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Francois Bonvin A Woman Ironing (The Laundress) Oil Painting


There is something about transforming a pile of ironing to a neat assortment of freshly pressed garments that is quite satisfying for me. I actually enjoy ironing–the “squeak, squeak” of the ironing board and the clicking and rattling of the iron are familiar sounds I do not mind. Sometimes, when I get that strange itch to sew, taking out a hill of ironing takes care of that feeling. Just getting my hands into some fabric, noting the different details of the way different things are sewn, and making something neat out of something messy is something I often find restful–except occasionally in mid-summer when ironing can be quite a hot job.

We usually have an “ironing pile” floating around somewhere, since our family wears mostly cotton–if truth be told, I just succumbed to owning (and actually liking!) a few things in the new, very soft and stretchy knits this summer. Those polyester blend shirts are a bane to those who like to have their ironing come out neat! I used to iron my Daddy’s military uniforms conscientiously, since he was NCOIC at the time–and that shaped my perspectives of ironing. I hated it when they altered the pattern of the uniforms so that they would fit the women who had an “exercise profile”–i.e. the rotund female soldiers (anything to do with the government is (usually) very PC–including who wins the bid to redesign the uniform…and which soldiers don’t have to stay fit…). After that, the pant legs and back of the sleeves never would iron without creasing all that added extra thigh and upper arm sag…but I don’t know what the new uniforms are like, now….

Anyways, that is neither here nor there, as I like to say. I have learned a lot about designing from ironing. I have learned a lot about fabrics and their care from ironing. I have learned to enjoy taking dominion in the area of dress by ironing. I have learned patience (to some extent) by ironing. And, of course, I have also learned how to iron. It is frequently a pleasure for me to do my family’s ironing, for that is something I can do for them that feels like something I do well (not that feelings are real standards…). I like being able to contribute to my family by making sure that their shirts look like someone cared enough to iron them.

The failure of many people to iron their clothing (and their children’s clothing) is a testimony to the “right-now-ness” of our American culture. If people have to iron something, they don’t want it. Perhaps this is one contributory factor to the state of Americans’ appearances…. I suspect that several of my items of clothing are mine simply because someone didn’t want to iron it after they washed it–so they just got rid of it. Thrift stores provide more than clothing and other items at reasonable prices–they also are witnesses to the great prosperity of the freest country on earth.

Yes, ironing day can also be a good time for reflection….