2 February 2008

Buying quality ... and cotton

It's always seemed a good idea to me to buy the best quality I could afford whenever I purchase anything. That is even more important when you're trying to live well on less money. It might sound strange, because the quality items are usually more expensive, but you will find that investing a bit more in what you buy will pay you back with length of service. Part of our philosophy is to look after what we own with careful laundering and storage, and when we do that, good quality items generally last longer than lower quality.

I have been guilty in the past of buying goods just because they're cheap, but I usually regretted it. They never lasted the distance. I had to buy two sheets last week as I put one of our old sheets out for rags and tomato ties around Christmas, and then last week there was a rip in another sheet. I mended that last sheet but decided to see what was still available in the January sales; sure enough, we got a nice bargain.

I always buy cotton sheets and we picked up 100% pure cotton white fitted sheets for $35 each, on sale reduced from $70. They have deep gussets at the corners, so no pulling the sheets to slip them over the mattress, and they're 450 thread count. I like to buy Australian products but they're becoming harder to find now so we settled on what Hanno found and am happy with them. They are a Chinese brand - Pure Zone. I washed them both and after drying in the sun, one went on the bed. It's lovely to sleep on, I think we made a good choice.

When I made the bed with the new sheet, I added a top cotton sheet I bought in the 1960s and a cotton duvet cover, bought in the 1970s. The pillow slips were bought in the 1990s. No, it doesn't match, but I'm not one to match anything, as long as it's clean and fresh, I'm happy enough. What I'm after is comfort, not matching colours or patterns. I think my bed looks good anyway, even though that top sheet is over 40 years old and the duvet cover is close to that. What matters is that the bedding is clean and in good order, and that the bed is comfortable.

We also had another reason to be pleased with good quality purchase made a long time ago. Our microwave broke last week. It's a Sharp convection microwave that we bought over 10 years ago. I put some kartoffel puffers in to warm up the other day and weird blue lights and strange noises started. Hanno took it to the local repair shop, we got it back the same day and it was fixed for $59.

I know it's difficult sometimes to justify extra dollars when you're buying household items. When you're making your decision to purchase, check the quality and country of origin as well as the packaging. Try to buy good quality cotton or linen if it's a fabric item. If it's an appliance, ask around and check out Choice, or your local consumers advocate for information about your purchase. Try to buy what will last and not something that just fills the gap until you have to buy the same thing again.

I'm not obsessed with cotton, really. ; - ) This is in response to one of the requests for information made a couple of days ago. The dishcloths I make are 100% pure cotton, usually from Italy. I would love to find Australian 4 or 6 ply cotton but in all my searching, I've never found it. The brand of the cotton below is Moda.

I usually do a basket weave pattern because it's easy to keep track of. Cast on 50 stitches and do two rows of plain knitting. At the beginning of a row start doing 5 plain, then 5 purl and repeat to the end of the row, do five rows of that. Then, to get the basket effect, start your row with 5 purl, then 5 plain, and repeat till the end. Do five rows of that then go back to the row starting with 5 plain. If you do ten rows of alternating plain and purl, you'll have a square. End off with a two rows of plain and cast off.

I use these cloths for washing up, wiping down the kitchen bench and as face washers. I'm also knitting a set of black cloths to use for cleaning the bathrooms. They make a lovely gift with a cake of home made soap. Last week I gave my friend Anna a gift of a handmade cloth and soap, with one of my home grown luffas. It was her birthday so I made a card and presented it all in a plain brown paper bag. She loved it.

Even when I'm knitting something else, I usually have one of these dishcloths on the go as I can easily pick it up and knit a few rows while talking to someone or when I'm sitting outside. I see these dishcloths as a symbol of my simple life. They're homemade, have various uses, last a long time, may be given
as gifts, and are one of those gentle projects that connect me with the practical, rehabilitative and creative part of daily life.



  1. Your dish cloths are really lovely! I t pays to shop around and buy the best quality you can afford. I think your bed looks cozy. :)

  2. I would like to learn how to knit and crochet. At the age of 10 I used to go to a knitting group with our neighbor lady. I made a set of slippers and a scarf and do you think I can remember how to do any of it? lol Your bed looks very comfy -- makes me sleepy! Take care.


  3. Rhonda,

    450 thread count? Wow! I'm lucky if I can find 300 thread count at a good price. 700 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets are readily available but pricey!

