10 June 2013

Save money with knitted dishcloths

I can't help myself. It's winter here. I have to do a knitting post.

I'm starting to see myself as a dishcloth queen. When I travel around, I ask people if they knit and if they do, if they knit dishcloths. It surprises me that not everyone does this kind of knitting. One of the many aspects of simple life is to home produce what you can in the time you have available. We had some beginners knitting and crochet sessions at the Blackheath workshops and I hope that will start those ladies off on a lifelong supply of dishcloths. 

This knitting is portable, easy and empowering. Since I started knitting dishcloths, I haven't bought Chux or any other dishcloths from the supermarket. They are expensive here costing about $4.50 for a pack of 10 or $6.50 for a pack of 20. If you're buying them and not washing them and reusing, they're costing you somewhere between 35 to 45 cents each. Why would you want to spend that kind of money on something you're going to throw away? Over the years I've saved a lot of money not buying into this commercialisation of dishcloths.  I use pure cotton dishcloths for washing up and facecloths, and rags for the dirty cleanup jobs when you usually need to throw the cloth away. The rags are simply old bed sheets and towels that are on their last legs but are cut into eight inch squares cleaning rags to extend their life.

I use knitting cotton to make my cloths. I usually use plain cotton but sometimes I'll use organic cotton if I'm making some as a gift or facecloths for a baby. Any sort of 100 percent cotton is suitable and you can use whatever size needless you have on hand. I usually use needles anywhere between a 4 and a 6mm. Cotton is the best option because it dries fairly fast, it can be easily washed with the weekly wash and when dried in the sun, the sun will disinfect your clean cloth beautifully. I have about 20 cloths in my kitchen basket so I have plenty to use and replace every day or two. When the cloth is dirty, I hang it over the side of the wash basket so it's not in with the dry dirty clothes. It's just washed with the regular washing and hung out to dry. Used in this way, a cotton cloth will last about five years and in that time it's saved you a lot of money. If you're not knitting or crocheting your cloths I hope this post encourages you to do so.

Start with a slip knot. I'm using a nice Japanese organic 4ply cotton here with 5.5mm bamboo needles. I'm using two strands of cotton on this cloth. If you want a loose weave cloth, just use one 4 ply strand.
 The finished cast on row. When you cast on and off, make sure you knit loosely. If you knit too tight, it will pull in those end rows and your knitting won't be square.
If you're a beginner, don't try this until you're a bit more proficient. For someone who has knitted cloths before, use this stitch as your first row after the cast on. It will give you a smooth and firm bottom edge, not the loopy edge you often get with a plain cast on. It's easy - the stitch is the same as a knit/plain stitch but you start it off by putting your right needle into the back of the stitch.
The half completed second row of knitting into the back of the stitch. You can see the neat edge it gives on the right needle.
And here is the first two inches of the new dishcloth and below, a few more inches. This one will take me one or two days to complete, just knitting when I have a spare hour.

All these cloths are simply cast on, a mix of plain and purl, then cast off.

Your cloth can be any design. Let's face it, your dishes don't care if you are a neat knitter or you knit in plain or purl. All they need is for the stitches to be strung together so that makes these dishcloths the best sort of beginners' knitting. Even if your first cloth looks like a dog's breakfast, it will still be able to be used. Your next one will be better.

If you're a knitter but have never knitted a dishcloth before, start by casting on about 30 - 40 stitches in either 4 or 8 ply cotton. Or you can do what I've done in the photos above and use two strands of 4 ply. Knit into the back of the stitch for the second row. That will stop that loopy untidy border that usually happens to a plain cast on row. Do about 5 rows of plain stitch to make the bottom border, then go on to 5 plain at the beginning and end of the row with whatever stitch to make up the middle of the row. In this example I've used stocking stitch. The 5 plain at the beginning and end will give you a nice border. End with five plain rows and cast off.

If you're learning to knit, and I hope this post will encourage you to start, look at this link: it's a good beginners guide to casting on. It's slow and it gives you a good chance to see the stitches and practise on your own needles. This is a follow on link to learn knit or plain stitch. The next is a guide to doing purl stitch. And finally a cast off guide. That's it!  So your pattern will be:

First row: cast on 30 stitiches
Second, third, fourth and fifth row: knit/plain stitch for the entire row.
Next row: 5 knit/plain stitches, then 20 purl stitches, then 5 knit/plain stitches.
Next row: Knit/plain stitches for the entire row.
Next row: 5 knit/plain stitches, then 20 purl stitches, then 5 knit/plain stitches.
Next row: Knit/plain stitches for the entire row.
Keep knitting those two rows until it's almost as long as you need it to be.
Then finish off with knit/plain stitch for the entire row and repeat that row four more times.
Cast off.

If you have any problems, go to the knitting forum here and I'm sure someone will help you.

That will give you a good dishcloth. It's plain but you're a beginner and it doesn't matter if you make a mistake. Hopefully you'll knit a few of these and improve with each cloth. It's a great way to start knitting. If you're confident after a couple of cloths, look for some new patterns on the web and try something a bit more daring.

I really hope you try this. It might feel strange at first to be holding those needles and cotton while trying to loop, slide and pull, but trust yourself and keep going. Learning how to hold the needles and cotton can be tricky but the more you practise, the better you'll get at it. And if you successfully teach yourself to knit, tick off another life skill you've mastered.

If you're knitting dishcloths, or anything else, I'd love to see it. If you can, put a link with your comment so we can see what you're doing or post a photo on the forum. You never know, your knitting might be thing one thing that inspires someone to take up their needles and start.

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