For as long as I've been knitting and crocheting, I've found myself making pretty much everything. I've knitted and crocheted everything from socks and shawls, to baby clothes and baby blankets, to aran sweaters and toys.
I've been involved with online knitting communities for a few years, especially since the dawn of ravelry. Etsy and the knitty chatroom at first, and eventually when ravelry started I spent more time there. Ravelry enabled all sorts of projects beyond knitting – specifically, spinning. I've a small collection of drop spindles, lots of roving that I dye and buy pre-dyed, and even recently bought a spinning wheel. I have even knit a scarf or two made from the yarn that I've spun, and that was such a wonderful accomplishment; I was very proud of these garments that I felt I made truly from scratch by creating my own yarn first.
There are a lot of sub-groups in the ravelry community. It's not just knitters vs crocheters vs spinners. There are sock knitters, shawl lovers, those who knit and crochet only for charity, people who only make baby items, people who love crocheting amigurumi toys... the list goes on and on.
I love the idea of “specializing” in one thing in particular, and amazed at the collections of finished objects some have. How wonderful would it be to have a whole sock drawer filled with handknit socks, or a collection of cabled sweaters, or a whole nursery filled with crocheted blankets and toys.
What I became obsessed with was something very unlikely. There are threads in ravelry that question the very meaning of making them, and even groups formed advocating against making them all together.
They are... DISHCLOTHS!
Let's face it – dishcloth yarn isn't fancy. It's not cultivated from alpacas with a genetic line of prize-winning fiber. It's not so rare like qivuit, which prices nearly as expensive as any decent drug habit. It's common enough that any major big box store that sells yarn has lots of dishcloth cotton, nearly as much inventory as they have baby yarn or acrylic.
So, how on earth did I become so involved with making dishcloths above anything else? Well, this sprouted rather recently, probably in the last 5 years or so.
Like many other knitters, I find myself knitting for everyone. I spend hours, sometimes, searching patterns on ravelry. I love collecting yarn. I love going through my LYS if for no other reason than to feel everything and admire all the new colours and textures. But it's hard to find the knit-worthy people in my life – and even they're not going to use everything I knit simply because I made it.
I've come to an important realization: what is knitted or crocheted also needs to be functional.
One year I started my Christmas knitting late. I really wanted to knit for as many people as possible, but had very limited time. The most affordable thing to make, both financially and timewise, was dishcloths. Everyone I know has a kitchen, and (fortunately for me!) everyone I know loves to cook or bake. Used kitchens are messy kitchens!
I found some mini gift bags at my local dollar store and bought a bunch. I could fit 3 dishcloths in a bag, and went ahead and made the easiest patterns. I used up some of the partial skeins of cotton for log cabin dishcloths, plus some Granny's Favourite dishcloths with the full skeins that I bought. I could complete a dishcloth easily in one evening of tv watching. Every person or couple got a bag of 3 dishcloths under the tree along with their store-bought gifts.
Well, wouldn't you know that everyone loved the dishcloths! At first when they opened the bag I don't think it made much sense as to why they were gifted them. Come Easter a few months later, everyone commented on how functional and durable the dishcloths I made were. My inlaws even kept one dishcloth in the bathroom for shower and sink and counter cleaning, and the other two stayed in the kitchen. Come Thanksgiving of that same year, a few people not-so-subtily hinted that they needed new handknit dishcloths for Christmas because a few of the ones gifted last year were used so much that they had worn down.
So, that's what I did! I began collecting more dishcloth cotton and made more. I could fit 3 more in a mini gift bag, maybe 4 for my inlaws. I filled a small box of dishcloths and sent them to family overseas, using the ball band from used skeins to wrap 6 or so together for each person. I made a few dishcloths with Christmas designs on them as stocking stuffers for a couple people too.
I became immersed in the dishcloth world. They were functional for every day use, and easy to make. My inlaws, who are big paper towel consumers, were slowly buying less wasteful paper products and using dishcloths more. This is why I'm advocating for them – no more paper towels, replace them all with dishcloths!
Why else are dishcloths are awesome? They can be as conservative, funky, plain, elaborate, lacey, cabley, colourful or exuberant as you want them to be. Cotton is an environmentally friendly, renewable resource – and inexpensive. They're functional, and as knitting projects very portable. They can be used any time of the year, aren't hidden under a pair of shoes, customized to any style or décor, and cannot be outgrown.
This is why I've become a dishcloth enthusiast. I love making them, and everyone seems to love receiving them. Not only that, but I also love collecting them for my own kitchen. Mind you, I'm not obsessively neat, but I love pulling out a newly knit dishcloth (or one suited for whatever current holiday) to clean up after cooking or a big meal.
I hope to further explore all the wonderful patterns for dishcloths in this blog and see how many more I can make!