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DIY: A Clothes-Drying Rack Made the Old-Fashioned Way on a Maine Farm

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DIY: A Clothes-Drying Rack Made the Old-Fashioned Way on a Maine Farm

March 4, 2021

A good number of us on the Remodelista team are followers of Hitchfoot Farm on Instagram: First Fan and Margot caught on, then me, and we all quickly became captivated by Bess Piergrossi’s moody vignettes in her rough-hewn Maine farmhouse that look like they’re out of times past.

When Bess told us she was working on a DIY laundry rack inspired by deVol’s Laundry Maid (our all-time favorite) and made completely by hand, we wanted all the details. And she sent back a step-by-step how-to—complete with characteristically charming, old-fashioned scenes of hand-stretching rope by the hearth, singeing rope ends in candle flames, and hardware forged by her local blacksmith.

Here’s a look, with instructions by Bess:

Photographs by Bess Piergrossi.

DIY A ClothesDrying Rack Made the OldFashioned Way on a Maine Farm The finished result above Bess&#8\2\17; clawfoot bath.
Above: The finished result above Bess’ clawfoot bath.

Materials

  • 10′ of 1/4″ rope (if rope finishing, tbs coconut oil is optional)
  • 2″ thick wood boards, approximately 8″ wide and 48″ long
  • 10 bolts or screws to match the size of the holes in your brackets
  • two steel curved brackets (made by our local blacksmith, but can be made by any local metal fabrication shop)

First, a note on steps 1 through 4, rope finishing: “This process is not necessary, but we were not happy with the rope selection at our local hardware store and took it upon ourselves to finish the rope through the following steps,” says Bess. “But it is purely aesthetic, and if you find a rope you are happy with, that will suffice!”

1. Singe the rope.

DIY A ClothesDrying Rack Made the OldFashioned Way on a Maine Farm &#8\2\20;We ran the rope quickly through the flame of a candle to singe off any stray fibers that were fraying from the rope braid causing the rope to feel scratchy and rough. Singeing burns these fibers off, and with constant movement of the rope through the flame, this will not burn through the rope, only the stray fibers.&#8\2\2\1;
Above: “We ran the rope quickly through the flame of a candle to singe off any stray fibers that were fraying from the rope braid causing the rope to feel scratchy and rough. Singeing burns these fibers off, and with constant movement of the rope through the flame, this will not burn through the rope, only the stray fibers.”

2. Then boil.

DIY A ClothesDrying Rack Made the OldFashioned Way on a Maine Farm &#8\2\20;We boiled the rope for three minutes in a pot full of water. This step softens the rope, making it softer and more pliable.&#8\2\2\1;
Above: “We boiled the rope for three minutes in a pot full of water. This step softens the rope, making it softer and more pliable.”

3. And dry.

DIY A ClothesDrying Rack Made the OldFashioned Way on a Maine Farm &#8\2\20;We dried the rope in front of the fire, weighing down the ends with logs to cause the rope to &#8\2\16;stretch&#8\2\17; so it dries nice and straight.&#8\2\2\1;
Above: “We dried the rope in front of the fire, weighing down the ends with logs to cause the rope to ‘stretch’ so it dries nice and straight.”

4. Oil a little.

DIY A ClothesDrying Rack Made the OldFashioned Way on a Maine Farm &#8\2\20;To add moisture back into the rope and soften it, we heated coconut oil on the stove, dipped a cloth into the oil, and then rubbed the rope through the oiled cloth. This gives the rope a subtle oiled finish.&#8\2\2\1;
Above: “To add moisture back into the rope and soften it, we heated coconut oil on the stove, dipped a cloth into the oil, and then rubbed the rope through the oiled cloth. This gives the rope a subtle oiled finish.”

5. Add brackets.

DIY A ClothesDrying Rack Made the OldFashioned Way on a Maine Farm &#8\2\20;These brackets were made by our local blacksmith, Jim Coelho. We sent him a diagram of the basic needs of the design (\24&#8\243; in length, approximately 3&#8\243; in height, with two holes on either end for the rope holes and five holes evenly spaced along the curve of the bracket to attach the slats).&#8\2\2\1; As Bess notes above, though, you could have something similar made by any metal fabricator.
Above: “These brackets were made by our local blacksmith, Jim Coelho. We sent him a diagram of the basic needs of the design (24″ in length, approximately 3″ in height, with two holes on either end for the rope holes and five holes evenly spaced along the curve of the bracket to attach the slats).” As Bess notes above, though, you could have something similar made by any metal fabricator.

6. Salvage wood.

DIY A ClothesDrying Rack Made the OldFashioned Way on a Maine Farm &#8\2\20;We went to the local architectural salvage store to find two thick boards to make our slats. They needed to be about \2&#8\243; thick, 4&#8\24\2; in length. And we bought two boards in case there were any hiccups and we needed extra.&#8\2\2\1;
Above: “We went to the local architectural salvage store to find two thick boards to make our slats. They needed to be about 2″ thick, 4′ in length. And we bought two boards in case there were any hiccups and we needed extra.”

7. Prepare the slats.

DIY A ClothesDrying Rack Made the OldFashioned Way on a Maine Farm &#8\2\20;We cut the boards into \1.5&#8\243; strips to make the slats and sanded them down. We decided to leave our boards unfinished, but they can be sealed with polyurethane if desired or stained.&#8\2\2\1;
Above: “We cut the boards into 1.5″ strips to make the slats and sanded them down. We decided to leave our boards unfinished, but they can be sealed with polyurethane if desired or stained.”

8. Place the slats.

DIY A ClothesDrying Rack Made the OldFashioned Way on a Maine Farm &#8\2\20;Pilot holes were drilled 5&#8\243; in from each end of the slat. We then placed the braces, curve up, on top of the slat and drilled the slat in place using bolts we had left over from other projects, but you could use screws or bolts for this.&#8\2\2\1;
Above: “Pilot holes were drilled 5″ in from each end of the slat. We then placed the braces, curve up, on top of the slat and drilled the slat in place using bolts we had left over from other projects, but you could use screws or bolts for this.”
DIY A ClothesDrying Rack Made the OldFashioned Way on a Maine Farm &#8\2\20;Continue the same process for all slats.&#8\2\2\1;
Above: “Continue the same process for all slats.”

9. Tie and hang.

DIY A ClothesDrying Rack Made the OldFashioned Way on a Maine Farm &#8\2\20;Once all slats have been secured to the braces, thread a 4&#8\24\2; cutting of the rope through the holes at the end of each brace and secure in place with a knot. Adjust the height of the laundry maid by adjusting the placement of the knots until the desired height is reached.&#8\2\2\1;
Above: “Once all slats have been secured to the braces, thread a 4′ cutting of the rope through the holes at the end of each brace and secure in place with a knot. Adjust the height of the laundry maid by adjusting the placement of the knots until the desired height is reached.”
DIY A ClothesDrying Rack Made the OldFashioned Way on a Maine Farm Finished (and hung above the bath for collecting errant drips).
Above: Finished (and hung above the bath for collecting errant drips).

For more DIY projects, see:

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