DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.


Alison Berkowitz                                                      Folding A Long Sleeve Dress Shirt


            Folding dress shirts is categorized as a basic activity of daily life in the area of occupation.  it may also be a work activity if one works at retail store or a laundry-mat. it can also fall into the area of social participation if one is responsible for putting away clothes for their children, spouse or other household members. Thus, folding shirts has a cultural context.  In more traditional households, men and women may be assigned certain chores.  After ascertaining that the client whether responsible for only their clothes or the entire household, then we know the cultural context of folding shirts.  If a couple needs to change roles and responsibilities in the house because of a long hospital stay, the client learning to do household chores may need to the cognitive and emotional skills to accept this new activity in his life.  For example, if a spouse of an injured client needs to work more and doesn’t have time to do laundry, the spouse at home may take up this chore.  That is, unless they can pay for a service. Still, learning to fold a shirt properly is a useful skill. It can be a stepping stone in grading toward more difficult tasks.

            After laundering and ironing a dress shirt, it is important to fold it neatly so that is not wrinkled. Then, it can be stored in the dresser. Folding is also important if one is traveling overnight and needs a dress shirt for an event the next day such as an interview or formal celebration.  Both men and women use collared shirts.  However, many men who work in an office may have many more since collared shirts without a tie are a staple in the workplace.  The task promotes organization and neatness.  Furthermore, a clean and unwrinkled shirt in conjunction with other appropriate attire communicate to others that the person wearing the attire is neat and organized as well. 

            One may fold the shirt on a table or any flat surface such as a bed.  This can be done in a clinic setting or at a client’s home.  The environment needs to be clean so the newly laundered shirt is not soiled.  The space needed depends on the size of the shirt. Using the full arm span may be useful, so the appropriate space on the table should be 3’ x 6’ long or about one yard by two, the width being the longer side of the table.   To make sure the surface stays clean, one can put a towel over it.  There is other preparation needed given the physical ability of the folder.   There are five steps.  An average person would take 5 to 10 seconds to do each step.  From the dryer to the dresser, the entire process should take about one minute. 

            The sequence is fixed.  The sequencing is important to avoid wrinkles.  Ideally, the shirts have just come from the dryer or off the ironing board.  Folding quicker is better, so one may want to put a folding table near the dryer or the ironing board.  This ways the shirt can be folded while the fabric is still warm. The second step is to fasten all the buttons of the shirt.  This will keep the flaps from folding in, prevent crinkling of the fabric and will help keep the tails from becoming caught, pulled aside and wrinkled by clothes in a drawer or suitcase.  The third step is getting the sleeves folded across the back. This is done by placing the shirt facing back side up on the folding surface and then starting with the right side folding the arms of the shirt across the upper back horizontally.  The cuff will land at the edge of the opposite shoulder.  If the sleeves and cuffs are lying flat, with no bunching of fabric.  One should not to fold in the shirt’s side seams in.

            Then one folds the sides to the middle in the fourth step. This is done by bringing the shirt’s side seams in evenly from shoulder to hem, so they meet under the collar, forming a broad V shape there. (The sides won’t necessarily meet farther down the shirt.)  Finally, the fifth step is folding the shirt in half lengthwise holding the bottom of the shirt (with two hands if possible), from the bottom up, so that the bottom horizontal edge rests below the bottom of the collar.  There shouldn’t be any delays in any of the steps, but one can stop in the middle to do something else.

            Vision is important to get the steps correctly. However, a blind or person with low vision person can do this activity once they have a feeling for the motions.  Their tactile input replaces the vision. Watching others to learn the method would be helpful. Sensing the shirt is different from the folding table is a tactile differentiation necessity. The average person would be able to both see and touch the buttons, the button holes, the collar, and the cuffs to follow the instructions. However, a blind person could fold a shirt, only using touch. Furthermore, enjoying the texture of the factor may make the task more pleasurable. Finally, listening or watching instructions at first is necessary. Lastly, taste and smell are not for doing the activity, but olfactory senses may add to the pleasure in the activity if one likes the smell of fabric softener.

            Perceptual factors are linked to sensory input in this activity.  Integrating vision and tactile input with use of shapes and positions in space is necessary.  Figure-ground perception also allows the person to differentiate the folding table from the shirt.  Stereognosis is not a factor for the average person. The fabric of a shirt is typically uniform and in full sight, so there is no stereognosis needed.  Hand-eye coordination is a factor and it is used to make the folds correctly.  Visuospatial perception and hand eye coordination are used at the same time to identity the parts of the shirts and how they form the square shape using one’s hands and arms to perform the tasks. In order to do the first fold, the folder’s hand must lift the cuff of one sleeve to the opposite end so the shirt starts at a T and then becomes a rectangle.

