The First Person essay I’ve Started Ironing My Bedsheets and It’s Totally Addictive in The Globe and Mail the other day hit home with me. I’ve never regarded ironing as a chore and Liz D’Andrea’s passion for ironing reminded me that perhaps some of my BoomerBroadcast readers are also ironing aficionados. I’d also like to know what brand of sheets Liz D’Andrea bought and which she prefers. Over the years I’ve learned that cheaping out on quality is so not worth it when it comes to bedding. High-quality, expensive sheets are absolutely worth the extra money as they’re smoother, more luxurious to sleep in, and last longer. After all, we spend about a third of our lives in them, or in my case, even more than that.
Growing up in the fifties and sixties, in the days when our family owned a wringer washer and no dryer, laundry was hung outside on the line and everything had to be ironed. I clearly remember as a teenager bringing frozen towels and pyjamas in from the clothesline in winter and waiting for them to thaw so we could sprinkle/dampen them, roll them up and stack the bundles neatly like cordwood in the bathtub until they were ironed. We didn’t have a steam iron then either so everything had to be dampened and ironed. My mother had an old Pepsi bottle filled with water and a little sprinkler nozzle in the top that we used for dampening the clothes. That included underwear, towels, washcloths, cotton bras, even pyjamas, socks, and handkerchiefs.
Another aspect of the laundry process I love is hanging things outside on the line to dry. There’s nothing sweeter than sliding into freshly air-dried sheets. Again, when I was growing up the ladies in the neighbourhood recognized strict protocols for hanging the washing on the line. Sheets went first, then pillowcases and towels, followed by large items of clothing gradually diminishing in size to socks and underwear. Shirts and blouses were hung from the bottom, and jeans were hung by the legs, not the waist. Heavens, If these guidelines were not followed, the neighbours would shake their heads in horror that someone could be so artless and display such a lack of housewifely pride.
As I read D’Andrea’s article, I thought I would share again a blog I posted a few years ago about ironing and see who shares my passion for freshly pressed linens.
There’s work and then there’s ironing
Princess Diana once confessed that she enjoyed ironing. I totally get it. Like Di, I find the job of ironing to be somewhat zen-like, calming and relaxing. Ever since I started setting my ironing board up in front of the television to watch The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the seventies, I can honestly say I do not regard it as a chore. But my instruments and environment have to be exactly to my specifications, much like professional chess players, athletes, or Glenn Gould and his piano chair. When the world’s fastest typist, the late Barbara Blackburn once failed to meet her usual high output of up to 212 wpm on a manual typewriter in front of an audience, she attributed her disappointing performance to her chair being adjusted one-quarter of an inch too low. We artists have specific ergonomic standards.
Ever since my Mary Tyler Moore-watching days, I’ve scheduled my ironing to coincide with watching a favourite television show and the time just flies by. The Downton Abbey years were particularly productive. After putting up with a wobbly, inferior ironing board for years, I finally bit the bullet and purchased one of those sturdy extra-wide European models that cost about $150.00 and I can vouch for the fact they are so worth the money. It’s solid, has a rack for stacking finished garments, an attached rack for the iron and slots in the frame for empty hangers. Of course, a proper ironing board requires a serious iron that can guarantee an abundance of steam. Thus, another serious investment in a Rowena iron. Fortunately, I haven’t yet felt the need for a Miele electric mangle for pressing sheets, pillowcases and tablecloths which is fortunate as they cost more than $3,000.00, Other than hotels and restaurants, who uses that many tablecloths?
One place where I draw the line, however, is men’s shirts. My husband’s wardrobe has been carefully curated so his everyday shirts are no-iron and dress shirts are handled by the dry cleaner. Does that make me a bad wife? I don’t mind ironing my own things, but men’s shirts are just plain drudgery. I once had a friend whose husband did all the ironing and he threatened to quit unless she stopped buying 100% cotton blouses. He understood the difference between work and pleasure.
I also have a passion for 100% linen tea towels—not cotton and not 50/50. I like to pick them up as souvenirs from places I’ve visited. It’s particularly satisfying to iron linen tea towels which always look so colourful, crisp and orderly when neatly pressed and stacked next to a pile of freshly ironed pillowcases, especially if they have been air-dried outside. I use scented linen water to spray whatever I’m ironing so my spirits are always uplifted by the scents of lavender or ocean breezes. And there’s nothing as satisfying as admiring a line of freshly ironed blouses and tops.
Call me crazy but a pile of fresh ironing is a truly rewarding sight. Let’s be clear. This doesn’t mean you can start sending me your laundry to iron. The Marilyn Denis Show and CityLine are each only an hour-long and there’s only so much I can accomplish in such a tight time frame. We don’t want it to become work and we have our standards. And, you won’t find me inserting a fluffy towel under my pillowcases like Martha Stewart when I iron them to plump up the hand-embroidered monogram. Sheesh! Some of my wash and wear friends think we ironing aficionados are crazy but we’re not that crazy.
You are special mes trés chères.