The evolution of the dish cloth

24 July 2009
A reader asked me to write more on dishcloths - she is having problems with the cloths she knitted because they're too thick and don't dry out properly. I had the same problem with some of my Lions cotton cloths. They're fine in summer, but in winter they don't dry out well. I also found some of the thick cloths aren't very good for cleaning delicate things like wine glasses or fine vases.

My dishcloths needed to evolve, I needed to make lighter cloths. So using no real pattern I made a few lighter cloths using 4 ply cotton or 2 ply cotton - the traditional crochet cotton. If you only have 8 ply cotton, you could try knitting with larger needles to give you a looser weave and a not so thick cloth. I'm really happy with the new cloths - I use a light one about 50 percent of the time. They're easier to work with, especially now it's colder, and I find it's much easier cleaning glasses with the lighter cloth.

If you're trying to stop buying disposable items at the supermarket, home knitted dish cloths will fill that spot where you used to buy sponges or cotton cloths from the shop. Eventually they get too grotty to use and most people throw them out. The idea behind the cotton dishcloth that you make yourself, is that it's stronger and therefore can be washed with the normal washing many times before it starts showing signs of age. I have cloths here I've used for three years and they're still going strong.

I usually have about 15 - 20 cloths in my wire basket waiting to be used at any one time. I can change them every day if I want to but usually change them every second day. They're highly absorbent and can be used for a variety of household chores like dusting, cleaning, and polishing. I use different cloths in the kitchen, the laundry and the bathroom. All are colour coded so I know where they go back to after they've been washed and hung in the sun to dry.

This is 4 ply cotton at front and 2 ply at back (red and beige).

Knitting dishcloths is a good practical exercise if you are new to knitting. It will teach you your basic stitches and in the end, you have something you can use in the home. Do enough dishcloths and you'll slowly gain the confidence to tackle larger items. Keep in mind, you can practise any new stitches on your dishcloths before you try them on a jumper or scarf.

One of the best gifts to give either man or woman is a bar of home made soap and a knitted wash cloth. So if you haven't yet fallen for the old fashioned charms of the knitted cloth, think of those gifts and grab your needles.

Here is a lovely pattern for a knitted cloth from I live on a farm.
And some new (to me) patterns at Tipnut.
A link to the type of cottons I'm talking about.


  1. What fun. My grandma taught me to crochet when I was about 12. Not sure I can even remember how. Do love the washcloths tho.. I have gotten some as gifts once. I love your blog and am fairly new to blogging I am trying to build my following and would love to have you follow me back or help me get other followers.
    Thanks :))

  2. I haven't like dishcloths I've tried so far, but I like your idea about using less bulky thread. I'll give it a try. I love to crochet.

  3. Thanks for the links to new dishcloth patterns Rhonda! I just started to learn to knit this year and I am still stuck on dishcloths but love making them.

    I am going to attempt to make the fingerless gloves tonight as it looks easy as well.

    Have a great day! :)

  4. hi rhonda, i love the knitted dishcloths. it is all i use. i also knit them to give to other people. on the last set of comments, one lady commented about knitting being expensive but i have found that when i visit the second hand shops i have been able to pick up all sorts of yarn for knitting (some for dishcloths too). i mostly make the waffle pattern i found on your blog. to dry my dish cloths in the winter, i place them on the top of the gas heater (it is safe).

    sophie in new zealand

  5. Love the picture of your dishcloths in the basket! I'm having a bit of a problem understanding about the cotton but from the pictures, it looks like the 2 ply must be what we consider crochet thread in the US and the 4 and 8 ply must be what we call cotton yarn. Do you use the 2 ply as a single strand when you make your cloths?
    Love your blog - can't wait for it to appear each day!

  6. You have wonderful timing! I'd just decided in the last few days that i needed to make myself some dishcloths but wasn't sure how to start and up pops your post in my reader. thank you rhonda!

  7. RHonda I am so thrilled you decided to write again about dishcloths... I have started and re started my first one.... even though I am a very novice knitter I am finding it hard because the cotton has no give in it.... and my hands feel so tired after a few rows.... I am using Moda Vera Supremo cotton.

    I am determined to conquer it though!!

    Lynette from Adelaide

  8. I have also experimented with other natural fibres and will share the results:
    Bamboo yarn is way too soft and the cloths disintegrate when any kind of scrubbing force is used!
    Linen yarn works quite will but is slow drying. Don't worry if at first it doesn't seem to absorb- this is only when they are very new. Persist with wetting them and after a couple of washes they will absorb well.
    If drying is a problem, look for a warm spot, such as near a heater (safely of course) or on the door of the oven if you are cooking.

