03 Jul 2009

Episode 83: Rinse. Repeat.

A Victorian woman’s washing is never done, with Ruth Goodman. Modern laundry expert Jacqueline Sava offers advice for hand knit care. Plus, Camille De Angelis has her depression cake, and eats it too.


Huge thanks this week to experts in laundry techniques, old and new, Ruth Goodman, and Jacqueline Sava, of SOAK; and to contributing writer, Camille DeAngelis, who knits beautiful vintage sweaters and, in her spare time, writes excellent novels.

“I write this sitting in the kitchen sink”. Surely as good an opening line as, “There is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a large fortune must be in want of a wife.” This week’s audible recommendation is a hearty one. I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith, is beautifully read by Jennie Agutter. Listen, or read. It’s wonderful.

Tired of knitting alone? Find a knitting group near you, or list your own group at KnitTogether.info, a directory of knitting and crochet groups worldwide.

Get your DIY on at Threadbanger.

It’s now much easier to find what you’re looking for at Knitting Daily, the knitting site from Interweave Press. Also, back issues of Knits are now available on cd. Squeee!

At last, a UK source for American style home canning equipment. (Thanks, Emily!)


Despite the presence of Russell Crowe (galloping as Robin Hood, above) and the Harry Potter Shell House, I am absolutely not celebrity stalking at Freshwater West. No, really.

KniTunes were provided by and used with the permission of:



  1. Is “I Capture the Castle” available unabridged in the UK? Audible-US has only the abridged version.


    Posted on 7.3.09 ·
  2. Janelle wrote:

    I haven’t listened yet, but I thrilled to see Nanci Griffith’s name here – she’s a great Texas singer who reminds me of home. This is one of her finest tunes. Well done, music editor!

    Posted on 7.4.09 ·
  3. Oh, rats! Eric, I did listen to the unabridged UK version, and I hadn’t noticed that the US version of the book on Audible was abridged. That’s a bummer.

    Well. I bet I know exactly what they cut. Cassandra, or rather, Dodie Smith, spends a great deal of time waxing poetic about the British countryside. Like an 18th century novelist, the author paints a very rich and realistic background for her characters to move around in. Listening, I felt a part of that world, which was wonderful.

    That said, there are a great many of those long passages about springtime and moonlight, and they do go on a fair bit. So if you’re short on patience for that sort of thing, you could probably listen to the abridged version and not miss much. And there’s always the book, of course, if you feel you’d rather not miss a single word.


    PS: We finished listening to the audio book today. There were many surprises that I hadn’t seen coming, and the ending was perfect. It made me cry. Oh, to be seventeen again.

    Posted on 7.4.09 ·
  4. Carol B. wrote:

    When you introduced this podcast’s subject I thought, “What can possibly be interesting about laundry?!” But then I listened and found out. :o) Brilliant job, as always.

    What I am really writing about, though, is “I Capture the Castle”. My sister discovered it years ago and it is one of her favourite books. I haven’t read it in ages but I see that in Canada both the abridged and unabridged versions are available on Audible.com so guess how I will be spending one of my credits. Did you know it was made into a film a few years ago? Like most movies, it is not as good as the book but it’s not bad. The costumes are wonderful.

    Posted on 7.4.09 ·
  5. Joan wrote:

    Good Lord! Seventeen? Again!? Nope!
    Love your podcast, though! Hope you’re enjoying your summer!
    Joan in “merlin” usa

    Posted on 7.5.09 ·
  6. Knittah wrote:

    In requesting I Capture the Castle from my local library, I found a DVD of the story from 2003. Has anyone seen it or know anything about it? I’ll read the book first in any case.

    Posted on 7.5.09 ·
  7. Listening to the interview with Jacqueline Sava, I was reminded that my grandad’s mother put one of her sons through university by taking in laundry. I believe he’d won a scholarship but for a working class family, it was still a huge financial strain. He was the first person in their family to go to college and the other siblings, including my grandad, also took part time jobs so that he could have the chance. This being between the wars, there was no possibility of one of the GIRLS getting the same opportunity!

