An Ode to the Knitted Washcloth

When I learned how to knit, visions of hats, scarves, and sweaters danced in my head. Never did I think I would become an ardent knitter of . . . washcloths!

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My latest knitted cloth – Arc en Ciel. Free pattern at: http://www.knitpicks.com/patterns/Arc_en_Ciel_Dishcloth__D55546220.html

Why in the world would a person spend time knitting something destined to get completely grubby and an item mostly invisible to others? I’m sure each knitted washcloth aficionado has their own reasons, but here are a few of mine.

1. They are superior to anything you can buy. Of course, it depends on what type of yarn you use (my favorite is a cotton linen blend, DK weight) but my knitted cloths make cleaning (dishes, bodies, houses — set aside cloths for each use – don’t mix!) easy and effective. If you knit them with little purl stitches they scrub well. If you make them smooth you are not going to scratch delicate glassware. Taking a long, luxurious bath is so nice when you use something you made! They also win because you can throw them in the wash as often as you like! No stinky sponges. Just rinse in cold water and hang over your faucet to dry between uses. I’ve never had any of my cloths get smelly, but if yours do, I read that a 15 minute soak in vinegar before washing will get them fresh. I’ve also heard baking soda and water will do the trick. But again – if you rinse and hang to dry and wash often, you shouldn’t have a problem.

2. They last forever. 

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These are the knitted cloths that have seen better days. I don’t use them for dishes anymore, but rather for cleaning (counters, windows, dusting, applying shoe polish or cleaner, you get the idea). I think that every knitted cloth I’ve made so far is still in use somewhere in my home! What you don’t see are the myriad old knitted cloths sitting under my oil and soy sauce and vinegar bottles in my cupboard to catch drips (wash them every few months when you think of it – easy peasy!) or the ones sitting invisible under plant pots to protect furniture, or the ones under Woody’s dish because he’s a messy eater.

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Bonus photo of Woody! He of course had to get involved in my cloth photo shoot!

3. You can let out your whimsical side. I would never wear the color combinations all at one time in the cloth I just finished, but boy was it fun to play with all of those colors in a cloth! I also would never wear a sweater with a squirrel on it, but oh do I ever love my little frenemy the squirrel dishcloth!!

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I get out all of my buried cutesy colorful energy in my cloths so I can continue to wear my somber doom and gloom black black black wardrobe (only half kidding! I’ve gotten better with this and have some grey and red and jewel toned and even some flowered clothing now!)! But — the point is — these little cloths let me go wild in a useful way. I get to have lots of fun and produce something that makes me smile. Even if I had fun knitting a hat with cupcakes on it, I’d never wear it. But a cloth? Heck yeah!

4. They are quick, calming, and let you feel a sense of accomplishment. During the semester, most of my brain power not taken by work goes to reading and writing papers, but I can always spare an hour here and there to knit on a cloth. Knitting is extremely stress-relieving for me, and it feels so good to have many finished items during a semester (even a pair of socks will take me an entire semester if I can only work on them here and there). I just started this Reversible Pips cloth yesterday, and I’m already half done!

5. Free washcloth patterns are everywhere. Right now Knit Picks is doing  52 Weeks of Free Dishcloths! Just search Ravelry under dishcloth and check off free and you will get 5,031 hits! You can even take any of your stitch pattern books like a Barbara Walker’s Treasury and pick something fun to try, put a garter or seed stitch border around it, and call it a cloth. There is also the timeless Grandmother’s Favorite — a great one to use if you are just learning how to knit.

What does this have to do with the Life During Wartime Challenge? Plenty! It’s another way to avoid purchasing disposable items and work handmade items into your everyday life. Yarn costs less coupons than ready made (I had the yarn for these items, but you could make over a dozen washcloths with 2 or 3 coupons of yarn). Plus, knitted washcloths were one of the major ways even people with beginner knitting skills (and schoolchildren – – both boys and girls) were able to contribute to war efforts. Knit your bit!

I hope that you enjoyed my Ode to the Knitted Washcloth. Do you knit (or crochet) your cloths? If not, are you curious to try one? Do you think knitting something destined to become covered in grime is silly? Do tell!

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8 comments

  1. If I was a much less slow knitter I would make my own washcloths – but it would take me weeks to do one. I think they’re wonderful – after all, you only have to read Little House on the Prairie to be reminded of a time when we *couldn’t* buy everything from the store! If the end of the world ever happens, we need to make sure we retain these skills! Plus they’re much prettier than bought ones….

  2. This is fantastic. I must try this. I occasionally crochet scrubbing clothes using jute garden twine instead of wool for its abrasive properties but I like this idea. And I reckon it is a good way to use up a lot of the leftovers of yarn I have from my shoes, cardies and sweater projects!

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