Dishcloths: From Basic to Beautiful

    
Kathleen's handknit washcloths.
These are probably 10 years old, and I still use them almost every day.

The knitted dishcloth is a classic. It's sort of a knitter's right of passage; we've all knit at least one, and most of us have a drawer full! Not to mention that knitting dishcloths is a great way to learn how to knit.

I've knit just a couple of dishcloths, and I used the old stand-by pattern, Granny's Favorite Dishcloth, shown at right.

I think part of the reason I haven't knit more dishcloths is that I became bored with the pattern. The other part of the reason is that cotton is hard on my hands, and I thought most dishcloths are knit from cotton.

Little did I know that both of these problems aren't really problems. I learned just recently that dishcloths can be made from blends. A friend gave me a one that was made from a wool-cotton blend, and it works just great.

And then I found out about the new video workshop, Ten Knitted Dishcloths, with Joanna Johnson, and her bounty of beautiful dishcloth patterns.Check out the variety of dishcloths Joanna will teach you to knit:

What a beautiful variety of dishcloths! I love the colorful zigzag cloth and the lace patterns, too. And that scrubber is fantastic; it's made with a stainless steel yarn!

Sorry about the grainy photo—it's a screen shot from the video. But still, what a great collection of dishcloths! If the photo isn't inspiration enough, Joanna gives us ten reasons to knit dishcloths!

10 Great Reasons to Knit Dishcloths

1. To enjoy the beauty of an everyday item.

2. Each dishcloth is about the size of the swatch, but when you're done knitting, you have a useable object!

3. Dishcloths are an easy way to expand your knitting horizons with new patterns and techniques.

4. Dishcloths are a great way to try out a new fiber; linen is wonderful to use for these projects.

5. You can also combine fibers, such as using a stainless steel yarn to make a dish scrubber.

6. You'll learn new-to-you cast-ons and bind-offs!

7. If you like experimenting with new shapes in knitting, dishcloths are a great project for you.

8. You can explore color theory, with stripes, mosaic knitting, and so on.

9. Try something new, such as a crochet edging or a zigzag lace pattern.

10. Dishcloths make excellent gifts!

Joanna uses her top ten list in her workshop, plus much more! Get your DVD or download of Ten Knitted Dishcloths with Joanna Johnson today and start knitting dishcloths!

Cheers,

P.S. What's your knitted dishcloth story? Share it with us in the comments.

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Knitting Daily Blog
Kathleen Cubley

About Kathleen Cubley

Hello daily knitters! I'm the editor of Knitting Daily. I've been obsessed with knitting for about ten years now and my favorite projects are sweaters. I like the occasional smaller project, but there's nothing like yards of stockinette with a well-placed cable or a subtle stitch pattern here and there. I crochet a bit now and then—especially when I need to produce a baby blanket in time for the baby shower. I've been in publishing for 20 years and I'm finally exactly where I want to be: at the crossroads of knitting and communication. I live in Spokane, Washington and when I'm not knitting I enjoy gardening, snuggling with my dogs, swimming, reading, and playing in the snow in the winter. But, really, I'm pretty much always knitting!

37 thoughts on “Dishcloths: From Basic to Beautiful

  1. Dishcloth patterns make soft baby washcloths. Substitute baby cotton yarn and 16 ” circular bamboo # 3 or 4 needles for knitting back and forth. This tiny project easily tucks in my purse in a zip sandwich bag. I have never had trouble taking this on a plane (calming during turbulence, take offs and landings). A few knit baby wash cloths make a nice addition to a baby gift package. ~ Penny O. Grand Marais, MN

  2. My daughter knitted many dishcloths for her chemo nurses, oncology Dr’s and friends.
    Especially when she could no longer work and was near the end of life, we spent many hours on line finding new patterns to fit the personality of the person she was knitting for. So many free patterns, so little time.
    She also made each one a “Cute Heart Mug Rug” to match the dishcloth.
    Let her feel useful as she put it.
    Glad I taught her the joy of knitting when she was in Elementary School.

