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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

How to Knit a Dishcloth

I learned how to knit when I was in grade school. At first I just did small bracelets and simple pieces. Then I went on to afghans, sweaters, baby blankets and dishcloths. I tried to make some socks once, but I didn't get very far. I didn't have the patience to figure out how to manage five double pointed needles at one time. It is still in there on the shelf. Maybe one day I will pick it up again.

 Most of my hand work is done when I am in the mood for it. I have gone through stages of needlework, quilting, sewing dresses and knitting. Each in it's own turn when I had a notion to work on that particular skill. For many years now I have made our dishcloths. I don't remember the last time I used a store bought dishcloth in our kitchen. Once I tried these, I thought they worked so much better than the traditional cloth or sponge that I have never used anything else. Lately, I have been using up small amounts of different colored yarn I had left over. It makes for an inconsistent color pattern, but I had quite a few leftovers building up and wanted to put them to use. These dishcloths have an edging around them. I only make this pattern if I am going to give them away. For myself, I make a plain square shaped cloth. It's quick and easy.

There are quite a few different patterns for making dishcloths, some are knitted and some are crocheted. I found out long ago that I prefer knitting to crocheting. I just like the looks of it better. For a beginning knitter, I would recommend you make a square dishcloth without any pattern or edging. It is simple to do. This YouTube shows the basics in beginning to knit. It shows how to cast on, which is how to put stitches on the needle to begin a project. It shows how to knit, which is a basic beginning stitch. It also shows how to purl, which is usually the second stitch that is learned in knitting. You don't have to know how to purl to make a dishcloth. And finally, it shows how to cast off, or finish off the stitches so they don't unravel. Watch the video, then I will show you how to make a very basic dishcloth.

To make a dishcloth, you need some cotton yarn and a pair of knitting needles. My mom uses a size 10, I use a size 7 or 8, whichever I find first in my knitting tote. To begin, watch the beginning of the video again and cast on 40 stitches.

One of the things the video doesn't show is how to hold and feed the yarn. It is hard to show with still pictures, but this is how I hold mine. It gives you more control over the tension of the yarn
and how tight or loose your loops are as you work with them. Different people hold their yarn in different ways, so you will have to figure out what works best for you.

If this is your first time to knit, it may take several tries to accomplish this. Don't worry about it. If it doesn't come out right, take it out and start over. Since this is such a small project, it won't take long. And besides, if it doesn't look very pretty or come out exactly right, your dishes won't care! It's not like you are going to wear this.

Next, knit. That's it. Watch the video again on how to do the 'knit' stitch. That's all you have to do until the dishcloth is as big as you want it to be. I try to make them roughly square. Since you have 40 stitches on your 
needle, you may knit about 40 rows. A lot will depend on how tight or loose you knit. When I was younger, my mom used to knit very tightly so she would use bigger needles, and I would have to use smaller needles than the pattern 
called for because I knit so loosely. Now we are both closer to a 'normal' tension. Don't worry about being too tight or loose with your yarn, your dishes won't care!

I pull a bottom corner up to the opposite corner on my knitting needle to try to determine if the dishcloth is roughly square, like this.

When you are satisfied with the size, go back to the video and watch the part on casting off. 


This technique gives the knitting a nice finished edge. If it is the first time you have done this, it may be a little wiggity and crooked, but you should consider it to be a nice finished edge, nevertheless.

That is the great thing about learning something new. There is a lot of leeway for determining success.

Remember the first time you tried to drive a car? Did you scare yourself and whoever was with you to death? Did you make it? Well, think of your first knitting project the same way. 

You can wash these dishcloths just like the cloth ones. Mine usually fade after a while, but again, my dishes don't care. Once you make a few for yourself, make some and give them away. Most women love something homemade, handmade and useful. Dust catchers (knick knacks) are nice sometimes, but something useful is even better. I usually stick a little note on it, or tell the person, "Now you have something to help you wash your cares away." I have also been known to tell someone that prayers were knitted into every stitch, just for them. It is a nice little something that is easy to give away.

Until next time - Fern


  1. My mother-in-law used to make these by the dozens and gave them away as gifts. We are so thankful for them and every time we use them we think of her. She passed over on May 9 this year.

    Our daughter crochets beautifully, but now wants to learn to knit to take up where her grandmother left off; providing the family with dish clothes. They work so nicely as dust clothes, also.

    Your picture of the dish cloth where you used up bits of odds and ends yarn made me smile. Mom used to do that also :).

    What a wonderful tutorial post. Thank you.

  2. Fern-
    I'm a long time shameless and unrepentant knitting addict!
    But believe it or not, I've never knit a dish cloth - no kidding. You have inspired me to grab some cotton yarn & get busy on one :-)

    About socks...don't know if you know this or not, but there are 8" & 12" circular needles. I often use them for top down socks up to the point where the heel is turned. After the heel is turned I used them again until the toe shaping. Makes for enjoyable mindless knitting.To make sure the socks are identical, I knit two socks at the same time on two different needles with two balls of yarn. Drives my knitting purist friends crazy!
    Also there is a method for knitting socks called the "Magic Loop" it knits socks and the round on a very long needle and is a wonderful method for people who don't like fiddling with double pointed needles :-)

    1. Thanks for the ideas and information. If you have done all that knitting, you need to make some dishcloths. They are very easy and great little gifts.


  3. Thank you for such a great post! I haven’t knitted in probably 20 years, and I wasn’t good at it when I did knit. The dishcloths are a wonderful idea and something basic I could start with. Do you have a preference for a type of yarn or yarn weight for dishcloths?

    1. That's a good question. I haven't ever paid attention to the weight before. I buy the standard cotton yarn at Wal-Mart or a hobby store. Here is an example.

      Good luck!


  4. Do you have instructions for crochet?
    Kelly in K'ville, NC

    1. Hi Kelly,

      No, I don't have any since I only knit. Here is a site that has a bunch of crochet patterns. I hope you find something you can use.