So...why dishcloths?

I’ve known how to knit only since May 2011 (we can’t count 2013; it was a total loss for knitting and many other aspects of my life), so almost two whole actual, practicing years (even though I’ve crocheted since college). I’m always seeing knitters discuss “dishcloths.”

They ask…

–what size of dishcloth do you make?
–what yarn do you use? (the answer is often Sugar and Cream, Peaches n Creme, LionBrand Kitchen Cotton, or similar)
–what’s your favorite design for a dishcloth?
–what kind of needles do you use?
–and similar practical questions.

My question lies [B]far, far beyond[/B] these.

I had never even [I]heard [/I]of a dishcloth until entering Knitting Land in mid-2011. I chalked it up to regionalisms–maybe I’d just managed to live in regions of the U.S. where such items weren’t popularly used. (And I would’ve used them, at least as a kid–I washed ALL of our family’s dishes from the age of about 7 until I graduated from high school–and there were four kids when I was 7 and five beginning in the 10th grade.) But never a dishcloth. Sponges always, and sponges went into the laundry on a regular cycle along with towels, etc.

Beginning when I was 7, we lived in Cheyenne, Rancho Cordova (California), Tampa (Florida), the Canal Zone, San Antonio, and Tampa again. (In case the overriding dish-washing influence was Mom and not what was cheap at the PX, she was raised in Texas, Louisiana, Sarasota, and Tampa; her mother was raised in Texas only.)

When I moved to Atlanta for college, I lived in a “dorm” situation only for a few months and then with a fellow Atlanta student in an apartment. She and I used…yep…sponges, which went into the laundry on a regular cycle along with the towels.

I eventually moved to the Bay Area, thinking to go to grad school. That (sadly) didn’t happen, but I’ve been here ever since. My women friends with whom I’ve ever thought to discuss kitchen matters haven’t mentioned dishcloths, “washcloths for the dishes,” or other similar phrases. These days, people often have automatic dishwashers, but not everything goes into a DW and sometimes the DDW (“dear” dishwasher) isn’t working. :mad:

So…why dishcloths? Where dishcloths? From whence dishcloths?



Very, very interesting. I may call them dishcloths in polite company but they’re really dishrags. Fancy it up all you want but to me a dishrag is a dishrag is a dishrag. I don’t use sponges, I have a very strong dislike for them. When I was a kid our dishrags were generally just that, rags. Old towels with holes in them got ripped up for rags and used in the kitchen. My mother didn’t use sponges, I really don’t know why.

Hmmm, interesting DCM. I’ve never questioned their raison d’être before. We had dish rags like GGs for nasty/regular kitchen jobs, and then we had both kitchen towels with knitted/crocheted towel toppers and knitted/crocheted dishcloths and towels. The former were more for decoration, while the latter were usually for regular use. Both were gifted by friends and family to new brides and lady friends for birthdays and such. I do know that knitted cotton dishcloths do a fine job cleaning mirrors and windows. Beyond that, I can only guess that it’s a southern country thing.

That’s odd. everyone I know was always raised to use washcloths to pretty much wash everything. We even use them when taking a shower. It never occurred to me that they don’t use them in some areas of the country. I could never get used to a sponge. ide use it then have to throw it away I never thought about being able to wash one. this is a very interesting thread.

Hmm… We use a dishcloth for wiping up counters or the table, but a scrubbie for dishes. The scrubbie has both a rough side and a sponge side. I put the scrubbie in the dishwasher 2-3 times a week and change the dishcloth every few days. My preferred yarn is lighter weight than the ones you mentioned. They dry faster so don’t get smelly or harbor bacteria as easily. Other than 5 yrs in NorCal as a kid I’ve always lived in SoCal.

When I was a kid, we never used sponges, always a “dishrag”. My mom still refuses to use sponges. Ours were store bought, but my grandmother’s were old towels usually. As an adult, I swore by sponges for washing dishes, but my kids do the dishes now, and they would rather use the ones I make. Unlike most households, we do not have a dishwasher. But we also only use hand knit wash clothes now, too. The kids each have their own, as does the hubby. Most of the kids friends have hand made wash clothes from me too, they love them.

ETA- I grew up in pretty rural Ohio and West Virginia, my grandparents were “country folk”.

