I think I have found it. I spent a few months back last year experimenting with a crochet hook and knitting needles and some spare DK cotton that I had lying around. I never chanced upon a pattern that I particularly preferred, but the texture and ease of crochet definitely won over the slower growing, smoother, knitted ones. I also learnt that I favour a square cloth, not rectangular, and no more than about 8 inches wide. Finicky I know, but conditions have to be just perfect if I am even going to contemplate washing up, sigh. Perhaps that was the beginning of the end of my love affair with two pointy sticks?
Most of last year's experiments are looking a little worse for wear, but considering the abuse they have been subjected to, they are doing remarkably well. Still, many are too large or small; and I want to introduce a little colour to the kitchen sink. Last week I opened my stash, took out a ball of 4-ply cotton and began to experiment again. The stitch pattern I settled on this time is called 'spider stitch' according to part 13 of the Art of Crochet, though I remain sceptical, because to me spider stitch has always meant a filet lace background with a large spider like window motif in the centre. Whatever its actual name, worked in 4-ply on a 4mm hook it gives a nice open fabric (quick to dry) that still has some texture too it. The edges are tidy and firm, straight at the top and bottom and slightly scalloped at the edges, which means it doesn't require edging.
So, now for my own (current) favourite 7 inch(ish) dishcloth:
*Nb - these instructions are written using UK crochet terms*
Using 4-ply cotton and a 4mm hook, chain 36 stitches (or any multiple of 2 to achieve preferred size - if you must mess with perfection : ) )
Foundation row: 1 dc, 1 ch, 1 dc into 3rd chain from hook. *Miss one Ch sp, (1 dc, 1ch, 1dc) into next chain, repeat from * to last ch, 1 dc, turn.
Next and all subsequent rows: Ch 2, *(1 dc, 1ch, 1dc) into next ch sp, repeat from * across row to turning chain, 1 dc into back loop only of turning chain.
Continue until cloth can be folded exactly in half, corner to corner - this should give you a square dishcloth.
I am going to try the same stitch pattern out in DK to see if the results are the same, but at the moment 4 ply seems to be a winner. The texture is very soft, worked in a bamboo or soya cotton mix yarn it would make luxurious face cloths. Nice, quick gifts to work up and keep around just in case. Bring on pay day, I want some nice bright colours to experiment with.