Whether you're making quick, last-minute gifts or trying to stock a craft booth, hand-knitted dishcloths offer a nice balance of time investment and benefit. They don't take very long to knit, and pretty colours and stitch patterns turn something the recipient was obligated to look at and use anyway -- everybody needs dishcloths -- into a work of art. In fact, coming up with an original pattern for your dishcloth may be the hardest part of the project.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Things you need
- Stitch dictionary
- Cotton or cotton-blend yarn
- Knitting needles
- Measuring tape
Review a stitch dictionary, or any of the many dishcloth patterns readily available online, to find a stitch pattern for the body of your dishcloth. Usually you'll use a single stitch throughout the entire cloth. You can create a "sampler" of several different stitch panels, but as a general rule, simpler is better for such a utilitarian project.
You can also draw inspiration from other knitted items. The mesh pattern you used to knit a shopping tote might make for a good scrubbing dishcloth, and even the ribbing pattern on a sweater cuff transfers well, although you should stay away from patterns like intricate cables, which aren't likely to stand up to the wear and tear of regular kitchen use.
Select yarn to show off the pattern you've chosen. As a general rule, the more complicated the stitch pattern you chose, the simpler the yarn should be in terms of colour and texture. But if you're doing something as simple as a garter-stitch dishcloth, bring on the bright, colour-changing yarns, or even switch from one yarn to another to create bold stripes. Sturdy cotton yarns or cotton blends are usually your best choices for dishcloths; they wear well, and do a decent job of absorbing water.
Decide on a finished size for your dishcloth. Ten inches square is a fairly standard size for dishcloths, but one of the beauties of hand knitting is that you can customise the item to suit your tastes, or the recipient's tastes if you're making a gift.
Knit up a 4-inch-by-4-inch or larger gauge swatch with your chosen yarn, working in the stitch pattern you chose. Start with the knitting needle sizes recommended on the yarn wrapper. If the stitch pattern looks too loose, switch down a needle size and knit another swatch; if the pattern is too tight, use larger needles.
Lay your measuring tape across the gauge swatch and count the number of stitches in a 4-inch length. Divide that number of stitches by 4 to get the average number of stitches per inch. For example, if you knitted 20 stitches in 4 inches, that averages out to 20 / 4 = 5 stitches per inch. Do the same calculation for rows, measuring to see how many rows you knitted in 4 inches, then dividing the figure by 4 to calculate your average rows per inch.
Multiply your averages stitches per row by the desired finished width of your dishcloth. This tells you how many stitches wide the dishcloth will be. For example, if you knitted 5 stitches per inch and want your dishcloth to be 10 inches wide, you'd need to cast on 50 stitches. You can then either knit until your dishcloth is the desired length, or multiply the average rows per inch by the desired length to calculate how many rows you need.
Write down the pattern you created. This ensures that each dishcloth you create will be the same, and if somebody comes back and asks you for more in the future, you'll have a ready-made reference. The key information you absolutely must include in order to be able to duplicate the project is: Knitting needle size, yarn type, finished size, stitches per inch, the basic stitch pattern, and how many stitches to cast on.
Tips and warnings
- These instructions assume that you're knitting straight across the dishcloth, starting at one end and working to the other. This creates even, patterned rows straight from edge to edge of the cloth. If you want your rows to run diagonally, start by casting on a few stitches in the corner, then increase one stitch every row until your knitting measures as wide as you want the diagonal of your dishcloth to be. Then decrease one stitch every row until you can bind off at the opposite corner, with the same number of stitches as you originally cast on.
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