    I have noticed a rise in interest for bamboo sheets. I'm curious, what are people's thoughts on Bamboo sheets -- has anyone used them? Are they worth the price? Has anyone used hemp sheets? Again, worth the price?

    Your bed looks comfy btw :)

    I completely agree with you in that you should pay out more money on a good quality item than buying a cheap item to get you through the interim.

    Thanks for the info re: cotton yarn. I use a product called: Bernat Handicrafter which is made in Canada and is 4 ply. Italian yarn is difficult to come by here. Infact, I don't think there is any locally owned store in town that sells yarn. All are big box stores. However, there is a local Hemp store which I might check out this month and see if they have any yarn like products.

  4. Hello Tracy dear, thank you.

    Kristina, there are a lot of wonderful sites online that have good photos and tutorials for knitting novices. It's an easy skill to master, I find the most difficult part is reading patterns. I'm starting a how to knit class at my Centre soon.

    Maggie, I haven't used any bamboo products but I've heard they very good and being from renewable bamboo forests, are sustainable.

  5. Rhonda,

    I have heard that bamboo can grow over a foot a day, thus, it is a great 'green' product. I've also heard that clear cutting of forests is occurring in order to grow bamboo. A bit of a catch 22.


  6. Rhonda,
    I think your gift that you gave sounds just wonderful, who wouldn't enjoy that I am sure.

    Your bed looks comfy & cozy, and I didn't even see it as not matching until you mentioned it. You are right, it doesn't matter.

  7. Hi Rhonda, thank you for another wonderful post, I so enjoy my daily visit with you :)

    Why black cloths for the bathroom?... just because, or is there a reason?

  8. Love your blog, Rhonda. I crocheted a dishcloth for myself a couple of months ago as a test to see if I would enjoy taking up crochet again (haven't done any since I was about 12). I used a very cheap ball of cotton string. It made a square about 18cm a side. The colour is taupe-like. The texture was very rough to crochet with, my fingers felt a little bruised and scaped, but the square is done and I'm even using it to wash dishes. It was rough to use at first and very stiff, but as I use it I'm noticing it is softening quickly and becoming much more absorbant. It's now starting to feel like a dishcloth should. Although it doesn't come in a multitude of different colours, I think it could be a good cheapskate alternative.

    Kate (from Brisbane)

  9. The children are back at school and I have been shopping. I found Lincraft had some cotton yarn Australian made Cleckheaton brand 'Fiddle de dee'. Seems to be similar weight to the Moda cotton I have used in the past(purchased from that other chain store, Spotlight).
    Still at home and still enjoying your blog. Thankyou.

  10. Rhonda, you can buy 200g balls of Australian cotton through Bendigo Woollen Mills. They have an on line shop. It's $11.50 for 200g. They also have a great range of knitting yarns and if you spend more than $30 the postage is free. I haven't had a problem with any of the yarn I've bought from them. ( I'm not getting a commission, I just thought I would let you know).

  11. Rhonda-another lovely post. I love my knitted and crocheted dishcloths, but I also wonder why you are choosing black for the bathroom. I use a bit of bleach when I clean so I always use old white towels-is there a reason for the black that I am missing? I love your bed and am glad I am not the only one with duvets and sheets from the 70's-some are a bit funky colored but they are soft.

  12. Hi Rhonda,

    I read your blog everyday for inspiration and ideas.

    Here is a link to Bendigo Woollen Mills. They have 4 ply and 8 ply cotton, not 6 ply unfortunately. It's a start.



  13. I've been collecting cotton from the local second hand shop. I can usually find a few different balls (some not even used!) for a dollar or two each. Might be a good alternative?

    Of course, now I just have to go search out my needles and actually get to knitting.


  14. Some name brand discount stores in the US such as Tuesday Morning or T.J. Maxx get really great deals on quality sheets. I bought a set of Ralph Lauren sheets once for around $60.00. I had seen them in a large department store for over $300.00 (and lusted for them, but had to pass them up). Same sheets and quality, just last season. I'm still using them and that was several years ago.

    Thanks for an inspiring blog :)

  15. Some Australian cotton currently on ebay.

  16. Rhonda, see Bendigo Woolen Mills for Australian cotton http://www.bendigowoollenmills.com.au/products.php?cat=9

  17. I agree with the buy the best you can afford. I was lucky enough to buy kingsize cotton sheets for $20 (down from $80) last year and love them. The old sheets are being resized to fit my daughters new double bed.

