“I just want more of her.” A wonderful piece on the late lamented food writer, Laurie Colwin.

For a Change from My Lameass Quilting

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Dear Ann,
Oh A-ann? Where ARE you? I know you said you’d be on vacation but it seems like you’ve dropped off the face of the earth or something. Turn on your GPS thingie so I can find you out there in the desert!
I have been quilting like a nut. LOVE THE QUILTING SO MUCH. I am trying to understand my deep loathing of The Template. But so far it seems quite possible to keep quilting without getting out the X-acto knife and cutting any templates. But I know that you, Ann, come here for the knitting. So I am going to lay some knitting on you. Hoo boy, I’ve been saving up for this.
It’s the Dishrag Parade people. To conserve bandwidth, this will be a thumbnail-ridden post–just click on the pictures to upsize (step INTO the dishrag). But in this post of few words (considering it’s me talking), all can witness one woman’s dishrag journey. How she played in the fields of the dishrag, how she striped, how she ombrayed, how she even intarsia’d her way to dishrag bliss. Prenez vos mouchoirs, mes amis! (Now switch to the Extended Entry and REVEL IN THE DISHRAG LUV!!!)


This was last summer’s Beach Knitting. I got tired of answering the question, ‘Whatcha knitting?’ with, ‘Um, a….[muffled] dishrag….’ Somehow, even for me with my raised consciousness about the Value of Old-Time Domestic Pursuits, knitting a dishrag is not something I’m eager to admit to some overbuffed woman on the beach. But I cannot tell a lie, I was knitting dishrag after dishrag. And loving it!
Here we go, with only the most ESSENTIAL commentary.
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Mexicali Ombre.
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LOVE this color (Sugar ‘N Cream Summer Splash).
My Fresca Period:
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It’s a pity there is no Fresca Can Ombre. Fresca-can fans have to fend for themselves.
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The ‘new’ Fresca can has yellow in it. I don’t approve of it, mind you. The old Fresca can was good enough for me. Don’t mess with perfection! But for historical accuracy, I had to document the new Fresca can in dishrag form.
And don’t forget about:
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Tab! Tab was the grownup glamour drink of my youth. Tasted so awful but you drank it anyway, to appear more teenager-like.
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This is a scrappy little ombre-fest. Mix the ombres!
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As the summer got hotter, my palette got icier.
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Pink lemonade…
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My Dustbowl Period:
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Found a bunch of 1930s colors in Sag Harbor’s Variety Store. Sent me into a tizzy of vintagey dishrags.
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And you thought I shunned all pastels.
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I had a whole cone of white Peaches & Creme. Then the urge to Use Every Scrap set in. This started with stripes, but soon led to:
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Ballband INTARSIA!!!!!
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I think it’s fair to credit the Gee’s Bend quilters for this development.
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Soon this became my favorite thing. Little blasts of contrast.
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You don’t have to slip the stitch, ya know.
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But if you want to, you can.
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It wouldn’t be fair not to show you the Ugly One. This one reminds me of the packaging that a horrible plastic toy might come in. What was I thinking?
And here’s the Weirdest One:
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That patch in the center is knitted from the Peaches & Creme DOUBLE worsted. So it has a completely different hand, no drape whatsoever.
Where Are They Now? (A VH1 Behind the Dishrag Story)
No, I’m not suffering from Dishrag Poisoning. I gave nearly every one of these dishrags away. Why? Because all the friends who were having such a good time making fun of me knitting dishcloths? THEY ASKED ME TO GIVE THEM DISHCLOTHS. O the hypocrisy! O the shamelessness! O shut up, here’s a dishrag!
Here are some Serving Suggestions for the gifting of the dishrags.
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For friends who are not very domestic, a plastic scrubby is a helpful hint. It says “You might want to use these things in the KITCHEN (which is to the left of the door as you enter your apartment).”
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I don’t even remember who I sent these guys to, but it was all about the fun towel.
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For an Ultra Platinum pal, send the dishrags in a felted box. Or 2 or 3.
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Martha Stewart puts out a mean dishtowel set.
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I nearly wept when I saw this scene in Leslie’s kitchen. She STYLED my dishrags.
Anyhoo, people, this is just in case anybody out there is feeling a little nutty about how many dishrags they’re knitting. You’ve got a ways to go before you catch me.
Love, Kay