  9. I stopped knitting years ago and don't know why. I always enjoyed making scarfs and such. I am looking forward to starting again with dishcloths this coming winter. It allows me to slow down and work with purpose. Thank you!

  10. Hello everyone!

    Lizbeth, try crocheting a looser pattern with lots of open bits. It will make a lighter cloth.

    Good luck with the gloves, Debbie.

    Sophie, I get some yarn from the thrift shop otherwise I buy at the end of season sales. I just went this morning to buy some Australian Merino pure wool to make Hanno a jumper. I got it on sale at 33% off. Yipee! I tend to stockpile wool and cotton, buying as much as I can afford when it's on sale, then use it when I need to.

    Mike's girl, yes, that's right - the knitting cotton is 4 ply and the crochet cotton is 2 ply. I use a single strand of 2 ply when I knit with it. If you look at the photo of the red and beige cloth, it's 2 ply knitted with one strand.

    Lynette, I have used Moda Vera Supremo and I find it difficult to knit with too. Lovely colours, but it slows me down.

    Cindy, get those needles out again please. Knitting with a purpose - yes!

  11. Hello Rhonda, I have knitted several types of dishcloths and my favourite is one knitted in 4 ply semco Milford knitting crochet cotton knitted double on size 5.00 metric, (size 6 imperial )needles in the Grandmother's Favourite Dishcloth pattern.It knits up looser and I find because of the way it is knitted it wrings out more easily.My son prefers the straight knitted ones so I guess it is all about personal preference.


  12. Rhonda, I just got done doing the dishes with your dish cloth that I received today and I loved it! I was hesitant to wash my grungy dishes with something that someone had worked so hard to make, but I figured that you made it for me to do the grungy work with, right? It worked beautifully. I might have to make a few more myself!

  13. I actually just was taught how to knit by my husband. I bought a book at the dollar store that was basically "knitting for dummies" and I couldn't figure it out. LOL DH read the book, learned how and taught me. I'm working on my 2nd dish cloth, I can't whip those puppies out fast enough!!! I LOVE THEM!!!

  14. Hi Rhonda, I'm checking in along with the lurgy but it's the non-oinking variety. ;-)
    I imagine there will be a few references to plys and yarn weight -- Aussie and American knitting are still struggling to speak the same language. There is a useful (US) site to get over 5000 yarn profiles/descriptions.
    Enter a yarn name and it will give you info such as yarn weight, fibre content, tension/gauge, etc. Cheers.

  15. Ah, now you made me want to make dishcloths! I like washing dishes with sponges, as compared to simple rags my mom's using, because the sponges are more "substantial", they're easier to hold and work with for me, the rags soon get very thin and holey - but the knitted dishclothes seem like a good compromise. I've always liked them here on your page, but wasn't sure about their use... And as I like knitting much more than crocheting (which always ends up very tight in my hands), this is easy for me... I'm using sharpened wooden sticks (those used in kitchen) for my needles. :-)

  16. thank you for this rhonda! the bulk has been my reason for not *loving* hand knit cloths up until now... can't wait to get my hands on this type of yarn. :)

  17. Hi Rhonda,
    I am fairly new to your blog as I only found it this year but I am loving it. Thankyou for your time and effort you put into it.

    I actually knit my dishcloths with a blend of bamboo/cotton and love it. I noticed there was a comment about it being much to soft and perished but I don't have that problem at all. I love the bamboo combination as it is really absorbent, feels really soft to touch, it dries relatively quickly and it is isn't that expensive to buy.

    I generally knit my dishcloths in seed stitch, 20cm x 20cm so depending on how many stitches to 10cm (usually found on the label) then double them.

  18. I've been experimenting with different crochet patterns, I made a couple of dish cloths last weekend and I'll probably try one to see if it works. If not, I'll try a different stitch. My sister is learning to knit, I'm going to send her a couple of my crocheted dish cloths until she gets a chance to knit some.

  19. My mother-in-law used to knit and we have dish-cloths that are 18years old and they are still going strong.

  20. rhonda-
    when you knit the cloth in the photo with 2 ply, what size needle and how many cast one?? I have not knit with something that fine and wondering how you achieve the size cloth and weave pictured...thanks

  21. What a timely post -- I just told myself this morning that I would go to the store and pick up some cheap cotton to knit dishcloths during the weekend. I like the idea of colour-coding them by use.
    I really like the Chinese Wave Dishcloth (

  22. My mom loves knitted dish cloths. I just never got used to them I guess. I used to knit when I was young, haven't done it in ages. I may try it later. It's just not the season for me to try it now. It'd make a good present for her if I could, or had the time to.

