot here to go out at midday for it, and it is such a relaxing way to end the day.

Jennifer C. Valerie said...

Almost everyone on the island line dries their clothes. Like you said using a dryer is too costly. In fact I was already an adult and had moved to the States temporarily when I used a dryer for the first time. Hanging my clothes out on the line to dry is a process that helps me think and pray.

Moderate Mouse said...

I'm torn both ways about line drying.

If outdoor drying were feasible where I lived (which isn't really as far as I know), I could maybe envision doing it for bedding, towels, shirts, pants, skirts, etc. if the weather allowed it and I had the time for it. However, I don't think I'd be comfortable with say, my undergarments being out where others can see them (assuming that people would actually see that which is being line dried). For them, I'd probably opt for machine drying or maybe indoor air drying if no one's around. (I know it sounds silly, but that's how I feel. I think it has to do with the intimacy of such things.)

[P.S. I currently live with my mom and stepdad, and the only laudry I'm held accountable for is my own clothing and bedding and a few towels that only "I" use. The same's more or less the case at my sister's where I've been staying for the summer in order to babysit my eight-year-old nephew.]

Anonymous said...

Hang your towels first, facing the outside world, and then attach the underwear to the line on the other side. Even though it will be double fabrics, both will get dry just fine, and the public won't see what you dont want it to. If you have several paralell lines, just use the inside lines for the private things and the outside lines can hide it, with the towels and sheets and shirts, jeans, etc.

Anonymous said...

I stopped hanging out laundry years ago because we have allergies and asthma. It's so hot today, well over 90 degrees here, and the pollen count was low, so I went ahead and hung out a load. It smells so amazing; I wish I could do this all the time!

Anonymous said...

The poem brought a sigh to my heart and a tear to my eye....that's one of my favorites from my childhood. I hung my bed sheets today after washing them in the washer...breezes of hot 98 degree heat dried them very quickly. To see an outdoor laundry 'room', do go to and see theirs! It is so charming...the old-fashioned way to do laundry. They do not use electricity. Someone let me know what you think! my email address is

Anonymous said...

Paula in UK-
Several things you can do with your little one:
-Hand her a washcloth, sock, etc. and say "now give this to mother so I can hang it up," and teach her to take an item out of the basket and hand it to you. I did this with my little ones and they enjoyed it.
-Put her in the laundry basket:) My toddlers loved empty laundry basket "rides."
-bring out a little bucket of toys (balls, blocks) that only comes out at laundry time. It might keep her occupied long enough for you to complete your task.

Anonymous said...

I just recently acquired a clothesline. What a blessing it is! Contrary to what I previously thought, it is actually a time-saver. I do not have to run and get the clothes out of the dryer right away to prevent wrinkling. Instead, they are hanging on the line and can wait until I am ready to get them. I fold them right there as I remove them. And, yes, my 5 year old daughter imitates me. She has made her own line using a bamboo stick to hang her doll's clothes out! Precious!