Sandra Field was on the hunt. She was in an antique shop in Nobleboro, Maine, while on vacation. As is her habit, Field asked the woman at the front desk if the store had any clothespins. The clerk said no.
Field took a look around the shop anyway. She opened drawers, sifted through baskets and checked in cupboards, knowing that many a knickknack ends up in odd corners. She found nothing.
Then, Field found a larger ceramic container in one dusty aisle. She lifted the lid to find a mass of oddly twisted metal clothespins. She pulled out a handful of the most interestingly tarnished ones and marched back up to the clerk with a grin.
This is the kind of determination that led Field to build up a collection of thousands of unique clothespins. That collection — and Field’s own faith, was the basis for “Clothespins! Clothespins and Pegs from Around the World Paired With Bible Verses,” which was released this week on Amazon.com.
“I sort them, I photograph them and I trade them with my friends,” she said. “I thought it would make for an unusual book.”
Field, a homemaker, lives in Woodbridge with her husband Doug Field, an author and retired attorney. Along with clothespins, she collects vintage sewing spools and is an avid quilter.
The book took about a year to put together. Field had made up a few smaller versions as gifts for friends, but this project had more than 100 photographs and dozens of glossy pages. Every pin is from Field’s personal collection, and she took each photo herself.
But what about the Bible connection?
While cataloguing the collection, Field noticed many clothespins suggested Biblical themes and perspectives, including one pin shaped like an apple.
“Since God’s presence, power and creativity is all around us, it is naturally easy to see His handiwork in even the smallest of treasures,” she said.
Finding the first one
It was her relationship with her husband that inadvertently sparked the clothespin mania.
The couple met in Spain in 1968, while on separate study-abroad trips with their respective universities. Doug Field asked his future wife out to dinner with a long stemmed rose, and they spent every evening together from then on. They eloped to the Rock of Gibraltar in February 1969, and have lived in California since then.
But it was on a return trip to Madrid in 1983 with their two children that clothespins caught Field’s eye. Lottery ticket vendors lined the Spanish street, with their wares clipped to a large board with clothespins.
The pins were nothing like the wooden clips Field used as a child to hang clothes on the line at her mother’s house. These were all different shapes and sizes, and in brightly colored plastic instead of plain, pale wood.
She paused next to one vendor and asked where he got his clothespins. The seller grinned and began pointing to several tiny shops up and down the crowded street. She thanked him, and told her husband she was going for a quick shopping trip.
The first pin to spark the collection was blue, with a J on the side.
Clothespins are an ideal collector’s item. Every culture in the world needs a way to dry their clothes, and hanging them outside on a line is the easiest solution. That means every culture has their version of clothespins. Plus, they are easy to carry, inexpensive and can be found in most grocery stores or other small shops.
Field’s collection spans 39 countries. She has personally traveled to most of them, but some pins were gifts from friends. She has a few pin-trading friends across North America to whom she will send new or interesting finds. The pins are always traded in pairs, since that’s how they are used on a line.
Field finds them in pharmacies, saddlries, camping stores, dollar stores, antique shops, boating suppliers and once in a post office on the Isle of Man.
The pins are made of plastic, bamboo, metal, bronze, celluloid, wood and even crystal.
Some pieces in Field’s collection are meant to stand out. One clothespin from Monterey is a simple wood design, but it stands two feet tall. Another, from Oakland, is only a half-inch in length.
Some are shaped like birds, or feet, or apples. Some are old and worn, touched by many hands over years of hanging wet laundry. Others are clean, glossy plastic, the kind that are churned out in factories. Field is fascinated by all of them.
Field is careful with her collection. She estimates she has more than 3,000 pins.
Each is photographed and cataloged in an album, with the date and location it was found. Next, the pins are stored in jars by country or by trip. These jars are on a rack of shelves in the kitchen.
Her husband Doug Field said he’s never felt overwhelmed by the collection, and support his wife’s hobby.
“She’s a natural collector,” he said. “She has an instinct for what’s good, and the perseverance to keep after it.”
With all these clothespins, surely the couple hang their laundry outside on a line to dry?
“I use a dryer,” said Field with a grin.