Memories……….is this part of Textile Art

Remembering Mom’s Clothesline. I don’t know the source of the following, but I enjoyed reading it. It is true, that is how we did it.

There is one thing that’s left out. We had a long wooden pole (clothes pole) that was used to push the clotheslines up so that longer items (sheets/pants/etc.) didn’t brush the ground and get dirty. I can hear my mother now.

1. You had to hang the socks by the toes… NOT the top.
2. You hung pants by the BOTTOM/cuffs… NOT the waistbands.
3. You had to WASH the clothesline(s) before hanging any clothes – walk the entire length of each line with a damp cloth around the lines.
4. You had to hang the clothes in a certain order, and always hang “whites” with “whites,” and hang them first.
5. You NEVER hung a shirt by the shoulders – always by the tail! What would the neighbors think?
6. Wash day on a Monday! NEVER hang clothes on the weekend, or on Sunday, for Heaven’s sake!
7. Hang the sheets and towels on the OUTSIDE lines so you could hide your “unmentionables” in the middle (perverts & busybodies, y’know!)
8. It didn’t matter if it was sub-zero weather… clothes would “freeze-dry.”
9. ALWAYS gather the clothes pins when taking down dry clothes! Pins left on the lines were “tacky”!
10. If you were efficient, you would line the clothes up so that each item did not need two clothes pins, but shared one of the clothes pins with the next washed item.
11. Clothes off of the line before dinner time, neatly folded in the clothes basket, and ready to be ironed.
12. IRONED??!! Well, that’s a whole OTHER subject!

And now the POEM…

A clothesline was a news forecast to neighbors passing by.
There were no secrets you could keep when clothes were hung to dry.
It also was a friendly link, for neighbors always knew
If company had stopped on by to spend a night or two.

For then you’d see the “fancy sheets” and towels upon the line.
You’d see the “company table cloths” with intricate designs.
The line announced a baby’s birth from folks who lived inside,
As brand new infant clothes were hung so carefully with pride!

The ages of the children could so readily be known
By watching how the sizes changed, you’d know how much they’d grown!
It also told when illness struck, as extra sheets were hung.
Then nightclothes, and a bathrobe too, haphazardly were strung.

It also said, “On vacation now” when lines hung limp and bare.

It told, “We’re back!” when full lines sagged with not an inch to spare!
New folks in town were scorned upon if wash was dingy and gray,
As neighbors carefully raised their brows and looked the other way.

But clotheslines now are of the past for dryers make work much less.
Now what goes on inside a home is anybody’s guess!
I really miss that way of life, it was a friendly sign
When neighbors knew each other best… by what hung out on that line.



3 responses

  1. Reading this message, made me remember to all the details of hanging clothes on the close line. I lived in Quebec, when my children when small, and sometimes in harsh Winter I still had their clothes outside to dry. Frozen at times
    but fresh smelling for sure.
    The poem is covering this topic is reflecting of peoples life. How true.
    Thanks for remembering us for the old days. [Ironing eh?]


  2. Don’t snicker if you’ve never had to hang clothes outside on a line. All these “rules” except for only 2 are for very practical reasons. A similar list can be made for knitting. You knitters out there know what happens when rules for knitting are broken. Same thing for hanging clothes!


  3. Hi, I hadn’t heard of the poem, but I was definitely brought up with the Basic Rules. My mother, grandmother, and everyone else had the same rules. And I have followed them subconsciously, for all my life. Some days I look outside and wonder why anyone would hang the washing out the way some people do. The clothes must be really out of shape by the time they are dry. Not a lot needs ironing these days, but it certainly doesn’t dry like it used to. I live in Cornwall, UK.
    Thanks for the memories.


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