    Posted on 7.6.09 ·
  8. i loved this episode, just yesterday i bought a beautiful book that you should purchase, it’s called the gentle art of domesticity by jane brocket. it’s greatly inspiring, it’s contents are filled with beautiful colour, with topics on texture, colour, patterns, style, comfort, travel and more it explores the ideas around todays idea of domesticity. the book is full of knitting, and quilting, sewing, crochet and recipes for baking hunger thristy buns. Go on brenda get a copy you would adore it. x

    Posted on 7.6.09 ·
  9. Great podcast once again. Thank you.

    Posted on 7.7.09 ·
  10. Cristina wrote:

    My 90-year-old grandmother thinks that the best thing that happened to her was the washing machine.
    As a young woman, she was very poor and used to wash other people’s clothes, sometimes just for dinner as a payment (there was the particular dinner of sausage, fried eggs and potatoes that she still talks about). Even after she married and was much better off (my grandfather was a skilled miller), she still had to wash her family’s clothes by hand, in very cold water. The washing machine brought her much freedom, and free time.

    Posted on 7.7.09 ·
  11. Angie wrote:

    Great podcast again. So comforting to hear a familiar voice, but exciting to hear new ideas. I read “I Capture the Castle” about 10 years ago. It was featured in Victoria magazine and I found a charming second hand copy the same day. My book club just put it on this year’s list and it is now a Folio Society choice. The DVD was quite a bit of fun. I found it in my local library. I find your podcast reaffirming. There are many knitters who focus on connecting and sharing. Yay.

    Posted on 7.7.09 ·
  12. Ok you’re starting to freak me out!. This last May I was riding back from the airport to pick up our latest knitting celebrity to visit the shop. I decided to catch up on your podcasts, I started listening to the one about designer Ysolda Teague and her Liesl pattern, well guess which celeb was sitting in the front seat? yep Ysolda herself and guess which sweater we were both wearing? yep Liesl.
    Now on Sunday I was catching up on the mountain of laundry that breeds in our basement, “Well”, thought I, “I should listen to Cast On.” and wouldn’t cha know it! You’re talking about laundry! Well after I recovered from those goose bumps, you started to talk about the font on your website so of course my thoughts drifted to my friend Rae Kaiser (whom I had just been in touch with). When her name came out of your mouth I let out a little shriek. My husband came to my rescue thinking he needed to kill a spider, when I told him the reason for the shriek he just rolled his eyes, they just don’t get it.
    I think we need to meet someday.

    Posted on 7.7.09 ·
  13. I sincerely enjoyed the rain podcast even if ALL our weather has been rain for weeks and weeks now. Also, I hear you on the wonderful-ness of older sewing machines. I have a 1950s(ish) model that was my grandmother’s and I love how smooth (and fast!) it is. Finally I had to laugh at myself for as you’re excited to be getting rid of mouldy old IK magazines I just got an almost complete set from ’01 to ’06 given to me, and I’m THRILLED! So if you do get rid of yours, pass them on, don’t throw them out! (did that even need to be said? Nah, I didn’t think so, but I said it anyway)

    Posted on 7.7.09 ·
  14. Heather wrote:

    I’m loving this series of your podcast, outstanding work. I’m really enjoying the history lessons and boy am I ever grateful for having a washing machine! Your recent podcast have even captured the listening attention of my partner and he never listens to my knitting podcast!
    Thanks for all the hard work!

    Posted on 7.8.09 ·
  15. Lydia wrote:

    Hello Brenda
    You have done it again! The mention of I Capture the Castle had me scurrying over to the bookshelf and locating a very old 1963 copy read by me when I was 10. I loved the book then, my daughter loved it too. I am now going to reread it some 46 years later. Oh, my, is it really that long….

    I also loved everything in your podcast about washing chores. I am certainly going to look up Tales from the Green Valley, I had not heard of it over here in Western Australia.

    Thanks for a great listen.

