By Maggy Sears
The softness of cotton, the fine and coarse weaves. The washing and ironing of cotton, the starching, the stroking with hand and iron, warmed by the heat.
Doll clothes for my Madame Alexander doll, itsy bitsy stitches on tiny cotton outfits , taking them off and putting them on over and over again. At 14, wearing a dark green, handblocked Indian print, wrap-around skirt, adorning my neck with a large, intricate Celtic cross, wandering through the spring woods in my imagined Hobbit world, sunlight flitering through the early green; finding and greeting the return of my woodland flowerfriends: violets, bloodroot, trillium, trout lilly.
Quebec nuns in elaborate dress – black, white or gray cotton, each unique according to the order, long crosses swinging down the front – crisp white head dresses shaped like bird wings, cardboard stiff wimples framing faces, starched bibs, flowing habits whipping around bodies, sisters struggling across the blustery square. From Hobbits to nuns – shifting fantasies.
Before the steam iron, learning from my grandmother, Bama, how to dampen the clothes. Take one shirt, dip hands in water and flick droplets on shirt, roll shirt up, patting the fabric with damp hands and soft thumps. Take another shirt, begin to roll it- up and over the first one – holding bundle to chest, folding each side in as you go, sprinkling, patting, rolling. When the bundle is large and damp, leave it for a while, then iron. Placing cotton clothes on the ironing board, seeing threads flatten under the burning iron, shifting the ironed part over the side, arranging the unironed part onto the board, flattening the wrinkles with gentle strokes soothing my hands, then fading warmth from the iron. Continue reading