Dish – Cloths vs Dish-Rags Circa 1889

I have been reading back issues of magazines like American Agriculturalist from the 19th century…as one does in winter… in Maine. And I am learning a lot of new skills. One of them is the actual function of the ball of packaging string that one saves into a ball. It’s to make kitchen tools, like dish rags and dish mops.

This dish-cloths vs. dish-rags article from 1889 actually spells out the reasons to always keep fresh ones on hand. Which is easy enough if you have plenty of hand and fingers to keep busy. Wash cloths like these are the first thing we teach children how to knit, since the pots and pans don’t care how well or badly it is knitted and it is sure to have a short life span. However a dish rag made from hardware store grade string and twine and takes only a few minutes to make, should last a lot longer than the ones I have made from soft cotton Yarn from the craft store.

For this project I used #7 straight needles and cast on 32 stitches. I think I did about 52 rows in garter stitch and then just did a stretchy bind off. If still want to add some decent crochet hanging loops. If I make more, they will be bigger and perhaps two sided like a bath mitt. Large enough to go through the laundry and not disappear.

In that period there were twisted wire handles available to hold the dish-rag in the boiling hot water, which sounds like a wise idea.

The jute version is my own take on the pot scrubber, since I can go through a lot of that in the garden. I have made these out of the plastic twine from the dollar store, and they go through the washing machine pretty well.

The dish cloth described seems to be made from table linens, which I assumed was actual linen, but I made mine from ticking which I suspect will last just as long. I sewed 2 11″ squares together and turned them then top stitched around the edges and across the middle several times. I think the quilting stitches are important, and this may outlast the dish towels I have been abusing.

All rags and fabric in the home were incredibly useful, even the bits and pieces of unusable cloth could be sold to the rag man and then sold to the paper makers.

For serious pot scrubbing, the Iron Pot Scrubber had already been invented by 1877. The new stainless steel version is probably better over all. But I suppose if one kept this iron scrubber liberally coated with grease, you could stave off the rust for a while.