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Hanging Items Upon a Clothesline

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Clothes hanging on a clothesline

Hanging clothes on the line is something that anybody can do. In fact, most people in the world will, at some time, hang clothes to dry. Very few of these people, however, will do it correctly. This is a basic guide that is applicable to most standard types of clothesline.

Forehand or Backhand?

Most people will naturally peg clothes in either a forehand or a backhand fashion. For example, a right-handed person who pegs the right hand side of an item, then places the next peg to the left, is using a forehand style. Alternatively, a right-handed person who pegs the left side of an item and works to the right, is using a backhand style. These directions will, obviously, be reversed for left handers. There is no preferred method, but choose the one that is most natural for you and stick with it. Culture will play a big part in determining which style you feel most comfortable with. Some factors may include the direction of reading and writing, which side of the road you drive on and cutlery customs.

Once you have chosen your hanging style for a single item the next step is to make sure that you are moving along the line correctly. A right-handed person using the backhand style will need to move left to right along the clothes line. A right-handed person using the forehand method will move from right to left. If at this point you find that you are crossing styles (eg a right-handed person using the backhand technique, but moving right to left) you must rectify this problem as soon as possible. The matter is not quite so urgent if you only hang items individually, but if you want to start linking, it can become clumsy and time consuming. Linking is where one peg holds the end of one item and the beginning of the next. This has the advantage of using less pegs than traditional stand alone pegging. (It also looks quite spectacular when done properly). The formulas to calculate the number of pegs each style uses are as follows.

  • Traditional - number of pegs = number of items x 2
  • Linking - number of pegs = number of items + 1

Pegging Items

There are two main types of pegs. There is the older style, which is wooden and has a slit up the middle, running most of the length of the peg. To use this style the part of the item for hanging that you want to hang is placed over the line and the peg is pushed on until the desired tension is reached. This style of peg is not suitable for linking.

The second style of peg is the two piece type. This style has two pieces of peg material (wooden or plastic) held together by a metal spring. When the correct end is squeezed the other end opens up and is then placed over the desired part of the item to be hung as well as the line. When the peg is let go, the end over the line is returned to its original closed position by the spring, clamping the item to the line. The opening mouth feature of this style of peg makes it more suitable for linking. This style generally has a notch to accommodate the line and item, allowing the peg to close tightly.

When fitting the pegs to the items to be hung it is important to use the correct peg tension. The peg must be put on as tight as is necessary to hold the item on the line. A knowledge of local climatic conditions is extremely helpful here. However, you must be careful not to use too much tension. An excessively tight pegging will mark the clothes, resulting in an increase (no pun intended) in ironing time. If you give the item a good shaking immediately before hanging and use only the minimum of peg pressure (consistent with keeping the item on the line) you may well be able to get away without ironing many of your garments.

Peg colour and style should be consistent across an item. Typically, a pair of pants will require two pegs, as will a pair of socks (a pair of socks count as one item). Now if you like to link suitable items, peg colour and style must remain constant along the entire chain. If you must change peg style, close off the chain and begin a new one. Items generally suited to linking are shirts (when hung upside down) and towels. This is neither an exclusive nor an exhaustive list.

When one is linking on a clothesline that contains more than one individual line, ie a whirligig washing line, the ingenious hanger will attempt to continue the link on another line of the clothesline when the end of the current one is reached. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, it gives the whole clothesline a look of unbroken consistency, which is very attractive. There are, however, a couple of points to note. Firstly, the item to be hung in the cross-linear fashion should be of an appropriate size. If the item is too small it puts undue strain on the pegs as well as looking stretched. If the item is too large it will hang baggily and will not dry efficiently. Secondly, it should be ensured that the crossover item will not interfere with the drying of other items. Watch that the crossover item does not become entangled with the other items, or in any other way deprive them of access to the drying elements, such as sunlight and wind. This is likely if the crossover item is too large. Thirdly, peg colour should not be changed on a crossover item unless the line that you are crossing to continues in that colour for the entirety of its length. This can be become quite a trap. If one individual item on the crossed-to line has a different peg colour, it will throw out the look of orderliness, resulting in a reduction of the overall attractiveness of the hanging effect. So it can be done, but be careful.

