Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Micawber Scrubbies ~ a Short Crochet Pattern in a Very Long Post (with Lots of Helpful Tips)

Who doesn't love crocheted nylon net scrubbies? They're colourful, cheap, and fun to make; ruthless on dirt but gentle on most surfaces. At Micawber Towers, we keep several on hand, and use them to clean all kinds of things both indoors and out: dishes, vegetables, shower stalls, plant pots, and more.

There are lots of great scrubbie patterns available online, from classic squashed-spheres to uber-cute owls and flowers and cat's-head shapes. My scrubbies aren't cute, but after years of tweaking and experimentation, they have all the features I like:

  • They're flat, so they can wrap around sticky spoons, or fit into grimy corners and crevices.
  • They're round, so every bit of surface gets used (no corners to curl up).
  • They're stiff, the better to tackle tough dirt. (But they soften with use, like vintage Levi's.)
  • They come with a handy hanging loop (optional) for airing-out purposes.
  • They're edged with a tidy round of slip stitch for greater durability.
Best of all, these scrubbies are made from an extra-sturdy crochet stitch that keeps its shape and resists spreading. Here's a photo of one of our scrubbies after months of use:

A bit grubby and worn, but no holes between the stitches!

What is this super-sturdy stitch? Split Single Crochet (also known as Shallow Single Crochet or Waistcoat Stitch).

If you've never heard of Split Sc, it's a single crochet made by inserting the hook between the vertical strands of the sc below (instead of under the top strands, as in standard single crochet).

For Split Sc, hook is inserted between the vertical strands

A Bit of Crochet Theory - Feel Free to Skip this Part

Why does Split Sc work so well for scrubbies? It has to do with the way crochet stitches are linked.

Standard sc stitches are linked together through the top strands only, which concentrates all the tension at the top of each stitch. When the scrubbie is used, those top strands get repeatedly tugged, and the bottom half of the stitch (which is like a little knot) tightens up. This can lead to stretched-out stitches and gaps in your scrubbie.

In contrast, Split Sc stitches are linked through the central (knot-like) portion of the stitch, which distributes tension more evenly and helps to prevent spreading-stitch syndrome.

(Some crocheters get around the spreading-stitch syndrome by using a smaller hook and very wide netting strips to create a thicker fabric, but this method can be very hard on the wrists.)

And Now, Back to our Main Topic

Micawber scrubbies are super simple - just a basic circle with a few refinements. If you know how to make a crochet circle, you don't even need a pattern (though I've included one below). This post is more about Tips and Techniques for working with nylon netting and Split Sc.

If you've never crocheted with nylon netting, don't skip the Tips! They may save you some sore hands and wrists.

Tips for Choosing/Working with Nylon Net

Note: These tips will work no matter what stitch you use for your scrubbies.

~ For the scrubbiest scrubbie, choose the sturdiest net you can find, with the largest holes. I get my netting from Joann Fabrics - it's called "Scrubbie Mesh" and it's heavier than standard netting or tulle. (It's also more expensive, so you might want to wait for a sale, or use a percent-off coupon. But because it's extra tough, you can cut narrower strips and get more from your yardage.) If you can't get Scrubbie Mesh, just use a large-holed nylon netting that feels scratchy on the skin.

~ If you're not sure what kind of netting to use, buy a half-yard of a few different kinds and make a test scrubbie from each.

Experiment with various strip widths and hook sizes, until you find a combination that works for you. I use a US K/6.5mm hook and cut my heavy netting strips about 1" wide. For softer netting, cut wider strips - 2" works for me.

~ Cut your strips in the direction of least stretch. This may be crossways, rather than longways. To find the direction of least stretch, tug on the netting first lengthwise, then crosswise, with your hands a few inches apart. The direction that stretches least is the direction you want for cutting your strips. (Why do we want less-stretchy strips? Because a stretchy strip will keep stretching after the scrubbie is made, causing the scrubbie to quickly lose its shape and solidity.)

~ Cutting the Strips: Strips may be cut freehand, or with a rotary cutter. Nylon net is slippery stuff, so you may find it helpful to fold the netting several layers thick, and pin at intervals to keep the layers straight. (Just be careful not to cut through the pins.) You can also search the internet for ideas on cutting your strips; there are lots of tutorials out there.

