Humble Knitting

A few months ago I was invited to a ladies’ afternoon tea/coffee (for lack of a better term) hosted by one of my sweet neighbors.  The host told me one of the ladies there was a long-time knitter, so I introduced myself to the woman as a fellow knitter.  The woman immediately asked what I had been knitting recently.

“Washcloths,” I replied.

“Bah!” was her instant response, with a dismissive flip of the hand as she drew her self up proudly and said, “I’m knitting socks!”

Resisting the urge to slap her, inform her I tired of knitting socks long ago, or describe all the difficult, complicated  items I’ve knit over the last 55 years, I instead headed to the cake table.

Why dismiss washcloths?  Too humble?  Too utilitarian?  BAH!

Why knit washcloths?  I have never liked the thick commercially-made washcloths sold in stores in the U.S. (even if they are part of a matched towel set).  They hold too much water and/or my hands aren’t strong enough to wring them out enough so they don’t drip!  Washing my face nightly with them I would end up with my bottom of my sleeves and the top part of whatever I was wearing soggy and wet.

My grandmother always used small, fairly thin clothes for her ablutions, and I decided to follow her example.  Digging through my substantial stash, I found a partial cone of Peaches & Cream yarn 100% cotton (400g/706y), leftover from a woven waffle towel projects many years ago.  The only other cotton and linen yarns I had, however, were for rug warps, so off to the local store I went.  (It is not a yarn store per se, but it is a local – not chain or big box – store that carries some yarns.)  I selected a couple of balls of Wendy Supreme 100% Luxury Cotton 4ply (100g/267m), Eulali (100g/360m) and Patons Grace 100% mercerized cotton (50g/125m).

Utilitarian, however, doesn’t have to mean ugly or plain.  Going to my bookshelf, I pulled out several books on lace patterns, made some calculations and started knitting.  Some of the lace patterns I knit include:  Sunspots, Little Parachute, Subtle Mesh, Falling Leaf, Ostrich Plume, Lace Lattice, Old Shale, and Mini Hearts.

I found that lace Washcloths2washcloths in smooth, multi-plied thin lace weight Eulali were my favorite.  Peaches & Cream (I think it’s now Lily Sugar ‘n’ Cream) felt rough and thick, so I knit a very simple garter stitch cloth and another using a slip stitch pattern.  Yuck.  (They now sit in a kitchen drawer holding various hot pads and oven mitts.)

Washcloths1I knit probably about two dozen washcloths – keeping a dozen for myself and distributing the rest as gifts.  (By the way, a hand knit washcloth makes a lovely gift especially when wrapped around a bar of handmade goat milk soap!)  Above are two pictures of washcloths I pulled out of the cupboard as I wrote this post.  IMG_6837 - Copy

One of my favorite patterns for a lightweight washcloth turned out to be Subtle Mesh from Barbara G. Walker’s “Charted Knitting Designs: A Third Treasury of Knitting Patterns.”

For beginner lace knitters, washcloths are an excellent way to learn not just how to knit lace but to see how different lace patterns act:  Some contract much more vertically and/or horizontally, others are open and loose, some create a curvy or scalloped cast on edge, others pull diagonally to the left or right.  It’s also an excellent way to see what you might like to tackle in, say, a curtain, towel, scarf, shawl or sweater!  (Newer knitters – or knitters seeking to refresh their skills – who haven’t considered knitting pretty wash cloths may want to take a peek at strikkelysten’s blog.)

I now have a stack of lace washcloths ready for me to grab.  I have a few in the guest bathroom as well, along with some of the heavier commercially washcloths for guests who may be more comfortable with those!

Happy knitting!

Postscript:  Here’s some pics of this week’s baking!

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About sweatyknitter

Fiber art devotee, author, and amateur artisan bread baker.
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22 Responses to Humble Knitting

  1. I’ll give that a try. My knitting has taken a backseat to my writing this April as I write an A To Z. This month I’m writing All About Nancy Drew!

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  2. Try rinsing/soaking them in plain white vinegar.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It seemed to smell right out of the drawer so I’ve put them away for a break! I enjoyed making them.

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  4. I know exactly the smell you mention! I find that rotating to a new face cloth every two days takes care of that. (Perhaps it’s a combo of skin cells, cotton fiber and soap residue?)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I knitted quite a few dishcloths but unless it’s my water I feel after awhile they’d smell right away like soured milk. Haven’t figured it out yet. Recently I’ve learned to knit socks – was intimidated to learn for the longest – I’m enjoying them!

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  6. salpal1 says:

    Oh, sounds very nice! This might be moving up my queue faster now…

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  7. Yes, it was an unnecessary comment … It is unlike me to bite my lip … which is why Thor and I might find ourselves banned from the next neighborhood holiday party! LOL

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  8. Give it a try! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Ever since I was young, I found that the more detail-oriented a project was (e.g., Hardanger), my concentration ended up relaxing me. Weird. But, like you, I tend to have at least one “plain” knit project hanging around for the occasions I don’t want to concentrate! 🙂

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  10. I just ripped out a beautiful sock because I decided I’d rather have a winter head band knit out of the yarn! LOL

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  11. Oh yes indeed!

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  12. I knit a hand towel for the guest bathroom … I used a beautiful thin ecru-colored cotton in the Ostrich Plume pattern. It is beautiful.

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  13. So practical too!

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  14. djdfr says:

    Ah, but lace stitch washcloths, that’s another story. 🙂 Kind of like the squares I knit to send to KAS.

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  15. salpal1 says:

    That woman! I would have been hard pressed to walk away! Good for you. Your washcloths are lovely, and it is a great idea for trying stitches and techniques. Far more useful than a swatch. I have been contemplating dish towels but haven’t gone there yet. You encourage me!

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  16. Susan Mckee-Nugent says:

    Those are very impressive and I bet they feel good also.

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  17. I’m a washcloth knitter as well because of all the fun stitches I want to try but don’t want to commit to a whole garment or project. I knit a whole sock once and I hated it. I also ripped the whole thing back to salvage the yarn. I guess I’m a humble knitter as well. I love all those lacy washcloths you have!

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  18. Good for you for not addressing the response. This has been the best way to try out new and even difficult stitches – even to get better at consistency – with washcloths. It’s been a good way to improve my craft as a knitter and even to pay more attention in weaving. Thanks for sharing!

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  19. writeknit says:

    How sad that the woman you spoke with belittled your knitting. I suspect your washcloths are used much more than most fancy knits. Personally, I knit to relax and while I do make sweaters, etc, it is calming to do washcloths and other “plain” knits. Knit on my friend!!

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  20. What a great way to try out new stitches. You could use them as doilies under plants too.
    I don’t like working in anything other than wool and still can’t master socks– so it’s lots of scarves, shawls and sweaters that keep me busy and with an enormous stash too.

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  21. Oh, so many years ago, I used to knit squares of lace patterns just to find out how they worked but never thought of using one as a facecloth – one certainly lives and learns 🙂

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  22. annatestadoro says:

    What a dismissive comment from another knitter…that’s poor show I think. What a wonderful selection of washcloths on your pictures. I just love them. Makes me want to knit some too. Gorgeous!

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