While we do not entirely ignore modern conveniences at Darlington, we do attempt to be selective in those we use, preferring instead to rely on time-tested and usually “greener” alternatives when reasonably possible. We use as little plastic as we can on our property, preferring natural alternatives. Once you set your mind to it, it is quite remarkable how easy it is to reduce one’s use of plastics and petroleum-based products, without going to lunatic extremes.
That extends to using string and twine made from natural fibers. I prefer string rather than tape when wrapping packages, and I use twine to tie bundles of paper for recycling. In the kitchen we use string to truss poultry for roasting and to re-seal food packages. It’s more pleasant to open a parchment-wrapped sandwich tied with string than to open a resealable plastic bag containing said sandwich, despite the slight convenience of the latter.
We do, of course, keep a stock of plastic bags on hand, but we try not to use them when a greener alternative will do, time permitting. Beyond the kitchen we use twine in our flower-arranging room to secure bunches of flowers, and we keep a stock of it in our garden house for many uses outdoors.
One of the pleasures of using string or twine is pulling it out of handy dispensers. Technically, our string dispensers belong to Boy, as it is his collection, but I get to use them just the same. Unlike today’s tape dispensers, where the unifying feature is utilitarian ugliness, the forms of antique string and twine dispensers are wonderfully, and in many cases whimsically, clever.
Most of ours are made of cast iron, but we have wood ones as well. Many are shaped like beehives--the most common form--but we’ve found them in other shapes too, including one that is molded as a ball of string.
Aside from being attractive, string dispensers are ideal for keeping balls of string and twine in order, instead of jumbled and unwinding in a drawer. Also, having string ready on the counter promotes its use.
We find string dispensers in group shops and at antiques shows, but, given how ubiquitous they once were, we are surprised how infrequently we come across them. They also show up on eBay, but we refrain from buying there because reproductions are being made today; it’s best to buy them in person so you can examine them closely to be sure they are old. Prices for cast-iron examples range from as little as fifty dollars (a genuine score) up to several hundred dollars. Hand-carved wood ones are usually more expensive, since they weren’t mass-produced and are rarer survivors.
So if you haven’t got a string dispenser, I suggest you consider getting one. But be forewarned: It’s hard to stop at only one . . .
All photos by Boy Fenwick