J-cloths and church ladies

Growing up, there was always a J-cloth in the sink. It was blue and usually faded from washing, since my mother was frugal and used them until they fell apart. Sometimes they were wet and drippy, other times they hung over the fawcett, stiff and dry like some kind of alien corpse. The worst kind had been used so long they smelled moldy and stale.

When I got my first apartment I invested in J-cloths. I was following in my mother’s footsteps, after all. And I used J-cloths faithfully until I read an article about kitchen dish cloths. It declared that no matter what kind you use, they are terrible bacteria traps and a hiding place for nasty germs. That makes sense, I thought. Those cloths get used to wipe up spilled milk (and who knows what else), wash dirty dishes, and are often left to sit around in the bottom of the sink for ages. I had never thought about it before. Eeeew.

The article advised laundering the kitchen dish cloth every day, but that left me with a problem. My flimsy little J-cloths were hardly meant for that kind of wear and tear. I would go broke buying carton after carton of cloths to replace the surge of scraggley, faded ones that would surely result from such frequent washing. Now what?

It didn’t take long. A friend came to visit and brought with her a small plastic bag. Before she handed it to me, however, she gave a preamble: her mother, a lovely energetic woman in her 80’s, was bored. She couldn’t get around as well as she used to and was having trouble finding things she could do sitting in her chair in the living room. So she was knitting. Alot.

At that, my friend K. withdrew from the bag a stack of hand-made, tightly-knit dishcloths. They were small and square, and a rainbow of different colours. There was pink and blue, white and green, yellow and orange. They were made of a natural cotton yarn that would absorb moisture nicely. I was smitten.

Every now and again when I would see my friend, she would bring me a dish cloth or two. These, however, were hardly enough for the needs of my growing family. So I started scouting them out at church bazaars and craft sales. Church ladies everywhere seem to make these by the dozen (although I like to imagine that at least some of the knitters are men). I love the ones that are round instead of square, and it is a treat to find them for sale in little bundles tied with pretty ribbon. I always stock up.

I hadn’t used a J-cloth in years until this week. I am not sure why my husband picked up a box of them to use for cleaning. It felt so familiar rinsing it and wringing it while I cleaned out some kitchen cupboards. It made me think of my mother fondly, puttering in the kitchen the way she used to, wiping down the table after supper, washing the dishes while we stood around chatting and waiting for the kettle to boil. We always sat down with a cup of tea after supper.

Yes, I have come to prefer the hand-made, church-lady dishcloths. They are prettier and far sturdier than anything my mother ever used. But this week, I was grateful for that flimsy blue cloth and all the memories it brought with it. Who knew that something as mundane as a dishcloth could evoke such a nice trip down memory lane? I guess it turns out that J-cloths can be put to good use at my house after all.

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6 Responses to J-cloths and church ladies

  1. I love my knitted dishclothes! I wish they would dry faster after a use, but they are so strong and last forever! They are easy to knit if you ever want to try. I have some easy patterns on my blog under the “Getting Crafty” category.

  2. *cloths, not clothes. Darn Autocorrect!

  3. I learned to knit twenty years ago in a ladies Bible study group. I knit a scarf and about four rows of a sweater…and that was about it! Knitting is definitely on my “do in retirement” list, though.

  4. Just read your article – and viewed the pictures – the photos you have posted are NOT the real J Cloth ! Imposters them all ! Let me know where I can send some real ones and indeed something a little more durable .. sgrimley@pginw.com

    • Funny! How many people would know the difference?! Thanks for pointing it out…I feel like I need to go and find the original packaging somewhere in the back of the cupboard to see what kind they really are.

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