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Dear Ann,

Did you ever think that I’d run out of handknit dishcloths in my kitchen? Me, Kay Gardiner, queen of the dishrag knitters?

Without exaggeration, I’ve knit dozens of dishcloths, well over a hundred. Even if you factor in all the ones I gave away, I have known the joys of a bountiful dishcloth drawer.

But time, and people spilling things on counters, take their toll on even the most robust among us. My dishrags eventually turned into literal rags. They went sort of grayish-brown and shaggy, but they continued to show up and work hard. Until they were more hole than cloth.

Things got so bad, Ann. I hate to admit this to you, but: A few months ago, I got some storebought dishrags. The handknit ones had well and truly given up the ghost.

When you’ve spent over a decade living in a dream world, wiping down the counters with handknit dishrags, it’s hard to go back to flimsy ones from the store. So it’s been bugging me, and I recently started quietly knitting dishrags again. I keep one in a go-bag, and knit on it whenever I’ve got a few spare seconds.

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The One True Dishrag

All handknit dishrags go to heaven. They are all good. I’ve designed a fair few of them myself. But my go-to, old reliable dishcloth pattern continues to be the one I first met on the label of a skein of dishcloth cotton: the mighty Ballband Dishcloth.

Here’s a link to the free pattern.

In the original  pattern, you cast on 45 stitches, and you work 13 rows of “bricks.” This is a nice, big cloth. It’ll do a lot of wiping. It’s a Good Thing. You will get years of service out of this version of the Ballband Dishcloth.

This Changes Everything

I had no notion that I would ever change my Ballband Dishcloth recipe. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But last summer, I saw that our friend Kelley Dew, my sister in devotion to the Ballband, makes hers a little differently. She casts on 33, and works 9 rows of bricks. Like this little one here:

Isn’t it cute? It looks like a traveling salesman’s sample of a Ballband Dishcloth.

Kelley’s Ballbands are extra fancy, with i-cord edging and hanging loops.

Photo: Kelley Dew. Left: Ballband Dishcloths. Right: Mitered Hanging Towel.

Kelley’s version knits up a lot faster, a plus when you’re sick and tired of store bought dishrags. It’s the perfect fit for my hand, and just as good at doing its scullery chores. A smaller cloth dries faster, too. I’m sold!

Pie dishcloth/towel is a section of the brilliant Lattice Have Pie Towel by Amy Marie.

My dishcloth drawer has a whole new lease on life! Stay tuned for a steady stream of mini-Ballbands. I’m calling them Kelleys.

Butterprint Pyrex bowl is from a thrift store haul of dear Martha Blom, who really gets me.

If you’re good, I might make you a couple.




  • I love them too. I too used to play with patterns, but now I stick to the ballband. Each time I make one, I consider making it smaller, but then I don’t. However, my dishcloth yarn stash of many years is almost gone & while I’m now trying to decrease my stash, I think a big one with many colors is needed for this. Or is it really?

    • I find the striped ones turn out super especially if you have enough of one color for the background. It takes a surprisingly small ball for that bit, most of the yarn is in the bricks.

  • Great piece, Kay. I think I need some of these for my new apartment!

    • I just finished knitting a ballband dishcloth with bricks knitted with Red Heart Cotton Scrubby. It’s so new that it hadn’t been used but I think it will be marvelous. When I finish the dishcloth currently on my needles, I will make a Kelley or two!

      • I’m in awe of anyone who can knit anything other than garter stitch with Scrubby yarn.

      • Brilliant for using up bits of Scrubby!

    • Funny this came up today. A friend working in an assisted living facility asked for yarn and needles to have on hand for if/when they go into COVID-19 lockdown. I immediately gathered up cotton and appropriate needles to send as well as the trusty ballband pattern. A perfect and useful diversion.

  • I repaired a ball band dishcloth this winter. My husband asked why anyone fixes a dishrag but it was a special one and worthy of repair. I had knit it in orange and white for my beloved Tennessee mother who never saw the use of a handmade dishrag. (She’s gone on to assisted living, not to her great reward.) Also though, would the icky waffle weave dishrags from Walmart she favored give up the ghost. We are big, big, big on no waste here but I’d love some more Volunteer dishrags to make me happy.

    This year also knit ball bands for the folks at work as well. Someone posted on social media that, “Dishes suck.” True statement, so I knit a small pile, tied them cutely with some Peaches and Cream and left them at our take what you need, leave what you have box in the office. They all made there way to homes where dishes suck less now.

  • Thanks Ann I am a busy professional but now work from home. I have been storing up my cotton for downtime. I found a generic dishcloth pattern years ago but the Ballbands look like a change I may want to make . Where do you obtain the pattern?

