23 January 2013

Knitting - small and useful projects

Thank you for all the kind and encouraging comments yesterday. It seems that what I thought is a localised drought is being felt world-wide.

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I haven't had a lot of time for knitting lately but every time I sit down, there I am, clicking away. Knitting is such a pleasure for me because I make household cloths I can't buy, make gifts that are unique and it gives me something to do when I sit down, so I feel productive. Knitting isn't something I make time for as a craft, I see it as part of my day-to-day housework, so I knit most days. I use the beautiful yarns from Vivian at Eco Yarns. Their organic cotton is the best I've ever worked with. I'm also using her super fine merino in fingering weight and NZ royal lambs wool for a scarf and matching arm warmers for my sister Tricia. It was her birthday on Saturday so when she arrived here yesterday afternoon, I had a nice little parcel for her.

This top dishcloth is bamboo, the bottom two are pure cotton. All were made using the end pieces and scraps from my yarn stash.

I went through my yarn stash over Christmas and pulled out all the odd and ends. I'm using all of them in the coming weeks to knit up another set of dishcloths. I'd like another 10 so I can retire some of the older ones. When I first started off on the dishcloths, I always used 8ply pure cotton, now I prefer a lighter cloth for washing up. I've knitted up a few of the bamboo scraps and they make a light and useful cloth. They're very soft, fit easily into wine glasses and small sippy cups and they dry out quickly. I've also done a couple of 4 ply cloths on large needles. Using only plain stitch, I get through one in a couple of hours. While I love the look of the fancy dishcloths, and when I give them as a gift I always do up Deb's waffle weave pattern, my own preference is a much simpler cloth. I always do my own cloths in plain garter stitch.

Tricia's pure NZ wool scarf - almost finished.

Are you a knitter? I know very many readers of my book started knitting dishcloths even before they finished the book, and wrote to tell me about it. I think dishcloths and laundry liquid were the first two projects most people tried. I certainly received a lot of mail telling me about grandmas teaching knitting years ago and now this! A welcomed return to knitting via the dishcloth. To me, dishcloths and aprons are symbols of this way of life. They're homemade, simple and part of every productive home. Making a dishcloth is a great way to start knitting. If you can pick up some knitting cotton for a reasonable price, all you need is a pair of needles, the size doesn't really matter because what you're making doesn't have to fit anyone. If you want a tight weave, choose fine needles if you're after a loose weave, choose thicker needles. You could make a beautiful gift for a new baby by making a simple set of organic cotton wash cloths. Knitted or crocheted, what could be better than a set of organic cloths and gentle, nourishing homemade soap. For that the ideal cotton would be Eco Yarn's organic cotton.

Lion's organic cotton made up into a little scarf and held together with half a vintage knitting needle with a  beehive tip.

If you get the knitting bug, see if you can find some thick organic cotton like Lion's Organic. I've made Tricia a couple of cotton neck warmers for winter. She lives in Blackheath and although she loves the cold weather, like I do, she and I both feel uncomfortable if we have cold necks or hands. Enter the homemade scarf and arm warmers. She can wear these in winter and remain warm during the day without lighting the fire. You can make a scarf by casting on as you would for a dishcloth, then knit plain stitch for every row - that's garter stitch. When you can wind it around your neck loosely a couple of times, cast off and sew both ends together. Or, even more simply, when it's long enough to go around your neck once, add a bit more for a twist, then cast off. You'll get a nice looking cowl scarf without having to master the mobius twist.



The wonderful thing about knitting is that you can make useful and beautiful pieces quite soon after you start. All the knitting on this page is very basic, yet it's all useful and will keep the wearers warm or the dishes clean for many years. Start off with simple practical projects and after you develop your skills, move on to more complicated patterns. If, like me, you end up loving the feeling of twisting and turning yarn with sticks you'll always have something to do because when you're a knitter there are always new patterns to be discovered and all those dish cloths to knit.

What's on your needles right now?