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75 Comments

75 Comments

  1. LOL what a great photo story. I have mumbled the word dishcloth myself. People as “No socks today?” “What are you knitting now?” mumble cloth mumble :D But my dh who thought the whole knitting dishcloths was daft, wondered where his was. They were in the wash. I don’t have your monster collection yet. I am hoping for a totally retro 50′s towel drawer.
    My daughter took one dishcloth, folded it in half and sewed up the side for a sunglass case. Another one for her cell phone. She would like a matching summer bag. Step away from my dishcloths, missy.:D
    Those dishcloths have Voodoo in them. I find I am picking out orange, yellow and lime green. Colors that would normally send me running for my life.
    Kay darlin, you and Ann have a lot to answer for.
    love the patterns xxxooo

  2. My dishrag yarn came the other day. Thanks, Kay and Ann. I’ll be knitting more dishrags any day now.

  3. Dear Kay,
    I am at the beach as I write this and yes I have dish rags on the needles. Now that I have read this post it has become clear that I have much knitting to do to even come close to catching up with you. Does it count that I am also knitting Moderne baby blanket while I am here.Got to run the boys are heading for the beach and my yarn is trailing behind.

  4. I aspire to your level of dishrag nuttiness. Truly.

  5. Wow. That is a LOT of dishcloths! They are so cool – that’s a great gift idea. :-)

  6. Don’t diss the dishrag. It has saved my sanity many times. When I find yet ANOTHER mistake in a sweater or sock, and the ‘frog’ threatens to mess with my well-being, I toss the projects aside and take up a dishrag. Ah, the bliss of simplicity….

  7. Don’t forget the ones you left in Blighty! They are much used, I have to admit, I will never be rude about dishcloths again. To keep the MDK theme going, I am taking my 4-ply denim to the Outlaws and am going to try and convince Mother Outlaw (as opposed to in-law) to knit a baby kimono.
    Love all the colours. Genius, specially the intarsia ones.

  8. Love your dishrags… one for every occasion, personality and kitchen! I agree on the Fresca… it was best before the yellow. Can’t wait to meet you in Indy!!!

  9. Excellent washrags. The whole post, though, begs the question: how does one reach Ultra Platinum status? ;-)

  10. “Shock and awe” just took on a whole new meaning for me.

  11. I crochet and somehow managed to skip dishrags altogether. My “mumble mumble” projects were always… bath scrubbies! Especially the mitts with fur stitch all over the palm of them. As one person said, “If that wasn’t hot pink, I’d think you were making a yak.” But, as you alluded to, these muggles are only too happy to line up with their hands out for the finished products.
    Sometimes I feel like the Little Red Hen.

  12. I’m with Cara – bring on the Ultra Ultra Platinum Status Plan.
    I love the Fresca. My fav drink. Did you know that have Bastardized it? Peach Fresca, Cherry Fresca. It’s not your mother’s Fresca anymore.

  13. You are a sick, sick woman. But in a GOOD way.
    Woo-hoo! It’s a dishrag extravaganza!!!!

  14. I love those dishrags! Except I call them dishcloths. Same thing :P I actually just go the new book last night, so I can’t wait to start knitting. My sister and her hubby bought a house, so woohoo here come a whole lotta dishrags!

  15. Warshrag? It’s a placemat for your Lean Cuisine.

  16. Hmmmm, couldn’t you sew the dishrags together to make a knitted quilt, thereby joining your two loves?

  17. Kay, if you start with Gwen Marston’s “Liberated Quiltmaking,” you’ll never need to go back. (We don’t need no stinkin’ templates!) It’s a most liberating read.

  18. Wow, I really enjoyed your journey through the world of dishrag knitting. Its so interesting to see your progression with colors.

