Sunday, April 05, 2009

Making Clothespins

To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter... to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird's nest or a wildflower in spring - these are some of the rewards of the simple life.

~John Burroughs~
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Making Your Own Clothespins
~for the sake of making something useful with your own two hands~

The first thing is to find a stick that is fairly straight, and is about as big as two of your thumbs put together. I've done skinnier, and they are not as much fun to make. I use poplar because it is a hard-wood, and it is not sappy - you wouldn't want sap on your clothes, now would you? This is a kind of wood that grows very fast, and puts out lots of suckers, so I grab those for this project. (poplar is a "cotton-less" cottonwood tree)
Now I use my box-cutter (or any big pocket knife will do) and I take off the bark. This is easiest done when the stick is still green. Always cut AWAY from yourself.
Now I take my hatchet (could be done with a large pocket knife and a rock, though) and I carefully slice down the middle of the stick. I have to put a rock under the stick so I can just bang the hatchet down...do NOT put your hand underneath to stablize the stick, you could cut yourself.
See how nice this poplar stick split? Right clean in two. I stop before the hatchet gets to the rock (I don't want to dull the blade) and then I just pull the stick apart with my hands. Clean as a whistle!
Now I put the two halves back together and every so often (about the length of your middle finger) you should deeply score the stick (again with both sides held together). Then you simply break them at the score-marks. If it isn't breaking well, you should score them again.
Now you should have a neat little pile of pairs of sticks, something like this.
I take each half stick and I carve off a bit of the end on the INSIDE of the stick - the FLAT side - the sides that are flat and will be put back together in the end should look like they do below. Do not have sharp points, just dull little rounded ends. This is so the fabric has a place to get in there easily when you are hanging up your wash.
Now, you MUST let these little sticks dry up and "cure". That means that they aren't green anymore, and they won't shrink anymore. If you were to put the wire on them now, in a few days time, they would slip out of the wire, as they have shrunk as they have dried. So, I would wait about 2-3 days before I went on with the next project. (Just as an FYI - I find that I can hang an entire load of wash with only about 12 of these, and I have enough clothesline to hang two loads of wash... so make as many as you'll need all at once, then the they will all be "cured" at the same time.
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The NEXT step...when your sticks are dry:
You will need THREE things for this step:
1. The sticks you made last time - make sure they are all partnered up with their "soul mates" before you begin wrapping them.
2. Some kind of thin-ish wire that won't rust (you don't want rust on your clean clothes!), but is sturdy - I had this roll of 26 gauge beading wire in my stash, so I've used this. It works well.
3. Little wire nippers (or even an old dull pair of scissors works with this guage of wire)
Once you have your supplies:
You will cut off a piece of wire about 12" long. Bend one end of it at a 90 degree angle and sandwich it between a pair of sticks as you see below. I make sure that the wire is about 1/2 inch below the ends of the sticks.
NOW...
Wrap, wrap, wrap .... tight, tight, tight!
As tight as you can pull it...and wrap until there is about an inch or an inch and a half of the wire left. Then curve the loose end (hold the wrap so it doesn't come apart, or loose) and then tuck it in as you see below...
Wrap the end around about 2 or three times...tight!
When you've done that, nip off the end until there is only about 1/4 of an inch left and tuck it in!
Then I use the flat side of my nippers to flatten the wraps on the side and to help push the end in and secure it.

Viola! It is done and ready to use!!!

Once you get good at these, it probably takes about 5 minutes all together (not counting the "curing" days) to make one of these...maybe less. They look so primitive and simple, and I know you'll treasure them and not be able to wait to go and use them! Have fun!

Simply, Katie

6 comments:

Christine said...

these are wonderful,Katie.
I've used them everyday this past weekend.
I'm anxious to make alot more of them.

thanks so much,
galaxies,
xo,ma

Katie said...

You are welcome, ma! It was a good trade for a handful of your beeswax candles. They keep our home bright and light every single evening here :) Can't wait to make some more...soon!!

Mrs. Staggs said...

Katie, these are so very wonderful, and I know that your mother loves them. What a lovely and thought filled gift you've given.

I appreciate the tutorial, very much. Thank you.

All my best,

Lena

Kipik said...

way cool! I'll make a bunch!!!

Kipik said...

...oh! just want to add... I put a link to your page on my blog, with one of the photos, hope that's ok!

CARole said...

Hi Katie. I don't think I have ever posted on your blog before but when I saw the clothespins you made for your mother, I just had to tell you how much I love them! I own some old ones, like the ones you made, but I don't use them. Now I am going to give it a try. Thank you so much for the "how to". What a wonderful gift for your mother, straight from the heart with loving hands.
Carole