Sunday, March 21, 2010

21 March 1956 “Clotheslines: We Can Do It”

bwclothesline Recently on the Forum began a discussion of clotheslines. Here, in 1956, clotheslines are a normal part of both urban and country life. Even the modern suburbs popping up still have their clotheslines, even though that great American invention, the clothes dryer, is yet another status symbol on the list of ‘must haves’ for any self-respecting middle class homemaker along with the latest Washing machine50swashingmachine  and Dish washerdishwasher2 .

Today, in 2010, the return to the clothesline is no longer for the vintage lover or the Green minded. The recession has lead to many ‘vintage’ ways of doing things out of necessity. Which, surprisingly enough, was the reason they were done originally. Not to recreate a time lost or to set an atmosphere nor to make your ‘carbon-footprint’ (whatever that is-says my 1956 counterpart) smaller. You did it because you HAD to and today, with increasing cost, the need to run that energy sucking appliance, the dryer, has lead to many needing to return to this habit.

Now, as I often believe, Form should follow function, and utility should be beauty’s bedmate. You can slap up any old line, throw some wet clothes over it, and call it a clothesline, but you can also take a very utilitarian object and make it beautiful. And, as there are different esthetics, one person’s idea of ugly is another’s beauty, so luckily there are SO many wonderful way’s to dry your clothes!

slumlaundry This was becoming an increasing view often found only in slums in urban living in 1956. The increasing Laundromats available to the urban dweller made such hanging of clothes become more and more a ‘working class’ act. Today, however, the return to it is increasing and no longer a ‘slum act’.clothesline3Modern cities are now gaining a ‘vintage’ look due to necessity and need to pinch pennies. As they say, “what goes around comes around”.

If you’re lucky enough to have a nice little suburban plot of land, or even acres in the country, a clothes line can be a permanent beautiful fixture, much like a trellis or arbor.clothesline2This clothes line is not only sturdy but a beautiful piece of architecture for your yard. I believe, as inside as well as out, that the main element of any design is ‘good bones’. Your yard needs some good architecture to be buitl around and to dicated where to plant and sit and relax. This type of utility combined with beauty is only increased, I believe, by the addition of the clothes. I think even a trailing vine or some lovely roses planted near by, a chair and side table and you have a chore with joy attached. And who doesn’t love the smell of fresh sundried laundry?

rotaryclothesline2 Even the old rotary clothes line of the past is making a comeback.rotaryclotheslineI recall pre 1955 when I was an avid TV watcher, I loved watching garden design shows and it seems every other one had the designers tossing out these old reliable work horses. Again, in the time of plenty and spend spend, why not have a flower bed instead of a place to economically dry your clothes. But, as in WWII, when flower beds and lawns became Victory Gardens, so too now are the yards getting a little more utility. And, there is not reason this old stand by can’t be situated in the yard in a considered way, so that there are flowers or better yet herbs (utility) nearby. Especially a lush bed of lavender planted nearby, so the wind carries the scent onto your clothes. It is like natures dryer sheets!dahlias-washing-line This woman has proudly made a space for her dahlias and her laundry, and with a bench to enjoy both!



This is such a simple and basic set up that can be so beautiful and can be easy for any homemaker. A post hold digger and some wooden posts, screws, drill, paint and line and you are in business. You can color it how you like, even plant a vine on one of the posts. HERE is an easy tutorial with costs and supplies list that is helpful.

If you like this set up but don’t want to build or use wood, you can buy good metal versions of these clothesline6 retractable and stationary metal clotheslines.clothesline7 You can find these in the Corner Store HERE. There are even Sweater dryers for the line!sweaterdryer HERE.

If you would like to construct your own , there are a few options. Here is a great TUTORIAL on building one.


 clothesline5This dreamy bucolic scene of washing can be yours. In fact, you can see how simply this homemakers line is, simply old tree branches set in the ground. It can be as grand or as simple as you need.clothesline5 This is a simple set up where one side of the line is tied to a tree and the other a post.

pulleyclothesline A pulley system line is another option.

Don’t let apartment dwelling get you down, however. They eve have lovely versions that can be mounted to the side of your house on a deck or simply out one window and then the other of your apartment building. clothesline1

clotheslinepulley The pulley system is nice as well. You can, as was done here, put it right out your back door or whever it is closest to your laundry room. This means, even in winter, you would not have to worry about walking about in snow. You could even have a summer and a winter setup, one in the yard the other the winter pulley system. They also work great indoors in basements and laundry rooms. clothes line tightener For the Pulley clothes line system  HERE is a great tutorial. And you can buy the pulley, line all those things HERE. There are also simple retractable type, that you can pull out, use and then put away, if you don’t have the room for lines in the yard all the time.

metalretractable I put a few in the Store, but I think THIS little metal one is cute for indoors or a small outdoor line. But they also have LARGER VERSIONS that work outside.

I actually thought this was a cute modern segment on someone making an ingenious clothes line with simple things.thnoodleA great use for the extra ‘swim noodles’ that often accumulate at summer time, or buy some for this purpose, as they are not expensive. If you slit on side and insert a wooden dowel the size of the noodle hole, it is great for drying rugs, towels, things you wouldn’t want clothes pin marks on.

I think this is a great little modern video about a woman who made her own clothesline.

It also brought up something that was discussed on the forum and that some neighborhoods actually will NOT allow you to have a clothesline! Again, another aspect of our modern society. The look or appearance is more important the saving money, environment, or continuing a valid homemaking skill. I hope that is not the case in your neighborhood, if it is, I say march down to town hall and find out what you can do, signatures etc?

Now, check out the new section on the CORNER STORE for any laundry ideas. And, if you have any good ideas let’s discuss them HERE on the Forum topic of clotheslines!

And check out today’s Video of the Day on the SITE (on the bottom of the page) from 1958 about the new modern synthetic fabrics and the ease of modern laundry with electric dryers and synthetic fabrics. Interesting parallel to today’s topic, I think.

The more we make little changes that are economical the more we find the ‘side-affects’ are often Green choices and choices that enliven or teach us skills. It might be quicker to pop that load in the dryer, but think of the extra time outside, smelling the air, hearing the birds. Even if it is a cool autumn day, what a better activity than just staring at the computer screen. I wonder, as people begin to see the benefits and tactile pleasures of hanging out one’s clothes, how long before we can get a ‘virtual laundry line’ for or computer or AP for the i-Phone?

Well, it is a lovely day outside, so I am off to dream and plan my own laundry solutions. Tomorrow I will return with some recipes, some photos of Martha’s Vineyard in March and just a good ole’ chat. I shall see you on the Forums, and Happy Homemaking!

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