Blocking is a technique by which you can shape your finished knitted work to certain dimensions. The humble dishcloth is any one of many small knitted pieces, approximating a face washcloth in size. They're mostly square, although they can certainly be round, triangular or any shape the knitter wishes. They are, essentially, handmade dishrags. Lovely, made-from-the-heart dishrags.
Why knit a dishcloth when inexpensive, factory manufactured ones can easily be had at discount stores? For starters, they're excellent projects for beginner and relatively new knitters. Also, they're great quick projects for more experienced knitters who want to whip up a quick gift or simply want a project they can complete, start to finish, within a day, unlike more involved projects that take days, weeks or -- gasp! -- months. I've even heard tell of projects taking more than a year to complete. I knit three dishcloths for my MIL for Christmas this year. They were my first dishcloths ever and I can vouch for the overly swollen feeling of accomplishment from being able to finish a project so quickly.
Rumor has it that handknit dishcloths are actually quite good at, well, cleaning dishes. I have met people who vow never to return to store-bought dishcloths or wash their dishes with sponges/scrubbers once they've had the chance to use handknit cloths. I have yet to actually use a handknit dishcloth on my own dishes, but I could perhaps more easily see myself using them as counter wipes or even as facecloths.
This first picture is of the three dishcloths after I finished knitting them, but before blocking them.
All three patterns are free; I found them via Ravelry, the online community for knitters and crocheters (registration is free and super easy). The top pattern is called Grandma's Favorite Dishcloth (perhaps the classic dishcloth pattern) by Ruth from Big Springs, TX; the bottom left is the Feather & Fan Dishcloth by Tera Johnson; and the bottom right is eLoomanator's Diagonal Knit Dishcloth by Jana Trent. I used Lily's Sugar'n Cream cotton in three different colorways.
Different people prefer different sized dishcloths. I believe my MIL said she preferred larger rather than smaller dishcloths, so I made them all between 50-55 stitches width and height.
As you can see in the above picture, the dishcloths look a little on the disheveled side. If these were my dishcloths, I wouldn't bother blocking them; I would just machine wash and dry them. I'm sure my MIL will do the same once she starts using them, however, I did want them to at least look nice when she received them.
I machine washed them as I would do if I were going to then machine dry them. I could have just sprayed them with water or I could have steam blocked them, but machine washing served two purposes for me:
- It got the dishcloths wet for blocking and
- they survived the washing machine, thereby proving that there were no loose ends lurking about to unravel in the wash of their unsuspecting recipient.
After washing, I put them on my trusty blocking board, spread them to pleasing dimensions and pinned them to the board with rustproof pins:
So there you have it: the humble dishcloth elevated to gift status.