If It’s Thursday, It Must Be Market Day

coffee potDo you do your household chores on a schedule, taking care of one big job on a specific day every week? Oh, to be so organized!

It may not work for me, but, traditionally, American homemakers did seem to have set-aside days for the major chores of their week. Of course, meals had to be cooked and dishes done and beds made every day, but some chores could be handled less often.

According to American author, Laura Ingalls Wilder, the chores in her day were set on this schedule. Ingalls Wilder chronicled her family’s pioneer life in a series of books, the most famous of which was Little House on the Prairie. In Little House in the Big Woods, she wrote:

Wash on Monday,
Iron on Tuesday,
Mend on Wednesday,
Churn on Thursday,
Clean on Friday,
Bake on Saturday,
Rest on Sunday.

The more pervasive list, which substitutes “market day” for the very rural “churning day” is this one:

  • Monday – Washing
  • Tuesday – Ironing
  • Wednesday – Mending
  • Thursday – Marketing
  • Friday – Baking
  • Saturday – Cleaning
  • Sunday – Day of Rest

Out of this “day of the week” schedule grew another tradition—the making of “day of the week” (DOTW) towels.

These towel sets were usually embroidered by “loving hands at home”—one towel for each day, one towel for each chore. Sometimes the sets include seven towels, with one designated for Sunday as a day of rest or church, while other sets include only six towels, presumably because, if Sunday was really a day of rest, a towel would not be needed.sunday

As a lover of vintage linens, I can tell you that there were dozens, if not hundreds, of DOTW designs, sold as iron-on transfers, that women could choose among to make their set of towels.

The towels were often created from recycled feedsacks, the cotton of which was highly absorbent and lint free. And you thought “upcycling” was a 21st century phenomenon!

Many of the DOTW patterns were very cutesy. Puppies, kittens, snails, piggies, and duckies abound on the towels.

puppiesThe ubiquitous Sunbonnet Sue makes many, many appearances (after all, that’s what ubiquitous means!)

sunbonnetMany patterns that would now be considered in poor taste were available, too. A recent search on eBay produced towel sets of stereotypical African-American women, Native Americans, and Mexicans with sombreros, all doing their chores.

If you like vintage DOTW towels, they are readily available on eBay and Etsy. You can even buy unused iron-on transfers and make your own. Single day towels of puppies and kittens are inexpensive, full sets of more unusual design are more expensive.

Some of the favorites I’ve run across in my years of collecting are these:

cowgirl mending cowgirl dustingI love these cowgirl towels because of the incredible detail in the embroidery and the fact that the scenes include the flirtatious cowboy as well.

girl cleaning girl restingThese towels have a sweet little miss who is much more authentic than that pesky Sunbonnet Sue. And she has a fashion sense!

printed bakingI love the bold graphics on this printed set. The scenes are not so “old-timey” and cutesy but there is a cat in every one!

applique

And these are my favorites, a set I’m sorry I sold. They’re done with wonderful, detailed appliqué and embroidery, they have a more modern vibe, and they include two chores I love—gardening and serving cocktails!

Now, let’s hear from you! Do you set aside days for your chores or are you just glad to fit them in whenever you can? Did your older relatives have a schedule? Is this an American thing or did your culture have similar traditions?

And, most important, will you be making your own set of towels now? I’d love to make a modern set. Monday is Blog Day, Tuesday is Listing on Etsy Day, Wednesday is Going Out to Lunch and Having a Beer Day . . .