  19. Hey, try another dishcloth pattern, lady! Branch out! Take a walk on the wild dishcloth side!!

  20. well, its good to see that you know how to do things in moderation :-)
    What a dishrag display! I too read the last part of the post fixating on the Ultra Platinum Friend status level. Loved the part about the friends who mock you being the first in line for the handknits! Sounds quite familiar.

  21. God I love your Fresca period – wow – I am not brave enough to ombray – but I wish I was.

  22. I’m frightened.
    But I have to know – what was the final tally? Could you keep count?

  23. notre dame se la serpillière. it’s comforting to know that there is somebody out there even nuttier! (don’t know what i enjoy more- the instant gratification of knitting a dishcloth, or giving it away). people are so impressed by these little postcard-sized masterpieces! but you, dear, are the undisputed mistress.

  24. Ok.. how did you know how to find my kitchen? lol I love the idea… makes a great housewarming present for a bride or a graduate…. Love your book & blog… thanks…

  25. these should be hung on a gallery wall!

  26. I started my ball band dishrag mania in March and I have continued. It was my campfire knitting all last weekend – except I was doing logcabin square style dishrags instead. Got to buy more cotton! This will be my beach knitting this summer too!

  27. Hee! I really like the blue and red one near the bottom, you know, the one you call “ugly”. I have cones of blue ombre that are being turned into a bathmat atm, as soon as it’s done though… my mother has requested blue dishclothes. And she will get them! (she’s a tad more likely to use a dishcloth than I am anyway)

  28. i love it…! funny how you can make a dishrag good enough to eat.

  29. Delectable fun! I’ve been having a blast with the dishrags and my funky, always changing collection of Sugar & Cream. Great inspiration. I finally forced myself to turn a few more pages past the dishrags in the book last night and, OHMYGOODNESS, a RUG!!! My brain did a hop and a skip and next thing you know, I’m envisioning an entire slip-stitched bathroom… Oy.
    Thanks. ; )

  30. I, too don’t like to have people see me knitting a “common” dishcloth, no matter how fancy I make them. I would much rather show them something huge, fairisle or lace…. but many people tell me they love the cotton dishcloths. I make alot of them to sell for the Women’s Ministry at my church and they go real fast. When I put a price tag on them I call them “Manual Dishwashers”. I mostly knit them while watching a movie or listening to a book on tape.I’m getting something done while just sitting and they are a great thing for summer knitting.

  31. Delectable fun! I’ve been having a blast with the dishrags and my funky, always changing collection of Sugar & Cream. Great inspiration. I finally forced myself to turn a few more pages past the dishrags in the book last night and, OHMYGOODNESS, a RUG!!! My brain did a hop and a skip and next thing you know, I’m envisioning an entire slip-stitched bathroom… Oy.
    Thanks. ; )

  32. I, too don’t like to have people see me knitting a “common” dishcloth, no matter how fancy I make them. I would much rather show them something huge, fairisle or lace…. but many people tell me they love the cotton dishcloths. I make alot of them to sell for the Women’s Ministry at my church and they go real fast. When I put a price tag on them I call them “Manual Dishwashers”. I mostly knit them while watching a movie or listening to a book on tape.I’m getting something done while just sitting and they are a great thing for summer knitting.

  33. I do not agree with Cara, the true question is, “where is the Pepsi inspired dishrag?”.
    all for just a nickle too ….

  34. Ballband Bonanza! Did you know that the ballband
    makes a great bookmark for MDK?
    Susan

  35. Ballband Bonanza! Did you know that the ballband
    makes a great bookmark for MDK?
    Susan

  36. Love your dishrags. Knit them and share them with pride!

  37. Wow, I do feel better now! I was beginning to feel like a lame knitter, with only warshrags on the needles. Now I can knit in peace!

  38. Yay for Sag Harbor Variety! I’ve been cleaning out their shelves on a regular basis (and blaming other people for leaving nothing behind but baby pink and black and white). My affair with The Dishcloth was coolong off (must move on to the baby kimonos) until you posted those intarsia pictures! Thanks a heap!

  39. Those are fab! (and Tab!)
    I have a housewarming to attend next weekend–I need to knock out a few of those babies myself. I love the latest iterations–so graphic!

