With my upcoming surgery looming in the near future, I decided to make the most of my time and get a head start on this year’s holiday teacher gifts. I still make the Christmas and Hanukkah gifts for my kids’ teachers, lunch ladies and daycare workers, and, not knowing how much I’d be up for a long bout of down-to-the-wire crafting post-op (since I somehow always end up working til 4am the night before the last day of school), I was smart and started early.
I decided to make dish/washcloths again. It’s been a few years since the junior campus staff got regular square washcloths, and I haven’t made them for anyone on senior side yet, so I wasn’t worried about being too repetitive. I dug some favorite Bernat Handicrafter Cotton from my stash and pulled up the most basic, well known, standard dishcloth pattern Ravelry had to offer – a plain old, diagonal-knit garter washcloth.
Plenty of yarn, plenty of time, and a well-worn pattern. This, I thought, would be a breeze. I was even optimistic enough to think I’d have the Xmas gifts ready before November!
My troubles started early on. After completing the first washcloth, actually. I had finished it and set it down flat on the table and noticed the lower edge immediately curl upwards. I smoothed it flat but it quickly rolled inwards again. It wasn’t terribly noticeable, and – let’s face it – this is a dishcloth. If used properly it would end up scrunched and rolled and pulled and would sag and ease out of shape quickly. But I was annoyed at how it looked and poked around at it a bit trying to figure out why the top half was fine but the lower half curled in. The top half, by contrast, lay beautifully flat. I couldn’t figure out what I’d done wrong.
Finally I realized it wasn’t my fault – there was an inherent flaw with the pattern. It was the kind where you increase into the second stitch of every row. That type of increase pulls imperceptibly on the outer stitch, eating up the slack between the first two stitches. When this is done at intervals one would hardly notice, but when it is done at the beginning of every row the result was edges that curled inwards. This didn’t occur on the top half of the diamond because that was the decrease half and I wasn’t using any of the previous row’s slack at all.
I could smooth it flat and I could have blocked it but come on… blocking washcloths? No thanks. I’d rather figure out how to knit it without the flaw.
The main thing was to figure out what increase to use. Any increase which went into the prior row, including a standard ‘make 1’, would cause the same inward tugging. Yarn-over increase patterns didn’t have that problem, but I didn’t want eyelets dotting the sides of my washcloth. I wanted these cloths to look less dainty, more ‘rugged’, if that makes sense. I decided to work YO increases but to close them on the subsequent rows by knitting them through the back loop.
Once I was tinkering with the pattern I also added a plain row at the max width point before transitioning into the decreases. Diagonal patterns always seem to have you go from wide to narrow without any plain row in between and I find that the extra row tugs less on those points of the diamond. The result is a lovely garter washcloth which has wonderful drape and lays flat beautifully, and is now my go-to knit washcloth or dishcloth.
I’ve knit 9 of them so far… sadly not anywhere near how many I need, but enough to know I’m really happy with how it works out, and I added it to Ravelry tonight.
The yardage listed is for a dishcloth knit to 41 sts, which results (at my tension) in a 9” x 9” square. You can easily make them larger or smaller. If desired before binding off you can create a strip to fold over and sew down for a hanging loop by either knitting about 4” of garter on those 3 sts or knitting them into a 4” long 3-st i-cord.
This pattern would work equally well for baby blankets or throws, continuing to increase until whatever max diagonal is desired before working the plain row and then beginning the decreases.