Hanging Out Clothes in Appalachia

how to hang out clothes

Janet: I like hanging out clothes, it gives me a time to relax and enjoy the gentle breezes outside. I have a silly habit of attaching the clothes pins to the hem of my shorts so I don’t have to visit the clothes bag so often. I made my bag from a baby’s dress I got for a quarter at a yard sale. You just sew the hem together, button up the dress and hang the dress on a hanger. My neighbor also taught me to always take a damp paper towel with me to wipe the line with.

Ethel: What happy summer memories you’ve stirred! In my childhood days, nearly every house in the neighborhood had, and used, clotheslines. Mom and Grandma both had dryers, but in the summer everything was dried on the lines outside. When I was very small I loved to play between the lines when there were sheets and blankets on them, it made a sort of tent. Grandma would even hang hers extra low – on purpose! When I was a bit older I was enlisted to help fold things as they came off the line. There is no sweeter, fresher scent than sun-dried laundry! I no longer have the space to hang my laundry out, and I miss it!

Ken: Tipper, I put up a clothes line last fall and went the easy route by fastening it to the end of my porch. That way I can hang out my clothes in my houseshoes and not worry about getting stung by a honeybee or jacket. In my younger days I use to ride my bicycle down to my great uncle’s house. He made corn whisky and had a pet crow, which he loved to show off to folks when they came to visit. He’d put a saucer full of whisky on the floor and place that crow down beside it and when it was all gone, the ole crow would just stand there for about 5 minutes. (waiting for the kick) Then my uncle took a shiney washpan, put a couple of clothes pins in it and took the crow out on the porch and threw him in the air. By the end of the day that little washpan had 30 or 40 added pins, stolen from the neighborhood.


I love to hang out clothes. I love walking out into the yard; I love the smell of clothes and linens that have been hung out to dry. But I haven’t hung out one load of clothes all summer, maybe I can soon remedy that.



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  • Reply
    Betty Jo Eason Benedict
    August 30, 2018 at 8:05 am

    Like an air freshener for the entire house. I miss having time to do that.

  • Reply
    August 5, 2017 at 2:19 am

    I miss hanging out the clothes in summer, sleeping in sun-dried bed linens. I now live in an area prone to summer wildfires. Smokey clothes are not so great. I’m thankful for my clothes dryer.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    August 4, 2017 at 11:29 pm

    Ken’s story reminded me of one I heard a long time ago. I never saw it but I was told that Cleburt Cunningham had had a crow that he had picked up off the ground and raised up full grown. He taught it to mimic a few words and to count by pecking. One peck for one, two pecks for two, three pecks for three. He never learned to count four because that was too much for him. Four pecks is a bushel and he realized that he couldn’t handle that. But, that is mundane compared to what else he was trained to do.
    Now this may not be true because I wasn’t there to see it first hand but I was told the crow loved to eat watermelon seeds. It was told that Cleburt loved watermelon too and grew quite a few. I understand that Cleburt had trained the crow so well that before he cut into a watermelon he would call the bird. The crow would lite right there on the table and peck all the seeds it could get to out of that watermelon. When Cleburt cut himself a slice the bird would clean the seeds out of the other side. This is just what I was told. There might not be a word of truth in it.
    One summer Cleburt unknowingly got ahold of some seedless watermelon seeds and planted a big patch of them. That was a very good year for watermelons and Cleburt had a God’s plenty for his own use and to give to everybody in the neighborhood. The sad part is that the crow starved to death.

  • Reply
    Leslie Haynie
    August 4, 2017 at 9:32 pm

    I still hang out my sheets and towels. It’s a luxury nowadays.
    I can’t stand slick, fabric softened towels, you can’t get dry!

  • Reply
    August 4, 2017 at 8:17 pm

    Forget the electric dryer and fabric softener. My favorite is line dried towels. Nothing soaks up water like them, and the rough texture is the very best. My Mama used to use so much fabric softener, both in the wash and dryer sheets, plus the fact that she loved the velour type towels, that it was hard to dry off because the “greasy soft” towels wouldn’t soak up the water.

