|Consider the washcloth: the most utilitarian of
all handmade items. Several years ago, at loss of what to bring as a gift to my elderly
aunt, I grabbed a lacy washcloth I had knit the winter before. I wrapped it around a bar
of soap and tied it with a colorful cotton ribbon. Appreciated, admired, and used often,
this washcloth was the perfect gift. When my aunt’s daughter called recently and asked
for the pattern, I began to think seriously about washcloths again. They are great
learning project for beginners and a palette full of possibilities for the advanced.
It isn’t a big leap from thinking about washcloths to thinking about the Bauhaus, the
German art school (1919-1933) concerned with simplicity and design and elevating applied
arts to the level of fine arts.
Josef and Anni Albers were students, and later, teachers at the Bauhaus. Anni Albers
would achieve fame as a weaver. Josef Albers would be remembered for his Homage to a
Square canvases. Studying their work inspired me.
Click here for the pattern.
Striped Washcloth pattern Crochet
Could I use Bauhaus design elements to create a simple washcloth pattern?
I filled a wicker basket with six colors of Lion Cotton yarn: fuchsia,
purple, morning glory blue, sea spray, maize, and banana. I played with combinations of
color and simple stitches, and after six or so washcloths, I had two patterns that
seemed to work: Anni and Josef, knit and crochet.
The Anni and Josef Albers’ washcloths are a modest tribute to
their legacy and the Bauhaus tradition. I’m hoping my humble offering will
inspire you to make your own variations on a square or a rectangle. If you’re
timid, feel free to make all your washcloths according to my pattern. For the more
adventurous, take some time: look at the Bauhaus designs, at Anni Albers’
weavings, at Josef Albers’ paintings, then, fill a basket with yarn, get your
hook or needles out, and play.
One last thought about washcloths. When my oldest daughter Meera was in first
grade at a Waldorf school, the students learned to knit. Their first project was a
Meera’s classmates happily muddled along; dropping and adding stitches here
and there, working with the delightful, carefree abandon of new knitters. They
finished their washcloths and were thrilled with their creations: nubby and
knotty, wholly and flawed in the ways that all first knitting projects are.
Meera was still knitting her washcloth while her classmates graduated to their
next knitting project. She kept finding her mistakes, taking apart her knitting,
and starting all over. Again and again. Meera wanted her washcloth to be
perfect. Her yarn was getting grubby. And she was frustrated.
"You’re knitting a washcloth, not painting the ceiling of the Sistine
Chapel," I finally told her. "Leave your mistakes in and keep on
knitting until you finish it." And she did. She is now a fine knitter.
So if you are a beginner making this washcloth, try and remember you’re not
painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Accept your mistakes. Think of them as
the hand-made element of your early creations. Knit on. Your next project will
have fewer flaws. Finish your wash cloth. You can do it. You’ll definitely be
glad that you did.