Here's how I cut my strips

~ Joining strips: Some people use a special technique to cut a continuous strip (again, you can search the internet for ideas and choose whatever works best for you). I like to cut separate strips, and tie them together during the "pre-treating" process (see "Most Important Tip", below). This may sound tedious, but I've found that pausing at the end of every strip gives my hands a break from the hard work of crocheting with net.

To join your strips Micawber-fashion, trim the strip ends at a long angle (about 4" from end), and tie a loose square knot (right over left, then left over right) at the base of the angle. Don't worry if the knot looks bulky - it will tighten up later as you crochet.

Joining the strips as you go

~ Hiding the strip ends: While stitching the scrubbie, when you near the end of a strip, gently tug on the knot to tighten it. Flatten the strip near the knot, and roll or twist the loose end into a cylinder (see photo below). Put the cylinder in the center of the working strip, and roll the strip around it from bottom to top (or from left to right). This will secure the loose end and keep it from creeping out of your crochet. Hold the rolled-up bit between your fingers and continue stitching, until it gets "swallowed" securely by a stitch. Stop and repeat the process with loose end on the other side of the knot.

Hiding the strip ends

The Most Important Tip of All

"Pre-treat" your netting strips by crocheting them into a long chain before you make the actual scrubbie. This will relax the netting a tiny bit, making it softer on your hands, and less likely to stretch out later.

Remember to work with one strip at a time, and trim/tie as you go. You can leave the knot ends sticking out of the crochet chain; don't worry about hiding them until you start stitching the actual scrubbie.

Each scrubbie will take about 12 yards of strips; try to chain that amount at a time. When you're ready to stitch the scrubbie, just start from the end of the chain and unravel it as you go.

"Pre-treating" the Netting Strips - don't worry about
hiding the knot ends until you stitch the actual scrubbie.

Getting Used to Split Single Crochet

To work Split Single Crochet (Split Sc):  - Insert hook between the two vertical strands of indicated stitch (when viewed from the wrong side, your hook should come out under the horizontal bar and between the two vertical strands at the back of the work); yarn over and pull up a TALL loop, yarn over and draw through both loops on hook.

~ If you've never used Split Sc, practice with some regular yarn, working in the round with RS facing at all times, to get a feel for the stitch.

~ Keep a very loose tension; your stitches will tighten up as the following round is stitched.

~ If you can't get the hook easily into the stitch, your "first loops" are not tall enough. Frog and try again.

Drawing up a TALL first loop for Split Sc

When you start the next round,
here is where your hook will be inserted

RIGHT place to insert hook

~ When working Split Sc in the round, there should always be 2 vertical strands between each stitch on both RS and WS. If there are less than 2, you've inserted your hook in the wrong place - frog the stitch and try again. If there are more than 2, you probably skipped a stitch.

Don't be discouraged if your stitch count gets off - crocheting with nylon netting strips is an awkward business, and sometimes a stitch can be partly hidden by the one next to it. If necessary, spread the stitches apart with your fingers to make sure you haven't missed a stitch.

Here is the Right Side after 2 rounds. Notice that the stitches
look like little Vs on top of each other.

Here is the Wrong Side after 2 rounds. There are 2 strands
showing between each stitch of Round 1;
the stitches of Round 2 look like upside-down Vs
with bars at the top.

~ When making Split Sc, frequently check the back of your work to make sure the hook is going UNDER the horizontal bar and BETWEEN the vertical strands (the upside-down V)  of each stitch. I know I said this already, but it bears repeating.

And finally....

Micawber Scrubbie Pattern

Crazy short version: Using Split Sc and nylon netting strips, make a crochet circle to your desired size. Edge with 1 round of plain slip stitch. Add hanging loop if desired. That's it. :)

~ Nylon Netting (the stiffest you can find, with large holes), cut into strips of your desired width. One yard of 54" netting will yield 4 flat scrubbies made from 1" wide strips, or 2 flat scrubbies made from 2" wide strips. The heavier the netting, the narrower you can cut your strips.
~ If using extra-heavy mesh, try cutting your strips 1" wide. If using regular mesh, try 2" wide.
~ A hook of your choosing (experiment with hook sizes US H8 - US K10.5 to find what works for you).
~ A smaller hook (two to four sizes down) for starting chain and hanging loop.
~ Optional stitch marker.