  3. My daughter knitted many dishcloths for her chemo nurses, oncology Dr’s and friends.
    Especially when she could no longer work and was near the end of life, we spent many hours on line finding new patterns to fit the personality of the person she was knitting for. So many free patterns, so little time.
    She also made each one a “Cute Heart Mug Rug” to match the dishcloth.
    Let her feel useful as she put it.
    Glad I taught her the joy of knitting when she was in Elementary School.

  4. My daughter knitted many dishcloths for her chemo nurses, oncology Dr’s and friends.
    Especially when she could no longer work and was near the end of life, we spent many hours on line finding new patterns to fit the personality of the person she was knitting for. So many free patterns, so little time.
    She also made each one a “Cute Heart Mug Rug” to match the dishcloth.
    Let her feel useful as she put it.
    Glad I taught her the joy of knitting when she was in Elementary School.

  5. I have knitted some wash cloths (for dishes and faces) with hemp string. Hemp is grown in a more environmentally friendly way than cotton, thus I prefer to use it. I did find some 100% hemp yarn which was softer than the string and made some lacey wash cloths with it. Wash cloths are a terrific choice as the first project for beginners as you get a useful item very quickly and if it isn’t perfect well that is OK for doing the dishes. It is also a great way to try out lace stitches as the holes create a cloth that dries quickly reducing the risk of odour. sincerely, Wendy Leigh-Bell

  6. regarding the comment on baby washcloths, for a baby that is in cloth diapers the wash cloths can be washed with the diapers and avoid the expense, waste, and toxicity of baby wipes. Then all you need is the wool soakers (yes they really do work) and you are all set.

  7. When I am making a swatch from a bast fiber or a superwash/ blend, I make the size that will be a nice face cloth or dishcloth size. It has been fun and interesting. Also, I don’t feel like I have wasted the yarn, when I have such a useful purpose for my swatch, in addition to verifying guage that is. :-)

  8. Hi – I’m new to this site and am loving it :) Several years ago my sister knitted dishcloths for some of us family members…Her daughter used each one of them once and threw them away! She thought they were ‘disposable!’ She is a bright kid, but has little comon sense :)

    Nondra

  9. I host a knitting group at our public library. This past year we have been knitting dishcloth patterns and sewing them together for charity baby blankets. Since dishcloths are small and quick, even the beginner knitters in the group have been excited to contribute. One of the gals volunteered to sew together the dishcloths not realizing just how many we would create. This little project of ours has helped diminish our stash piles. given us a way to practice new stitches, and helped keep more than a few babies warm.

    Of course I always have to make some for stocking stuffers too. Friends and family are disappointed when they don’t get at least one for Christmas.

    Myla

  10. I don’t use dishcloths but find that some of the close knit patterns … Or crochet patterns….make great potholders when you make two and bind them together. They are thick and washable.

  11. Janie Fries is right, but she didn’t mention that it’s rite of passage.

    My first dishcloth was made for a friend who was moving away. I told here to keep it in her purse, so she would be able to wash dishes while she was unpacking/setting up in her new home;.

  12. When moving to a new city, state, I made a bunch of knitted cotton dishcloths in pastel colors, put them in zip lock bags and took them with me to a neighbor’s get together where I distributed them to my new neighbors. They last longer than baked goods and can be used over and over. They were well received.

  13. Dishcloths are the best travel knitting – I take along maybe 4-5 of my favorite patterns, nothing too taxing so I can look out the window, and it’s one time I can go wild with color. They also make good movie knitting if you have a lot of nervous energy as I do – just remember to use light colors in a dark theatre. They are good housewarming gifts too. And some people really like them – my husband will not use anything else in the kitchen.