  • Reply
    August 4, 2017 at 7:35 pm

    When we lived in town, clothes hung out to dry would come in smelling bad, so I stopped doing it then. When we moved out into the country though, I started hanging out all the flat items and house clothes. I think it’s theraputic sorting the items size by size and hanging them on the lines in order. It gives me such a sense of accomplishment to see everything blowing in the breeze out there. Plus, it saves on the electric bill for running the dryer. In fact, about the only thing we dry indoors anymore is our nicer clothes and work uniforms.
    Our Mom always hung out clothes in the summertime. I remember one time getting off the school bus, walking into the house and saying, “Mom, can you start hanging the underwear in the back lines so they can’t be seen from the school bus?” She said sure, she hadn’t thought about us getting teased cause our undies were hanging out on the line in full view of the bus. Kids!!! LOL
    Prayers everyone has a great weekend, and a safe one too.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, PhD
    August 4, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    Well Tipper: This is indeed an interesting detail! I will add another detail – which everybody already nose! Jim Wike said ‘closes dryed in the Sun smells so fresh! Now he is singing praises about our only ROSE OF SHARON! He just declared “That Rose of Sharon is so pretty!” AND IT IS!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    August 4, 2017 at 11:47 am

    During the warmer months my mother would leave her clothespins on the line. With eight to wash clothes for the line was rarely empty. Sometimes she was taking down dry clothes as she hung up wet ones. Clothes pins have a bigger hole that is usually larger than the line so than if you put the line in that hole they would slide freely on the line. If she wasn’t using as many on the wet clothes as were coming off the dry she would slide them down the line. If she needed more than she was getting, she might double up some. Or send me to the end for some. Clothespins seemed to accumulate at the ends of line. Maybe they were hatching out down there.

  • Reply
    Eleanor Loos
    August 4, 2017 at 10:59 am

    Tipper, we hung clothes in our back yard stringing a line from house to garage and back to the house and then to the garage and back again. There were hooks to accommodate all these places. After I was married I “hung” in the basement in the winter time and in the back yard in the summer time. Then my Mother had mercy on me and bought me my first dryer, bless her heart. Thanks for the memories. Eleanor Loos, Columbia Station, Ohio

  • Reply
    wanda Devers
    August 4, 2017 at 10:27 am

    I love to hang out clothes too but haven’t done any this year. I miss doing it but health issues and almost constant rain have made it nearly impossible to do. My neighbor used to say how much she enjoyed seeing my clothes out on the lines.
    When I was a child we had no choice but to hang them out and they would often freeze in the winter. I guess that was the original freeze drying!

  • Reply
    August 4, 2017 at 10:15 am

    I grew up with clotheslines and no dryer. I hang out clothes year round, and I have a rack inside for clothes when it rains or for clothes I don’t dry outside. I have a dryer, but I rarely use it.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    August 4, 2017 at 10:14 am

    I, too, love hanging out clothes — and the way they smell like sunshine after they are dry! I no longer live where I can have a clothesline, but two blocks away from me is a beautiful little stone house with a double-row clothesline. The lady of the house washes two or three times each week, and I enjoy seeing the clothes fluttering in the breeze! Beautiful!

  • Reply
    August 4, 2017 at 8:39 am

    Janet’s comment about the wet towel to clean the line brought a chuckle and a memory to me. We adopted a poodle from the pound many years ago. When he came into the house it was obvious he decided to allow me to be # 1 in the pack but he wanted the # 2 spot. He and my wife fought over that as long as he lived. He would wet all 4 tires on her car and walk around my truck sniffing and never lift a leg. One day she did a load of clothes and went out to hang them on the line. She set the basket down and began cleaning the line. He wet all 4 corners of her basket. I heard him screaming and went to investigate. She was chasing him around the yard and popping him with the wet cloth. Every pop brought another scream from him. I had to go out and rescue him.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    August 4, 2017 at 8:37 am

    Wow, it has been so very long since I smelled sun and wind-dried laundry. Another one of those life changes that has lost us something good.
    My Grandma had forked poles cut from the woods that she used to lift the line when it sagged from being loaded with heavy, wet clothes.
    As a kid, I liked to hide among the clothes but Mom would run us out, afraid we would drag the clean clothes in the dirt.

  • Reply
    Lisa Snuggs
    August 4, 2017 at 8:20 am

    One day my mom was hanging out a load of clothes that included brassieres belonging to my three older sisters. Our male neighbor looked curiously across the fence, shook his head and said, “My, how they’ve grown!”

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    August 4, 2017 at 7:55 am

    I also love hanging out clothes. Haven’t for years yhough as no ehere yo put up a line. I especially lpved to put out the towels, sheets and even diapers.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    August 4, 2017 at 6:43 am

    A drunk crow stealing clothespins, now that would be worth seeing, Ken!
    I have a folding clothes hanger in my utility room where I hang most of my clothes to dry. I put them in the dryer for a little while then hang them. That fluffs them a little and gets the wrinkles out of them so I don’t iron anything.
    I don’t have an outside clothes line but I sure do remember hoe nice everything smells after drying on the line!
    Clothes lines used to be a way of life, now dryers are a way of life. I wonder what will take the place of dryers?

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