Thursday, May 16, 2024

Solid State Dishcloth: a Free Crochet Pattern

Imagine a kitchen drawer full of pretty crochet dishcloths. You open the drawer and choose one, pausing to admire the fancy stitch pattern. You plunge it into soapy water and wring it out, and then reality strikes: the fancy dishcloth is now a shapeless blob, with rows of holes between the stitches. Nothing but a trip through the dryer will shrink it back into shape.

Why do so many crochet dishcloths lose their shape, or develop gaping holes? The fault, dear reader, is partly in the yarn; cotton has no recovery. But the real culprit is crochet itself.

Crochet stitches under vertical tension will naturally tighten at the base and loosen at the top. This leads to gaps between rows, and flared or misshapen edges. You can try to get around it by using shorter stitches, but even single crochet dishcloths can develop holes at the top of each row. You can try working your stitches more tightly, but that may hurt your hands. You can try special techniques like waistcoat stitch, or working two rows below, but you may end up with a dishcloth so thick it never really dries between uses. What's a crocheter to do?

This crocheter decided to design a dishcloth that simply can't stretch into gaping holes. After making many samples, and testing them for months in my own kitchen, I happily present the Solid State Dishcloth.

The Solid State Dishcloth uses a special variation of single crochet that keeps tension evenly distributed - not only within each stitch, but also between each row. Wet or dry, this dishcloth will not develop gaping holes. It also features a flexible I-cord foundation, perfectly straight sides, and a tidy slip stitch edging that helps prevent flared or distorted edges.

Here's one of my Solid State Dishcloths, a few months into the testing period. It's soaking wet, and has just been through a strenuous round of dishwashing and counter-wiping:

Are there gaps? Yes, but they're very small and very consistent. And the cloth has held its shape.

Can a Solid State Dishcloth ever bias, or look less-than-square? A little, when it's soaking wet - just as any sturdy cotton fabric might. But the special stitch structure, along with the edging, minimizes stretching, so it's easy to tweak the cloth back into shape for drying. If your tension is consistent when you crochet it, this dishcloth will keep its shape. 

The Solid State Dishcloth won't be the fanciest dishcloth in your drawer, but it may very well be the sturdiest. To make your own, read on.

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Solid State Dishcloth Videotutorial (written pattern below)

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Solid State Dishcloth Pattern in Mostly Plain English

Yarn Requirements: Kitchen cotton yarn, 40-50 gm/60-85 yards

Size: Custom (I have small hands, so my dishcloths are 6" x 7" and use less than 30 gm each; yours can be any size you like)

Yarn I Used: Worsted weight hand-dyed kitchen cotton from my dear friend Snowcatcher

Hook(s): Choose a hook size appropriate for your yarn (you might want to try a smaller hook than usual for the dishcloth body). Optional for edging: extra hook, one size smaller than hook used for body.

Hook Sizes I Used: US G/4.25mm for body; US F/3.75mm for edging

Recommended stitch tension: Relaxed for body; moderate for  foundation row and edging

Notions: 2 stitch markers; yarn needle for weaving in ends

All crochet terminology is American.


Abbreviations and Special Terms

Sc: Single crochet
Near/Nearer/Nearest: Close(r) to your hook hand as you work.
Far/Farther/Farthest: Far(ther) from your hook hand as you work.
RS: Right side
WS: Wrong side
Sl st: Slip stitch

Pattern in Mostly Plain English, with Tips and Photos

Dishcloth may be worked over any number of stitches.

Foundation Row: To start the I-cord foundation row, make a knotless longtail cast-on as follows.

1. Wrap a 6” yarn tail across the front of the hook towards your hook hand, behind the hook away from your hook hand, then drop the tail in front of the working/running yarn.
2. Place the forefinger and thumb of your non-hook hand between the tail and the working yarn.
3. Grab the end of the tail with a spare finger of your non-hook hand.
4-5. Lift your thumb so that the tail loops up and over it. The working yarn should be looped over your forefinger. With hook, reach in front of the tail, then up through the loop on your thumb.
6. With hook, reach back and scoop the working yarn from in front of your forefinger.
7. Pull the working yarn through the loop on your thumb.
8. Remove your thumb and tighten the tail.