  40. I’ve been so thrilled to rediscover Fresca this year. It doesn’t have that metallic saccharine flavor that sets your teeth on edge, but it’s still thirst-quenching. Next, Tab. Oh, I live on the edge. It’s all so retro.
    LOVE your wonderful chronicle of The Dishrag Period.

  41. Just when you thought you were safe, cast on another! Summertime is cottontime! Thanks for the inspirations!

  42. Love them all!
    I was knitting a dishcloth on the bus in Milwaukee right after the book came out. A girl asked me what I was knitting, and worried that I would have to defend the dishcloth yet again I replied, “A dishcloth. My mom really likes them.” She was impressed that I was knitting for my mom; the dishcloth mattered not. :)

  43. I love The Ugly One! It’s like a little tessellation of Thor’s Hammers.

  44. They’re all beautiful works of art. You are the Queen of thoughtful,artistic gifts. It all enhances everyday life,which is,I believe,the purpose of all art. You have a unique and wonderful sense of colour.
    I think I love you ! :0)

  45. Jane was trying to convince me everyone else bought out all the good dishcloth yarn from Sag Harbor Variety – then I saw all the dishcloths she had completed – and now reading her post I KNOW the truth –

  46. Intarsia dishrags.
    I am both intrigued, and repulsed. I’ve thought about it a little, and I bet that’s how you felt too…you know, at first.

  47. My brother called to say hello and asked what I was doing. “Knitting dishcloths”, I said. He asked if “everything” was okay. He said I needed to get out more. I replied it would interfere with my dishcloth knitting. I think he seriously considered an intervention.
    Thanks for the fun and opportunity to leave my (if-she-is-knitting-dishcloths-she-must-be crazy)brother speechless.

  48. LOVE the dishrag collection, color combinations, intarsia, etc. LOVE the gift ideas. HOWEVER, how does one become a platinum friend?

  49. I’m knew to knitting. At the beginning of the year I never thought I’d be knitting of all things and now here I am. Anyway, after scarves I made a dish cloth, then another. Then more. I have dabbled in other projects but always return to dish cloths. I bought your book simply because of the dish cloth patterns. I have made two ball bands and a bit wonky Mason Dixon cloth. To commemorate “the year I learned to knit” everyone in my family will be getting a dishcloth in their stocking this Christmas. I’m so glad sophisticated authors of knitting books like dish cloths too.
    Thanks for sharing you pictures.
    Amy

  50. man oh man — you are just so wonderfully clever.

  51. usually i am loathe to knit dishrags because…well…*dishrags*, ok?
    facecloths? sure.
    but dishrags? i use one of those sponge-on-a-stick things to wash dishes, thank you.
    but while reading your hilarious post, something starting happening. i think it’s the cool colour combinations that are making me want to knit a few of these. maybe i can find someone to gift them with.
    hmmm….
    ; )

  52. In the 70s, my mom used to keep an open bottle of Tab on the lazy susan. She’d open the door, swing it around, and take a chug of warm, flat, Tab. It still grosses me out just thinking of it!

  53. Kay – you are an inspiration to us all.

  54. Wow. Awe shear awe. As a beginning knitter, I can’t say I’ve finished that many projects total, let alone an entire Summer Designer Collection in dishrags. Cool.

  55. OK, OK. I am a very beginning knitter, but I think I may have to get your book just so I can knit some of your funky dishrags! — Too fun!

  56. Love love love the dishrags. My roomie in college used to eat nothing but an apple and a large Tab from the cafeteria all day. I think they call that an eating disorder these days…Never could stand the taste. Now Diet Rite…that’s gOoooood.

  57. I love me some dishrag (or warsch-rag) cotton. In all the colors of the rainbow, along with quite a few that Noah never saw. Your Mexicali ombre dishrag can also go in your Fresca series- my daughter (the 22yo college grad waiting for the job offers to pour in while she works at Banana Republic and uses the employee discount to build her professional wardrobe- ’cause the college sweats and the beloved faded and antiqued denim? Not so professional.) has discovered black cherry citrus Fresca and the cans are both citrussy and black cherryish. Your “ugly dishrag that looks like a plastic toy wrap” actually reminds me of (insert Twilight Zone foreshadowing music here) an appliqued basket quilt block. Well, gotta go spend some quality time with Ms Maytag and Mr Whirlpool. The husband is leaving for a month-long work trip (or what we military types call TDY) and he just realized that all those dress shirts he’s been piling on the valet to wear again “since they only got worn once and aren’t really dirty”, should probably be washed before they get stuffed in the suitcase.

