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Whit's Knits: Log Cabin Washcloths

Knitting these washcloths has been the most crafting fun I've had in a long time. Making a log cabin pattern is easy, surprising and very meditative. You really get into the flow! I learned the technique from the always inspiring (and hilarious) ladies of Mason Dixon Knitting, Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne. They devote a whole chapter of their first book to the practice, writing so enthusiastically on the subject that knitting a log cabin something went straight to the top of my list.

While the log cabin pattern has a certain architectural genius, the even more fascinating aspect of the project for me is the way a color morphs depending on its size and neighbor. A small pink square surrounded by a field of cream, outlined by sherbet orange strangely becomes a glowing lavender. When the same pink surrounds a big square of watermelon, it fades to the color of an old ballet slipper.

All of this brought to mind the artist, colorist and influential teacher, Josef Albers, who spent his life exploring these ever evolving relationships. His beautifully subtle paintings of squares within squares may excite some unusual color choices! Check out his Foundation's web site for ideas.

I used Rowan's machine washable Handknit Cotton to make these two sets of washcloths. It's wonderfully soft and practical at the same time, gentle enough for the face and body, but durable enough to hold up to wear and tear. Other great cotton choices would be Rowan's Cotton Glace, Pima Cotton, or Purelife Organic Cotton DK or Blue Sky's Skinny Cotton. For all of these I would use a needle one size smaller and expect a slightly diminished finished size.

Whatever cotton you choose, you'll be happy to have these washcloths up your sleeve for weddings, baby showers, housewarmings and birthdays. With a gorgeous bar of soap, it's a wonderful present!

The Materials

  • 4 balls of Rowan's Handknit Cotton. These colors from the top right are #251 Ecru, #325 Primrose, #336 Sunflower, and #318 Seafarer.
  • A US #7 needle (circular or straight.)

  • I made a second set of washcloths using these colors: #251 Ecru, #310 Shell, #313 Slick and #337 Tangerine Dream.

The Pattern


4 3/4 stitches = 1 inch in garter stitch

Finished Size

7 3/4 inches x 7 3/4 inches

Note: Here is one way I came up with to use each color in each place one time. If you first designate each color a letter A-D and then follow this diagram, you'll end up with four completely different washcloths and you won't run out of yarn.

In this case, I named the turquoise "A", the darker yellow "B", the lighter yellow "C" and the ecru "D".

The First Square

With the first color and US #7 needles, cast on 15 stitches.

Knit 27 rows.

Bind off, leaving the last stitch.

Cut the yarn.

The Second Square

Pull a loop of the second color through the remaining stitch.

Turn the piece 90 degrees, clockwise, and, picking up one stitch for each ridge, pick up 14 stitches to the next corner. (15 stitches total)

Knit 13 rows.

(Right side) Bind off, leaving the last stitch.

*Turn the work 90 degrees clockwise and pick up 21 stitches to the next corner. (22 stitches total)

Knit 13 rows.

(Right side) Bind off, leaving the last stitch.

Repeat from the * one time.

Turn the work 90 degrees clockwise and pick up 29 stitches to the next corner. (30 stitches total)

Knit 13 rows.

(Right side) Bind off, leaving the last stitch.

Cut the yarn.

The Third Square

Pull a loop of the third color through the remaining stitch.

Turn the piece 90 degrees, clockwise, and pick up 29 stitches to the next corner. (30 stitches total)

Knit 7 rows.

Bind off, leaving last stitch.

*Turn the work 90 degrees clockwise and pick up 32 stitches to the next corner. (33 stitches total)

Knit 7 rows.

(Right side) Bind off, leaving the last stitch.

Repeat from the * one time.

Turn the work 90 degrees clockwise and pick up 38 stitches to the next corner. (39 stitches total)

Knit 7 rows.

(Right side) Bind off. Cut the yarn and pull it through the last stitch.

Weave in the ends and start the next one!

Reader Comments (53)