Upside Down or Right Way Up?

Debate continues to rage over whether shirts should be hung right way up or upside down. There is nothing wrong with hanging shirts the right way up, if that is your personal preference. However, it should be noted that hanging shirts upside down has more advantages. These include, but are not limited to, easier to hang, easier to link and improved drying.

A good rule of thumb is, 'If you wear it on the top, peg it by the bottom. If you wear it on the bottom, peg it by the top'. The obvious exception to this is underwear. Underwear can either be pegged by the top or pegged by the side. Pegging the side of underwear1 generally only requires just the one peg. However, if you have an outfit that is worn over both halves of the body, for example a dress or a catsuit, then the style of pegging will vary accordingly to the style of the clothing item. The general rules of hanging an item square and hanging an item so that it dries as quickly as possible should be followed as far as it is practical.

When hanging a shirt upside down it is easier to grab the seam on either side of the garment and peg it. All items should be hung with the seams even. This helps to ensure that the garment is hung square which improves drying. Shirts hung in this fashion are obviously easier to link. A shirt hung the right way up will not dry as well because there is more material grouped under the peg (even when hung square) and the sleeves hang down along the body of the garment. This style of hanging also makes it difficult to link shirts.

Outside/Inside - Big/Small

A general rule of thumb for hanging items upon a line is to begin at the outside with the bigger items and move inwards as the size of items decreases. This is not applicable to all styles of clotheslines, as we shall see.

The reason that the bigger items are outside is predominantly one of space. If you do not have a Hills Hoist2, or another style of clothes line that has individual lines of varying length, the reason for hanging the bigger items on the outside is mainly one of modesty (this also applies to Hills Hoist and similar styles of clothesline). The smaller items, such as socks and underwear, will be hidden from the view of the casual onlooker3 by the larger items. This is the prevailing sensibility.

If, however, you have a display pair of underwear (the type worn more for aesthetic appeal rather than comfort and practicability eg a Thomas the Tank Engine G string) and you wish for them to be for public viewing, by all means go ahead and display them, bearing a couple of things in mind. Firstly, make sure that they are in pristine condition (or proudly soiled) and secondly, be aware that others may have negative reactions. Nobody wants to end up defending their underpants in a court of law.

Peg and Line Care

There are few things worse than gathering in washing that you believe to be clean, only to discover that it has become dirty since it was washed. There are many things that could cause this to happen. Two factors that you can control are your pegs and your line.

Pegs should be stored out of the weather. This will keep peg colour from fading due to the sun and, for plastic pegs especially, keep them from deteriorating prematurely. Storing out of the weather will also keep pegs free from other outdoor elements, for example, dust, mud, animals and their functions, etc.

To keep the line clean all that is generally needed is a quick visual inspection and a periodical wipe down with a damp cloth.

Tips for Drying

Hanging items up is mainly about the drying. To achieve optimum drying, items should be hung square, linked correctly and pegged properly. If you have items that you do not want to fade prematurely, remember to turn them inside out after washing and before hanging. To dry sheets and other large items quickly, you should hang them over two individual lines. In effect, this creates a wind tunnel that will whisk the moisture away.

A Final Word

If you take the advice above you will find that hanging clothes out becomes an enjoyable task, not a burdensome chore. You will have a neatly ordered clothesline that will be the envy of your neighbours. Remember though, it is not just about fun and good looks, it is also about safety. Enjoy your hanging!

1Boxer shorts should be regarded as shorts.2A famous Australian invention, the Hills Hoist is a rotary type of clothesline with a winding handle used to raise or lower the line.3If people are taking more than a casual interest in the items on your clothesline, that is more of a legal problem than a hanging problem.

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