My mother prides herself on her ironing prowess and that just tickles me. Not tickles me as in poking fun, but tickles me as in I find it touching.

I remember grandmother washing clothes in that pink and white washing machine, running them through the wringer a time or two to get out the excess water, then hanging them on the line to dry. There’s nothing that smells as good to me as sheets dried in sunshine. She put granddaddy’s khaki pants on stretcher bar contraptions, but they still needed ironing, so she’d bring them in, sprinkle them with water, roll them up, and put them in the back of the refrigerator to wait till she had time to press them.

Sometimes I think I got this feminist thing all mixed-up. At least parts of it. Maybe it was nice when there was a division of duties, of chores, of responsibilities. When the woman took care of everything inside and just outside the walls of the house while the man took care of everything beyond that. Maybe it was easier somehow when she didn’t feel the need to assume responsibility for every single thing.

Maybe i’m kidding myself.

The women in my family – my mother and her mother – took pride in the cooking and ironing and sewing they did, in the flowers they planted from seeds and cuttings swapped with friends, in the tables they set and the music they made. Maybe – and this may be the most important maybe of all – maybe it was enough that they felt that pride themselves, that they didn’t look outside and want, expect, demand others take pride in their accomplishments and declare them worthy. Self-satisfaction. Maybe that was plenty.

I’m doing this project, recreating in stitch some 167 drawings made by my developmentally disabled sister-in-law, Nancy. The cloth was puckering up a little bit, so a friend suggested I lightly starch the fabric – which I did yesterday, and it has made a world of difference in the way the cloth looks fresher, prouder. Got me remembering, too.

Ironing’ll do that.


  1. Merry ME

    I love to iron. Put me in front of the TV with an old Cary Grant movie playing and a stack of shirts and pants and maybe a sheet and I could iron all afternoon. My mom had one of those huge roller pressers (kind of like a dry cleaner). I don’t remember seeing her use it, but was always fascinated by it’s mighty power. What I do remember is my mom, wearing shorts, a tank top and flip flops, sweat dripping from her brow as she ironed a week’s worth of laundry, spritzing as she went. It was Florida. It was hot. 
    I also remember that she had a Sunbeam iron that lasted forever. For some reason, I haven’t figured out yet, I can’t get an iron to last more than a couple years. If it doesn’t get filled up with sediment and spit marks on my white pants, it falls of the end and doesn’t steam at all. 

    Do you starch before or after you stitch? Seems like my quilting friends suggested starch to help points meet, etc.

    • whollyjeanne

      Sugar, you know I thought of you as I was proofing this piece that just fell right out of my fingertips. (Don’t you just love it when that happens?) (Don’t you just wish it happened more often?) My grandmother actually gave me an iron as a wedding present, and I think it was a Sunbeam. Mine, however, lasted forever. (Probably from lack of use.) I starch after stitching. Hadn’t thought of stitching before. Hmmmmm. . .

      • Merry ME

        Now that I think about it, I starch on the fabric will make the needle and threads sticky. After is the way to go!

  2. Lauree Ostrofsky

    I love what you’re saying about feminism. I agree. I wrote on the topic, a different tact but the connection is there. I think we, as women, need to be ourselves more and accept ourselves. It makes room for men too.

    • whollyjeanne

      I’m so glad you sent me the link to your delightful post – yes, we are saying the same thing in different words. Like I commented on your post, I got all caught up in the black-and-white, the all-or-nothing side of feminism, and I’m just now finding my way out of that and treating feminism more like a buffet, picking and choosing what feels right to my bones and leaving the rest on the side of the road.

  3. Lauree Ostrofsky

    Meant to include my post in case it’s of interest:

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