Eco Yarn blog - lots of great posts and photos about knitting and some patterns.
At the D2E forum we have a very popular thread to showcase finished knitting projects.
Ravelry - online knitting and crochet community
Eastern European knitting

55 comments:

  1. I so enjoyed this post because I just resumed knitting last year (after a long time away from the needles to pursue other crafts, I learned so young I don't even remember not knowing how to knit) and it was making the Grandmother's Favorite dishcloth pattern. So enjoyable and it's nice to have such a useful result. They make nice gifts, too! Thanks for all the inspiration here. Marie

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  2. I absolutely agree that washcloths and aprons are symbols of this gentler way of life. I'd been sewing my own versions of each, but have always wanted to learn how to knit. Now I'm off to find your book to learn how. Thank you!

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  3. With children at home I don't get much time to knit. I knit in the car whenever we go somewhere. I grab the knitting on the way out the door, Hubby drives and I get projects made in time that would otherwise be wasted. Love it! Such a portable craft.

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  4. I just finished a baby blanket for my niece. She is only two weeks old now :)
    Now I will cast on another hat for her.

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  5. I am not a skilled knitter like you Rhonda, but I am able to make small projects. I was also inspired to make dish cloths after reading about them here. Actually I could not believe that I had not thought of such an obvious and useful thing to make!(I mean I have been buying the knitted ones for years.)

    On my needles will be a pair of woollen socks, very useful here in the UK. I practically wear them around the year in the house. I made a pair in the summer holidays which come just under my knee...oh the bliss- now I want to have an extra pair of those.

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  6. I just cast off a little sweater and bonnet for my girl :) I think I actually first learned to knit by viewing some of the YouTube videos you posted some time ago, Rhonda! It is so true - the knitted dishcloth is the gateway to more complicated projects. This year I'd like to learn how to knit with circular needles. Would you have any video links you could recommend for that?
    Thanks, Jaime

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    1. Jaime, I'll have a look through my archived files and see if I can find something later in the week. I'll include it in Friday's reading materials. I'm a bit pushed for time now.

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  7. I'm currently knitting one of Deb's waffle weave dishcloths but I'm not sure I'm doing it right! It's my time following a proper pattern that requires knit and purl stitches and though I can see a pattern emerging the stitches on the needle don't look quite right. Anyway I will soon find out if it's worked or not! And it can always be undone and tried again.

    My next knitting project will be a little cardigan for my daughter for winter. And yes I am starting that very soon as I'm so slow! Lucky she's only one as anything larger would take me too long to finish! :D

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    1. If you're doing dishcloths for yourself they can be very simple like mine. You'll get through them much quicker if you're not counting lines and stitches. Try one that's entirely plain stitch and see if you like it. xx

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  8. The warm fireplaceJanuary 23, 2013 7:08 am

    Am making a navy aran waistcoat at the moment, just love to knit.
    Sue

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  9. Morning Rhonda, I hope that Hanno continues to be well :)
    I am knitting a pair of socks for my father at the moment. the wool is from Tangled Yarns in Brisbane and is knitting up beautifully. Socks I have found are not as hard to knit as I thought.
    My uncle who is in his late 70s, has knitted socks all his adult life and does a lovely job of them. He sells them at markets and such.
    A friend at work wants me to knit her some fingerless long gloves :) See how that turns out.
    have a good day
    Kathy

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  10. Hi Rhonda,

    I love the pictures of your small projects. For Christmas, I made seven little collars as gifts and used some of my wonderful old buttons with a loop to close them. They are very similar to yours. I also made three for myself. It's amazing how warm just a little bit of a collar around your neck keeps you warm.

    Right now on my needles is a soft pale grey yarn that has a tiny sequin every so often in the yarn. I found it at Big Lots for $1 a skein and I think it's going to be lovely scarf for a friend who has a February birthday. The first five stitches of each row are in garter stitch and the next dozen are in stockinette stitch, then back to five stitches in garter stitch. I've found that scarves made completely in stockinette stitch tend to turn in on themselves.

    So sorry to hear about the drought you're suffering. Hope it lets up soon. I loved seeing all the before pictures...I know you and Hanno have hope of having such a beautiful garden soon, if the drought lets us.

    BTW, yesterday I baked a whole orange cake using your recipe. I didn't have any oranges, so I used two "Cuties", a small clementine. Oh my goodness, your recipe is so good. I even made a custard using your recipe. I love how it compliments the cake so well.

    Happy knitting from Diane in North Carolina!