    I found some cotton thread yesterday for $1. I wanted to try knitting dishcloths but after a couple rows knew I'd be quicker at crocheting them. I chose navy for the bathroom and a pretty green for the kitchen. Am just using granny squares, have made them before and found the granny square ones where my favourites. I have already crocheted 2 cloths out of the first ball and still have thread left, possibly another half a cloth worth.

  18. Rhonda, what size needles do you use to knit your dshcloths?

  19. Hi Rhonda,

    Thank you for another inspiring thread. You must have been reading my thoughts or to put it another way, your philosophy is beginning to affect me;-D

    I was in the shops yesterday and saw a very pretty duvet set in the sales. When I picked it up and looked closely I realised that not onlt was it polycotton (and mainly poly at that), but that I could easily see through the material, it was that thin, and my first thought was "that would be too thin to use as rag wipes even now". Needless to say, I didn't buy it.

    As for bamboo, in my more affluent days I purchased a bamboo outfit from a folk/music festival I was at. It is the loveliest soft and silky material to wear and is warmer than silk. Strangely enough it was imported from Australia.

    Ps. your new photograph at the top is lovely, I so want to have a go at making some soap when I finally have a kitchen and cooker.

  20. Hello everyone! Thank you for the great comments. Thanks also to everyone who wrote about the Bendigo mill cotton. I found the website and will order some when I have my next pocket money, it's exactly what I was looking for.

    Tamara, secondhand shops are a great resource, aren't they. I'll have to look for cotton on my next trip.

    Kate, I love your idea of knitting with string. That would also be a good idea on circular needles for string bags.

    abundantly, the needles are size 8.

  21. Another thing to watch in your thrift shops is for gently used cotton sweaters, as long as the yarn is thick enough for your needs. See a good tutorial here (nayy)

    for what to look for in the sweater and then how to disassemble and ravel out the yarn. This is a great source for most dishcloth knitting. Wash the sweater first but don't worry about the crinkled yarn, it won't be noticeable in the finished items.

  22. Our dishwasher (purchased some 3 or 4 years ago) only uses 18.5 litres of water per wash so is far more economical for us to use instead of handwashing. Also I end up with dermatitis if my hands are in water too long (good excuse eh?!)
    Your bed looks so cosy and comfy ... I had a quick peek at your blog this morning and it inspired me to clean out my linen cupboard today.. thank you (I think)....great bargain on the sheets.

  23. Your dish cloths are very pretty! I love knitting as well. Although, I have only knitted scarves, and I made a sunglasses case once.
    Have a great day.
    I do alot of crocheting too. Come visit http://creativecombustion-crafts.blogspot.com

    God bless!

  24. Hi there,
    I've worked for Pure Zone for about 4 years now, and we're actually an Australian company! Not all of our products are Australian made but they're all manufactured exclusively for us. We only make 100% cotton sheets - excepting our new bamboo/cotton blend sheets which are absolute heaven to sleep in (if I do say so myself!).
    Glad you enjoy our product!

  25. I was lucky to be given some off white cotten knitting yarn which i used to crochet some dish cloths , which I havn't done before and they will out last the rag bag ones I am in the throws of using up, just have to remember to chrochet them a little bigger than you think you will need to allow fro shrinkage. As fro cotton sheets I came across some in a charity shop for £1.50 for a double and bought all they had as they were hardly used and even still had the laundry mark on them. soom I hope to make a very pretty bed set.
    thanks fro the inseration and the nudge that sometimes I/wee need is that thrifty isnt always cheep.

  26. Regarding bamboo - it is being touted as "sustainable" because of the rate of growth, but as Maggie said in some cases forests may be cut down to make room for bamboo. The bigger problem for me is that bamboo fibers are chemically treated to make cloth (it is really expensive to mechanically treat the fibers, so almost all bamboo fabrics are chemically treated). Essentially bamboo cloth is the equivalent of rayon (chemically digested tree fibers).

  27. Hi Rhonda,
    Thank you for this helpful post. If you were interested in getting Australian cotton, the Bendigo Woollen Mills sell 4 and 8 ply cotton which you can order online (http://www.bendigowoollenmills.com.au/). I have always assumed it was Australian cotton, since their wool is, but I may be wrong. Worth checking out if you're interested. x


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