linen dish cloth

When the countertops and cutting boards, the faucets and the sink are all wiped down with a good clean cloth, I’m quite content. Linen fibre is strongest when wet, so it makes an ideal dish cloth. I adore the texture and gloss of wet-spun linen, at once hardy plant fibre and fine silk, artless pastoral and opulence combined.

These cloths are a great little project to pick up and stitch when there are quieter moments in the day. All you need is some linen yarn and a crochet hook in your pocket, and the simple pattern, below.

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The qualities of linen

Like rustic clothing, the difference between store-bought and handmade is often its strength. They’re certainly not cheaper than the imported cotton dishcloths we can easily buy, but then they last so long, and please me so much. In using natural linen we sidestep destructive farming practices, pesticides and toxic dyes. There are even folks experimenting with local flax production, and you can grow it easily yourself! To demonstrate the wonderful process of transforming flax to gold, there’s a an old bit of Canadiana on the subject, too.

linen-cloth-natural

Linen care

To care for these linen cloths, we just throw them in the wash as usual, cold or hot, with a drop of tea tree oil to kill any germs. I imagine it doesn’t get musty or stain as easily, but I might just take extra care to hang it to dry, because it’s handmade and beautiful. We hang them or lay them on a flat, waterproof surface like our countertops, and sometimes block them. Block them?

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Blocking is what you do to shape any knit, woven, crocheted piece, and is simply arranging it back into shape and allowing it to dry that way. You can get fancy with special pins and boards, if you were blocking pieces of a sweater before sewing it, so that it would fit perfectly together. But for the linen dish cloths, you’re just laying them flat while they’re wet or damp, and patting, pulling, shaping back to a square, then leaving them to dry. Shaping is ten-second task. No harm in skipping this part, either. It does please me to see them back in their fine shape.

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Theme and variation

Crocheting linen fibre makes these pieces a little bit rustic, a little bit ornate, and thoroughly handmade. I love to use these cloths to experiment with variation in crochet patterns.

Linen dish cloth pattern

I like to use a heavier linen yarn like Euroflax, and a 4.5mm hook – aim to have the hook larger than what’s called for, to get that open weave.

Chain 27 stitches, and work into them half-double-crochet, double crochet, or triple crochet, repeating until you have a square.

I like to stitch the rows in hdc, and then finish with a restrained ruffled edge: chain 6, slipstitch to attach at every 5th stitch, and repeat to the row’s end. Then work back with 6 or 7 double crochets around that loop you’ve made, just enough that the ruffle lies flat, working a slip stitch into the previous slipstitches. Tie it off very firmly. Rinse the piece and block it!

linen-cloth-natural

Linen cloths make a nice accompaniment to a trusty stiff brush, and a stack of linen tea towels. Elegant tools make the work far easier, far more agreeable, I think. They encourage mindfulness in presence in everyday labours. We love these useful, perennial favourites.

linen-cloths-stacked

short spring handwarmers

There’s something grounding about wearing even the smallest garment made with my own hands. Knowing how it was made! Where it came from. Connecting with a long history of people making what they need, and a simpler, slower life. Little steps into traditional skills make me courageous and deeply curious about making more and more of the things I wear and use. Here’s one of my small studies that you can take up, short sweet wrist-length handwarmers in springtime colours.

writing with handwarmers

I love handwarmers for all the things you can do while cosily wearing them. I’ve begun making some photographs on the subject.

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What do you think? Could you make a pair of cabley fingerless gloves? I learn best by looking over someone’s shoulder, so that’s how I made the tutorial movies. (Watch them in the schoolhouse, in the lefthand column.)

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Handwarmers do add a bit of elegance to tapping away on the keyboard. I’m very happy when I get a chance to rattle away on the typewriter, the old technologies give such satisfaction.

short & sweet heather grey handwarmer kit

This heather grey is the original shade you see me working with in the movies.

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cabled mittens

The last of winter is edging away along the coast, though mitten weather may persist for quite a few weeks here, and far longer across this enormous land. Are you in wintry weather where you are? For those of you who have been wishing for a pair of cosy mittens, I so am pleased show you appleturnover’s latest movie, “Cabled Mittens.”

Like “Cabled Handwarmers” this tutorial is divided into a set of nine short pieces, all of which you can watch right next door at appleturnover’s old school, anytime you like. I’d love to hear what you think. If you just have a minute, you might enjoy the preview of all four movies in the Knitting Series.

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I’ve just finished knitting up a long pair of cabley mittens in a steel grey yarn, and they’re just right, they’ll serve me very well for a few years. Every winter I wish I’d started knitting things for us the months before, so I think anytime is great to start learning to knit mittens. Study with the new movie! There are a choice of colours in the appleturnovershop!, and downloadable patterns too.

knitting the gusset

Curiously, of all the nine movies in the “Cabled Handwarmers” set, “Knitting the Gusset” is by far the most watched. I’m guessing that this follows from many knitters searching for a good explanation – and this is where learning from a video online is just so full of potential. All those household studies we might have grown up with in another era, now as a short movie. The thumb gusset is a basic problem, simply solved, best watched over someone’s shoulder rather than explained or diagrammed. Would you like to see how I like to knit it?

That’s how it’s done. Work along with the movies in the old schoolhouse (see the column to your left), to make the knitting projects in the appleturnovershop. The patterns are easily downloaded and printed, if you’ve got your own yarn and needles.

appleturnover handwarmer pattern

how to cable-knit

Well, I wonder if you’ve ever worn a cabled sweater and marvelled at the twisting pattern, and if you might like to see how they’re made? Or, better yet, you’d like to try it yourself!

This movie is a tutorial for both the Cabled Handwarmers and Cabled Mittens projects. It’s also got a very favourite song in it, which we realised is also in a movie we love, Beginners. Fitting, then, as I adore cable-knitting. Learning how to cable-knit is one of those pleasingly simple techniques, like plaiting hair or weaving homespun yarn, which gives a surprisingly satisfying result that looks more complex than the process truly is. It captures the eye like a good melody captures the ear. I hope you enjoy the little movie. Watch them all in the old schoolhouse (to your left) and mail-order your materials from the shop.

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joining & ribbing

Each of the projects in The Knitting Series are made in-the-round. Any garment you might like to knit that would usually need to be knit flat, then sewn up, leaving a seam, can be knit in a circle on several double-pointed needles. These needles haven’t got an end to keep the stitches on; they can move easily because of this, and they can shift from holding a whole lot of stitches to just a few. It looks quite intimidating to knit on four, five needles at once. I assure you that looks are deceptive; only two needles are stitching as usual and the others hold the work. This is a traditional skill all knitters should acquire. The first step is to join the stitches, having cast them on. (This part is 2.5 minutes and has such a good old melody).

The next step is to start ribbing up the cuff. Ribbing is pretty basic, in this variation, knit, knit, purl. I teach my children to rib little pieces once they can manage plain knitting. If you can comfortably rib, you can do these projects. Joining & ribbing around in circles is only slightly trickier, once you get the hang of it. In fact, I find it easier since I don’t ever reverse (purl, purl, knit). I hope the animations make things very clear for you.

Knitting-in-the-round like this translates to knitting mittens, hats, as you like it. Work along with the other movies in the “Cabled Handwarmers” set, next door at the old schoolhouse (look in the column to your left!). “Cabled Mittens” is out now too, and both projects are in the shop now. If you haven’t already, you might like to watch our first movies on quilting.

writing with handwarmers

short & sweet heather green cabled handwarmers