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    1. Hi Diane, I LOVE the pale greys. Yes, that recipe is a winner. I'd like to try a slice of yours, I'm sure I'd like that. I've also made it with a lemon, good but not as good as the orange.

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  11. I do admire the clever items folk knit.
    I'm a (simple) sewer and like to make practical items too such as napkins and t-towels.

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  12. Hi Rhonda,

    I'm not much of knitter, but I like to crochet, although I've never made a dishcloth.

    Are there advantages to a knitted dishcloth over a crocheted one?

    Also, can I just ask you about the cotton. When I crochet, I like to use wool. I did crochet a scarf out of cotton, but I found that the ends aren't as well behaved as wool when it comes to sewing in the loose ends. (meaning that they seem to be a bit easier to unravel than wool) - you wouldn't happen to have any tips on that would you?

    cheers
    Fi

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    1. Fi, I think the crocheted and knitted dishcloths are very much alike. I haven't found a way to stop the cotton unravelling but I have used cottons that don't. Maybe one of the knitters here will be able to help

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    2. I leave a fairly long thread at the beginning and knit the it in on the third row, and when I have finished I thread the end into a darning needle and weave it back through the cloth.
      Hope this helps.
      Wendy

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    3. My mum gets a teeny bit of clear nail polish on the tip of the threads and blends/binds the threads together so they don't unravel or fray. Not sure how this might go on cloths that get wet all the time but may be worth a try. She does this when she gets a tiny hole on her pantyhose to stop it running into a long ladder too - to prolong their life.

      Love your blog Rhonda. I am usually reluctant to comment but hope this helps. I aspire to lead a simple life (don't do it too well) but always feel inspired and encouraged by you and your community of readers here.

      Robyn

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  13. I started off (from the pattern in the book) knitting my first dishcloth (thrift shop cotton and needles). However after the first few rows of the pattern I wasn't enjoying it and I knew that I wouldn't finish it if I wasn't enjoying it, so I've switched to just plain knitting and am having fun, I just knit a few rows when I sit down and slowly I can see it getting bigger. I'm glad to hear that you just do garter stitch as well! Thanks for sharing that :)
    Judy xx

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    1. That's the way, Judy. Never give up, just change it to suit yourself. That's what I do too.

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  14. I don't knit but I do crochet. Years ago I crocheted wash cloths for my friend and do you know I don't have any of my own! I used lion worsted cotton. Of that's tough stuff, but it turns out so nicely! I have some yarn left over so this long weekend I'm going to make some dishcloths and washcloths. Thanks for the encouragement!

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  15. If I sit down without my knitting for more than a few minutes I start to get twitchy so I know what you mean. I haven't really gotten into the organic cottons or bamboo since I have such an almighty stash but -- one day.

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  16. I too love knitting and have recently taken up crocheting again. I have so many projects on the go at once but I love to have a choice of things to make. I too have knitted piles of dishcloths which I love using however my adult children think I'm weird for using except for my youngest son who asked me to make him some for when he moves into his own place. He is a chef too so I felt somewhat honoured that he wanted me to make him dishcloths. Last year I made and finished heaps of projects and hope to do so this year. Knitting and crocheting are two of the most useful and enjoyable crafts that I do however next on my list is to tackle sewing and embroidery. I would love to do these but although I have had a sewing machine for years, I do not have much confidence in following patterns. Rhonda, do you have any tips or basic projects to begin with?

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    1. I'd start off your sewing with napkins for the table. If you have a lot of cotton in your stash, you could go on to table runners, tea towels, jug covers and small tablecloths. If you want to do some embroidery, go to this link on my blog and it gives some simple instruction on how to do backstitch. There are also some of my patterns there, they all use backstitch. You can use whatever you like there. Read the posts towards the bottom of the page because it gives directions. Good luck love.

      http://down---to---earth.blogspot.com.au/search/label/free%20stitchery%20patterns

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  17. Hallo Rhonda, I am knitting a jumper for my two year old grand-daughter which has Mr Bump from the Mr Men on the front. It is an old pattern as I knit this for my daughter, her mother, when she was about four years old. At the same time I am knitting squares for a blanket which I hope to have finished by next winter. I always like to have some form of knitting on the go.
    Joan A,
    Wales, UK

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  18. Hi Rhonda, hope you are getting some of the rain that is coming down from the North.
    I have been asked to teach a begginers knitting class and guess what I decided would be the perfect starting item ? a dish/ washcloth, easy, quick, useful and not too much outlay for materials....perfect !

