On the list of “getting ready for winter chores” is taking down the clothesline. There’s nothing sweeter than the smell of wind-flapped sheets during the heat of a Methow Valley summer. In contrast, waiting for clothes to dry on the line as the weather cools can be challenging. Maybe it shouldn’t be as challenging as it seems. While taking down the clinging clothespins and tucking them away till spring, a flood of memories struck me.
As a child, we never had a clothes dryer, and we’re talking about Montana cold winters. Still, the clothes went out on the line. Sometimes they came in standing up by themselves since they froze on the line. Watching pants, shirts and towels warm up inside and drop into a crumple was synonymous with winter laundry. A makeshift line strung from basement rafters was sometimes implemented for larger pieces such as sheets.
Later, as an adult living on a shoestring, the clothesline was unpretentious, yet indispensable, yard art made from two railroad ties with two-by-four crossbars, barbless wire strung between. Clothes once again froze in form due to the harshness of Idaho winters.
I must have inherited my mother’s love of the clothesline, as everywhere I have lived, it’s been on my wish list — not always possible, as apartments in Seattle somewhat frown upon clothes flapping out the window. Not so in Italy. Nearly every apartment has a line out the window that works as a pulley as clothes are pinned on it.
The humble clothespin is essential to the success of the clothesline. The wooden peg type was a shoo-in for toy character possibilities to a kid. Add a little scrap material, ribbon, paint on a face and, voila, a miniature doll was born. Most of the peg pins were replaced with the two-piece laundry clip that is commonplace today. Interestingly, the first patent for this type of clothespin was in 1853. A Vermont violinist named David Smith is credited with the invention. National Clothespin Factory in Montpelier, Vermont, was one of two manufacturers in the city and the last to close its doors in 2003.
Plastic clothespins and cheaply made imports from China put the original manufacturers out of business. However, there’s good news! A few small businesses have revived handcrafted heavy-duty clothespins out of hardwoods and sturdy springs. A few companies offer the humble pin in luxurious hardwoods such as walnut, cherry, maple and ash. One such family-owned business is right here in Washington state: Lady & the Carpenter, who make Kevin’s Quality Clothespins in Port Angeles. Who knew?
It’s a Master of the Obvious comment, but here goes anyway. The emerging fall colors are spectacular (so was the Harvest Moon on Friday, Sept. 29)! Hopefully, all the trees will have time to change color and drop their leaves before an early snowfall such as the one last year that caught them by surprise and led to many a demise of deciduous and pine alike.