    Glad to know I am not alone in this respect.

    • The link to the original pattern is in the post:
      To make the smaller version, cast on 33 stitches and work nine rows of “bricks”, then cast off as directed in the original pattern.

    • I believe they’re found on the inside of Lilley Peaches and Cream labels, but you need to check the label (it tells what pattern is on the inside).

  • I love me a slip-stitch pattern &MDK will always be associated to the comfort and wild possibilities (!) that are those little dear dishcloths. I am currently obsessed w/ Circle Cloths and they are good…

  • Aw shucks Kay! There’s just nothing better than a handknit dishcloth. I use them everyday. Today’s the perfect day to cast on more! And that pie one!!!

    • Kelley–I remember yours from the IG pictures. They were, and are, so inspirational to me! Love your IG posts. Your knowledge and capabilities are interesting, vast, eclectic, and made with so much love.

      • I found this pattern on your blog many years ago and have been knitting them since. They make great hostess gifts all gussied up with a clever printed wrapper. I only use my hand knit dishcloths. They are the best!!

  • I too love handmade dishcloth. How do you keep the sour smell away which shows up a few weeks after using?

    • I throw mine in the towel load every week and that prevents the smell.

    • Soak them in white vinegar!

      • Second the vinegar suggestion! i used to add a cup of white vinegar to my load of towels, but it only -somewhat- helped. Then i moved and got a washer with a “soak and rinse”, I add the vinegar to this soak- and set a a timer to make sure I don’t forget it when it’s done.

    • I live in coastal FL, and I also deal with the sour smell…I bleach mine, and after that no longer works, they are moved on to other uses…or are throw out!!!

      • I’m in Central Florida. I leave dish soap in the cloth after each use, then, when U run the dishwasher, I drop it onto the top tray.
        And dry in the Florida sun.
        No smells.

    • I knit a couple from some linen yarn and they don’t get that smell! They are my favorites!!!

      • Thank you Bev! I’ve been anti-hand-knit dishrags because they take too long to dry in the humidity of summer and end
        up sour. Sourness not cured by washing with laundry and drying in a dryer. Will try linen!

  • Me too Kay, needed some new dish cloths. I love the Ballband Dishcloth but lately have been working up your Linoleum Dishcloths for a change. So fun, so beautiful, so scrubby. Will post a pic on Inst now on my account @thelongway63.

  • As I knit Dishcloth 100+, I would like to share my extremely sturdy, although plain, tough dishcloth. Lasts about 2 years. With a size 6 needle, cast on 46 stitches. Knit every row until the ball of Sugar and Cream is nearly gone, then cast off. Makes a perfect square! Stitches are tight and fat! Friends beg me for these, truly. Call these Plain Dixie! LOL

  • Love the loop, how was it closed?

    • Seconded, i really like that loop.

      • Also, would like to know how to do icord loop?

  • I use them as washcloths in the shower. The last time I made a batch of 12, each one in colors representing a different month. But they are getting worn and it might be time to go on another washcloth tear!

  • I have discovered the advantage of dishclothes knit with synthetic yarns, because they are NOT absorbent.

    Yes, this disqualifies them for counter wiping duties but makes them great for washing and scrubbing dishes and pots. Soap and yucky stuff rinse out quickly and thoroughly and like their cotton counterparts they can be laundered and dried easily. And because they are synthetic they seem to last forever, at least far longer than the ones I used to make with cotton.

    I make them smaller, about 4 X 4, to mimic the size of a kitchen sponge.

  • I unearthed a bag of dishcloth cotton I used for you bib pattern just yeasterday. I was looking for some heavy cotton to use in a provisional cast-on. Fate? Knitting zeitgeist? #castoncloths!

  • The perfect “knit in place” project when you are practicing “pandemic protocols.”

  • I’ve begun a tradition of giving a set of hand knit linen dishcloths to anyone who invites me over for dinner. I pick a pattern from one of my stitch encyclopedia books. I use linen (Louet mostly) so they don’t get the sour smell and because I find the cotton too thick for my hand washing needs.

  • OMG – if you are the queen of dishcloths, I am your lady in waiting! I am obsessed: it is my travel knitting, and any time I have to wait knitting. New neighbor? I welcome you with a dishcloth. Invite us to dinner? I thank you with a dishcloth. I have so many colors of your Rowan cotton, and I am currently making the log cabin 9 patch from the Log Cabin field guide. I’ve made so many Bodhi leaves too, plus the ball band and mitered towel – I love your patterns! I have two 9 patch cloths on my counter just because they make me happy!

    • This is my sister. She is telling the truth: family and friends have been the lucky beneficiaries of her MDK dishcloth largesse. I’ve suggested she might need to move on, but so far it isn’t happening.

