Monday, 4 May 2015

Iron Maiden!

iron maiden

This post has absolutely nothing to do with the heavy metal band. So sorry, if that’s what you were hoping for!

This is a follow up to last Friday’s post.

I love it when a post clearly resonates with other people, and there are interesting comments. Dealing with laundry is something that others of you think about. There were some fantastic responses

blouses hung on coat hangers to avoid ironing. I dislike ironing

hang tops by their bottoms, and bottoms by their tops

tee shirts are hung by the hems but nightdresses by the shoulders

colour coded pegs- no mixed colours for anything needing more than one peg

wooden pegs at home, plastic ones for camping only

Granny used to spread her undies over the lavender bushes to dry

in Lincolnshire the custom is to let it all hang out.

Thank you everybody who responded! But the best comment of all came from Fat Dormouse in France, who said

We don't have outdoor drying facilities, except by squeezing our maidens onto the balcony.

I had fabulous mental images of buxom mademoiselles crowded onto FD’s balcony with tea towels over their shoulders, Y-fronts on their heads, and bras dangling by the straps from their outstretched arms!

maidens and airers

But I was wrong – wherever it was FD grew up, they called airers maidens. I think [not sure] this is a term from the north of England. We had [like FD’s other half] a clothes horse in my childhood. When I was up in county Durham, my friend’s Mum had a maid on a pulley over the Aga, made of wood, cast iron, and strong cotton cords..


You often see these advertised as traditional Victorian Sheila-maids. One British company – which sells an amazing range of drying arrangements, has a modern version called a Rachel-maid. [made from wood, polyester and stainless steel]

Mind you, they can also sell you a fold-down, a rotary, a retractable or a seven-lath-gismo dryer. In the USA, this company will sell you wall mounted, T-post, and even, bizarrely, a selection of couple clothesline options. And Lakeland boasts the dry-soon, and the hideaway.

Who knew there was so much choice available to us?

In Scotland, airers are sometimes called winterdykes [a dyke being a dry stone wall, over which women would drape the wet washing] and another popular name is a creel [I have always associated this word with baskets – or the bobbin racks on spinning machines]


I know British weather is not always good – but looking at this pie-chart, it is clear why drying naturally, without the benefit of a tumble dryer makes a lot of sense – both ecologically and economically


Barbara Dale said “Behind every working woman is an enormous pile of unwashed laundry”. My laundry pile does get washed, and the ironing mountain sometimes lurks – but the basket of washed & ironed stuff definitely lingers longer than it should, waiting to be put in drawers or hung up. Mainly because I am prone to saying things like “Stuff the housework - today is a Bank Holiday, let’s have some fun together as a family” I hope you enjoy your day too!


  1. We call the airer the maiden and the one with a pulley, a rack.

  2. The maidens would get a bit damp today, if we forced them onto the balcony - it's grey and mizzley. They can stay in the dining room instead!!!

  3. As I read thus, it reminded me we had washing to be Hung up. Then as I was out there, I planted radishes, swiss chard and rocket after buying new compost from the coop. X

    1. You are a Diligent gardener Kezzie. Hope your chard flourishes!!

  4. Like Carol , who is also in Lancashire, to me an airer is a maiden and the one from the ceiling is a clothes rack. Theyre names I've adopted after 39 years in the county. In my youth we had a ' clothes horse', so callled by my Yorkshire born Mum. My maiden is in the conservatory covered in underwear because I've run out of space on the washing line. We've had a very relaxed bank holiday, with an unexpected , but delightful visit from K and A who were en-route from Glasgow after visiting family there this weekend.

  5. If it's on the ceiling, it's a 'pulley'. I have never heard the term 'winterdyke'. Creels are also used when fishing for lobsters, as in 'Lobster Creel'. Hope you had a good Bank Holiday.

  6. Well, because of your post I was discussing laundry with an older Anglican lady on Saturday night at a Leprosy Mission dinner (long, unrelated tale) and she thought that the pulley thing was called a dolly of some description?

    1. That's interesting. Was she from NI? I've always thought that a laundry dolly was one of those " stools- on-a-pole" that you pound up and down on the dirty sheets in a tub of soapy water, to bash the grime out!

  7. I'm from Manchester and it's maidens there.


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