Handmade Dishrags are Hot? Are You Kidding? No!

It’s too hot to knit a big project or think about serious topics in July (then again, since it is so hot, you might want to check out Al Gore’s flick or book, An Inconvenient Truth, if you haven’t done so already).

But in the dog days of summer, none of us want heavy, wool sweaters hanging in our laps. Summer is the time to read light books, to relax, and to enjoy some ice-cold lemonade on the front porch. I even lighten up on my blog reading in the hot months, because I don’t want to sit with my laptop burning my legs.

So, to get my blog fix, I’ve been reading books written by knitting bloggers: Mason-Dixon Knitting: The Curious Knitters’ Guide by Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne, and Wendy Knits: My Never-Ending Adventures in Yarn by Wendy D. Johnson.

0307236056-01-_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_It was for purely selfish reasons that I picked up both of these books. The first has several rug patterns in it, and since I started working on The Knitted Rug, I’ve been collecting patterns for rugs. Kay and Ann include several projects using traditional rug making techniques that inspired some of the projects in my own book, so I was hooked immediately. I used yarn for all of my rugs, and they use fabric strips, potholder loops (remember those things from when you were in first grade?) and some yarn. They even have a rug made out of a bunch of knitted dishcloths sewn together. I had to get this book, even though I figured I probably might never make anything in it or even read all of the text. I was wrong.


0452287324-01-_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_And then a couple of weeks ago, my editor told me that Wendy Knits talks about qiviut. Oh my! My favorite fiber, the oh-so-soft under down of the musk ox, not to be resisted, regardless of the insane cost. So, feeling an immediate affinity for the author, I had no choice but to take a look at her book. As I was flipping through, I found a couple of projects for cats, and I headed straight for the checkout. When I got home and looked at the book in more detail, I was pleased to find that there are patterns scattered throughout the book, including socks, several sweaters, and a lace shawl. The garments are photographed on beautiful, real-sized women instead of emaciated models, which is a feature I always appreciate. The photos are black and white, but they are clear and you can easily see the details of the knitting.

Both of the books turned out to be fun summer reading, and they both include projects and technical tips for knitters. I wouldn’t say they’re literature, but they are like getting together with a good friend for a cup of coffee and a couple of hours of knitting. The writing is light and easy, and will make you chuckle as you compare your own knitting adventures with those of the authors. Those of you who are new knitters, will discover that the knitting universe is larger than you could have imagined!

Oddly enough, both of these books include several patterns for dishrags. I didn’t think anyone made dishrags any more. They seemed like something someone’s grandmother might have made in the 1930s or 40s. But here they were, right in the front of two popular knitting books in 2006. Go figure.

Dishrags, washcloths, facecloths, whatever you want to call them and however you want to use them, these little projects are no longer dorky pieces made from cheap yarn. There are some really cool designs, and they make great gifts (especially with a bar of hand-made soap), and would be hot sellers at craft sales or bazaars. So if it’s too hot to be knitting scarves, baby blankets, sweaters, and other cold-weather charity knitting projects, whip out a pile of dishrags and sell them for your favorite charity. If you make them up into a pretty package with a bar of soap, you can probably even sell them on E-bay.

I’ve included my version of the old-fashioned dorky dishrag pattern here. It’s actually very nice and even trendy if you make it out of a high-quality organic cotton yarn, in linen or hemp, or even in a cotton-chenille or terrycloth novelty yarn. If you get addicted to this technique (which is very possible!), check out the vest made with the same technique in Unexpected Knitting by Debbie New.

I’ve also linked to several other patterns on the web, you can check out the designs in the books I’ve mentioned, or you can just cast on and knit away in an interesting pattern stitch, and bind off when your piece is the desired size. That way you can practice a new stitch and not feel like you’re “wasting” time “just” making a swatch! In addition, you’re making a reusable resource that helps save trees that would otherwise be destined for the paper-towel factory.

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