  • Really cute- now you have me wondering about knitted placemats!

    • Briliant Idea! I’m so tired of my paltry array of place mats — and I LOVE the Ballband pattern. Why not make some place mats??!! Why indeed…

  • I knit my first several months ago, but haven’t been able to use it for its intended purpose, because I put it down on my countertop and The Cat decided it was clearly meant for him to sit on.
    What you gonna do?

    • Cats know things, so it’s best not to argue.

  • I’ve been making 33 stitch ball bands for years. The 45 stitch cloths are too big for me. I even make 29 stitch cloths for our tiny trailer. I’ve tried other patterns but none work as well

  • I’m curious, as a European a dishcloth is a large rectangle of fabric that’s something I use to dry clean washed plates and glasses. Is an American dishcloth something you use to wash up the dishes? Or wipe surfaces? Thanks

    • Same here – downunder, we call it a teatowel (the one used to dry dishes).

    • Dish rag washes dishes. Dish cloth dries dishes.

      • Thank you!

    • Ah! We call that larger cloth a dish towel. A dish cloth is a small cloth. Some people use them for washing the dishes. I use them for wiping the counters instead of paper towels.

      • What brand of cotton yarn yarn do y’all use? I’ve tried the sugar n cream & peaches n cream and it doesn’t absorb anything, much less dries (so it smells musty all the time). I live in hot, humid HI (for reference).

      • Thanks Kay!

  • Sorry, it’s Elmore and Pisgah Peaches and Cream. Also, there’s a link in the article

    • The link in the article is a bit of a tidier pattern than the one on the inside of the actual label, but that one works too!

  • I’ve never made the ballband dishcloth, but have knit many, many cloths. I have friends (non-knitters) who wait anxiously every Christmas for a new one! I have found a good use for those that get stained or get holes. I use them between by various frying/saute pans to keep them from getting scratch.

    • Very smart, I’m going to start doing that! We only have one non-stick pan. But I also hate the scraping sound pans make when I’m pulling them out of where they are stacked in.

  • Love all the dish cloths! To thoroughly enjoy the variety of patterns and colors (and to eliminate a sour smell AND the transmission of germs), each cloth is used for one day, hung to dry, and then placed in the wash. Works like a dream.

    • This is the best description of my practice re: use and Smell Suppression. Works very well and I was raised to change the dishrags out daily at a minimum, more frequently if used a lot (and therefore not getting a chance to dry properly). That’s why I need to knit so many of them!

  • I am still using 15 year old ballband dishcloths. Seeing these brand new ones is inspiring me to make a few new ones for myself. So fun to make these in different color combinations.

  • I have always loved this particular dishcloth. And I lost the pattern, so thanks for this.

  • An oldie but goodie – been reading MDK #1 lately and the warshrag has been on my mind. Thanks for the lift!

  • Blue Pyrex bowl! That’s the kind of thing my daughters and I would go for immediately in a “junk store” (often mis-labeled “antiques). Love that stuff! No wonder we get along…

  • This! I love me a good variation. Have a doc’s appointment today, and I know what I’ll be knitting while I wait.

  • The Ballband is by far my favorite dishcloth. And it’s my mom’s, too — most of the ones I’ve knit have gone to her. And she lets me know if she needs new ones and I haven’t replenished the supply in a while!

  • I really needed this distraction today, Kay. So much frightening news. Am I sure we have enough TP?!! I can’t wait to try the smaller size pattern. The last one I made ended up being especially large (used a size 7 needle). I definitely need to knit with a six. xo

  • Pyrex bowls make my heart sing! I may have to replenish my dishrag stash, too! Perfect for these staying-home days!

  • My old ones are starting to look ratty too. This might inspire me to make some new ones.

  • Perhaps a few drops of little Tea Tree oil in your laundry load will help with the smell–reduces bacteria. I use it for my towels, etc., once in a while. I also recently boiled a pile of musty things in water with baking soda (in a large canning pot) to neutralize the mustiness, which seems to have worked.

  • Kay,
    Love your ball band dishcloths. I knit them all the time, thx to MDK. Wheeee!
    But I need to ask:
    How do you secure your yarn tails in a way that many trips through a washing machine won’t unravel them?
    I thank you, thank Ann, and thank Team MDK for your daily inspiration and good cheer!

  • That cute little bowl was made for this♥️!

  • I needed this sweet, easy pattern, thank you! I made one last night while watching CNN Pandemic Town Hall. (Typing that just amped up my anxiety again.) I must say, even though there’s other projects I should be working on, this was a perfect little retreat and helped calm my nerves a bit. Will make more. Can’t wait to use them!

