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What a Wash Out! Pegging My Disorder to the Clothesline

Updated on December 1, 2018
Frances Metcalfe profile image

Frances Metcalfe lives in rural France. In between house renovation she writes about all types of observations.

A Victorian Trade Card For Soapine c1900


Hung Out to Dry

It all started with an office conversation. One of the supervisors happened to mention that she paired up her pegs into matching colours when she hung the washing out. How ridiculous, I remembered thinking!

Afterwards driving home I was still of the opinion it was more trouble than it was worth. Nevertheless, my head couldn’t shake out what had been said. It niggled. And it niggled some more. Obsessions have always been a bit of a bane and already being very particular about how I hang out the washing it will come as no surprise that once I’d heard those few words I wasn’t going to be able to help myself. The damage had been done.

A Fresh Look in the Peg Basket

At first I found myself fumbling through the basket picking out identical pegs for items like shirts and trousers. Anything you could hang up two by two. But those odd comments from the office had been working their way further into my psyche like an earworm without music.

Within a disturbingly short space of time the scrabbling around in the basket was taken a step further. Why not match the colour of peg to the colour of the garment? Now there’s a thought. It had to be done.

Next drying day I rose to the challenge. Maroon towels: plum pegs. Jeans: petrol blue. Pure white sheets: pure white pegs.

How Do You Wash the Laundry in Space?

How to Hang Out Laundry to Prevent Twisting and Marks

All clothing in my house is treated with the greatest of respect. Nothing is subjected to haphazard hanging. For instance bed sheets or bath towels doubled over the line are checked for equal drops at either end. This prevents twisting out of shape; if a towel dries in an unequal manner no amount of ironing or pulling and tugging can bring it back to shop standard. When folding to put away you will never achieve that perfect edge-to-edge fit.

You won’t see pegs in the middle of my jumpers. A definite no-no. Marks will be left. Sweaters and tops, slung over the line, are pegged under the arms just in case rogue indentations make an unwanted appearance.

Which brings me to the choice of peg.

Cheap and Cheerful Plastic Pegs


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A Colourful Selection of My Pegs

Probably will be on the lookout for more.
Probably will be on the lookout for more. | Source

Taking a Peg Down Or Two. Or Up

It's not certain when pegs started to be used, but were probably rare until the 18th century. Paintings prior to this time depict washing hung on lines without the aid of pegs to hold it on. Washing was also often hung on hedgerows and bushes to dry in good weather.

The Shakers designed the dolly type peg which did not have springs but two long legs and were fashioned out of wood.1

Handmade Wooden Clothes Pegs


Pegging Out

Over time I’ve accumulated all sorts of shapes, sizes and of course hues. Underwear (generally) is allotted thin inexpensive pegs. They’re fine if light items are being dealt with and you get lots in a packet for next to nothing. Usually there is a decent variety of colours, four or five or so, making it easier to harmonise the smalls. My latest cheap and cheerful packet offers a selection of buttermilk yellow, royal blue, bright orange and lime green and obligingly offers an even number of each of the colours, convenient for marrying up pairs.

Unfortunately I can’t say the same for the cushioned sort. They tend to be in threes which is a blasted nuisance. What to do with leftover lonesomes? Tights (woolly or sheer). They’re good candidates. Beanie hats, perhaps. Or do you quiver in front of the hardware section and buy another packet? How bad is that? I have resisted. So far.

Cushioned pegs are far more expensive than the thin easily breakable type. There might not be very many to a cellophane pack but the quality is far and away superior, chunkier with a strong grip suitable for the heavier pieces.

Try and use thin pegs for a coat and you’re liable to hear the spring twang across the garden, either that or bits can snap off leaving unpleasant jagged edges, and you don’t want one snagging your best silk shirt. Overall I prefer them as I’ve not yet had to throw one out and the colours tend to be of a less garish hue than the bargain basement sort, better suited to my toned down style.

Not Only I Have a Problem When it Comes to the Washing! Watch Dance of the Clothes Line

In the days prior to washing powder urine and ashes were used to get the laundry clean. Nowadays we wash our clothes in water to get those stains off!

The Line of Duty

Socks and knickers don’t weigh much. The cheap pegs are quite adequate for them. Most of my socks are black. It’s not a colour of peg I’ve ever come across so of course I don’t have any. Instead I favour the vibrant orange to hold up the socks, two strong colours side by side, all in an unbroken row, tidy and co-ordinated, almost sophisticated. The white of my knickers, fresh against green pegs, pinned up like lime sorbets flutter at the opposite end of the line.

I know you’ll think me at best odd, round the twist, even, when I let you in on this. The triumph I felt when a nightie in pinky-red was next to be dealt with and I found the perfect partner in the peg basket. Two partners to be precise, one for each side of the nightie.

Of course there are always the inevitable mysterious casualties revolving from the drum of the sock monster, totally upsetting the perfect balance of the washing line. Watching an individual that should have a mate blowing to its single heart’s content doesn’t do my washday any good.

As a measure to prevent socks disappearing without trace, they are paired back up when taken off and deposited in the laundry basket. It’s not foolproof. I could swear identical twins enter the washing machine but every now and then a singleton inexplicably emerges minus their partner.

The Blackbird Look. Yellow Pegs and Black Socks

Orange and black - a strong combination.
Orange and black - a strong combination. | Source

In days gone by, white items were spread out on the grass to bleach in the sun. They were called bleaching grounds or drying greens and used by the whole community.

Hang the Lot of You

Why not use wooden pegs and have done with it, I hear you ask? No more faffing about. Why, that’s no fun, where’s the colour in your life, and in any case the wooden variety look suspiciously dirty, the last thing you want for pristine washing. OK, I admit there are some lurking at the bottom of the pile, and that’s exactly what they are, bottom of the otherwise plastic heap. Good for painty overalls and nothing else. I have no intention letting them grasp my best white blouse.

Of course I can get tired, obsessed or not, with the endless clipping on of hosiery stretching right down the garden. And there’s only the two of us, but for a family of four? It’d take half your day up. And then it rains…..

But when I look along the line once everything’s finally hung out, all the socks together, the underpants, smart as you like, ordered, clean and neat, blowing harmoniously in the drying wind, a feeling comes over me of a job well done and a joy to behold.

For heaven’s sake, life’s too short, I hear you say! Not for me it isn't.


1 Heritage and History

© 2017 Frances Metcalfe


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