    Posted on 7.8.09 ·
  16. Helen wrote:

    Brenda you need to check out this picture of Russell: http://www.menknit.net/menwhoknit.html
    Can (your husband!!) George do this????????????

    Posted on 7.8.09 ·
  17. Sandy wrote:

    Wonderful episode, as always! I am a social history buff (my area of study at university) and your current series is feeding all of my interests.

    I have to get my hands on “I Capture the Castle”….thank you for such a glowing recommendation. I’m sure to enjoy it. Loved the music, especially Nanci Griffith. Her music gets a fair bit of air time on Radio Paradise, but I hadn’t heard this particular song.

    Posted on 7.8.09 ·
  18. janet wrote:

    I just reserved _I Capture the Castle_ at my library. The book is available unabridged from BBC Audiobooks America.


    Posted on 7.8.09 ·
  19. Melinda wrote:

    Great episode! I’m really enjoying this series a lot! And so I feel the need to forward this link to the Washington Post. Sorry, you’ll have to register to read it, but the entire Wednesday Food Section is about putting up food. Very apropos. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2009/07/07/ST2009070702070.html

    Also, did you see Witt’s picture in the collection from Helen?

    And, I’m looking forward to checking out the book. It sounds great.


    Posted on 7.8.09 ·
  20. It was nice to hear someone talk about older methods of washing who knew what they were talking about.

    Although I am not yet 40, my early years were spent making lye soap and helping my mother wash clothes in the nearby creek. Like the myth of the tiny waisted hoop-skirt wearing southern lady who fainted, most modern people have no idea what life was really like.

    I remember a show called the “1800 house” on PBS that portrayed a family (vegetarian) who tried to live like it was 1800. Now, it was supposed to be 1800 England and not 1800 America, but my mother and I laughed the whole time. They had no clue.

    My mother was born in 1927. She was the youngest of 12 and her oldest sisters were born in the late 1800s. My childhood baby sitter was born in 1907. Kentucky at the turn of the century had no running water, no electricity, no indoor plumbing, and no cars. Everyone was poor and life was very much like the 1800s. Nothing changed until the 1940s when electricity was put in for the first time. You ate what you must and survived any way you could.

    Until I was about 10 and our house was completed, we lived with no running water, no indoor plumbing and very little money. All the money went into building a house. All washing was done in running water – with either handmade lye soap or soapwort. Food and heat was provided by a wood stove.

    I didn’t go dirty – even as a child who specialized in mud pies. My mother was a knitter and her sweaters from that time are not stained or dirty. They are still pristine. The only real damage to her knitting came later when she tried taking sweaters to a dry cleaner…they all came back yellow.

    Posted on 7.9.09 ·
  21. cimorine wrote:

    Dear Brenda Dayne,
    This episode completely took me by surprise. I do not live in the country, and I am not always frugal, but this episode spoke to me because of my family history. My Grandpa was not a country boy, and my Grandmother did not live to see the dust bowl, but thier parents’ frugality, as well as the frugaitly of the country folk of the Northwest, has seeped into their veins, and has been passed down from generation to generation, even going to mine. I love the past, and often think that I’d rather go back in time instead of forward. My family is so in love with history that watching a historical document is fun and listening to my parents and Grandparents talk about the “old days” is just as interesting as a first class novel.

    I cannot describe how moved I was when I heard the second song, “trouble in the fields.” Tears came to my eyes, because I was recalling what my own mother went through. being raised on a farm with nine kids is in no way the rich life that my father, who was raised in the city, had. Her parents built their home themselves, dug their own well, and raised their own farm animals, even milked their own cow. My Grandfather invented machines to help he and his children with farming. each day they would walk at least a mile for the schoolbus.

    My mothers’ frugality has survived to this day. she still insists we eat everything on our plate, shops at thrift stores, sews and patches and adjusts our clothes as well as all my fathers’ bowties by herself (via sewing machine), and constantly takes advantage of hand-me-downs.

    I’m not sure what made this episode so special to me. Perhaps it is because this kind of frugailty is in my blood. Thank you so much for this episode.


