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In the End, She Ironed Things Out

January 25, 1988|ROZ ASHLEY

SAN DIEGO — I always hated and avoided ironing. Other homemaking tasks such as cooking, shopping and doing laundry weren't hateful to me, and I almost enjoyed them.

So what was the big problem? I not only hated ironing--I didn't do it. But my husband, Chuck, and I didn't look too rumpled. I had my ways.

Once I washed napkins, tablecloths, sheets and pillow cases, I spent an inordinate amount of time hanging and smoothing them so that they wouldn't have to be ironed. I fanatically watched the dryer so that I would be able to get shirts and dresses out at just the right moment when they were damp enough to hang out without wrinkles.

I mastered the art of hanging wrinkled suits and dresses in the shower stall after a shower; and I even invested in a gadget called a steamer so that I could steam wrinkles out of clothing without having to iron.

These preventive chores consumed a lot of time. Believe me.

When I bought clothing I insisted on permanent press fabrics that didn't need pressing. Of course, I avoided cotton and looked for polyester and cotton blends. I wore sweaters, even when they itched. I would do anything. Anything. My good things went to the cleaners. Let them iron.

Chuck didn't seem to mind my little foible. He liked to joke about my ironing problem with all of our friends. They thought it was very funny, and I joined in on the laughter and wasn't even embarrassed, because it was true. After all, everyone has a weak point somewhere. I had many, but this seemed to be the one that Chuck focused on.

His favorite story was about the big tablecloth that was still in the ironing basket from a party about 10 years ago. What can I say? I washed it, but the wrinkles didn't hang out.

He teased me about other items that had been in the ironing basket for many years. Luckily, over time my size changed and I was able to sneak some of these blouses and skirts out and give them away without being nagged about them. But I had a napkin problem that seemed to replenish the basket.

When I dried napkins I worked very carefully on them while they were still damp, carefully smoothing them out so that they could be used. Some responded to my painstaking efforts, but the obstinate ones that resisted my diligence ended up in the ironing basket--with the big tablecloth.

But I wasn't concerned, because I knew of a store that had bargains in napkins that delighted me. As the number of unyielding napkins in the ironing basket increased, I bought more and more. And many more.

The years passed and the ironing basket filled with tablecloths, blouses, skirts and stubborn napkins. I got tired of looking at them and stuffed them in a plastic bag and hid the darn thing on a closet shelf.

Frankly, I didn't even think about the ironing bag except when Chuck resurrected his ironing story to amuse new listeners and bore old ones. What did I care? I had other tablecloths, and there were all of those wonderful napkin sales.

And then I began to sew. It started as a fascinating hobby, but it gradually became a consuming interest--an avocation. Please don't ask me to explain the difference.

The only difficulty was that to sew well, one must iron. The fabric has to be pressed before you begin. The pattern must be pressed to get all the folding wrinkles out. After each seam is sewn it must be carefully ironed flat before one can go on to the next step.

I did it. The ironing board became a permanent fixture of our guest room. I meticulously pressed each new seam to perfection, and it didn't bother me at all. In fact, I enjoyed seeing my creations take form from raw fabric to rumpled, unrecognizable humps of fabric to finished garments with newly pressed seams. Somehow, I found myself ironing nearly every day, going back and forth from the sewing machine to the ironing board. Back and forth.

Did this ironing paradox come to my attention, or was I concentrating too much on my new creations? At first, it didn't occur to me. Then, suddenly, I laughed about it. I couldn't get over it. Naturally, I ran into the family room and gloated, "Look, Chuck. I'm ironing!"

Then I began to ponder about the change in me. It took me a long time to figure out why suddenly I was ironing and not minding it at all. You know the reason. In fact, I'm sure that you're way ahead of me. I needed to iron because of something I wanted to do.

Now you'll probably be disappointed in me. I'm not going to give you a happy ending and tell you that I've reformed and that I've neatly ironed every neglected little (and big) thing in my forlorn, neglected ironing bag.

No. But, I've been thinking about it. I'm planning to take the bag down and do the napkins as soon as I finish making (and pressing) my current sewing project. Maybe I'll do the blouses and skirts too. After all, the ironing board and iron are up and ready. But it's not convenience that has made the change. The sewing projects have been so satisfying and exciting for me that I began to enjoy ironing what I made. I very much doubt that I'll tackle that huge cloth until I really need it. But, who knows?

So, motivation is what it's all about. And I'll bet that you thought that this article was about ironing.

Roz Ashley is a writer in San Diego.

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