Hanging Clothes Outdoors is More Fun than Ever

We have had to settle for cheap, imported junk for so long, we hardly even grumble anymore or even try to find the quality items we’d really rather have. Inferior goods have taken over every area of our homesteads – from tinny garden hoes to pewter-like screwdrivers and plastic everything.

clothespin ice

Even with ice coating the plastic clothesline, this quilt did not fall to the ground.

So, imagine my surprise to discover a New Englander making a classic American clothespin that actually holds the clothes on the line on windy days and doesn’t break under normal use. Anyone who has ever looked out the kitchen window and seen a freshly washed blanket in a heap below the clothesline will understand my aversion to second-rate clothespins.


old and new clothespins

Notice the size of the spring in Herrick Kimball’s clothespin on the right compared to a cheap version.

Craftsman Herrick Kimball started tinkering with several prototypes for a quality clothespin months ago, and kept us solar-clothes-drying enthusiasts posted on his progress through his blog. As it turns out, building Classic American Clothespins from scratch in a home wood shop took longer than Herrick anticipated.

But, oh, the end result was worth it. I was among the first to order as soon as the pins were available. Because I use so many clothespins and the finished pins are not inexpensive, I ordered two sets of the so-called “factory seconds.” (I couldn’t find anything wrong with them.) They arrived by Priority Mail in less than a week with a personal “thank you” from Herrick.

quilt on lineEven though it was snowing outside and ice coated my clothesline (chintzy plastic line, but that’s another story), I couldn’t wait to try them out under heavy load – a patchwork quilt I’d just finished. Sopping wet, the quilt was very heavy and certainly would’ve been on the ground in no time with my old, shoddy pins.

Since it was just above freezing outside, it took a while for my quilt to dry. All afternoon, I kept peeking out the kitchen window to check on the strength of those clothespins. Yep, they held. I knew they would.

I already like hanging clothes on the line. It’s another one of those relaxing household chores, like shelling peas, that allows us to slow down a bit and get some fresh air while accomplishing something. I can’t imagine how electric clothes dryers ever became popular, especially among country folks.

But now, hanging up the clothes is even more pleasurable because I do not have to struggle to hold up a pair of wet jeans with one hand as I try to get a second clothespin on the pants before the first clothespin flies off.

clothespin oil

I swished the clothespins in a jar of 1 part boiled linseed oil and 2 parts mineral spirits, wiped off the excess and let them dry overnight.

Herrick says it is not necessary to coat the clothespins in anything since they are already smooth and made of good ash wood. But, since these pins are heirloom quality, I coated mine in boiled linseed oil.

I know it sounds silly, but these are now the prettiest clothespins I’ve ever owned. I was proud to fill up one of my homemade clothespin bags with them.

bag pocket

The handy front pocket is large enough to hold a cell phone and for clipping on a few extra pins.

granny's clothespin bags

Made of 100% cotton, recycled denim, these bags are designed to last for many years. The top stays open and the bag slides along easily.

I figure Herrick’s clothespins are going to revive the nearly lost art of hanging clothes outdoors, so I’ve been turning out my Granny’s Clothespin Bags as fast as my feet can treadle – another thoroughly enjoyable old-time skill. We found my old White Rotary treadle in a thrift store, but I prefer to picture it whipping up log cabin quilts a hundred years ago.quilting

Besides not using electricity to sew or dry clothes, we also believe in doing our part for the planet by recycling, up-cycling and re-purposing whenever possible, which is why I’ve been turning gently used discarded clothing into tough, practical products for the homestead. It’s especially rewarding to know we’re helping to reduce the load on our landfills.

Thanks to this cold winter, Darren has even come up with some great ideas for home sewn items to make life easier.

Please see our Products Page and check back soon for more quality treadle-sewn items. And be sure to visit Herrick Kimball’s Deliberate Agrarian Blog to learn more about the history of clothespins.

inside clothespin bags

These heavy-duty bags are lined with a coordinated print fabric and padded with jersey for many years of rugged use. They hold at least 100 clothespins — even Herrick’s monster-size clothespins!




clothespin wire







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