A Chafing Issue

Am I the only one who hates labels in clothing? I think they’re a pain in the neck. They annoy and chafe so much that I’ve gotten into the habit of cutting them out of new garments the minute I get home from the store. Removing labels, though, is not an easy or safe task. I’ve damaged a number of knit tops using a blade-type ripper, not to mention nicked fingers. I now use a U-shaped ripper and keep a jeweler’s loop handy so I can see those teeny, invisible-thread stitches.

One day as I threw a label into the trash, I thought about the many I’d discarded over the years. I’ve always hated the idea of wasting anything. My parents, who grew up during the Great Depression, taught me that. Was there a way to recycle the labels? Could I stitch them together and make an eyeglass case? A pillow? A purse? I began saving them.IMG_4912

My husband has never understood my aversion to labels. They don’t bother him one bit.

“You’re way too sensitive,” he said one day when he saw me ripping. “You’re like the princess and the pea.” I ignored his insensitive remark, chalking it up to the grudge he still held against me about his undershirts.

Back when I was a stay-at-home mom, I did the laundry for our family. While folding his laundered undershirts, I noticed they always came out of the dryer inside out, which meant I had to turn them right-side out before folding them. I immediately grabbed the scissors and whacked out the label of every one of his undershirts. Problem solved. No more turning.

“What happened to the label in this undershirt?” he asked the next morning, dressing for work.

“I cut it out.”

“You what? Now, I cannot tell the front from the back,” he grumbled.

“If you can’t tell the difference, what difference does it make?”

“Don’t cut the label out of any more of my shirts,” he ordered.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him that his request came too late. Within a week, he’d replaced his undershirts with new ones and I had enough unlabeled, soft dusting rags to last the rest of my life.

The dry-cleaning staff doesn’t appreciate label removal either. When I took a blouse in for cleaning, the woman at the counter asked, “What happened to the label?”

“It was scratchy,” I said. “I removed it.”

“You mustn’t do that,” she said. “That’s what tells us the type of fabric and how to clean it.”

“The blouse is silk,” I said. “Feel it.”

“Well, that’s what you say, but we cannot guarantee the job if the label is missing. Sorry.”

Last week, I removed another label from the neck of a blouse. The dry cleaners staff would never know since this blouse’s label said “Washable.” I was about to leave the house wearing the new garment, when I noticed something still scratching—not my neck but my side. Another label, I assumed, so I took the blouse off to cut out the label. What I found was not one, but FOUR labels.IMG_4871 cropped

You might think this would have made me happy—I now had four labels to add to my stash for a glasses case, a pillow, or a purse, but these labels were not made of fabric. They were plastic. I cut them out, thinking that a worker had grabbed four instead of one, just as we sometimes find four copies of the same flyer in the Sunday newspaper. But upon further scrutiny, I saw that the small print on each label was in a different language.IMG_4889 cropped

As for where the blouse was made, that’s another chafing topic altogether.

MY RURAL ROOTS

Memoir Writing — Author and Teacher