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 washcloths 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.)
I 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.
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!
Postscript: Here’s some pics of this week’s baking!