  • I love the Ballband Dishcloth and have always favored smaller dishcloths. So I have always started with Cast On 33.
    Glad to see you are knitting yourself some new ones.

    • Love the 33 stitch dishrags. Made 8 of them while watching movies then decided to try with 15 stitches and 5 courses. Voila! After washing in hot water, I had a perfect small scrubber/ drip wiper/ mug mat. Made a stack and now I’m back to wool.

  • Now I need to go get some cotton. I need refresh my rag stash. I still have some ballband cloths from a long while ago that I use.

  • Love this post on dish cloths….can’t wait to try the pattern. Thanks to everyone who gave ideas to keep the sour smell away. I’m going to try using hemp yarn and see how that works as well.

  • I love handknit dishcloths and always make one to test out a new stitch pattern – If I can’t enjoy knitting it as a cloth the I know it won’t work for me to include on a sweater!. I still have my original ballband dishcloth, can’t bear to part with it.

  • With permission from the designer, here is a link to a buy 3 – get 1 free offer on Amy Marie’s really clever mosaic knitting towel and placemat designs:

  • How about a Dishrag category for March Mayhem next year?

  • I always preferred sponges to cloths, so I was very happy to find the Double the Fun dishrags, free on Ravelry. They’re bigger than I like, so I make them smaller, & call them ½ the Fun
    The key to dish or face cloths is to not rinse out the soap, squeeze out the water, & hang them to dry where the air can circulate around them. No musty smell that way!

  • My go-to dishcloths to make are the knitted ballband or the crocheted linen stitch (that I made up from a sorta remembered pattern a friend showed me). Both are good travel projects ‘cos the scrappy cloths made from the leftovers are just as useful (and often more fun!) as the “carefully planned to go with Aunt Sally’s kitchen colors” ones, so you don’t have to worry about running out of yarn. (And if you do run out, there’s almost always a Wally or a Michael’s around for more dishcloth cotton or I’ve even made a perfectly serviceable dishcloth with a ball of cotton string from the hardware store and a pair of wooden chopsticks- US 6-7 equivalent I believe- from Noodles!) I like to make the smaller “Kelley’s” as baby gifts because they make a delightfully squishy washcloth that gets softer with each use. How do I love thee dishcloths, I cannot even begin to count the ways….

    • With chopsticks? Oh my you needed something to do! I’m in awe again today.

  • My friend, Mark, taught me how to knit on your Ballband Dishcloth pattern. I was amazed (as a longtime quilter) that I could just buy a pair of needles, two balls of cotton yarn and immediately start producing a lovely piece. The dishcloths are fast, not boring (that little bit of slip stitch livens things up) and can be taken anywhere to work on. I think I was soon knitting that dishcloth at a conference—whereupon I discovered that knitting stops me from getting bored and day-dreaming in meetings. Who knew I would pay attention better when knitting (well, unless I hit a problem or really tricky bit). My own twist to the pattern is to use a variegated, cotton yarn for the non-slip stitch row—looks lovely. Like you, Kay, I’ve made I don’t know how many of these cloths. They are my go-to pattern when I don’t have any other, portable knitting but a meeting is looming. In fact, I am making a patchwork rug from many different colors of the dish cloths. My only problem is that I need to crochet the separate cloths together… and I’m not much of a crocheter. You may have inspired me to pick up that project again. You’ve certainly inspired me to try making a mini-cloth!

  • Hello, how do I post a photo of my new and improved ‘ball band’ dishcloth?? Thank you.

  • Hello again. BTW I just took a shower and used my ‘improved ball band’ wash cloth that I made out of Norwegian cotton in 2008 while living in Trondheim and it never smells sour and it still has its color and looks almost like brand new.

  • This is exactly what I am craving to knit right now. I just told my new to knitting sister that when I’m finished with my current project I am just going to knit dish cloths until my stress goes away. I will fill my drawer for sure!

  • HAHA. I just realized this was happening in tandem with my own (not motivated by this) dishrag bonanza. I’ve knit about 8 in the last week and a half or two weeks. It is great comfort knitting! As it turns out, the Bodhi Leaf is my current favorite. I knit another ball band, a couple of Grandma’s favorites, many leaves, a two-toned tawashi, and things I am forgetting. And I’m waiting on a box of yarn to arrive to hopefully change up the color combos a bit.

  • I’ve been making Ballbands since your first book came out. Love them but I think I’ll give the new petite Kelleys a try !

  • What fun to celebrate in the joy of the reality of everyday life. We will all be given the opportunity to take care of a human”spill/mess/experience”. The methods/tools used are what create the difference between a blessing and a curse. What better method for joy than using the gifts of our own hands.

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