Sunday, February 17, 2008

handspun hemp washcloths

About six or seven years ago I made my first batch of these handspun hemp exfoliating washcloths...I gave one to my sister and one to a friend. In the past year or so, I visited these two recipients and happily noticed that the washcloths are still in use! So recently, when I was going through my stash of yarn and spinning fiber and found two little packets of hemp fiber from Habu Textiles, I pulled them out and started spinning.

Spinning hemp is no walk in the park. I spin because I love the tactile qualities of merino, alpaca, and silk. In fact, I'm so spoiled these days that I don't spin anything but the very softest most luxurious fibers...probably because my time for spinning is so few and far between, so I want to make the most of it. Hemp is coarse and stringy and clumpy, and the only reason I tolerated spinning it was the promise of some really cool little washcloths at the end. I spun with a little bowl of water next to me, and I periodically dipped my drafting hand into the water so I could smooth out the fibers as I spun. I ended up with a fairly fine (though not as fine as my first foray into spinning hemp so many years ago) two-ply hemp yarn.

Exfoliating hemp washcloths are best done in a lace pattern, so I turned to Barbara Walker's A Treasury of Knitting Patterns and picked out three patterns. I aimed for enough repeats to give me an approximately 8.5-9 inch square washcloth. The top washcloth is 4 repeats of "Shell Lace" (p. 209), the one in the picture above is four repeats of "Fern or leaf-patterned lace" (p. 208), and the washcloth nearest the bar of soap is five repeats of "Vine Lace" (p. 218). I added a garter stitch border on all sides of each washcloth. I knit these on US size 3 knitting needles.

Knitting with hemp is a little like knitting with twine (i.e. not very pleasant), but it actually softens as you knit with it. Also, I threw the washcloths in the washing machine and they came out even softer. So the cloths are the perfect texture for gently exfoliating, and will definitely not be scratchy on the skin at all.

Two of these are staying in my own household this time, and the third will be a gift (along with a bar of amazing soap) for my friend Jen who just defended her master's thesis. By the way, the bamboo charcoal soap pictured above is from Purusha, who quite possibly makes the best soap I have ever used.


emily said...

I'm the sister who received the washcloth, and it is very soft on the skin, and machine washes great! i'm always hesitant to use such intricate, handmade gifts, but this one has held up wonderfully!

Anonymous said...

thanks for share.