You should now have 2 loops on your hook that look like this:

Begin making 2-loop I-cord: *Remove your hook from the first loop (the one nearest the tip), and hold this loop's base with your thumb and finger so it can't twist. Yarn over and pull up a loop in the second loop, then re-insert hook into the first loop, yarn over and pull up a loop. (One I-cord row complete.) Repeat from * to desired dishcloth width.

Working the I-cord foundation

Tips for I-cord: Keep tension moderate and consistent. Don't worry if your I-cord looks a bit gappy on the back side; this will go away when you crochet the first row of the dishcloth.

Finishing I-cord foundation: When I-cord is desired length, remove hook from first loop, then re-insert it from back to front. Yarn over and pull through both loops on hook. Notice that your I-cord looks like 2 columns of knit stitches. Place a marker in the topmost loop of the column nearest your hook hand; place another marker in the bottommost loop of the same column. This is the column you will be working into on the next row.

Ending the I-cord foundation

Row 1 (WS): Chain 1. Keeping working yarn in front, twist I-cord counterclockwise (left-handed crocheters should twist clockwise) nearly all the way around, until the topmost marker is facing you, with the working yarn coming up in front. Beginning in topmost marked stitch, working with relaxed tension, sc in each stitch of marked column until 1 empty stitch remains before next marked stitch. (Be careful not to let the I-cord twist as you work. Make sure you work into the same column from start to end.) Insert hook into the empty stitch, yarn over and pull up a loop, insert hook into marked stitch, yarn over and pull up a loop, yarn over and pull through both loops on hook. Count your stitches; this will be your stitch count for the rest of the pattern.

Turning the foundation and working Row 1

Tips for working with relaxed tension: Consciously relax both your hands. Don't tug on the yarn at any stage of the stitch. Let the working yarn flow loosely through your non-hook hand. Another way to achieve relaxed tension is to draw up a taller-than-usual base loop (also known as the golden loop) on each sc, then yarn over and pull through both loops normally. Having a taller base loop will, by default, create a looser sc.

Row 2 (RS): Chain 1, turn work so as to keep working yarn in front (counterclockwise for right-handers, clockwise for left-handers). Working into front bar and front loop of each sc, with relaxed tension, sc in each sc across until 1 stitch remains at end of row. Insert hook into front bar and front loop of last stitch, yarn over and pull up a loop, insert hook under front bar and the loop that crosses it slightly lower down at the end of the row (together they look like an X), yarn over and pull up a loop, yarn over and pull through all loops on hook.

Tips for working into front bar and front loop: Remember to insert hook upwards, first under the front bar, then under the front loop. If you're having trouble getting the hook under both loops, try this method: find the /\ under the front bar. With the tip of your hook, catch the far edge of the farther leg of the /\, then rotate hook tip to slide it up and under the front loop and front bar.

Following Rows: Repeat Row 2 to desired dishcloth size, ending with an even-numbered row. Remember to keep a relaxed tension, keep the working yarn in front when you turn, and work the last stitch of every row into both the front loop/front bar and the little X at the row end. When you finish an even-numbered row, your hook should be at the opposite corner to the starting tail.

General tips: When working the dishcloth body, keep your overall tension as consistent as possible. Your row end stitches should be the same height as the stitches in the middle of the row. This will help your dishcloth maintain its shape during use.

Edging (RS): Chain 1, rotate work sideways. If desired, switch to a smaller hook. Working into the row ends, sl st in each row end to corner, rotate work sideways. Working into unused I-cord column, sl st in each I-cord stitch to next corner, rotate work sideways. Sl st in each row end to next corner (you may end up with 1 more sl st on this side than you did on the other), rotate work sideways. Sl st in each sc to end.

Slip stitch edging tips: Use moderate, consistent tension; don't work too tightly, or the edges will pucker.

Invisible join: Cut yarn, leaving a 6" tail. Gently pull yarn tail up and out of stitch (this is your "originating stitch"). Insert hook from back to front through both loops of first edging sl st made, pull yarn tail all the way through. Insert hook from back to front through originating stitch, pull yarn tail all the way through. Insert hook from WS to RS through top loops of sc behind originating stitch, pull yarn tail all the way through. Weave in ends.

Now you're ready to wash some dishes!

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If you have any questions, or find mistakes in the pattern, please feel free to comment below, or contact me on Ravelry where I'm MrsMicawber.

Thanks for viewing, and happy crocheting!