    What is on the needles at the moment?, socks on DPN's(of course) a lacey scarf for myself and a scarf for a friend, in a colour that she just discovered suits her beautifully.

    Gloves with half fingers are Fantastic for cold Winter morning sessions with the computer keyboard , mine are 3 or 4 ply, so not too bulky, a very lucky op shop find :)

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    1. About a teaspoon of rain yesterday, Margaret. It's dry again today. Sigh.

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  19. beautiful knitting, since my head injury I have difficulty following patterns so I only knit what I remember from before, mitts socks and plain dish cloths, I'm knitting socks at the moment nothing fancy, just plain socks

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  20. I never learn to knit but I've done a little bit of crocheting. But that been ages ago...Coffee is on.

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  21. I was just last night searching Ravelry for my next project (strictly stash yarn though!). I have quite a lot of dishcloths now, and the original ones I made several years back when I first learned to knit (inspired from your blog) are still going strong.
    I really love that shade of spoft peach in your cowl. Enjoy your time with your sister :)

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  22. I love to knit! Although I've made some larger complicated projects, I really do like smaller useful items. I recently finished small Wristwarmers for my children (4 and 7) and they wear them a lot. Right now I am sewing dish towels and handkerchiefs and adding a crocheted edge.

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  23. Laurie, I would expect that knitting would be good therapy for you. My father had his left fingers cut off when he was a young man and he was taught how to make wool rugs as part of this therapy. I wish you well.

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  24. Well, it seems I ALWAYS have a dishcloth on my needles! :) I need to follow you, Rhonda, and do a clean-out of my stash via dishcloths. A plain-stitch dishcloth (knit diagonally) was my first knitting project; I was taught by a friend. From there, I've gone on to a few more complicated things -- I'm currently working on two sweaters (a little cap-sleeve sweater, from a pattern called "In Threes" off of Ravelry, for a 9-month-old; and a vest/sleeveless-type sweater, from a Lion Brands pattern, for her 7 y.o. sister). Now, I need to learn how to use double-pointed needles -- I'm a bit intimidated by them!

    I find knitting to be so calming and relaxing; it wasn't until I heard you, Rhonda, say that it's just as much a necessary work for the home as anything else that I quit feeling guilty about it -- like I was just doing a needless "craft." Thank you so much for returning dignity to it, and helping me to see EVERYTHING I do for my home and family as valuable and important. --kristin

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  25. Definitely will be knitting some dishcloths. I am also thinks of getting some really fine cotton wool to knit some face washers for Jarvis, always washing grubby faces and hands so think you have given me an ideal inspiration.

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  26. I haven't knitted anything for ages, but I knocked off a quick facewasher in cotton for my DS1 (15) on Monday. It felt really good to be knitting. Big needles and a lacy/garter stitch pattern I made up as I went along had it finished in just over an hour.

    What felt even better is that this was actually a special knitting request from my son. He is thrilled with the final result :)

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  27. i have a summer top on the go, dishcloth, jumper for my sister & recently started on crochet with CALs from DTE forum, also finishing up a jumper for my daughter
    i love crafts, they are so quieting for the stressful mind ...

    hope this drought breaks soon for all of us
    cheers :))

    selina from kilkivan qld

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  28. I've given up knitting and most other hand work until the weather cools off. I just can't keep my hands clean and dry and the work suffers and gets grubby. I'm always 'over' summer by Christmas but this year it's going to be VERY long.

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  29. Actually, I posted yesterday about what I've been knitting. A smallish zippered pouch, lined with quilting cotton; all by hand. A pleasant way to use up some yarn and spend a bit of time.

    http://searchingforabalance.blogspot.com/2013/01/knitted-zip-pouches.html

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  30. On my needles now? A dish cloth! :-)

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  31. I haven't knitted since we've moved house and I've been sick, but I do love knitting.

