Thursday, April 02, 2009


Nowadays things seem to move so fast that even our teenagers can recognise major changes in their lifetime.

One thing that people of my generation have seen major changes with in our lifetimes is with the way we do our laundry.

One of my earliest memories is of the 'copper' in our kitchen in England, and that very important accessory that we called a 'mangle' (generally known as a wringer.)

When we moved to Australia, and were living in a flat in Kensington, we knew the luxury of a separate laundry, albeit an outside one that we shared with the flat upstairs. Once again it was a tub, a copper and a mangle, but in a few years was replaced by our first electrically operated washing machine, with a wringer attached!

My mother worked full time at this stage, and her allocated time for washing was on Friday evening.

I have one very strong memory of this Friday night wash routine, which was generally a time when I sat beside the radio and listened to the Jack Davey Show. When we had moved into this flat, there had been a phone connected, but regarding it as a luxury they could not afford, my parents had it disconnected. However, no one came to remove the phone itself. One day, while playing round with the set, I discovered it had been reconnected and told my parents.

That night, while Mum did the Friday night laundry, Dad and my sister went to the Speedway, which was only a short drive from our place. I was there in the lounge, Mum was out the back - and the phone rang! I had never answered a phone in my life, but I picked it up and a man's voice asked if he could speak to my mother.

Now the outside laundry was about three room's distance from that phone, and when my mother did not respond to my calling, I tried to stretch the phone cord to take it to her. I struggled and struggled in vain, until the man's voice called through the phone "For goodness' sake, put the phone on the table and go and fetch her!" Of course it was my father, having a bit of fun calling from a public phone. And when ever I think of laundry, I think of that incident.

The arrival of twin tubs was a real revolution, with their spin drying compartment. The wringers and mangles ended up in back sheds and dumps, soon to be forgotten forever. However, these machines still needed to be filled by hand from a hose or bucket, and woe betide if your attention was distraced - they overflowed!!! Ask me how I know!

How well I remember the day we bought our very first automatic machine. A friend and I stood with our eyes glued as it went through its whole cycle. Now we have computerised machines with press buttons and buzzers and lights. But it is amazing how many people I speak to who agree they preferred the old dials you actually had to turn physically. I feel that if a human being can physically set it in motion, then when something goes wrong, a human being can fix it.

Now while the smell of clothes that have been flapping in the breeze on the line is one of life's little pleasures, I will own up to loving my dryer. Especially for the small stuff that takes ages to hang out, and for those times when the fog and drizzle hang around for days. But I am amazed to learn that in some areas in the United States, outside clothes lines are actually banned because they are unsightly!

Changes in the way we do laundry have definitely contributed to the passing of the era where you kept fit just carrying out your daily routines, and had no need for gyms and organised sport. Our mothers' arm, shoulder and back muscles must have had magnificent tone and strength from lifting all those wet clothes, feeding them through the wringer, carrying heavy clothes baskets, and pegging them on and off the line.
The passing of the regular washday also represents the loss of some of the essential rhythms in our lives. Everything had its special day - washing, ironing, baking, shopping, visiting, going to church - they all had their appointed times. Nowadays, with flexitimes at work and 24/7 shopping and all sorts of labour saving devices that mean you can put your washing on at midnight and have it dried ready to wear the next day - well, the new freedom and extra leisure is wonderful, but some of the certainties and anchors of our lives have gone.

So what set me off on this little recollection? Well it was a page I did for our Round Robin for Annette, on the theme of "Fresh". I had a few ideas for interpreting this adjective when someone suggested clothes, freshly washed, drying on the line.

It also summoned up feelings and images of a new day, a fresh start, of things being clean and new, and I could not resist including some freshly mown hay!

For this page I used some little pieces of my own hand-dyed fabrics. I will never use them all up. although I now have this strong urge to make some more!

And talking of hand-dyes, I had the most delightful parcel arrive from Karen in Canada the other day. Among the goodies was a wonderful piece of SNOW-DYED fabric, in a delectable shade of mint/apple green. I wonder if I could achieve a similar effect using the frost from my freezer??

Karen also sent me a lovely hand towel with a crocheted top, and a crocheted cloth/washer. Now can you believe it - I have sort of fetish for handknitted or crocheted washers, and will rarely use anything else. I think it stems back to my early days, when my maternal grandmother kept us supplied with them, and we had no use for the towelling facecloths or commercial dishcloths. Accompanying these gifts was a delightful tube of mixed beads, including my favourite sort of leaf beads. Karen chose all these because the colours remind her of Devon, as she has come to know it through my blog. She got it so right!! Not shown in the picture was a little pack of Mistyfuse for me to experiment with.

1 comment:

Karen said...

Frost in the freezer or crushed ice works as well :)

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