Ditching the plastic: cotton dishcloths

Good marks for us for always using reusable dishcloths, not ‘disposable’ one.  Bad marks for us that until recently all of them were made of synthetic microfibres, which we now realise release microscopic plastic fibres into the water every time we use or wash them. I have continued to use them for a while, waiting to decide what to change to.  But now they have reached the end of their life (wearing out), so….

Time for a change.

In years past I knitted all our dishcloths from cotton yarn, and that’s what I’ve begun doing again.  At first I just used up oddments of cotton yarn I already had, and I found/developed a few simple patterns I enjoyed doing.  Now I have bought some more pure cotton yarn, and have developed another (rather zingy!) pattern that I’m loving making.

I was looking for a compact, easy (no concentration needed) project to do on holiday, and now I’ve found it.  I’m making us a replacement set of different coloured cotton dishcloths, enough for a clean one every day and a few in the wash.  I’ve bought a pack of cotton yarn with lots of different colours and I’m having fun playing around with combinations.

Two ‘problems’ solved with one solution.  I now have plenty to occupy my hands while I’m on holiday; and at the end of my holiday I will have a full set of new cotton dishcloths to use.  I may even go on to knit some to sell in the City Farm shop.

Here are a couple of simple variations, in case you’d like to have a go yourself.  These will work with any 4 ply or double knit yarn (choose natural plant fibres though).

Pattern one: the zigzag – you could simply use one colour, or as I have done here, two colours.  I’m using 4 ply yarn, with 2.5mm needles (I managed to find a double ended needle just the right size in a charity shop – perfect for someone like me who often drops and loses one needle!).  For a looser finish, use a slightly larger needle.  Play around till you find what works for you.  I find these each use about 30g of yarn, give or take a gram or two either way.

  • Cast on 72 stitches (or any multiple of 12).  I’m using the 2 needles cast on for these.
  • Every row is knitted the same: *K5, k2 tog, k4, k twice into next st.*  Repeat * to* to the end of the row.  Turn and repeat.
  • Start with a dark colour.
  • To achieve the zigzag stripe effect, change colours after two rows.  You will find that the new colour is waiting there for you.  If you hold the old colour taut at the back for the first few stitches of each new stripe, you’ll find the colours weave neatly along the side without any looping.
  • Complete 38 stripes plus one extra dark stripe to finish.  Cast off all stitches.  Sew in the ends.

Pattern two:  the corner-to-corner – this  is so simple, it hardly merits the description of a pattern.  But I have no shame, and will include it here.

  • Cast on two stitches.
  • Knit each row the same, until you feel the dishcloth is big enough.  I find that keeping on till there are 74 stitches is about right.  Then start to decrease instead of increasing.
  • Increase row:
    • K2, yarn on needle, knit to end.  Do every row the same as this (in effect you’re adding a stitch in each row, 2 stitches in from the edge)
  • Once you feel it’s big enough, start to decrease.
  • Decrease row:
    • K1, k2 together, yarn on needle, k2 together, knit to end.  Do this every row until you only have two stitches left.  Cast off.


About deborah @ the magic jug

Now I've passed 60 I'm still doing all sorts of things I haven't done before, as well as carrying on with the things I already love. I live a happy life with my long term love Malcolm. In my blog I explore local and low tech ideas, food, growing, making, reading, thinking, walking, and lots of other words ending in 'ing'.
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2 Responses to Ditching the plastic: cotton dishcloths

  1. Margaret Gibson says:

    Greetings from Aotearoa
    Still here and loving your blog. Started making dish clothes for Christmas presents (and to encourage people in their fight against plastic)
    Youngest daughter arrived -Mum can I have these knitted things as face clothes for our new baby-what could I say?
    We grow our fruit and vegetables and preserve the excess, go to garage sales and pick up useful stuff, check out the charity shops. Take bags with us when we shop I’m sure you know the list. There is a campaign just started not to eat one of our most succulent fish, NZ seem to be getting the message.
    Looking forward to trying the turnip recipe.


    • Hi Margaret, how lovely to hear from you! I love that you’re all that way across the world and we’ll almost certainly never meet in real life, and yet we are able to have these glimpses into each other’s lives. It sounds like we’re doing much of the same stuff, and yet can still learn from each other.
      Congrats on the new grandchild – as you’ll know from my blog, I’m thrilled with my new role as a grandparent. Today’s our day for looking after her, and I know she’ll brighten everything.
      And yes, my experience is that our influence is much more by example than by ‘preaching’. I have taken the idea of using small cotton wipes which d-i-l uses for the baby, and I use them also in place of toilet paper (just wee so far, but you never know….). My sons and their partners will be getting gifts of sets of knitted dishcloths at Christmas. And so it goes on.
      So – warm greetings to you across the world! Do stay in touch. xx


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