            Positioning is important for proper folding. Ideally, using two hands standing up with the table at waist height or higher will allow one to complete the activity many times without fatigue. This set up is the most ergonomic. However, if the folder is seated in a wheelchair or can’t stand long without fatigue, one might set up the chore seated a table or another flat surface. Persons only able to lie down may adapt folding by using their chest as a flat surface. However, that person would need to be able to lift their shoulders, using movements such as lateral abduction, protraction, extension to make the folds themselves. If a person only has one arm to fold a shirt, performing the task unilaterally can be done though it takes more time. He would need fold one side a time instead of together. The last fold might work if the shirt is pliable, but if the shirt is stiff from starch, if would be best if he could hang the shirt. Doing the final crease works best with both hands. Trying to do one side at each time might undo the other folds.

            Getting the shirts out of the basket are understood to have already been done, leaving us to discuss the motor skills of folding. Gross motor skills are needed in that the folder needs to both extend, protract, adduction and externally rotate the shoulders. Folding also requires flexing and extending at elbow.  Extension and horizontal abduction of the shoulder, and elbow flexion are repeated when moving the cuff of the sleeve to the opposite side of the shirt in step two.  The fold in step three is done twice also. Repeating movements of the shoulder and elbow joint allows the folder to move the pieces of the shirt in the fashion that results in a proper crease pattern. There is no resistance in these movements.  Fine motor skills are used also all through out the folding and in buttoning the shirt. Making the collar curved down as if it were on a neck and folding the cuffs makes the folder perform flexion and extension of the wrist, fingers and thumbs.  The wrists may also be hyperextended when adjusting the collar.  The fingers might be abducted to smooth out wrinkles and also flexed when making minor adjustments so that both sides are folded uniformly.  The hands would laterally pinch the material to perform the fold.  While possible to just use a tip to tip pinch, using a lateral pinch or gripping the sleeves with the thumb and at least two fingers might be necessary if the material is heavy.

            While using terminology can make this task seem complex, the average person will not be challenged by folding shirts. With normal cognition and memory, it will be easy to remember the pattern and repeat the movements once one has mimicked another person doing it once or twice. The direction consist of 5 steps and they are easy to comprehend. While doing the folding, attention is important to make sure there is no wrinkling but otherwise, one might be able to talk or listen to the radio while folding. It doesn’t require a soundless room and full concentration (as in doing homework).  Hand-eye coordination are needed so the folds are done in the right place and on is aware when the creases look neat or misaligned.  Recognizing the folded shirt as neat and proper are essential in getting the shirt folded so it can be stored without getting wrinkles.  One problem might be that there is not enough space in the dresser or the material may be too easily wrinkled when folded. Then, it would be important for one to make room in the closet to put the shirt on the hanger.

            As mentioned in the introduction, folding a long-sleeve dress shirt is done alone. However, it can become a social activity when it is done in a group either at home or at the laundry palace.  One could learn and talk to others while folding--either about improving their folding technique or other more interesting topics.  For the average person who has children, getting the family together to put away the clothes can be a social activity and could encourage closeness. It could become apart of a weekly routine.  A parent might ask siblings to compete to see who can fold the fastest and neatest. The social aspect of cooperating is not relevant. However, when one takes care of their clothes and good care of their appearance they are making a conscience effort to maintain an appearance that is appropriate for their environment.

            By talking about the social component, the emotional component is involved in this activity. While the simple act of making the folds does not elicit emotion, it forces one to express the desire to care about their clothes, take interest in organizing their outfits which will help them show to others that they are mindful of how they dress. Dressing well is not narcissistic unless one brags about how good their clothes are.  Folding is not a creative activity, it is a chore, but it shows that one values wearing clean clothes and is interested in looking neat and appropriate. Usually love or anger are not expressed, although it may get frustrating to accomplish folding is one has a lot to do and has many other chores to do as well.  Thus it is important to manage time and work efficiently to get the laundry folded so there is time for more exciting activities. Also, it is not very creative since there are only 5 simple steps that are done in sequence.

            In regards to performance patterns, it would be important for one to develop the habit of folding clothes and may do it on a weekly basis. This is the socially agreed upon role of good grooming. In summary, folding a long sleeve dress shirt so that it does not wrinkly in a drawer serves the purpose of making it easier to dress well every day. It doesn’t need to be done daily, only when shirts are just out of the wash and need to be put away. Explaining and writing down each step has showed me how much we rely on our wrist, finger, elbow and shoulder joints. Although folding does not require a lot of strength, standing and folding for thirty minutes to an hour is a good break from doing things at a desk sitting down. This has also shown me that folding is not as difficult as it looks and that when tasks are broken down into small pieces, they are easier to learn.



DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.