oh these are wonderful and love how they are constructed! very clever indeed! can hardly wait to make some! thanks for sharing them! love Purl Bee!
August 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterelsa
this is genius! can't wait to try it!!!!! thank you for showing us! do you think that I could just keep on going and make it bigger, maybe as my baby's blanket!?
August 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlucie
I love this! And really, you could just keep going and grow the washcloth into a blanket. I have some organic cotton stashed that would be perfect for this - thanks for sharing!
August 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJenny
Wow these are gorgeous! I am a pretty beginner-level knitter, and this will be such a lovely project to try. And the colour choices are fabulous!
August 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMeg
This project looks great! I am going to give it a go.
August 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteralice @quaintliving
What a perfect way to satisfy a craving to knit the log cabin pattern! And the finished cloths couldn't be more sweet!
August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterYarnvixen
Lovely! About the instructions: it seems to me that you are rotating the square clockwise, not counterclockwise, and picking up one stitch for each garter ridge, not each row...
August 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHeather
Hi Heather,
Thanks for your comment, I think you're right. I'll change the pattern now.
Best wishes!
August 24, 2009 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
love these! thanks for the instructions!
August 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterroom6
I"m working on this tonight and loving the results and the fact that I'm learning new techniques with this project. Thanks.
August 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCompulsively Compiled
This has Christmas written all over it for me. I can't wait to get started! And love the reference to Josef Albers... what lovely images to draw inspiration from as you knit!
August 27, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlynne
OMG, I am *SO* going to try these!!!
August 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLisanne
thank you so much for this! i really needed this! the log cabin always looked like such a fun way to play with colors but when i read about picking up stitches (i am a beginning knitter!) i would get all confused. i love the pictures with this and i am off to do one!!!! thank you!!!
August 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdanielle
awesome gift idea! I am starting a knitting group and this will be our first project- easy for beginners & good to learn the technique of picking up stitches :)
thank you for sharing!
September 2, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermauri
It seems like you left off one whole side before changing to color 3-either that or I am totally confused!
September 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterpam
hi, these are great. i have finished my first one and used SPLENDID italian cotton by MONDIAL, giving it a real soft and thick feel and i think bath mat bath mat!. i will do more and use a skinnier cotton for washcloths. my question is: on the underside is there any way to get rid of the ugly garterstitch color change rows? do yours have them? i think with garterstitch its unavoidable, isnt it? thanks for posting this fun project joelle.
September 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterangelina
Dear Purl Bee

I write a weekly craft blog for Craft Candy, a craft consortium based in Sheffield, UK. I am pleased to inform you your product was featured in our round-up of beautiful things ('Museround') on an 'Eco ' theme. You have been fully credited for your work and we have provided links to your online shop. You can see the post, and your featurette, here, and see the weekly updates here at the Craft Candy Blog

Thank you very much for your inspiring creativity, and good luck with your business!

Kay (lilidrawspictures)
October 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKay
Some of the best looking washcloths l`ve seen of late.. knitting like mad for 2009 Christmas so when l see a beaut pattern, l am very happy..
November 13, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterhahnsmum
I am just learning to knit and have been surfing the web for easy patterns to try. I stumbled across yours from The Long Threads list of 100 top crafts for 2009. I think I could actually handle this. Thank you for the turtorial.......

January 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRobin
I'm in love with these! I've never knit before but these got me picking up the needles a few months ago. I've now knit upwards of six. I love creating beautiful and useful items for my home.

I've had a few people want me to make these for them and they would pay me. I do not want to infringe upon any pattern copyright though. Can these be made for sell to others? Thanks.
February 3, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersusan
I just worked this cloth up & posted about it on my blog, linking to your post of course, & I thought I'd come and share the post link with you. You can read it here:

Thank you so much for all of the wonderful things you share with us here at the purl bee. You are a truly gifted person!

Hugs & Blessings,
¸.•´¸.•*¨) ¸.•*¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•´ .•´ ¸¸.•¨¯`♥Anita
May 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnita
I love how these look and am going to make a set soon. But, I didn't see your color plan!! Which colors go with which to make a set of 4 without running out of yarn??

Cindy T
October 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCindy T

Is there a tip for how to pick up stitches at the second turn of the second color? This side, in which I'm instructed to pick up 21 stitches for 22 total on the needle doesn't pick up from the garter ridges and no matter how I try I just can seem to figure out what I'm supposed to put on my needle...any tips would be most welcome!

November 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKatie
Anyone have a clue how many to cast on to obtain a 12 x 12 square? I'm starting a block exchange that these would be great for.
January 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShawnda
Shawnda, It would all depend on your yarn, needle size AND your own personal "knitting-ness". Each person knits differently, so your # of stitches will vary, depending on how you tightly/loosely you knit. Tese squares end up with 39 stitches across but yours will probably vary.

Try it out with 40 and see how it goes!! Happy knitting!!!!!
January 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCindy T
That does help some. Knowing you ended up with 39 helps. I've looked at several 12 x 12 squares that were ended up w/ 48 when knitted on a worsted weight, size 8. So I might try increasing by 9 somehow to end up with 48. I think that might work. I will let you know. I'm usually not so worried about size, but it's for a block exchange.
January 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShawnda
Just out of curiousity, I love the smooth transitions of the knitted rows..mine are not that smooth and tend to tretch out funny...I wonder why?
March 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJana
Hi Jana -

I'm not quite sure what you mean by the smooth transitions and the stretching out, but I can tell you that none of these washcloths is perfect! Each is wonky and "stretched out" in its own way, but I think it adds personality and charm!

Good luck!
March 3, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpurlbee
Thank you so much for the free pattern. These are charming. I'm working on the first one and it's going pretty well. Picking up stitches is very tricky, though. Some close-up picks of exactly where you are supposed to put your needle to pick up stitches would be SO helpful. Thanks again! Suzette
May 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSuzette
From the directions for the last segment of the second row. "Turn the work 90 degrees clockwise and pick up 29 stitches to the next corner. (30 stitches total)

Cut the yarn."