Special Stitch:
Split Single Crochet (Split Sc) - Insert hook between vertical strands of sc below, yo and pull up a tall loop, yo and draw through both loops on hook.

Note: Regular single crochet may be substituted for Split Sc if desired.

With scissors, trim the starting edge of your strip on a long angle (just as you did when joining the strips). With smaller hook, chain 5, join with slip stitch to form ring.
Round 1: With larger hook, loosely chain 1, work 6 very loose single crochets in ring, covering netting tail as you go. Do not join. Do not turn. Scrubbie will be worked in a spiral, with right side facing at all times.
Round 2: Work 2 Split Sc into each sc--12 sts. If desired, place marker in first stitch of round and move it up with each round.
Round 3: (2 Split Sc in next st, 1 Split Sc in next st) 6 times--18 sts.
Round 4: (2 Split Sc in next st, 1 Split Sc in each of next 2 st) 6 times--24 sts.
Round 5: (2 Split Sc in next st, 1 Split Sc in each of next 3 st) 6 times--30 sts.
Round 6: (2 Split Sc in next st, 1 Split Sc in each of next 4 st) 6 times--36 sts.
Final Round: Inserting hook normally (under top strands), slip stitch in each stitch around. Slip stitches will roll to the front and form a ridge around the scrubbie edge.
Join with invisible join to first slip stitch of round (see photos below).

Making the Invisible Join

1. Cut netting, leaving an 18" tail if you want a hanging loop, or a 6" tail if you don't want a loop.
2. Gently pull the tail up and out of the final slip stitch.
3. Insert smaller hook from WS to RS, through both strands of next slip stitch.
4. Pull tail through this stitch.
5. Turn scrubbie over and insert hook up through back bars of sc below final slip stitch AND through back loop of final slip stitch.
6. Gently pull tail down and through, forming invisible join. Adjust join if needed to match other stitches in size.

If you don't want a hanging loop, weave in the end now. If you do want a loop, read on....

Optional Hanging Loop

1. Tilt the scrubbie so you are looking down at the edge. You should be able to see the WS. Insert smaller hook, RS to WS, through all back bars of stitch just to the left of where the tail comes out. (Do not insert hook through back loop of slip stitch.)
2. Yo and pull up a loop with the tail.
3. Tightly chain 12-14 stitches or to your desired length.
4. Start the next invisible join: gently pull tail up and out of final chain stitch.
5. With WS facing you, insert hook from bottom to top through all back bars of the stitch just to the right of where the chain started.
6. Pull tail down and through, until final chain stitch just touches the scrubbie.
7. Insert hook through nearest loop of final chain (not through the back ridge), and pull tail through.
8. Second invisible join complete. Securely weave in end (I like to take it back down through the back bars, up through the back ridge of the final chain, back down through the back bars, then sideways back and forth once).
Trim as necessary.

Tips for a Cleaner, Longer Scrubbie Life
(as if this post weren't long enough already....)

~ Scrape and/or soak before you scrub. Don't use your precious crochet scrubbie to whittle away at baked-on cheese or gooey yeast dough. This will gum up the scrubbie and waste your energy. Instead, use a nylon pan scraper to chisel away any thick or gooey or greasy stuff, then switch to the scrubbie for finer cleaning.

~ A special tip for cleaning yeast dough: soak the bowl in cold water until the doughy bits are soft and swollen. Dump out most of the cold water, then use your hand to rub away the soft bits of dough. Rinse and finish as needed with soapy hot water and a scrubbie. (It's really hard to get yeast dough out of a scrubbie, but it will roll right off your hand.)

~ Don't wrap a scrubby around the tip or cutting edge of a knife. (Mr. M, are you listening?) This goes for fork tines as well. Instead, wrap the scrubby around the base of the fork, or the dull side of the knife, and wipe towards the tip or the sharp edge. :)

~ My scrubbies never seem to get smelly, but if yours do, pour some boiling water over and through them. Or you can soak them in some water with baking soda, or run them through the dishwasher, or nuke them (moistened with soap and water) for 30-45 seconds in the microwave.

