Linens on the Line

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER
Columbia County, New York  I  Monday, 11 June 2018

I love linens, especially pretty dish towels.

In the past few years, I’ve discovered I really like dish towels made in India. And I don’t think it’s just because I’m enamoured with all things Indian, I’m pretty sure they really DO feel better to the hand than dish towels made in China. They seem much softer.

Recently, I become a member of a Facebook group called Off Grid and Homestead Ladies, and it’s made me think. Many of these women live in various states of independence from traditional power supplies, and have large gardens and lots of animals.

I will admit, I don’t think I can ever be parted from a traditional washer and dryer, but as the weather warms up, it’s SO NICE to hang things on the clothesline. It’s also nice to have a drying rack or two inside, for those days when it might be raining or snowing outside.

When I was a teenager, we had an old wringer washer, which took up most of the laundry room, and caused me endless woe and embarrassment.

We had no dryer, either, so we would hang our washing on a rack by the wood stove in the winter. In the summer, though, we used the clotheslines located just off the laundry room, on the south side of the house.

I didn’t really like having to do our laundry this primitive way, though, and wished our family could be like my friends’ families, who had regular, modern washers and dryers.

There have also been many of my married years when I had to go to the laundromat within the various apartment complexes we lived in. I just despised this. You never knew when a machine was gonna steal your quarters or quit on you, and the prima donna in me hated touching other people’s dryer lint, which they had invariably left on the dryer lint screen.

There was usually no chair to sit down in, and nothing interesting hanging on the walls, so I would just walk back and forth to my apartment between loads.

There was one point when my husband was working several jobs which required uniforms, and he got mad at me one time because he didn’t have the right clothes to wear to work one day.

THAT was the end of ME doing his laundry. I mean, I was working full time as well, so why was I automatically the laundress? From that day on, he started doing his own laundry.

I have a washer/dryer in the house now, and I prefer it that way.

My point is this: I don’t think I can ever go without a washer/dryer again. I read about some of these Homesteading ladies who hand wash their things, and this really isn’t for me.

I would like to always have a dryer in my house, but not necessarily use it very much, just as a backup.

I kind of like heading outside with a basket of clean clothes and the clothespin bucket, with my feet deep in the grass, hanging things up.

Things look so pretty, gently billowing in the breeze, and smell so fresh, right off the line. And the sun has some natural bleaching properties which are pretty effective.

I especially enjoy hanging my dish towels and pillowcases on the line. I recently joined a Facebook group called Happy Vintage Sheets and Linens Auctions and Sales, and there are sooo many droolworthy dish towels, sheets, pillowcases, chenille blankets, and quilts the other members are selling.

Now, even though the other members use the word “bedscape”, I refuse to use that word, because I hate it. (FYI, I also hate the word “tablescape”. It’s Sandra Lee’s fault. Now I have a lot of admiration for her, because of all she’s overcome, but I always cringed when she used the word “tablescape” on her show. Can we just call it a table setting, puh-lease?)

I would love to spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars on vintage linens, but for right now I just browse and dream.

As far as dish towels from this century, Now Designs is one of my favorite dish towel makers. Hey, if you’re gonna dry dishes by hand, you might as well enjoy yourself, looking at a pattern you love, and feeling the thick cotton beneath your fingertips.

When I worked at Barnes & Noble in Salt Lake City, there was a Sur la Table kitchen store right beneath us, and I made frequent pit stops on my way home. Many times I didn’t even buy anything, but just stopped by to relax, browse, and talk with the ladies who worked there about cooking, or how their kitchens were set up. I also lusted their professional kitchen, with its stainless steel countertops, butcher block tables, and crock after crock of cooking utensils.

Usually, you could find me haunting the clearance section, or strolling in and telling one of the ladies, “I’m putting together a present for so-and-so…” or standing at the entrance of the professional kitchen and staring enviously at the couples who were taking classes on Friday nights. Dream date!

One of the employees at Sur la Table was a pretty, older Scandinavian lady, with blonde hair and piercing blue eyes, and she introduced me to Belgian linen dish towels. After I touched then, I was hooked. So soft! They were regularly marked $15 apiece, which I would NEVER pay normally, for one towel. But as soon as I came in one night, she pulled me aside and showed me they were marked down. So I got a few.

I’m also in love with days-of-the-week dish towels. I’ve received two sets of these over the years, a flour sack set from Rocket Lori, and a hand-embroidered set from a coworker, Hayley.

How fun it would be to put out a fresh dish towel in the morning. (Or maybe the night before, right before going to bed.)

I must be getting old if that sounds like fun. Hahaha!

The two towels on the left are my Belgian linen ones. Look how big they are! And believe me, sooo soft. The burgundy one used to be blue, just like the one on the left, but it turned burgundy when I bleached it one time…