I grew up in Wisconsin and Michigan and never saw anyone use a sponge to wash dishes. :slight_smile: I have sponges, but we use them for cleaning out sinks and tubs, not on the dishes. I didn’t even know they could be washed with laundry – I always thought they’d come apart in the wash!

My mom uses a scouring pad (without sponge) on her dishes but when I moved out, I bought a bunch of styles and colors to try out – including the scouring pads I grew up with – and I realized I preferred small cloths. The ones I use now were knit by me.

As far as knitting in general, dishcloths are a good size for practicing and trying out knit patterns. I wish I liked the larger sizes, because then I’d be making new dishcloths all the time. :teehee:

I should try gifting some and see what kind of a response I get back; I’m just not sure what everyone else would like. No one ever comments on either my dishcloths or my knitting, so I assume no one wants any. :pout:

After reading everyone’s replies, I can’t help but wonder if their genesis was something like this:

When you first start learning to knit, things don’t always work out right. Not wanting to waste anything all those years ago, a resourceful housewife said “Oh well, at least we can wash dishes with it!” Thus was the humble dishcloth born… :wink:

I grew up in and still live in Northern California. My mom always used sponges and scrubbies for washing the dishes. I hated them because they always seemed slimy and stank if they had a bacterial overload. As a kid I hated touching a sponge!
When I moved away from home I got the plastic long handled brushes to use. I didn’t really encounter a knitted dishcloth until I started knitting. I made a few and DH (originally from Vermont) said, “What are these for?” I told him, and he looked skeptical, but I notice they are getting used!

I would make more, but knitting with cotton seems tough on my wrists. I’m sure I’ll still do a few from time to time, though.

This thread takes me back many, many years and reminds me of rhymes we used for choosing who was It in games. We would each put a finger in a circle and the fingers got tapped with the recitation of the rhyme. One of them ended:

O U T spells out you go, you old dirty dishrag, you.

So e cottons are t as bad as others. I use Tahki Cotton Classic DK and I don’t find it too bad. I think I use a size 5-6 needle. I don’t like them too dense because they don’t dry out.

That’s good to know; thanks. I have only used good ol’ Peaches and Cream, KnitPicks Dishie and HobbyLobby ‘I Love This Cotton.’ Oh yeah, Lion Brand, too. And maybe if I use metal needles it wouldn’t be so bad. I think the combo of cotton and bamboo needles is just a little too friction-inducing?

I do use metal needles with cotton. The yarn seems to slide better.

The cheaper yarns make sense since they are “just dishcloths”, but I don’t enjoy knitting with it. I also hate the way it fades and stains so I’ll stick to the colorful Tahki. :teehee:

That’s interesting you’ve never heard of a dishcloth. I’ve known and used them my whole life and have lived in NY, PA, VA, ID, and UT. My parents were born and raised in northern NY. My grandmother loved knit dishcloths b/c they could be white - she loved to bleach EVERYTHING.

I grew up in Bartow Florida and we called them dish rags also. I washed many dishes with a dish rag… For the first 14 years of my life I had 2 sisters and 1 brother. Then when I turned 15 , my little sister was born. As she grew up, her old diapers were used as dish rags because they didn’t leave lint on every thing.

haha my parents are still using my old diapers to wash windows and the cars and dusting b/c they don’t leave lint. When I decided to cloth diaper my guys I think my parents were disappointed to see “how far they’ve come” and that cloth diapers can no longer be repurposed for window cleaning and dusting.

I think you can still buy some of the old fashioned ones can’t you? My kids were cloth diapered and I used those old ones for windows and dusting for years!

I grew up in the Northeast during World War II. Store-bought items were rare. If you needed something you generally made it and that included dishrags to wash the dishes and dishcloths to dry the dishes.

My grandmother grew up during the depression, and that’s what she described too. Nothing ever went to waste. I don’t remember hand made dish towels, though. I’m sure she used those also, before my time. So many questions I should have asked her.

I remember knitted cotton cloths for wiping counter tops in my childhood, but the cloths I knit now I would use as face cloths. They can also be used as plant stands - that’s what my sister used one for that I had knitted for her, because it was 'too nice to use as a dish/wash cloth. You can also knit a smaller version and call it a coaster.

There are lots of dishcloth Yahoo groups, which are mainly KALs, with a new pattern posted twice a month for members to try out.