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  32. I've just taught myself knitting from youtube etc and now have a baby blanket on the go. It's merino wool in cream and burgundy stripes. It's for my friend who is 6 months pregnant. Hopefully I'll get it finished in time! It's very addictive, really looking forward to learning some more.
    Sharleen
    London, UK

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  33. I am knitting a two color baby blanket - it's straightforward garter stitch. I will likely do some sort of crochet edge.

    I love to knit even though I haven't tried any challenging patterns.

    Deanna

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  34. I don't know how to knit, but I do know how to crochet - my husband bought a how-to book, some yarn and a couple crochet hooks when I was on bed rest, pregnant with our daughter. Since I'm a visual learner and not a book learner, he learned how from the book and then taught me. :) He's quite the guy. :)
    I might have to get some yarn and crochet some dish cloths, the homemade ones are my favorite. :)
    have a lovely day!
    -Kristin

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  35. I have been working on a knitted prayer shawl for a friend, a knitted pair of slippers for a future Christmas gift, crocheted baby sweater & bonnet for granddaughter soon to be born and a couple of embroidery projects from several years ago and a lap quilt from a few years ago. I do these projects while I sit in my rocker and watch tv in the evening. I love having several projects going at once so I can pick whichever one matches my mood of the moment.
    I have knitted and crocheted several dishcloths in the past couple of years (that is how I taught myself to knit), and have kept some and given others as gifts. They seem to last forever, much longer than the ones we get from Dollar Store or Walmart.
    I enjoy your gently informative blog very much.

    Vickie

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  36. Rhonda, great companion for your knitted or croceted dishcloths: home scrubber made from onion bags folded many times (35) or so into a flat piece about 4 inches square. Blanket stitch around the edges to hold the layers together well. then single crochet into the stitches to make pretty border. This was on the internet but I cannot find the reference. ( need to use the stiff bags.) I will mail you one if you will send address. thank you for all you do for all of us. dee

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  37. What's on my needles? I have a hand towel using 100% cotton chenille. It's soft and fuzzy and will look lovely on the towel bar in the main bathroom. If it turns out half as pretty as I think, I'm going to have to make many many more!

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  38. Hello, Rhonda. A longtime 'lurker', I am inspired to comment today. When I first came upon your blog, I felt that knitting dishcloths was rather a wacko / fringe element kind of idea. Thank goodness I stayed with you, because under your gentle but wise tutelage on all things down-to-earth, I now read about knitting dishcloths, and it seems like the most natural and obvious thing in the world. Thank you. I'm off to find some spare knitting cotton ... Lesley xx

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    1. Welcome to the other side, Lesley. LOL It's good to have you here with us. xx

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  39. I too love knitting. Nanna and Mum taught me when I was about 10 and I picked it up a few years back, knitting myself and then boyfriend (now husband) a woolen jumper. I am currently using up stash that was garnered from my Mum and Nanna (lots and lots of bits and pieces, synthetics, wools, blends and goodness knows what else) by knitting my kids new winter hats. Black with a roll up ostrich feather brim, hot pink stripes for my daughter, green for my eldest son and I need to pick another colour for my youngest. THEN a hat for me and for my husband then. I have my gauntlets I made a couple of years ago but might make myself some chunkier thicker ones now that we're in a colder climate.

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  40. Knitting dishcloths is like a meditation for me, so relaxing. Now I have found another useful knit--socks. I never want to wear store bought socks again!

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  41. oh my goodness, too many things on the needles ! Sweater for me, sweater for brother, baby blanket (to use up inherited stash from my Mom), mitts for a friend (he wanted a pair with a separate index finger - I'm winging it !). With all these on the go I'm making a concerted effort to NOT cast on anything else LOL.

    I found your blog not that long ago and look forward to your posts. Thank you.

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  42. Socks! I seem to be stuck on a mostly-sock-knitting phase, and am enjoying it. I only wish the socks would last as long as my cotton knitted washcloths, which seem to be lasting forever!

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  43. I love my hand-knit dish clothes (although I use them for face clothes!). This week my son has suffered from awful night fevers (103F/39.4C). The DRs have told me to put cool, wet clothes on him - forehead, under arms, etc. Never put a feverish child into a cold bathtub as that is too much for their nervous system to handle. His favorite clothes are the soft, hand knit ones! Today he is much better, phew! Cheers! Evelyn

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