In my limited efforts to search for personal knitting history (of which there is little) I located a Shaker washcloth pattern.
This design is from a description of a Shaker washcloth in the book Shaker Textile Arts
by Beverly Gordon, c. 1980, University Press of New England. As of April 2012, this book is still in print. On p. 203, Gordon states “the standard design…for washcloths [was] a checkerboard-type combination of knit and purl stitch.” On p. 93 she states “washcloths, at least in the later days of the nineteenth century, were knitted or crocheted of cotton or linen, and typically had a simple checked or striped pattern. They were both sold as fancy goods in Shaker stores and used by the Believers.”It’s difficult to know if by “washcloth” Gordon means something that one might wash oneself with, or something more like a dishcloth. Either way, this simple pattern would serve, and frankly it looks more like a dishcloth to me. This pattern is free as there’s nothing particularly original about it. See my free patterns at right to access this.