  23. My daughters are just learning how to crochet. They want to make washcloths to give as gifts for christmas. I notice that yours are knitted. Do you have any sites that you might recommend for crocheted ones?

    We have been slowly working on things so that most of our gifts are homemade this year.

  24. I have been on a bit of a crochet wash/dish cloth kick lately. It is so addictive as they are quick to make and there are so many patterns to play with. In the end you have something so useful and practical. Until I started making these I had no idea how much better they are to use than the shop bought variety. I have posted all the links to the patterns I have used on my blog.

  25. The only porblem I have with knitted dishcloths is they disappear ...the boys love them for washing the cars with etc etc trouble is they never make it back to the house they just live in the garage now. So starting to knit another round of cloths for INSDIE the house hear that gang INSIDE.

    On another note I just made my fourth batch of laundry liquid this one will last me until about November. In this batch I used the last little bit of Borax i still have heaps of washing soda, enough for probably three or four more batches.

    So on the one year anniversary of making my own laundry liquid i can now tell you it has cost me less than $8.00 for the whole year!!! And we are a family of nine.

    Thanks Rhonda - again.


  26. thank you for your inspiration, I started knitting my dishcloths today. It may take me a year to finish them all though.
    At least I might become a better knitter with all of the practice. I picked up a heap of balls of 4 ply cotton today for $1.80 each, I thought that was a bargain.

  27. Hello, Rhonda -- I love knitting dishcloths, and was totally taken aback when, this Christmas, I gave my mother-in-law two and her response was: "Oh, now I have to decide if I want to use them for dishcloths, or for washcloths!" I had never thought of them being used for the latter, though it makes perfect sense.

    Someone already asked about your needle size, and I want to second that question. Do you use a smaller size needle when knitting with the 2-ply yarn? I usually use a US 7 or so when knitting with 4-ply, and wondered if that would make the more delicate yarn too "lacy" or loose in the finished product. Thanks for the wonderful blog, as always! kristin

  28. Rhonda, I was just thinking about this the other day. And then you pop up with it. ;0) My Love and I prefer the thinner cloths and I was thinking I could use the crochet cotton to make them. Thanks for the confirmation and nudge to do so.

  29. I have some of my grandmother's dishcloths. Hers are more open work crochet. These are lighter and easier for the more delicate things like wine glasses.

  30. Dear Rhonda,

    I've crocheted a few dishclothes now, and my DP - the dishwasher in our house lol - LOVES them. I'm doing up more for our house, as well as gifts.

    I have some bamboo cotton, and was thinking they would make lovely washclothes in the bathroom - nice and soft, good for bub!

    Take care oxox

  31. Thank so much for blogging about this! I have made my own dish/wash cloths for the last several years & LOVE them! I enjoy knitting them while I sit & watch T.V. w/my husband, I feel like I'm still DOING something & not JUST sitting. So glad to find someone else who enjoys them, too.

    Blessings from Ohio...

  32. Hello,

    For people who have tried crocheted dish cloths and found them too thick, try knitted ones. I crocheted one and didn't like it, but I love my knitted cloths. Knitted fabric is thinner than crocheted. I'm making a bunch of cloths to have on hand for gifts.


  33. I love the dishcloths. Saves money.

  34. I'd like to third the question about needle size. I usually use a US size 6 or 7 when knitting dishcloths with regular yarn, but I took a look at crochet cotton this weekend and I'm wondering if that wouldn't make too open and lacy a cloth. What size do you use, and do you find you have to increase the number of stitches with the thinner cotton?


  35. This post was full of helpful information! I love the idea of keeping them in a little basket. I was given a couple as a gift once, but have yet to make my own. You've inspired me, thank you! (smile).

  36. Thank you for posting another option for handmade dish cloths. I find I like a variety for different uses. I make dense 3x5 inch clothes to wash my dishes at work before packing them up again. I don't have a problem with them drying out as I always rinse well and microwave them for two minutes before storing under the sink. I don't have the option of frequently changing out the clothes and they seem to stay fresh longer. I also use antibacterial dish detergent at work to keep down contaminants. At home I use a biodegradable detergent.



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