    If you find cotton is hard on your hands, it may be that you are trying to muscle it too much – pulling, or knitting too tightly – because you want it to be stretchy like wool. Consider it as a person with a different personality. It isn’t going to stretch and spring like wool, but it should be soft. Try knitting looser, using a #9 US needle, for example. Since I am allergic to wool I use cotton a lot. Two of my beginner sweaters were made with dishcloth cotton because I was on a tight budget. I wore them absolutely to death. They did shrink a bit and handknit cotton clothing should not be bone-dried for that reason, but they still remained very comfy and kept their good looks for many years.

  14. I collect cotton yarns at sale counters/sites all year, and about July begin making my Christmas specials: Mats, Mops and Mug Rugs – by Mary. I make a zip-lock packed set for all the kitchens on my list, containing 2 pot-holders which serve also as dish mats for serving hot items at the table, a wash-cloth, and two 4″x4″ mug rugs. It’s about 3 hours knit or crochet time – all done during road trips or TV time or during (don’t tell anyone) conference calls.

  15. I’ve been knitting dishcloths for 35 or 40 yrs. About the only ones I knit anymore are round with points (scollop) edges or smooth circles made with short rows. I tell people they are dishcloths that think they are doilies! I have even modified the basic pattern to make a 6 pointed star of David (for a Hanukkah doily) and have been making some to look like slices of watermelon (a real hit with gardeners and moms with little kid.) By making two smooth circles and attaching the edges as I work the 2nd one, I have made some really heavy weight hot pads that match the dishcloths. Ones worked on only 10 or 11 stitches make great mug rugs – ideal for guys who don’t want dishcloths! The modifications are endless. I always use provisional cast on and finish the join with grafting so the starting and ending rows truly are impossible to find.

  16. Our church sends several people to Honduras each June to build 16 foot by 16 foot wooden homes for those who have no place to live or whose homes are in poor condition. When the house is completed the owners are given a welcome package which contains some of the dishcloths that have been made by church members. They are so appreciative of their new home and the goodies that are in their gift bag.

  17. When we lived in NJ, we took a road trip to Key West and back. I realized in Maryland that I forgot my driver’s license. I had enough yarn to knit 4 dishcloths, but I ran out of yarn in Florida and had to buy more. I knit 13 dishcloths on that trip. Some of the most relaxing knitting I’ve ever done. I gave them to a local group raising money for the nursing home. I still knit dishcloths when I need to “get away from it all.” Needless to say, my husband always asks me if I have my driver’s license whenever we go on a road trip. =)

  18. When we lived in NJ, we took a road trip to Key West and back. I realized in Maryland that I forgot my driver’s license. I had enough yarn to knit 4 dishcloths, but I ran out of yarn in Florida and had to buy more. I knit 13 dishcloths on that trip. Some of the most relaxing knitting I’ve ever done. I gave them to a local group raising money for the nursing home. I still knit dishcloths when I need to “get away from it all.” Needless to say, my husband always asks me if I have my driver’s license whenever we go on a road trip. =)

  19. I have committment issues! Before I’ll do an afghan, sweater, shawl in a new pattern or color combo I try it out as a dish cloth. The result is a colorful collection of useful giveaways. Some patterns I will ‘accept’ and use in larger items, others are just dishcloths!!

  20. I have committment issues! Before I’ll do an afghan, sweater, shawl in a new pattern or color combo I try it out as a dish cloth. The result is a colorful collection of useful giveaways. Some patterns I will ‘accept’ and use in larger items, others are just dishcloths!!

  21. I also didn’t enjoy knitting dishcloths, as the cotton was hard on my hands, until I used larger needles! Wow! No more hurting hands. I was using size 8 and I moved up to size 10 1/2 and I love the results. Yes, a bit looser, but it’s a dishcloth and it works great..

