Whether we love it or hate it, it needs to be done. Laundry. Washing. Some of us are lucky enough to just fill the laundry basket and someone else does the washing. And the ironing. Some of us do it all ourselves. I am one of those. Partly by choice and partly by force.
Laundry isn’t one of my favorite chores..but isn’t that why they are called chores? Anyway, a chore needs doing and in our house, it comes down to me. Whenever I think back on the washing days in my Maman’s house, I remember them as fun days. But I have come far enough in life to know that memories are tainted. Maybe Maman also did the washing simply because she had no choice either. There is little bit of a romance to doing washing in summer. Who doesn’t reach for the camera when driving through the country side and seeing washing on long lines drying in the breeze. Or laundry hanging over fences. Or even on chairs or poles. Where there is a ray of sunlight, there you’ll find washing.
*Join me now for a typical summer’s washing day here at Coin Perdu.
I love the smell of fresh, natural non perfumed soaps. The Marseilles soaps are wonderful, as is the “Pierre des Landes”, an artisanal soap which works for just about everything. To soak my mother’s old doilies and all white cloths which has stains, I grate some savon de Marseille into a bowl of water, leave the pieces to soak and rise. Or I spread thickly soaped pieces out in the sun to remove the stains. It is the perfect way to remove stains without using any chemical stuff, since the sun is a natural whitener. when it has dried, I rinse the pieces in clean water and spread out to dry.
Beware..not just any soap marked Savon de Marseille is the real thing! Le véritable Savon de Marseille needs to consist of a minimum of 72% pure olive oil and 28% sodium carbonate. Many other savons de marseille also have other oils as well as some animal fats added.
We all know that feeling of getting into bed at night, sliding your body inbetween crisp linen sheets, smelling of sun and wild herbs. Exactly the reason why I don’t iron my sheets in summer. I might iron the foldback at the top which has a monogram or lace. And the way to do it? Turn the sheet wrong side up and place a double folded towel under the monogram. Place a damp cotton fabric on the top of the monogram and iron so that the right side of the monogram sinks into the towel, seeing to a nice embossed monogram. It also prevents the iron from damaging the yarn/thread in the long run. Fold your linens ans store in a cupboard or shelf along with some cedar balls and some dried lavender if you wish. I also place pieces of soap in the corners of all our closets/armoires/ cupboards…you know, those last pieces of the soap we don’t use. I don’t like perfumed sachets.
I don’t have a laundry room..yet…and it will be quite a while before I do have ma petite buanderie. In the image below is the barn which will be converted into a laundry room. I am already dreaming of that day…a huge farm table on which I can do my folding… a deep porcelain sink for washing and rinsing and soaking… an old armoire(cupboard) for equipment and products…a window to let in light and a large sill to set out crumbs for the birds and always have an enamel jug with flowers…drying lines across the ceiling, working with pulleys, like the olden days(for winter time), large old baskets, enamel bowls and jugs for soaking, poaring…some old bric and brac for ambiance, just because it is pretty…oh..to dream…
Well..come to think of it…it might be that I actually enjoy doing washing. In summer. For I am doing it exactly the way Maman did! My washing needs to be neatly hung. All the socks together, pinned on the toe. The T-shirts hangs over the line at the chest and are pinned under the sleeves..no stretching from hanging from the pins. The shirts opened up and pinned at the side seams at the bottom. Dresses are hung on hangers, lingerie are pinned on the top at the sideseams. Everything has to be grouped together and hung straight..I hate loops and droops. Dish towels and pillow cases..straight, no drooping! That is how my Maman did it.
Whenever I have a stain on a sheet or tablecloth, I rub the stain with savon de Marseille(or whichever natural soap you use) and hang it over two lines so the sun gets to bleach out the stain..see no need for stain removers! It works, really it does. Of course, if you use coloured linens and clothing, you have to fall back on the stain remover, for the sun will bleach spots on your fabric. Dark fabrics are hung in the shade to prevent fading. They don’t need sun, only a bit of heat..and fresh air!
In winter, when I don’t have the beautiful blue skies as in the image below, I have my linens washed and ironed at the blanchisserie, where they are washed and ironed on large rollers.. some day I hope to visit our blanchisserie with my camera and do a post on how they treat the old linens..it is so interesting. After all, they have been doing it for centuries; taking care of the different textile; linen, or cotton or mixtures, hemp, flax.. They also take good care of the monograms and lace and hand embroideries that go along with antique linens and tablecloths, serviettes. But that is all for next winter..I am now basking in summer linens!
Now tell me you don’t have the desire to go hang out some washing?
Doing laundry has never looked so good 🙂
June 5, 2013 at 5:41 pm
Oh, I do have the desire to go and do likewise, Ronelle! You are a charming Pied Piper!
June 5, 2013 at 5:54 pm
You have inspired me! I was just reading another piece last night about slow gardening and that included using the garden for clothes lines, which I have never done. Finding this blog post in my email this morning just nailed it for me. I will work on getting clothes lines and hang dry some linens! Thanks for a lovely post!
June 5, 2013 at 6:42 pm
I have the same sort of memories of Mother carefully washing our clothing and hanging them in the sun to dry on multiple parallel clothes lines, sorted by type. She made her own soap, a much harsher variety than yours. And then came the ironing which I still like to do but don’t tell my family. I even iron my hand dyed and painted collage papers thought they don’t smell as good as sheets that were dried outside.
June 5, 2013 at 8:43 pm
Ronelle,I will do laundry any day if I can do it the way you do it. You have inspired me. What a beautiful blog post! It almost felt like I was there myself when I read the above post. 🙂
June 6, 2013 at 12:56 am
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Ah only in France, it all seems, well romantic and right! The last time I saw laundry hanging to dry, was as a little pigtailed girl growing up on a farm….and as for monogramed linen, that is only something for princesses….so I enjoyed this dream like trip down your laundry lane. Your photos, as always, tell a story without words…but your words are the cherry on top…hmmmm is that rather American?
June 7, 2013 at 1:41 am
What a pleasing and nostalgic post! I remember helping my Grandma hang clothes on the line. I always hang towels out to cut down on the use of electricity, but only in the warm months. I am sorry to say that my hubby has allergies and he has asked me to only dry our bedsheets in the dryer, too bad.
When we first moved out to the country 12 years ago I rejoiced at the freedom to hang clothes out to dry. One cannot do that in subdivisions which are all over the US. I hated living there and felt rather rebellious when I was finally able to do what I wanted!
June 7, 2013 at 2:56 am
Ahhh, the simple pleasures of life . . . .intoxicating! Thanks you for the lovely description of your summer laundry days – it has tantalised my senses!
June 10, 2013 at 10:56 pm
That is the prettiest laundry day I’ve ever seen! So sad that you had to redo all of the photos but there is always more laundry to do, n’est pas? Beautiful soaps!
June 12, 2013 at 1:27 am
Lovely post, it makes me miss my years in France…
June 30, 2013 at 11:56 pm
Such lovely and sparkling whites. I admire the muscles you must have to do all this scrrrrrrubbing. But I know it must smell heavenly. Nothing smells better than a bed made of sheets hung on a line..
July 30, 2013 at 7:15 am
How beautiful you make laundry-day look Ronell! My tumble dryer was out of order a couple of weeks ago and we were all scrambling to put up a make-shift washing line, what a hoot that was! Heaven forbid the washing machine breaks, but then I will just have to come back to this post to be inspired!
August 4, 2013 at 10:21 am
By the way, this blog is a lovely journal of your life at Coin perdu, from humble beginnings to the exquisite Provençal home it is turning into!
August 4, 2013 at 10:25 am