Saturday, November 7, 2009

Settling in for Winter

As winter (or what passes for it here in the desert) gets closer, I feel more domestic, more concerned with the small things that make a house feel like a home.  These are a few of the prickly plants that live on my kitchen windowsill.  The one on the left is some kind of euphorbia - there are so many members of that vast family! I've collected a few of its kin, including a couple of firestick plants, a very large crown of thorns, and the wild Mexican ancestor of the big-blossomed poinsettias we'll soon be seeing in the stores (and yes, I know the red "blossoms" really aren't blossoms).  The wild ones have reseeded themselves at various points in the yard, no doubt with some bird accomplices.
       But I'm not really posting to talk about plants, but rather dishcloths, like the one underneath these these pots.  Several years ago, when I was in grad school, a group of us liked to gather weekly for a "wine and whine" session, to which we brought our knitting or other projects.  My friend Laurie suggested that dishcloths were a good way to begin knitting, but it wasn't until a few years later that I actually knitted my first dishcloths.  They're good small projects for driving trips (as long as the knitter isn't also driving) and for trying out new stitch patterns.
     I like my dishcloths to have a nubbly texture which helps get things cleaner.  I tend to be a relaxed or loose knitter as opposed to a tight knitter (which means I really have to check my gauge, or things can come out 2 sizes too big), so if the pattern calls for a size 7 needle, for example, I drop down to a 6 to get the right gauge.  But gauge doesn't matter so much with this kind of project.  The best yarn is worsted-weight cotton, like Lion Brand Kitchen Cotton or Lily Sugar and Cream.  Here's the pattern for this particular dishcloth:

Chevron Rib Dishcloth, to be knit on size 6 or 7 needles in worsted weight cotton;
Cast on 41 stitches.  Knit 2 rows in garter stitch, then change to pattern, keeping 2 stitches in garter stitch at each edge of every row, in addition to the pattern stitches shown below, so that your pattern stitch is framed on all four sides by a narrow band of garter stitch.
Row 1: (right side) P1, *K1, P2, K2, P2, K1, P1; rep from * to end.
Row 2: *K3, P2, K2, P2, K1, (P2, K2) twice; rep from  *  to last st,  K1.
Row 3: *(P2, K2) twice, P3, K2, P2, K2, P1; rep from * to last st, P1.
Row 4: *K1, P2, K2, P2, K5, P2, K2, P2; rep from * to last st, K1.
Repeat these four rows until the dishcloth is only 1/4" to 1/2" shorter than it is wide. Knit 2 rows in garter stitch, then bind off.

When I first heard of knitting dishcloths, it seemed a bit silly to me.  After all, I was a "real" knitter who was capable of making more important things like sweaters, socks, etc., etc.  Now I'm a convert.  They actually do make doing dishes more pleasant, they're an easy pick-up project when I don't feel like anything more complex.  Oh, and you  can use them in the bath as well as the kitchen, and they make lovely gifts.  How about a couple of these washcloths (as opposed to "dishcloths" in a basket with a bar of soap and a bottle of lotion, for example, or for a smaller token gift or stocking stuffer, perhaps just one, rolled up and tied with a bit of ribbon?  I've also given a couple of rolled up dishcloths along with 3 wooden spoons, all tied together with raffia or twine.  There are all kinds of possibilities.

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