Tagged: baker’s twine

Jan 03

Christmas leftovers

 

How to knit your own dishcloths

 

Christmas is over, bar a few lords a-leaping and the waft of pine needles from the vacuum cleaner. I usually hang on until 5th January, just ahead of Twelfth Night, before taking down the decs, but this year I’m itching to move on and put the last vestiges of 2013 well behind me. My goodness, I even feel drawn to a spot of spring cleaning! Which is why I started eyeing my large cone of Christmas baker’s twine* with intent. Here’s an idea, I thought. Why not try creating baker’s twine dishcloths?

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Knitting with Christmas leftovers

 

Perhaps not the obvious conclusion to draw, but if necessity’s the mother of invention then post-Christmas boredom is her efficient midwife.

In case it’s new to you, baker’s twine is a twirling barber’s pole of a string which has become incredibly popular in recent years, thanks largely to the efforts of Martha Stewart and others. It gets used for anything, it seems, except its original purpose of crisply tying up boxes of baked goods. The classic red-and-white combination has a jaunty Scandinavian cheerfulness, but you’ll find the string in an array of other colours now too. Hard to beat it for jazzing up simple brown paper or white tissue gift-wrapping.

I bought in a huge reel from the US a few years ago, but when it arrived I was disappointed to discover that it was  a lot thinner than I’d hoped. A good baker’s twine needs to be a certain bulk and preferably all cotton. This was puny and an inferior poly-cotton blend – not what I’d hoped for at all. So, I had a lot of thin twine on my hands. What to do with it? Well, I’ve wrapped endless gifts and parcels with it, and tied up lots of packets of cookies. But this was a big reel and I’d barely made a dent. I needed a bigger project.

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Red and white twine makes a cheery Scandi-style dishcloth

 

Sitting down this New Year’s Eve, I cast on 40 stitches on size 3.5 mm needles, started knitting and just kept going. Turns out that working baker’s twine in garter stitch is relatively easy, and I really like the marled effect.

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Knitting with baker’s twine

 

You can, of course try other materials to make dishcloths: linen yarn, or dedicated dishcloth cotton yarn (yes, it really does exist) which looks great in ecru or white with occasional alternating stripes of red or other contrast colour in the same weight/fibre yarn, as shown here in this charming Purl Bee tutorial. But you don’t really need a tutorial: just cast on a few dozen stitches as the mood takes you. Knit until you have a square. Or a rectangle. Or knit a square from corner to corner, increasing then decreasing. Dishcloths are a really great vehicle for sampling new stitches: border details can be included, and all kinds of fancy stitches will add a functional texture:  But plain old garter stitch is all you need if you’re working with a patterned yarn such as baker’s twine. And, whatever the stitch, dishcloths make very portable projects to carry around with you for that inevitable idle moment. I’m admittedly not much of a knitter, but even I find 5 minutes of knitting surprisingly relaxing.

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Baker’s twine dishcloth

 

I tested this square in the washing-up bowl to see if my Christmas occupation-creation scheme really had any point, other than reducing my towering twine-mountain and proving a mindlessly relaxing pass-time. Could laboriously knitting these babies really offer any noticeable improvement on the shop-bought machine-produced-dishcloth experience?

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Putting it through its paces

 

Well, the answer’s yes. It was definitely pleasanter scrubbing my plates with this highly textured, nubbly, stretchy textile. And, as a considerable quantity of one’s day is taken up with mundane domestic tasks such as washing up, why not make this inevitable chore as pleasurable as possible? My heart gladdens a little just seeing this dishcloth hanging up to dry.

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Handmade dishcloths drying

 

It stands to reason that if you knit your own dishcloths, you’ll be motivated to take slightly better care of them, hanging them up to dry rather than maybe leaving them to their fate in the washing-up water. Other than that, you can just throw these in the washing machine when it’s time to hotwash your tea-towels. I have a dedicated cloth saucepan in which I boil out dishcloths with a certain brand of ecologically sound oxygen bleach, though I remember my mother-in-law using just a spoonful of salt.

I’ll certainly be looking at string and twine a little differently from now on, sizing up its dishcloth potential. By the way, the other cloth there on my drying rack is knitted with much thicker cotton dishcloth yarn (a DK to the red-and-white twine’s 4-ply) edged in a chunkier blue/aqua baker’s twine which came from an Anthropologie sale a couple of years ago. It makes a much thicker, spongier textile and is a lot quicker to work up into a good-sized cloth.

 

Q. Do you already knit your own dishcloths? If so, I’d love to hear how and with what. If not, would you be tempted now to give it a go? Have a healthy, happy and well scrubbed 2014!

 

 

*baker’s twine, or should it be bakers twine? I am never quite sure. Today I’ve gone with an instinctive possessive apostrophe. Just a hunch. But if you know otherwise, please leave me a comment to set me straight. Thanks.

 

 

 

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Jul 04

Patriotic hearts

Patriotic hearts

Patriotic hearts

 

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Oct 15

Tying up loose ends

There I was going on about pencils, new terms and fresh starts and look what happened: didn’t everything just grind to a halt there?

In truth, I’ve had a few unscheduled loose ends to tie. Those who’ve been following my tweets will have gathered that I have a brother with learning disabilities and autism who lives in care. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out at his last home, lovely though it was. Happily, another wonderful specialist autism place has emerged to care for him. He moved in this week and I’ve been nervous as a kitten, but so far so good. I hope that he is finally settled for the foreseeable future. In his own way, he’s a great guy and deserves stability and his share of happiness. Meanwhile, if anyone from his new home, his old home, or the assessment centre where he’s been living for the last few months is reading this, thank you! You do an amazing job and have my total admiration.

People on the autistic spectrum and their families don’t often have it so good, as I was reminded this week when I wound up in conversation with a total stranger at the pool. Her twenty-something son has Asperger syndrome and is clearly in a very disturbed and disrupted state, causing criminal damage, getting into trouble with the police and repeatedly attempting suicide. His mother is, understandably, almost suicidal herself with worry and strain. She and he appear to be falling through the cracks of the system: a situation that I recognise only too well as my brother also didn’t get the help he needed for years and years. But there is hope. Last year we witnessed a historic piece of legislation, the Autism Act 2009, geared specifically to help this vulnerable group of people. A public consultation is currently under way to decide what should be enshrined in this act, and it ends on 22nd October. If you have something–anything–to add to the debate about how to create a joined-up approach to Autistic Spectrum Disorder, please go the National Autistic Society site now and add your voice. Isn’t it about time we tied up these loose ends?

Back on Planet Scrapiana, I was thrilled with this thread-knotting sewing lesson from the amazing Fashion-Incubator. What a difference a good, reliable knot makes! I have a City & Guilds in Soft Furnishings, and learned a lexicon of knots when I sailed in my twenties, but this one was new to me. Do bear with the video quality as it’s worth it. Helps to know that the other end of the thread is through the eye of the needle round which she’s doing the wrapping. How neat is that?

And finally, you can tie this cheerful baker’s twine round your Christmas gifts to your heart’s content! I’ll be selling these spools at the It’s Darling! Christmas vintage & handmade event in Bath on 11th and 12th December 2010 which is back–and even bigger!– by popular demand. Now you get two whole days of vintage delights, and you can also get 10 metres of candy-cane baker’s twine on a genuine vintage wooden reel for just £4. Hope to see you there!

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Find me and my baker's twine at the It's Darling! Christmas Fair

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