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PostHeaderIcon Uses for the Humble Clothespin

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What has been a household staple for generations, the mundane, yet multi-purpose ordinary clothespin has evolved from an object of long lasting, economical simplicity to many forms and hybrids.

The first of its kind, straight wooden forms made in England were identified as pegs.  The craft was associated with gypsies using small split lengths of willow or ash wood.  Then in 1853 the spring type clothespin was invented by David Smith of Springfield, VA.

Today, a wide variety of clothespins are available for use other than hanging sheets out to blow in the breeze.  Take your choice, wood, plastic, rubber covered wire, in a variety colors or plain wood.

A bit of Americana in the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, PA, there stands a skyscraper tall, colossal sculpture of a common clothespin.  In a Middlesex, VT, cemetery, a 5-foot-tall grave marker is mounted respectfully erect in the design of a clothespin.
In 1998, The Smithsonian Institute hosted an exhibition titled “American Clothespin.”  The curator of the exhibit witnessed a young lad turn to his father and asks “What is a clothespin?”

Albeit clothespins as such have a long and practical history, however, with the advent of the automatic electric revolution in the art and style of laundry practice, the humble adjunct to getting a grip on shirttails and socks has virtually been aced out for that purpose.  Some community home owners’ associations have even banned using clotheslines in the neighborhood and every manufacturer of wooden clothespins has closed its doors.

Nonetheless, the many assets and uses of the clothespin speaks well for its diversity, a closure for the potato chip bag is just the beginning.  Many craft projects, from creating dragonflies to sling shots or even building a mousetrap, incorporate the use of clothespins.  Playing cards attached to the spokes of bike wheels to simulate a motor sound couldn’t be done without clothespins.

Around the house, holding a nail in place with a clothespin while swinging the hammer will prevent damaged fingers.  Unable to stop a nosebleed, a clothespin will do, in a pinch.  As for organizing discount coupons, take-out menus and other assorted paper keepsakes in the miscellaneous (junk) drawer, you can count on the capable clothespin to keep rank and order in the file.

Using a marking pin to label, the wooden whiz can easily identify each electrical cord in the maze under a desk or behind the TV/entertainment center.  The clothespin serves at casual parties for place card holders or clip-on name tags.  In the kitchen or in the library, the ever-clever clothespin makes a perfect paper clip, keeping the page open while reading or checking a recipe in the cookbook. 

Pairing items together, such as mittens, socks and slippers, makes for ready access, as well as clipping elements of a child’s outfit with clothespins works for more successful self-dressing.  Pins of various colors can serve to label each family member’s lunch bag in the fridge or like-kind backpacks on the hook.

On the road, a clothespin clipped to the visor is a convenient way to hold outgoing mail, a parking pass or a memo.  You can be creative with color or inventive decorations on a clothespin attached to your antenna for easy locating in the parking lot.

Then there’s the almighty strength of a magnet glued to the wooden wonder.  Ideas are countless, but on the fridge the can-do clothespin is reliable in holding on to kids’ collectable art work, shopping lists and important reminders.  In the laundry room, why not secure one on the side of the washer to hold a single sock awaiting its match that seems to elude its mate.

According the American Heritage web page, “Low tech and old fashioned though it may be, the clothespin continues to capture the imagination and attention of hopeful inventors.”  A grand total of 146 new patents for this marvel laundry mate were granted in the mid 19th century alone and 9 more in the U.S. since 1981.  Recent innovations of the catchy clothespin have been named The Teardrop, The Zebra, Hurricane Grip and even a Weather-Predicting incarnation.

As styles change in the fashion industry, so also is there dimension for the genesis of the perfect (clothes) pen.

Karen Balch is a retired nurse, freelance writer and San Ramon resident.

Last Updated (Monday, 10 November 2014 20:21)


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