People who hang out clothes get lots of environmental brownie points. But long before clotheslines represented doing without for the greater good, I loved to clip sheets, sleepers, and socks to the line. I actually felt guilty about taking the time to do something so pleasurable rather than using the much quicker and more efficient dryer. Hanging clothes on the line was and still is my very own brand of hedonism.
The appeal is not just the smell of freshly hung clothes, or the fact that once hung, many need no ironing. And it’s not just feeling the sun on my back or hearing the wind swish through the walnut trees, or of catching sight of kingbirds chasing white moths or the oranges and pinks of blooming daylilies.
It’s the way clotheslines display textiles, threads splayed to catch the sun. And I get to handle each piece of fabric twice…once in it’s limp, mangled, wet stage and again when it’s crisp and flapping. And when I do I am reminded of where each textile fits into my life. The red-and-blue dishtowels I wove more than 15 years ago that still get used weekly, the hand towels monogrammed by my mom, even the rags that used to be my favorite nightgown or a diaper that belonged to my now-grown children—these fabric bits and pieces conjure everyday kinds of happiness.
I adore my antique quilt and the silk-embroidered table runner from Iraq, textiles so precious that I protect them from fading and friction. But my clothesline let’s me feel the density of knit sweatshirts, the airiness of linen skirts, the raised stitching on days-of-the-week dishtowels. It feeds my obsession for the tactile and visual elements of textiles, past and present, and lets the daydreams and memories unfold with the napkins and fly with the sheets.