    Posted on 7.9.09 ·
  22. Erin R. wrote:

    I really like the new Cast On logo, and I loved the information about the laundry, and the rain!
    How nice!

    I recently had the happy experience of knitting Cat Bordhi’s sock pattern in the San Juan Islands, while gazing out over the small sound south of Friday Harbor. It was a nice vacation.

    Hello from Portland!

    Posted on 7.10.09 ·
  23. Mollysmum wrote:

    I couldnt wait to use an audible credit to download the recommended book, it sounded like a great listen. I was so disappointed to see that its not available in my geographic location (Australia). Guess I will have to buy a copy and read it instead.

    Posted on 7.10.09 ·
  24. Alison wrote:

    Loved hearing the rain. I miss Portland too! Thanks again for another great podcost.
    Alison in South Carolina

    Posted on 7.10.09 ·
  25. Malia wrote:

    I loved reading “I Capture the Castle” but have to admit that the movie grabbed me so much more. The last line of the movie is wonderful! but doesn’t exist in the book. “I love. I have loved. I will love.”

    Posted on 7.10.09 ·
  26. Deborah wrote:

    Brenda, I have been listening to your podcasts for the past few months, and I finally feel that I have listened to enough of them to make an educated comment. I started from the beginning and I only have about 10 to go before I am caught up. You produce an articulate, expressive and intelligent show every time. Thank you so much for all your hard work and for sharing your experiences.

    Posted on 7.11.09 ·
  27. charlotte wrote:

    I loved this episode, very interesting interwievs and bookrewiev. But my favorite thing has to be the rain. Thank you for adding that. I’ve just finished a pair of socks called “Singing in the rain”, and I was having a hard time getting into the mood to photograph them for my Ravelry project page, since here in Copenhagen we are having a sunny summerday. Your Welsh rain really helped. Thanks.

    Posted on 7.14.09 ·
  28. Liz T. wrote:

    Hi Brenda,

    Great episode – I really enjoyed listening to your interview with Ruth Goodman. i really want to try taking some of my laundry down to the river and whacking it to see if it really works.



    Posted on 7.14.09 ·
  29. egrace wrote:

    I’m so grateful for your podcast. I am fascinated with this one with laundry and Nanci Griffith’s music. What am I knitting? A bath mat made out of old t-shirts. My knitting has sure changed over the years but it’s still knitting – and I love to knit socks, just regular, practical items. So thanks for all your efforts.
    As I listened to the rain in Wales, it began to storm here in Philadelphia, PA. My dog shook. Then it turned into hail. I love changes in weather but I don’t much like hot and humid weather. Do you have suggestions for knit wear for this sort of weather? Another sort of series – knit wear by season.
    Thanks again,

    Posted on 7.16.09 ·
  30. Prue wrote:

    I am another of your lurking fans driven to comment by the excellence of your podcast. I have been dipping into some other podcasts this week and find that yours is an above average production in both content and presentation. Congratulations.
    About your Ministry of Information booklets: I spent many happy hours in my youth reading Angela Thirkell novels which featured the British county gentry around WWII. (The books formed a series which was collected by my maiden aunt, a librarian.) The ladies would have been exactly who the booklets were written for. They had had servants to do their washing, cooking and cleaning all their lives but when the war swept away the working class, they were left to do it themselves. You are right. They had no idea how to look after themselves.
    In wintery Sydney

    Posted on 7.17.09 ·
  31. Julie wrote:

    Great podcast! So interesting and well put together. Thanks!

    Posted on 7.17.09 ·
  32. Kp wrote:

    I was surprised at how interesting this episode turned out to be. Forgive me, but when you said that you were going to be doing an entire episode just on laundry my eyebrow rose in skepticism. Now, I am so glad you did this episode because it is was historically rich and, as said above, very well put together.