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Friday, May 10, 2024

A Rush of Beauty

The beauties of spring start as a trickle: a few blades of grass here, a dandelion there, a certain blue in the sky, trees hazy with the suggestion of new leaf. Then the trickle becomes a flood, as lawns and fields suddenly turn emerald, wildflowers appear and begin to spread, the sky deepens to azure, and trees burst into heady bloom, sending puffs of ineffable sweetness along the breeze.

Much of this loveliness is transitory; the blossoms that shine one week are often gone by the next. This is why wildflower-loving cyclists carry cameras.

Here are two weeks' worth of the rushing beauty of spring, as seen on several rides.

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Wild plum blossom in the last few days of April (how I wish I could include the scent):

Less thrilling, but still exciting to winter-starved eyes, is the first wave of humble wildflowers, like field pennycress and yellow-rocket growing along the river trail:

And garlic mustard, or Jack-by-the-Hedge, blooming along country roads:

Delicate white serviceberry blossoms appear, peeking out from the edge of a wood...

...with a rare patch of mayapple on the wood floor behind them:


On my first May ride, taken a week ago today, spring proves particularly distracting.

The first stop (of many) is to photograph a new-to-me wild apple tree in full bloom:

At its foot sprouts a morel, with more nearby:

(No, I didn't pick them, though I hear they're delicious.)

The next stop is at a favorite bend in the road, where shadowed water flows silently under a bridge to reflect the trees beyond, while swallows swirl overhead:

On the sunward side of the bridge, a pair of geese floats on the shining stream:

A mile or two later, another stop to snap this leafy spurge flowering by the roadside:

Then up a hill and down the other side, and around a corner, to pause for photos of wild violets...

...and a venerable lilac, growing in the middle of nowhere, that blooms with abandon every spring. Tallulah asks for a sniff:

"Mmmmm," she says. "I do love lilacs."

"So does someone else," I say, and point upwards. Over our heads, a swallowtail dances from cluster to cluster:

Spring doesn't get any better than this. :)

Around another corner, then down a long gentle slope past a favorite oak tree:

Round the next bend I spy some tall wild asparagus nearly going to seed (it's early this year!), and stop to pick a handful:

Then, a few miles later, another stop where one of my very favorite wildflowers is in bloom - Jacob's ladder or Greek-valerian:

I know only two spots where this wildflower grows, which makes it seem extra special.

A few hundred yards on, we see a Very Distant Cousin of Tallulah's in the middle of the road. Again we stop, and Tallulah calls out a friendly greeting, but the VDC is exceedingly shy and disinclined for conversation.

Hello, Very Distant Cousin!

So we content ourselves with encouraging it to finish crossing the road, and wave goodbye as it disappears into the grass on the other side.

Stay safe.

("Now it won't end up flat like some of the other turtles we've seen along the way," says Tallulah with a sigh of relief.)

Around the next corner is a marsh dotted over with marsh marigold:

A wild apple tree leans out over the water's edge:

When we reach home, the wild asparagus is transferred from my pocket... the kitchen, where it features as the star ingredient in an omelette the next morning:


On Sunday's ride, wild anemone are just beginning to bloom in shady stretches under the trees:

I pass a group of small trees growing along a fence, covered in tiny pink-spotted blossoms:

Perhaps another variety of plum? These have very little scent compared with the white plum blossom shown above, but they're lovely to look at.

Around the next corner, friendly cattle watch me pass:

A large outbuilding behind them sports a rather heraldic-looking barn quilt:

Then down one hill and up another to the windy prairie, where turbines spin lazily, harvesting energy from the air:


On Monday evening I take a short ride around the village, and see rosy flowering crab in the local park:

Mystery blossoms at the edge of a neighbouring marsh:

And pale young oak leaves like spectral fingers, with trailing flowers behind:

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Rather than end on this ghostly note, I'll post one more photo. Can you guess what these flowers are?

Collard blossom! Last year's collard and kale plants were still in the ground when spring came, and when I saw them putting out new leaves, I decided to leave them there for a bit to see what they would do. Before long they bolted, and we now have a large patch of surprisingly tall and unexpectedly pretty yellow flowers. They're very cheery, and very popular with the local bumblebees. I'll keep them until I'm ready to plant this year's garden at the end of the month, when out they'll come. Until then, we (and the bumblebees) will enjoy the show.

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Watch for a free dishcloth pattern in my next post!

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