DIY Envy – Yes, You Can Knit!

Knit cotton washcloth

Have you ever thought, when your friends share great projects, “I wish I could knit”? You can! I have devised the simplest knitting project you are ever going to meet to help you knit a reusable cotton washcloth.

Like the best of punk music and country music: all you need is a red guitar, three chords, and the truth. In this case, all you need to make a profoundly useful and sustainable kitchen tool is cotton yarn, needles, three stitches, and a desire to make it yourself.

There are a lot more than three stitches in all of the fancy sweaters you see, and you will probably want to learn several more ways to do each of these stitches, but one way is enough for now. Just press on, and you will be wiping up with your own handiwork within hours.


Why Make Wash Cloths?

Knitters need to knit. Once you catch the bug, you will be looking for more and more projects to knit. Knitting your own washcloths keeps those knitting hands busy, but it also saves you money and lets you create exactly the color and style of cloths that you want to use. If you were looking for the right time to replace paper towels with reusable cloths, this is a quick and easy way to do it yourself. Plus, when people say, “Where did you get these great cloths?” you can then talk to them about your new hobby: knitting.

My mother made all of our wash cloths, and I’m still using those same cloths 30 years later. These are some of my very old kitchen cloths.

Old knit washcloths

1. A popcorn pattern that is good for scrubbing
2 & 3. A flatter pattern that absorbs well
4 & 5. A nubby pattern that I think is the easiest to grip. I grab these first.


The Super Easy Pattern for a Knit Cotton Wash Cloth

  • One skein of cotton yarn (Pictured is Lion Cotton Worsted Weight because that is what my local store carries.)
  • Needles, size 7
  • Tapestry needle

Cast on 40 stitches. Work every row knit (no purl), creating garter stitch. Knit until the whole piece is square then bind off and sew in ends.

That’s it! This sample took me about an hour and a half to finish.

Handmade knit cotton wash cloth

There are a lot of fancy ways to make cloths with special stitches or crocheted edges, but I think plain garter stitch works best.

If you are new to knitting, I hope these photos will help.

Cast On
Single Cast on (or backward loop cast on) is the simplest cast on. It isn’t elegant or fancy, but it is a fine way to start. There are many better ways to get this job done. You can think about those later.
Loop for simple knit cast on Slip knot on knitting needle
Make a simple slip knot Put the slip knot on your needle and pull it tight (though not too tight)
Yarn through fingers for tension Yarn ready for knit cast on
To keep tension steady, thread the yarn through your fingers. Turn your hand palm facing you
Cast On, finish
Backward loop knit cast on Simple knit cast on
Slip your needle up your finger to get the stitch on the needle And, you have your first stitch
Knitting cast on stitches  
Repeat until you have 40 stitches on the needle  
Knit Stitch
When I taught my children to knit, I used this simple rhyme to help them remember the steps to a knit stitch. It’s a common knitting teaching tool. Under the fence, catch the sheep, back we come, off we leap. Note: in the photos, my daughter knits holding the yarn in her right hand. I knit holding the yarn in my left hand (continental style). Either works. Do what feels most comfortable.
Beginning of knit stitch Wrap yarn for knit stitch
Under the fence. Stick your right needle into the bottom of the first stitch on your left needle Catch the sheep. Wrap your yarn around the right needle from the back, around the left and to the front
Pull knit stitch through loop Finish knit stitch
Back we come. Using your right needle, pull the yarn you just wrapped back through the first loop Off we leap. Pull the loop all of the way through then off. That’s your first knit stitch. Repeat to the end of the row, turn, and knit the next row the same way
Bind Off
In this simple bind off, all you do is pass each loop over the next to give a finished appearance like a chain. It isn’t stretchy at all. You can learn many other binding off techniques that give your knitting more stretch, but this basic technique will serve you well.
Ready for bind off Knitting bind off
Knit the first two stitches on your last row Stick your left needle into the first loop on the right needle
Bind off knitting One stitch bound off
Pull the first loop over the second loop Now you have just one loop left, so knit another stitch and repeat until you have one stitch left on your right needle
Finishing
Once you finish knitting, you have just two tails to sew in for a tidy finish. I like to use a tapestry needle for this, but you can also use a crochet hook if you already have one.
The last knit stitch Pull the last loop long
Knit until the last stitch is on your right needle Pull the last loop until it is 3-4″ long
Clip long loop Wash cloth with tails
Clip the loop and pull the rest of your skein of yarn out of the loop You have a nearly finished wash cloth
Finishing, sewing in Tails
Sew in knit ends Sew knit ends into cloth
To hide your tails, sew into the loops of one row down from your binding Pull the threaded tapestry needle through the stitches
Pull cloth edge Stretch edge of wash cloth
Stretch the edge of the cloth Stretch the edge a bit more to lose the tail completely


Resources

There are a lot of yarn stores online, but you probably have a local shop. Go there and talk to the owner. Ask about yarn. Ask about favorite needles. Ask about classes. Ask about knit nights. My local yarn shop has a late open night every Thursday where a dozen or so people sit around a table knitting, snacking, and just talking. You don’t get that shopping online, so find a local yarn store.

My favorite knitting site is Tech Knitting because the illustrations are absolutely clear (and often colorful). There is a lot of information on Tech Knitting, so check the index. As an example, this is the cast-on that I most often use.

When you become addicted and need a community, consider joining Ravelry, where you will find patterns, a personal notebook where you can record your stash and your projects, discussion groups, and friends.

My mother taught me to knit when I was 3 years old. I have been knitting steadily ever since. My husband and I talked about our favorite knitting yarns the first time we met. My mother knit my wedding shawl—a wedding ring shawl, it is called, because it is so fine that it can be pulled through a wedding ring. (I tried. It did work.) My husband, my mother, my mother-in-law, my baby, and I trekked to a knitting conference together to give the grandmothers a good excuse to spend time with their new granddaughter when she was very tiny. I taught my children to knit when they were small. Now, when we read school books aloud to one another, two of us knit while the other reads. (“Would you like to read now?” one asks. “Let me finish my row,” says everyone else.) I inherited a huge double cedar closet full of yarn, and we often, as we say, “go shopping” in my mother’s yarn closet. Currently, I am knitting dolls, my husband is swatching a new sweater, my 15-year old daughter is knitting a sweater from a 1939 pattern she tracked down after seeing it online, and my 12-year old son is knitting a cabled sweater. We are a knitting family.

I hope you have a great experience knitting this simple wash cloth. Even after all of the very complex knitting that I’ve done over the years, I loved knitting this simple piece. Let me know if you have questions.

Thanks to my daughter, the knitting hand model.