  58. Hi Kay! Way to go! Cool dishrags. You are nearly as crazy as I am. :D

  59. You are right on about TaB. I too thought it was a cool grown-up drink, and couldn’t for the life of me figure out why they liked it. Nasty stuff. And now to find out there is a fan website devoted to it!?!
    I just learned my something new for today…

  60. Kay, after seeing those pix now I completely understand the dishrag thing. Tab! Fresca! Ah, the memories….
    Thanks so much for supporting my Ride!

  61. Kay, thanks for sharing the dishrag odyssey. Such wild variety hiding there in dishcloth yarn and a simple pattern. I’m finishing a pair myself (to give away, of course) in orange and turquoise.
    As to TAB — it’s back, and now with MORE caffeine http://www.newyorker.com/talk/content/articles/060206ta_talk_mcgrath. I can remember girls in my college dorm (late ’70s, not that I’m dating myself) who drank a six-pack of ‘em a day, but not coffee because, well, coffee was bad for you.

  62. You are MOST DEFINATELY the QUEEN! I loved that post, made me smile on a day I was certain I wouldn’t. :)

  63. I agree with Gwen… much prefer to lavish all that attention on face clothes! They just get softer and softer.
    My mother survived (barely) for years on Fresca, Kents and vitamins. Oh, and Scotch. Her MD never knew that she rarely ate anything else. That was MORE than an eating disorder. And she’s long gone, so I’ll be knitting these clothes for ME. Or maybe my darling daughter. And future daughter in law!

  64. The dishrags are beautiful Kay. I’m sure all of the recipients are now much more happy while doing that little chore.

  65. Fresca and Tab (in bottles) were the two things without alcohol that I drank most in college! Bought too much cotton for my mitred square baby blankets so many dishcloths to come, i’m sure.
    Thanks for this one.

  66. Lay-dee, LOOK OUT!
    I just, I mean, I can’t, it’s like… ya holdin’ out on us?
    Like, we didn’t get the wild mad intarsia before, and it’s like, almost a year ago now, and I’m thinking… Here’s what I’m thinking, I’m thinking you got a whole ‘nother book already WROTE already, you gotta whole passel a blankets that didn’t even get photographed yet. I mean, there’s just, it’s like, too much, man.
    Grammar-out-the-window groovy.
    Can’t wait to see this summer’s knitted Denise and also can’t wait for next year to see this summer’s secret knitting. Sheesh!

  67. Did I miss the pattern link?! ‘Cause I’d LOVE to have it.

  68. Hehe, I know what you mean about templates. I can’t stand them for quilts (or many other things) either. I am just about to start the washrag pattern myself, very exciting. Once I get the hang of it… washrags for everyone! I really like your shipping ideas, very nice indeed.

  69. Love love LOVE the white with the Mexicali stripes! Is the Mexicali a Peaches & Creme colorway? (We don’t have that here, but we get SUgar & Cream in abundance.) THanks so much for all the new ideas!

  70. Have had your book ordered at the library. Can harely wait to read it. Have read the comments about the “lowly dishrag” frenzy. They were so funny made my day. Maybe I will take up knitting again. Knitting does not go as fast as crochet. Willing to try the knitting again

  71. I have never laughed so hard in my life…………You should do travelogs!
    Very, very good blog and thank you.

  72. The wonders of knitting dishrags never cease to amaze me…Your collection is beautiful and inspiring!!! I appreciate your creative use of color. I will be showing it to my family when I make a brown and pink set.

  73. They are SO beautiful. ALL of them!

  74. This has to be one of my favorite posts! :)
    I think it’s time to bust out the 7′s and some cotton!

  75. ..so I actually love the dish clothes…where can I get the pattern?