Iron Woman

IMG_7938I’ve been ironing again.

And you know what I’m going to say—I love it so!

I don’t like ironing just anything. I don’t like ironing clothing so I have blouses I never wear.

And I don’t like ironing great big tablecloths that don’t fit on my ironing board but I do those anyway because I want to sell them. When I sell them, I’ll never have to iron them again!

I like ironing smaller items that fit on the board in front of me. I like them quite wrinkled to begin with so I really see the transformation that heat and pressure bring.

And I like ironing a random stack of linens, where I’m not sure what is going to turn up next. With each new item I press, my thoughts wander. I think about how I will describe it when I list the item on Etsy. What can I say to communicate clearly to a potential buyer—why is this special? What home does it deserve?

I wonder about how the items were made. What was this lace made for? How does any human hand make stitches that small and precise?

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Done by hand–how incredible.

But much of the time ironing allows me to let my mind wander wherever it will go.

And often my mind goes where nostalgia will take it.

These homely placemats made me think of the days, in the early 1960s, I guess, when liquid embroidery was all the rage. Instead of needle and thread the “embroiderer” used little tubes of paint to follow the transfer design on the fabric.

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When I was about 10, my grandmother was my Sunday School teacher and she got all the girls in the Sunday School class together, at the farm, and we “embroidered” aprons for our mothers as Mothers’ Day presents.

I remember aqua fabric, an easy-care blend, no doubt. I remember wondering about the paints—I knew how to embroider with a needle and thread and couldn’t see the improvement. I don’t remember wondering if my mother would like the gift, although I have absolutely no memory of her ever wearing any apron, let alone this one. I was sure she’d love it because I had made it.

These memories—from the farm, of my Mama and my Mom, of working on a project with the other girls—are warmer than the steam coming off my iron.

These hand crocheted placemats take my memories another direction. When I was a teenager, I visited a girlfriend a lot and she lived with her grandmother. Her grandmother was a lot like my grandmother had been . . . but my grandmother was gone by that time.

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I remember her grandmother working on an amazing hand crocheted bedspread, done in natural cotton thread. It was very intricate and very impressive and I remember seeing it, finished, on the bed over a bright underspread. I couldn’t believe anyone would have the patience and ability for such a project. She also made dandelion wine . . .

Another grandmother, another warm house, and warm memories.

Every time I come across a towel or napkin monogrammed with a “W” or an “S,” I think of my grandparents. Printed towels from the 1950s with butter churns and sad irons? Or a funny apron from the ’40s? The farm.

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When I fold pillowcases just so, my mother’s mother is in my ear, telling me how to do it, to minimize wrinkles.

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It’s cold outside now. The warmer lake makes big billows of fog against the frigid air. Close to shore, the ice fishermen take their chances and shiver.

But, oh my, it’s warm at my iron. The steam rises, the memories swirl . . .