poetry and prose about place

from the pages of an old diary – ironing day

with 8 comments

Do people iron anymore?  In these days of permanent press and busy scheduling, who even has an iron?

Until my husband retired last year, I ironed a shirt for him every work day for 30 years.  They were permanent press shirts, too, but no one could ever remember to retrieve the shirt from the dryer when it could be hung up without wrinkles.  And so, I ironed.

Most people grimace when I tell them this, but I found it an enjoyable task.  It was soothing work, with the warmth of the iron, the cool of the fabric, the rhythmic slide of the iron back and forth, and the ironing of each part of the shirt, always in the same order. 

Ironing wasn’t always so easy.  On our hearth are two flat irons and a stand, the ones my Mom’s family used for ironing when she was a little girl and they had no electrcity.  Each flat iron could be fitted with a handle, and irons were exchanged as the first iron cooled and had to be replaced with the hot iron on the wood stove.  Inattention would be rewarded by a neat triangle of burn on the ironed linens.

My great-aunt would have used an electric iron.  In her diary, during 1957, an entry like ‘did a big wash and hung it out’ occurs approximately every second week (she and her husband lived alone, so this was probably an effective and efficient approach).   In every case, the diary entry the following day says ‘did a big ironing’.  In 1957, she did her ‘big ironing’ 25 times, a major task in her round of housework.



ironing day


a wedding band wears thin

endless washing of dishes

scrubbing of floors

holding wrists, stroking arms

and heads


worn as wooden handles

on the flat irons by the stove

hand clasps and presses

back and forth, the lift to test the heat

to fit a hotter iron from the fire

to seal the press, prevent the burn


a molecule of gold, residue

on every task



©  Jane Tims  2012


Written by jane tims

February 10, 2012 at 6:39 am

8 Responses

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  1. I like the drawing. No I don’t iron – I did take it up for a while when our boys were little as I didn’t want them to go to school looking a mess that might be noticed by other kids. But now they’re big they can do their own if they want!
    It’s much too time consuming & it just comes back at you again, whereas at least if you spend the time painting (or whatever interests you really) you have something more lasting to show for your time. Also there are so many responsabilities or obligations in life that I tell myself that actually this is one that I have some choice over & can decide to say NO I’m not doing it (unlike going to work say!) And I don’t think my clothes look TOO crumpled – or maybe everyone’s just too polite to tell me! Well tant pis I say!


    Sonya Chasey

    February 22, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    • Hi Sonya. I never iron for myself. I do try to hang things up, since the wrinkles usually fall out. I would rather paint or draw or write or read than almost anything else, so my whole life is a little on the wrinkled side. Jane


      jane tims

      February 23, 2012 at 6:47 am

  2. Beautiful post, Jane.

    I still iron. My husband won’t wear anything except for cotton shirts and they always have to be ironed so he can wear them to work. I have a love/hate relationship with the ironing. It’s one of my least favorite and favorite chores. I don’t like it when the clothing is waiting to be ironed and I think about having to do it, but I end up enjoying the actual ironing itself as I’m doing it. I like the sound of the steam hissing out, the scent of hot cotton, the smooth back and forth motions. It’s a calming and meditative chore.



    February 15, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    • Hi Robin. Like so many tasks, the anticipation is dreadful, but the actual work is not so bad. I like the way you describe the ironing. Jane


      jane tims

      February 16, 2012 at 7:04 am

  3. I’ve been ironing my husband’s shirts for many years, too, although, now that he works from home almost every day I don’t have to pull out the ironing board as often as I used to. (For a while I was into cloth napkins and enjoyed ironing them, too…)

    Your title, “ironing day,” made me think of a quilt I inherited from Tim’s family. There are patches of the seven days of the week embroidered with illustrations of the housework assigned to each day. Monday – washing, Tuesday – ironing, Wednesday – sewing, Thursday – baking, Friday – cleaning, Saturday – to market, and Sunday – to church.


    Barbara Rodgers

    February 15, 2012 at 10:44 am

    • Hi Barbara. You have given me a good idea… although I counted the numbers of the various activities, I didn’t think to see if she always ironed on a certain day… I’ll do that and see if there are patterns. Jane


      jane tims

      February 16, 2012 at 6:59 am

  4. Jane, your work is truly special. And your drawings are as quietly powerful as your use of words. Bravo. Thank you for the encouragement.



    February 11, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    • Hi. I’m glad you like my work. I am looking forward to seeing more of Robby too! Hope you are enjoying the snow… perhaps you’ll see Robby out playing!!! Jane


      jane tims

      February 11, 2012 at 3:19 pm

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