Cotton Shrinks

After recently knitting my 3 dishcloths, I was suddenly motivated to do a little experiment with them. (I am a teacher, after all, and it is science fair season in my area). I originally wrote each of the patterns to create a cloth that is longer than it is wide. This is to account for shrinkage in the length. Cotton is one fibre that shrinks a lot after washing. However, each of the dishcloths seems to shrink a little differently. I wanted to find out why. I measured each cloth before and after I washed it in hot water in the machine and dried it in the dryer. Here are my results:

Snakes & Ladders Washcloth – The stitch pattern in this cloth is a combination of knit and purl stitches. Every second row is a garter stitch row.

 Before: 10 inches wide and 11 inches long.

After: 9.5 inches wide and 10 inches long.

This combination stitch cloth shrunk an inch in the length and half an inch in width.

Boxy Dishcloth РThis cloth is mostly stockinette stitch, with every fourth row garter stitch.

Before: 9 inches wide and 10 inches long.

After: 9 inches wide and 9.5 inches long.

The Boxy Dishcloth showed the least amount of shrinkage. It appears that stockinette stitch doesn’t shrink in width, but does shrink a bit in length.

Copycat Dishcloth – This cloth is mainly garter stitch with two stockinette bands.

Before: 10 inches wide and 11 inches long.

After: 9 inches wide and 10 inches long.

This garter stitch cloth shrunk evenly: 1 inch in length and 1 inch in width. It showed the most shrinkage in width of all three cloths.

So here are my conclusions.

– All stitch patterns shrink a certain amount in length, although stockinette stitch shrinks the least in length.

– In width, stockinette stitch doesn’t shrink, a combination of stockinette and garter stitch shrinks somewhat, and garter stitch shrinks the most.

Please keep in mind that these results were obtained on small pieces of knitted fabric and these results should not be assumed to be true for knitted cotton garments that will be worn by a person. Cotton garments behave differently after being worn due to the effects of gravity! Dishcloths don’t stretch from gravity. However, dishcloths do have to contend with lots of use. I wonder what the measurements would be of each cloth after lots of use in the kitchen and many washes? Will they stretch? Or will washing and drying return them to their original shape each time? Hmmm. I feel another experiment coming on!


Leave a Reply