~ If possible, hang your scrubbie to dry between uses; this will keep it smelling fresher. (Make the hanging loop long enough to slip over your faucet handle.)

The Last Word

If you have any questions, or find any mistakes in the pattern, please feel free to ask (or tell) in the comment box below. Or you can reach me on Ravelry, where I'm MrsMicawber.

You may do whatever you like with the scrubbies you make from this pattern, but you may not sell the pattern or reproduce the text of this post without permission. (Links are always welcome.)

Thanks for viewing, and happy crocheting. And scrubbing!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


  1. Excellent idea. I've never tried crocheting with nylon netting.

  2. This is so cool, and should it ever turn cool here I'm going to make some. I've copied all the directions for later use.

  3. Cool post. It appears I need to put in a scrubbie request to Snowcatcher.

    I miss vintage Levis too.

  4. Love it! Thank you so much for taking your time to share the pattern and make all these awesome videos! :) Wishing you a lovely day sweet friend. :)

  5. What a great, creative idea. I'm always looking for better scrubbers so I will have to try this. Thank you for sharing the technique!

  6. Thank you ! I may cast one on. I needed the whole tutorial

  7. What great tips you've shared! Now I need to go fill a special request...

  8. A million thanks...I am off to find some supplies in an instant. I love the colors!
    You are a genius.

  9. Thank you. I have a scrubbie I bought at a farmers market in Missoula, MT last summer that looks like this one but is on it's last legs. I haven't been able to find a pattern like it.

  10. Sue, you astound me, truly you do. I LOVE all the work you put into this post.
    Can't you just get your husband to do the dishes? You need to crochet, bike and write your blog! xx

  11. You are amazing and I love your scrubbies! We made it to Boise, Idaho for the night.. 4980 miles so far! Can't wait to be home. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

  12. I like these! I don't know when I'd have time to make one, but I'll add them to the crochet project list. Very practical.

  13. This is so cool. I love using non-yarn materials for crochet. Thanks for including all your tips and extra info! It's so nice when someone else has already done the experimenting and has some knowledge to share.

  14. This is so cool. I love using non-yarn materials for crochet. Thanks for including all your tips and extra info! It's so nice when someone else has already done the experimenting and has some knowledge to share.

  15. Does anyone have a tip on how to slide the netting through your hands? It takes me a very long time to work a stitch. Thanks

    1. Hi Barbara - netting is definitely difficult to work with. Some things that might help:
      1. Keep a VERY relaxed stitch tension. Your non-hook hand should be as loose as possible. If you are wrapping the netting strip over/under lots of fingers, or around one of your fingers, try instead to let it "flow" loosely between just two of your fingers. (Don't treat it like yarn - think of it as a kind of alien substance with a mind of its own, that needs to be approached gingerly and handled lightly.)
      2. Before making the scrubbie, crochet your strips into a long chain, then frog the chain (this relaxes the netting).
      3. Don't cut your strips too wide. Mine are no wider than 3/4" when using the the heaviest netting.
      4. Increase your hook size only if you must - using a too-large hook doesn't necessarily make it any easier to work into your stitches on the following rounds. Mess around with different hook sizes to find what works best for your strips and your hands.
      Good luck and remember to take frequent breaks to rest and flex your hands! :)

    2. Correction - just checked my strip width - it seems to fluctuate between 3/4" and 1". Sorry about that. :)

  16. I am confused, you mention to make a chain before one starts the scrubby but looking at the project as go, I see no chain?

    1. I use a very stiff mesh fabric, so before I crochet the scrubbie, I crochet a chain with my mesh strips. Then I frog the chain. Doing this relaxes the mesh a little bit. :)

    2. what does it mean when you say you frog the chain?

    3. I'm sorry for this late reply. "Frogging" is crochet/knit slang for undoing stitches, or pulling them loose. To frog crochet, remove the hook from the loop, and pull on the yarn to undo the stitch(es).


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