  22. So many dishcloth patterns, so little time! Not only good for using up scrap yarns and learning new stitches, but the fact that it’s just a bite-sized project I can frog out and redo until I master the new technique keeps my pile of dishcloths getting bigger. Charts…the bane of my knitting existence…slowly I’m becoming less unhappy with charts as I attempt each cute charted dishcloth pattern. I still can’t get a crocheted edge to lie flat, though. :(
    I will disagree with putting dishcloths-used-as-baby-wipes in the same laundry load as diapers, or anything else. Ecoli bacteria are really pervasive. Make baby wipe dishcloths from a color not used for anything else and keep them out of the kitchen drawer.
    Btw, you can keep the pretty colors of your dishcloths bright is you set the dye after it’s knitted. Soak in a bowl of 2 C hot water with 1/2 C white vinegar added, then rinse and block (or throw in the dryer).

  23. I made washcloths (same pattern) in pastel colors for craft shows about 8 years ago. I didn’t know what to do with the inventory I had left until I had an revelation. I had a new granddaughter and I had lots of washcloths; so I made a twin size blanket. I had knit cloths with white crocheted borders. I laid a pattern out on my bed crocheted them together with a slight lattce pattern.

  24. I made washcloths (same pattern) in pastel colors for craft shows about 8 years ago. I didn’t know what to do with the inventory I had left until I had an revelation. I had a new granddaughter and I had lots of washcloths; so I made a twin size blanket. I had knit cloths with white crocheted borders. I laid a pattern out on my bed crocheted them together with a slight lattce pattern.

  25. I made washcloths (same pattern) in pastel colors for craft shows about 8 years ago. I didn’t know what to do with the inventory I had left until I had an revelation. I had a new granddaughter and I had lots of washcloths; so I made a twin size blanket. I had knit cloths with white crocheted borders. I laid a pattern out on my bed crocheted them together with a slight lattce pattern.

  26. I’ve been knitting wash cloths for about 6 years. At first, I didn’t hear much positive response so I stopped giving them away to my family, but this year the raves have been encouraging me! Even my brother-in-law requested more face cloths. He called them doily-things for the face, and you can bet he got a couple pretty quick. I agree that cotton is a bit harsh on the hands, but the results are so worth it. I have used the larger sz 9 or 10 needles, but I like my face cloths fairly tight, so I fall back on sz 8 most of the time. Also, I do get bored with the larger projects and a little wash cloth is just the break.
    BTW, love the other comments!

  27. I love knitting dishcloths in colours that match friends’ kitchens. They have many advantages over kitchen sponges, and cost so little. It is easy to just toss them is the washing machine, bleach if necessary. They don’t become slimy and smelly, especially lacy ones that dry quickly over the tap. But the best feature is that for older, arthritic hands, they can be easily squeezed out, but are still absorbent enough for any spills. Make them for all the oldies in gratitude for all the spills and messes they wiped up for you. Nothing says ‘I love you’ like a hand knitted dishcloth/ facecloth.

  28. My parents were retired and on a fixed income that was thin…my wish for Christmas one year from them was a dozen hand knit dish cloths. That wish was fulfilled, and I still use them today some 10 years later. I will bring out the holiday sparkle ones today! A true gift of love I cherish with both of my parents now passed.

  29. Dear Kathleen
    I have been wondering about something for ever so long, and I’ve decided now’s the time to get to the bottom of it! 😀
    I’m from South Africa, and here store-bought dishcloths are a dime a dozen, so to speak, and cotton yarn quite expensive…
    I hope I don’t seem disrespectful or rude, but I simply have to find out: why go to all the effort of knitting or crocheting a dishcloth, when they are so cheap to buy?
    To me it seems like I would be too sorry for a hand made dishcloth to ever use it. All the effort to make one, and then I would have to bleach it if it gets stained, and horror of all horrors, throw it away after a couple of months when it really gets too grotty to use anymore. Or am I too sentimental? LOL!
    Anita

  30. A young boy I know was facing a difficult surgery. Too old for a baby blanket, too young for a prayer shawl. I made him a “favorite things” afghan out of stitched-together washcloth squares: sports balls, camping tent, crayons, symbols of things he could think about when he wasn’t feeling well. Knitpicks cottons are the softest ever and easy care. And the raised patterns could be felt as well as seen.

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