Sunday, November 7, 2010

Outdoor Clotheslines - a Green Technology

(photo - my mother in 1948 at her backyard clothesline)
Back in the 1950s, when I was a child, women washed the family laundry once a week and hung the wash out on a clothesline so Mother Nature could dry and bleach the clothing, imparting a fragrance that's difficult to describe but unforgettable. I'm reminded of Ray Bradbury's description of dandelion wine - "Dandelion Wine. The words were summer on the tongue. The wine was summer caught and stoppered." Bed sheets hung on the line all day in the sun, then gathered in my arms as brightness changed to twilight offered an irresistable urge to bury my nose in the sheets and inhale deeply - "sunlight caught and stoppered." Later that night when I crawled between fresh sheets and lay my head on the clean pillowcase that wonderful fragrance wafted up to my nostrils and sparked my imagination with its suggestion of wind and weather, sun and butterflies, clouds and rain. Like camping without the bugs and chill.

(photo - me in Hallstadt, Germany at the rooftop clothesline)
My mother taught me her notion of clothesline etiquette - hang all the sheets together, then the towels, then the washcloths, a kind of visual symmetry to let the neighbors know you take pride in your laundry. And hang your underwear on the inside lines, hidden from view by the sheets on one line and the blue jeans and dungarees on the other outside line. And to get the most from your clothes pins, overlap the edges of the clothes so that three pins will do the work of four.

(photo - my clothesline in Colorado circa 1973 - long gone.)

It's no longer necessary to hang laundry outside since the advent of the clothes dryer found in every laundry room in America., including laundromats scattered throughout most towns for college students and renters. And the fabrics we use now are wrinkle-free if tossed in a dryer making the iron and ironing board almost obsolete. In fact, hanging your laundry out on a line is considered "tacky." I have to wonder if promoting it as "green technology" or "solar clothes dryer" would bring back the practice, but probably not. Not many would think the inconvenience of hauling a basket of wet laundry out to the yard to hang it piece by piece from a line then return later to take it all down and bring it back to the house would be offset by the sensory pleasure of burying one's nose in the clothes to inhale that wonderful smell of captured sunshine.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Martie and her handmade socks

(photo: Pam Russell and Martie Anderson 2010)

Martie Anderson has been and done a lot of interesting things in her life so don't think for a minute that knitting socks tells her whole story. A Southern California girl of German ancestry, Martie married a Navy SEAL officer and raised four lovely children

on their ranch before even thinking about knitting her first pair of socks. The daughter of a professional baker Martie is known far and wide for her delicious pies made daily in her modern kitchen outfitted with a huge marble slab baking surface. Nowadays she still ranches with her husband, is very active in their community, and is grandmother to eight lively children, yet she finds the time and energy to create these wonderful handmade wool socks that she generously and lovingly presents as gifts to her many friends and extended family.

I have been the fortunate recipient of at least five pair of these beauties and can testify to their comfort, good looks, and perfect fit. I believe Martie made her first pair of socks in 2005 for her husband, Franklin, and to date has created approximately 100 pairs, earning her the beloved title of the "Sock Queen of Allison " in La Plata County, Colorado.

Martie's socks have found homes in places far away like Germany where they warm the feet of cousins, granddaughters, and friends. Quite a few pair have traveled the length of California and ventured up into Washington and Oregon. I just found out that Martie's socks made it up to Montreal, Canada, where Hanna appreciated their warmth and comfort.

Martie has a real knack for matching patterns in her socks, not an easy thing to do. She's always ready to teach her skill and techniques to anyone interested in learning to knit and shares her own experiences in trying new yarns. My favorite is the hand-dyed silk/bamboo/wool yarn that Martie buys from her neighbor

Martie has explained to me that she keeps several pair of socks in the works rather than knitting them one-at-a-time because there are times she can concentrate on the intricacies of making the heel gusset or toe shaping but there are other times when she is multi-tasking and simply wants to repeat the K1, P1 rows in a cuff while attending a meeting or waiting in the doctor's office for her husband.

Martie recommends knitting socks to anyone of any age who wants to create wearable art.