Looks like "Knit 13 rows.

(Right side) Bind off, leaving the last stitch." was left out.
I know most people have figured it out, but a newbie might be confused.

Love the pattern. I thought binding off each side and picking up new stitches would be a hassle, but it's not. Works beautifully!
August 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNancyN44
Hi Nancy,

You're totally right! Thank you so much for pointing that out - I just changed the pattern!

August 17, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
In the image, for the first square, the cast on and bind off are on the same side. When I make my square they are on opposite sides. It only makes sense to me that they would be on the same side if an even number of rows were knitted (28 instead of 27). I am new to knitting, so maybe there is something I don't understand, am missing, or failing to do...
August 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAngelika
Hi Angelika,

You're right, the image does show an even number of rows! The photo is showing the square after the bind off row, so 27 rows plus the bind off row is 28!

I hope that makes sense, and thanks for your question!

August 30, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpurlbee
These look awesome. I can't wait to make some. I think they'll be very addictive to make. I plan to make them for friends and family for christmas presents as well as some for myself of course. I've never used cotton before, all my knitting so far has been with wool. I'll go to my local craft shop this week. Hopefully I can get some similar colours.
I wish your store was in Australia. I'll have to come and visit if I ever make it to the States : )
September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAgapanthus
Love this pattern!! Thanks for sharingj, I have made 10 to give for Christmas presents this year.
December 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKim
If this pattern were made into lap blankets, what type of yarn would you recommend?
December 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKim
Hi Kim-

We actually adapted this pattern into a lap blanket which you can see here:

Any light worsted weight yarn would work great. You can see our full selection here:[]=6

Thanks for your question!

- Molly
December 8, 2011 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I am totally confused as to how to pick up the stitches and then knit them. Where is the yarn coming from? Are these done on 2 point needles? Is there a video showing how to do this? I just don't get how you can knit after you bind off and are left with one stitch on the needle. Then what??
Please help.

February 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJudy
Hi Judy,

It sounds like this may be your first time picking up stitches? Knitty has a great tutorial on the subject: .

What you will find out is that you can easily add stitches to that one stitch that is left on your needle. Picking up stitches is a very common knitting technique, and these washcloths are a great place to learn!

Please let me know if you have questions after reading Knitty's explanation and I'll be happy to help!

March 5, 2012 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I loved this idea so much but I admit that keeping count of knit rows is still harder for me than counting crochet. So, I made a crochet version. But I love the idea and am still going to try it again in knit.
January 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterErin
Thanks for the awesome pattern! I was dying to try log cabin knitting but wasn't quite ready to tackle a blanket. This will be perfect!
June 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGirly knitter
I've been looking (longingly) at a knitted (I think it's knitted), log cabin blanket for a child's single bed, on the Pickles (Norway) web-site. I think there is a translation problem, because it's called a knit blanket, & it looks knit, but calls for a "crochet needle". She recommended watching youtube videos to learn the technique... but I'm on dial-up & those videos aren't practical on dial-up. After looking at your tutorial, I think I've got it licked, though. So I'll make a set of these cotton cloths, to get the technique locked into my (leaky) brain, then go to the wool for a twin-bed-sized blanket! Thanks.
July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNana-Karen
Is there a way to modify the pattern to make matching dish towels? I'm working on Christmas gifts for family and I've made a couple so far but I'd like to make it a kitchen set with a towel...any ideas? Thanks and btw I adore these!
August 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterErica
HI Erica,

I think it would look pretty great if you sewed two log cabin squares together to form a rectangle. Or instead of starting with a square, you could start with a rectangle and follow the directions as written, except make sure you adjust the number of stitches you pick up along the long edges of the rectangle.

I hope this gets you on the right path. Please let us know if you have any other questions and thanks for this one!

August 26, 2013 | Registered Commenterpurl bee
I will definitely try it and let you know how it goes!
September 4, 2013 | Unregistered Commentererica
I've found that, with this pattern, it's REALLY helpful to keep a plastic yarn needle handy at all times. I simply stick it into the cloth while I knit. I use it to pick up the stitches, and I stick it to the WRONG side of the cloth. Then I know INSTANTLY which side I'm working on! GREAT pattern--thanks!!!
October 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterApril N
This is the clearest log cabin knitting tutorial I've seen. I'm going to make squares to sew together into a blanket. Thank you.
March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHelen Graham
These look great, sure going to give the technique a try and maybe go on to a baby blanket.🐤
March 20, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDorothy
I have been using up my stash by doing some semi extreme knitting, using 4 to 6 strands and size 17 needles, making a long rectangle and formng into cushions. I can see me adapting this pattern to make the next "extreme" cushion using the log cabin technique.. thank you
April 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterFen stitcher
Is there a typo on the 4th square? It says to pick up 29 stitches (for a total of 30) but the picture shows picking 22 stitches total.

The 29 stitches would be correct for the 5th square.
June 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSue Ostergaard

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