Saturday, 7 May 2011


This subject came up mainly because of what I was doing this afternoon, but also from a blog cruise just now.  I wrote this a couple of years ago.

Big Men Don’t Iron, right?

Wrong. A couple of years ago, there was a fad called ‘extreme ironing’. This entailed blokes doing ironing in extreme situations or locations. They had to transport ironing equipment – boards, irons – up glaciers, down ocean depths, across Antarctic icefields, into Outer Space on jetskis, onto the Colindale branch of the Northern Line, and then, well, iron something. (By the way, where do they get their electricity? Or do they also cart coal-fired forges, plus coal, to heat up eighteenth-century cast-iron flatirons?) Idiots.

Truth is, it’s a therapeutic chore, but still a chore. So minimise it. Consider the claim of any particular object to be ironed. You can rapidly eliminate the car, the carpets, other people – but be thoughtfully discriminating. Do you definitely need to iron the socks? The underpants? The sheets? Anything at all?

Well, yes. As a tenet (one of the few left) of 21st century civilisation, the following items must be ironed: shirts; trousers; bedsheets; pillowcases ... I could easily digress here into an attempt at a sort of unified field theory of ironing – but I’ll spare you that.

Yes, I did say bedsheets. Slide, late at night after your preferred enchanted evening, appropriately accompanied or sometimes gratefully alone, into a freshly minted bed lined with a) ironed or b) un-ironed sheets. Compare the sensations. Ironed, I think.

Do not despair, or even worry. You can cheat. You can be a sheet cheat, how ‘bout that!  The best way by far is a clothes line. This not only irons the sheet perfectly, ethically and for free, it also gives the sweetest bed you could ever wish for. Just hang the sheet over the line, making sure it’s evenly distributed and lined up; peg and wait until dry; fold it back on itself on the line twice, then lift it off over your forearm, keeping it horizontal and lined up, and further fold as appropriate. You should end up with a sheet which fits in your drawer/airing cupboard, and can be rapidly deployed in case of unexpected or scheduled or olfactory need.

This only really works when the weather’s right. A sunny, breezy, blue day, with a few fluffy clouds whizzing across the sky but not planning to rain on your clothespeg parade just now. Heat also helps. So if it’s cold, wet, or threatening, it’s probably not worth the effort.  In the winter, radiator ironing can work. Fold the sheets then stretch them, as smoothly and tightly as you can, across a radiator until they’re dry (it helps if the radiator is turned on).

Failing all of the above, you will have to iron the sheets with the iron, on the ironing board (which is, of course, as huge as you can accommodate and afford). Fear not, all is still not quite lost. Fold the sheet to, as near as possible, the surface area of your board. Make sure you can reverse and refold it, when you choose, so as to expose other facets. Then iron everything else on top of it. (You do remember everything else, don’t you? The trousers, the shirts, the pillowcases; the socks?)

P.S. It’s not critical, but if your sheet ironing turns out as four-square Navy fashion as you can achieve (edges lined up, corners correlated, etc), your bed-making will be that bit easier.


  1. Fantastic. When are you coming over to my house???

    I have always admitted that there are at least 2 things I am not very good at....ironing is the top of the list....I can't remember what the next one is.

  2. How to beat the curse of the fitted sheet and the lazy pillowcase:
    Iron them on the bed as you are making it.

  3. Lo - thanks for the invite. Can I bring a friend?
    My short term memory is slipping too. Also, my short term memory is slipping too.

    ElizT - you must be joking! I change them just before bedtime, when the olfactory bit hits me as I walk through the door.

  4. This is, of course, an old Swiss method of ironing, the very best. Fresh, smooth sheets... as good as Lo's skinny dipping