    Posted on 7.19.09 ·
  33. Caroline wrote:

    Thank you so much for this Rinse Repeat cast! I have so enjoyed listening. I watched the BBC series and found your historical washing interview with Ruth so iteresting, I made my husband and daughter listen too!
    Also thank you for the Dodey Smith recommendation, the book is on order from Amazon. I don’t have a computer of my own, so have to order hard copies to read. Now all I have to do is find enough time to breakway from knitting to read!

    Posted on 7.19.09 ·
  34. Karen S wrote:

    Wonderful podcast (as usual) … love the thing about why there were longer between washing in early days (showing off has always been an issue it seems).

    Have finished listening to “I capture the castle” on your recommendation (btw, Audible is awesome)… oh my, it made me cry… but in a good way. I just love Dodey Smith.
    So thank you for telling me about that glorious book.

    Posted on 7.21.09 ·
  35. Mary wrote:

    Fantastic podcast. Well done, interesting, enjoyable to the last nugget, and soothing. Thank you for being a part of my day.

    Posted on 7.24.09 ·
  36. Holly wrote:

    I believe this is your very best podcast so far! I too love rain, and all the rain sounds were so wonderful to hear. Ironically, at the moment I turned on your podcast, my son decided to express himself with the contents of his stomach, so while I was listening to all the wonderful features about washing clothes, I was washing the little guy. I do so enjoy each and every podcast. Thank you for all your hard work!

    Posted on 7.29.09 ·
  37. Anna O. wrote:

    “I Capture the Castle” was a delightful read, and I absolutely loved how Dodie Smith went for the better ending, rather the all-around happy ending. Thanks for recommending it to your listeners. Then I re-read the original ‘101 Dalmatians’, and it was better than I had remembered. I very much enjoyed listening to this episode. I’m definitely going to listen to the section about the history of laundry over again.

    Posted on 7.30.09 ·
  38. Brenda, I love this series! It speaks so much to my sensibilities. I have been anxiously awaiting each installment and am curious about the pamphlets that spawned the idea. And most of all, thank you for the rain. Here in San Diego we don’t get much, and none in the summer, so I lived vicariously for a few moments there. But I can a mean kumquat marmalade! Keep doing what you are doing. You inspire and delight me every time I put on my headphones to listen.


    Posted on 7.31.09 ·
  39. Valerie@39 wrote:

    There was something about the way you described the book “I Capture the Castle” read by Jenny Agutter which caused me to seek it out at my local library immediately. I really enjoyed it.

    Brenda, thank you for the delightful recommendation. Well done!


    Posted on 8.3.09 ·
  40. Kate Y. wrote:

    Do you know the live version of Nanci Griffith’s “Trouble in the Fields”? She tells of her great-aunt Nettie Mae who farmed during the Depression and “was afraid to go to sleep at night because she was afraid the dust would blow so hard that she’d wake up of a morning and find herself in Oklahoma and she by god didn’t want to live in Oklahoma…!”

    Posted on 8.3.09 ·
  41. Kristin wrote:

    Great episode! I just watched I Capture the Castle last week and loved it. I did read the book a number of years ago. I’ve been listening to audio books lately though and this one would be a good on to revisit with audio. A couple of my favorite audio books you might want to check out are The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (the narrator is excellent!) and The Secret Life of Bees (the narrator is just exquisite). Thanks for all you do Brenda!

    Posted on 9.13.09 ·
  42. Jennie VH wrote:

    LOVED this one. So very interesting! It made me think back to these “laundry balls” that my sister’s MIL had hoped to sell for $75 a pop. Of course they worked–since plain water and lots of agitation cleans clothes quite well, especially if the water’s warm!

    I envy you your rain. We had a smidge and are back to summerlike weather.

    And–yay–another Today’s Sweater!

    Posted on 9.21.09 ·
  43. Linda Beekveld wrote:

    Hi all,

    When I am knitting sitting at a table, my ball of yarn always glides of the table when pulling the yarn, dropping to my dirty floor. I found a solution for this problem by creating the yarn spindle. See the small webpage I made about it:


    On youtube:

    Great great podcast, I love listening to it!!

    Posted on 11.2.09 ·

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