Sixteen. Laundry Lines, An Ode.

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I’m certainly not the first to espouse her love of drying laundry on a line, and I doubt that I’ll be the last.  For me, hanging laundry on the line is love that, much like my affinity for linen, developed in early adolescence (when, admittedly, it was probably viewed as a chore, a mundane task, and why would we do it anyway since we had a dryer?)

Why hang laundry on the line?

For us, the biggest answer to that question has to do with the experience, not of hanging the laundry on the line per se, but of the laundry after it’s dry.  There’s something about the smell of fresh laundry that can’t be recreated.  And sleeping on line-dried sheets? Fuhgeddaboudit.  It’s the best.

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Obviously, there are other benefits, too.  Your dryer is a big time energy consumer, even if it is energy star certified, so it’s less expensive and better for the environment to hang your laundry to dry.  The sun also works as a natural bleaching agent, so it’s rare that I have to bleach anything (and I’m working toward eliminating laundry bleach altogether).  Finally, it’s actually better for your clothes and linens to hang them to dry, as a dryer is actually pretty rough on them.  Your things will last longer if you do get in the line-drying habit.

Some people might not want to look at a laundry line in their yard all of the time, and I totally get that.  There are a couple of options.  One is to get some collapsible drying racks, like this or this, and to set them up outside and bring them in as needed.  This option won’t get your sheets outside, but it will help out with your clothes.

In our case, we installed a retractable laundry line system on the side of our shed, and then my husband and neighbor dug a hole in the ground and cemented in a receiving pipe for the laundry pole to slide into and out of.  I have a huge laundry line when it’s up, and when it’s not, there’s nothing to see other than a small gray bar attached to the side of our shed.

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We actually have the same retractable line in our basement so that I can hang our laundry even when the weather is less than ideal.  We don’t retract this one, though, since it runs close to the ceiling and is not really in a main walkway.

One caveat to line drying is that your clothes and towels will be stiffer than had you used a dryer.  Using fabric softener will help with this a bit; however, I don’t use it.  Clothes soften up pretty quickly once you put them on, and I find my towels to be more absorbent when they are a little stiffer and I haven’t used fabric softener.

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If you’re thinking about starting to use a laundry line, I’d suggest the following:

    1. If you’re using scented laundry detergent, switch it out for unscented.  Trust me, you want your clothes to smell like they dried outside, and the only way to really get the smell is to use unscented detergent.
    2. Be wary of weak clothespins.  I have some that belonged to Chris’ grandmother, and those are My Precious.  They are so much stronger and sturdier than any that I’ve ever purchased new.  You may have to buy a few different brands to find some that work…I definitely have some that can’t take the weight of anything more than a washcloth or they break apart.
    3. I prefer to store my clothespins in an apron that my mom made for me.  Then, I can wear the apron and always have my clothespins right wherever I am.  I have seen people use baskets, bins, and bags that hang on the line for their clothespins.  I’ve also been known to use my pockets, and for a while, I used a tool belt to hold them!  You’ll need to find a system that works for you.
    4. Know where you get the most sun.  Ideally, set up there.  If your line (or folding racks) need to be in partial shade, be sure to reserve the sunny spots for anything that needs brightening or bleaching.
    5. I actually don’t like what happens to shirts when you hang them from the line with clips on the bottom of the shirt’s hem.  I always think it stretches the shirt out oddly.  To remedy this, I fold shirts over the line at the armpits, where the sleeves meet the body of the shirt.  Unless it’s a really windy day, you won’t need to use clothespins for your shirt.
    6. This might be obvious, but pay attention to the weather.  If it’s very humid, cloudy, or cold, you might want to pass on laundry for the day or move your drying operation inside.  You don’t get the lovely fresh smell, but you still get all of the other benefits of line drying!

Enjoy! And if you have children, we highly recommend playing in your laundry 🙂

Nine. Linen, An Ode.

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Dish towels and bath towels on a linen duvet cover

We’re talking about linen, here.  As in, the fabric made from the fibers of the flax plant. But we’re also talking about linens here, because I happen to like my linens to be linen.

My love of linen grew from my early adolescence and came from my mother.  Her love of linen, I believe, started (or was cemented, perhaps) when my grandmother (my mother’s, mother-in-law) passed away, and we were cleaning out her house.  Low and behold, we discovered a treasure trove of linen linens in the form of a chest of unused linen dishtowels that my grandmother had received for her wedding.

Naturally, we promptly set about using them.  (There were so many, and they last for so long, that when Chris and I moved in together 20-some-odd years later, I got some towels that still were unused.)

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It turns out that linen dishtowels are amazing.  Seriously.  They dry dishes like nobody’s business.  In fact, in addition to being lightweight and cool to wear, linen is known for being incredibly absorbent, and, while it is normally a durable fiber anyway, it’s even stronger when it’s wet.

I’m not kidding.  If you have cotton dishtowels, get thee to a store (or open a new internet browser) and invest in one, just one, linen dishtowel. (I’ve got a couple of these that I really like.)  Trust me.  Linen is more expensive than cotton, but the towel should last you a really, really long time.  Over time and washing, it will become softer, but it will still dry like a boss. It will last you longer, too, if you avoid bleaching and avoid drying it in the dryer (as will all of your textiles, but that’s another post for another day).  Also, if cost is a factor and you have even an inkling of craftiness, you can sew your own pretty easily and at a fraction of the cost.  (An even lower cost would be a linen/cotton blend, but I say go all in with 100% linen and never look back.)

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Linen dish towels from Snowe, from Italy, from my mother’s sewing machine, and from my grandmother’s stash.

Also, yes, linen wrinkles easily, but, frankly, I don’t mind the rumply look one bit.  I never iron my linen kitchen towels, bath towels, duvet covers, pants, or shirts (and yes, I have all of these).  I don’t iron in part because I’m lazy a busy mom but also because it’s not really good for the fabric, as “constant creasing in the same place in sharp folds will tend to break the linen threads.”

So there it is, my ode to linen.  I’m itching to get my mitts on some linen sheets like these – swoon! – but I haven’t clicked the buy button yet.  You know, king-sized bed and all….

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Mother-made linen bath towels

(Also, did you ever decide that a word sounded funny?  About three sentences into this post, I decided that linen is a funny word. Linen linen linen…)