Learning how to knit a dishcloth or washcloth is a quick and easy project that’s ideal for beginners. Not only will you learn and be able to practice some essential knitting techniques, you’ll also have a beautiful handmade item that you can use at home every day. 

Ready to begin knitting a washcloth or dishcloth? Keep reading.

Knitting Supplies

square knit
Following a dishcloth knitting pattern can be helpful.

You don’t need anything fancy to knit a washcloth or dishcloth, just some basic knitting supplies that you can find easily at your local craft store or online.

Washcloth or Dishcloth Knitting Pattern

It’s not essential to follow a washcloth or dishcloth knitting pattern for this simple project—patterns are more helpful for advanced knitting projects that change up the number or types of stitches or colors often. 

However, if you prefer to see instructions written down, Skillshare instructor Samantha Locking provides a simple dishcloth knitting pattern in her How to Knit a Dishcloth Tutorial. This can easily be adapted into a washcloth knitting pattern, too.

Knitting Needles

There are many different kinds of knitting needles, but for this project, you can use a regular pair of single-pointed needles. Choose a material that feels good in your hands, whether that’s wood, bamboo, plastic, or aluminum. 

When knitting, you should generally follow the guidance on the yarn regarding what size needle to use. However, for a cloth, you might want a looser weave fabric than you might for an item of clothing. If, for example, your yarn suggests using a size 7 needle but you’d like to knit a looser fabric, going up a couple of sizes and using size 9 or 10 needles is fine. The larger the needles, the quicker the time it will take you to knit.

Washcloth or Dishcloth Knitting Yarn

Knitting yarn comes in a huge variety of colors, textures, and fibers. Not all are suitable for knitting a dishcloth or washcloth as some are too delicate, too absorbent, or not absorbent enough.

A simple cotton yarn is good for this project because it’s absorbent and generally washes up well. To knit a washcloth, soft natural yarns will feel nicer against your skin. For a dishcloth, a coarser, such as a cotton-acrylic blend, would also work. Also, while lighter colors might look pretty, they’ll also show makeup or kitchen stains more clearly.

Make Those Pots and Pans Sparkle

How to Knit a Dishcloth

What Stitches to Use

You could use all kinds of fancy decorative stitches to knit a washcloth or dishcloth, but there’s really no need (unless you’re giving them as a gift, perhaps). The basic knitting stitches are ideal for this project.

Longtail Cast On

There are various ways of casting on (or beginning) knitting projects. The longtail cast on is good when you need your fabric to be stretchy at the edges. While this may not be essential for a washcloth or dishcloth, it’s good to learn this method of casting on early in your knitting journey so you can use it again later in more advanced projects. 

Check out this tutorial to learn about different cast on methods.

Garter Stitch

Garter stitch is the most basic type of knitting stitch (and actually, it isn’t a single stitch but what is created when you knit row upon row of knit stitches). Any beginner knitting class will teach you how to do the knit stitch—without it, there would be no knitting!

Increases and Decreases

Increases and decreases describe the stitch you create to make your knitted fabric larger and smaller as you go along. It’s important to do them in the right places according to your pattern or instructions to ensure your project is the correct size and shape. A great thing about learning to knit a dishcloth or washcloth is that it’s a quick project that will give you a chance to practice these important techniques. 

How to Knit a Washcloth

white knit washcloth
Learn to knit a washcloth like these pretty examples.

The following instructions detail how to make a 10 inch by 10 inch cotton washcloth. You could adapt the instructions to make a larger or smaller cloth, or switch the smoother cotton yarn out for a more abrasive “scrubby” dishcloth. 

If you follow along to Diane Dobson’s Skillshare tutorial, on which these instructions are based, note that she uses the continental knitting technique. This is a simple and straightforward method of knitting, but it’s less commonly used in North America than the English knitting technique. 

In continental knitting, you hold the working yarn in your left hand rather than in your right hand, as you do with English knitting. It’s no more difficult than English knitting, but because it’s less common in some places, you might wonder why the steps in the tutorial look a bit different from what you learned! Continental knitting is completely interchangeable with English knitting, and the end results will look the same.

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

knitting needles
Some materials you’ll need to knit a washcloth.

For this project you will need:

  • A pair of knitting needles in the size suggested on your yarn label, or larger
  • 1 skein of cotton yarn
  • A darning needle
  • A pair of scissors

A washcloth knitting pattern isn’t necessary if you follow along with a video tutorial.

Step 2: Cast On

Cast on four stitches using the longtail cast-on method.

Step 3: Knit Four Stitches

casting on to knitting needle
Knit your first row with four stitches.

Using the four stitches you just cast on as a base, knit four simple knit stitches into them.

Step 4: Increase One Stitch with the Yarnover Technique, and Repeat

Start to increase the size of your knitted cloth by adding a stitch to each row using the yarnover technique. Knit the first two stitches of the row, and then bring the yarn back around the needle and knit into it to create another stitch.

Repeat this process of increasing by one stitch on each row of knitting until you have 47 stitches on your needle.

Step 5: Decrease One Stitch at a Time

Once you have a triangle of fabric with 47 stitches on the needle, it’s time to start decreasing the width of your washcloth. 

Knit the first stitch of your row. Then, instead of inserting the right-hand needle into one stitch, insert it into two and knit it as you would normally. With the next stitch, do a yarn over, then knit another two stitches together. Knit to the end of the row normally, then repeat this process for the remainder of the washcloth, until you’re down to having just four stitches on your needle.

Step 6: Bind Off

Finishing off a piece of knitting is called binding off (or casting off). Slide the first stitch on your left-hand needle onto the right-hand needle. Then, slip the third stitch over the second and knit into the second stitch. Repeat this process for the remaining three stitches until you’re left with one. Knot this at the end and cut off the yarn, leaving a tail of a few inches.

Step 7: Weave in the Tail

washcloth edges
Weave the tail into the washcloth.

Weave the tail created after the bind off into the fabric using your darning needle. Voilá! You have a washcloth ready to use.

What Will You Knit Next?

yarn and needles
Take the needles and knit something new.

Knitting a dishcloth or washcloth will help you develop the skills you need for more advanced knitting projects. While it’s nice to get everything looking just right when making these small, simple items, you can consider a dishcloth or washcloth a practice project where there’s room to make mistakes. Practice makes perfect, and scarves, table runners, hats, blankets, socks, and even sweaters will be within your reach soon. Have fun!

Next Up: Knit a Funky Scarf

Knitting 101: The Basics for Beginners

Written by:

Elen Turner