Knitting with Cotton Yarn – Tips and Tricks for successful summer sweaters
When we think of warm weather knitting, cotton is the first fiber that comes to mind. It’s soft, absorbent, and comfortable against your skin. But knitting with cotton is a different experience than knitting with wool.
There are lots of different kinds of cotton yarn that will each give their own results. But, armed with an understanding of cotton yarns in general and the different styles of cotton yarn, you can create stunning garments and accessories you’ll love all year long.
In this article, I want to share with you some tips and tricks for knitting with cotton yarn generally, as well as some of my favorite cotton yarns that are especially worth trying out. Let’s get started!
Knitting with Cotton Yarn – Tips and Tricks
Use a smaller needle Knitting with cotton yarn is different than knitting with wool yarn. Cotton fibers do not have the inherent elasticity of wool yarns, so the resulting yarn is not as bouncy. You will typically nee a much smaller needle to get gauge than you would with wool yarn. For instance, if you need a US 6 (4mm) needle to get a gauge of 22 stitches per 4 inches with a wool or wool blend yarn, you might need a US 5 (3.75mm) needle or even smaller to get the same gauge on a cotton yarn.
Try different needle materials Cotton, especially mercerized cotton, can feel slippery and stiff, so you might want to try a needle with a little more grip, like a wooden needle. I like the Lykke Birch needles because they’re smooth but not as slippery as my metal needles. More experienced knitters might find the opposite. Cotton yarns can have more drag and need a smoother metal needle. You will have to swatch on both to see which feels best for you.
Try different needle points - same with the pointiness of your needle. Most cotton yarns are made of up many fine plies and s can get a little splitty, especially if you carry your yarn in your left hand (yes, it makes a difference). If you have trouble picking up the whole strand, you might try a needle with a very sharp tip, like Addi Rockets or Addi Rocket Squared - or the super pointy ChiaoGoo Red Lace needle.
Play to cotton’s strengths. Because cotton is an inelastic yarn, cotton stockinette fabric tends to curl less than stockinette in wool. That means you need less ribbing or other edge treatment to keep your fabric flat, which gives a clean modern look.
Add structure with stitches - If you want a garment with more structure do it by using stitch patterns that give structure - garter stitch, seed stitch, half linen stitch, and cables all create fabric with a lot of structure and look great in cotton yarn.
Swatch - You knew this one was coming, didn’t you! Swatching in cotton is so important. Swatch not only in stockinette, but in every stitch pattern called for in your garment pattern. As I said above, you will likely need a smaller needle for stockinette in cotton, but you might need a needle three or four sizes smaller for ribbing in cotton.
Wash your swatch - . Part of the appeal of cotton garments is the ability to throw them in the washer and dryer. But you will want to know what happens when you wash and dry your cotton fabric, so swatch, measure, wash, measure, and dry and, measure again. You will want to know how much the fabric changes after washing and after drying. This information may inform how you end up caring for your garment and what needle size you end up using for your fabric.
Try different cotton yarns. The advent of modern yarn construction means that there are lots of different cotton yarns out there, some of which fly in the face of everything I’ve just told you. If you have only every knit with cotton from back in the day you probably think you hate it. But there are so many new ways cotton has been spun and blended that you might not even recognize a particular yarn as cotton.
Approach cotton yarn with an open mind and you’ll be rewarded with wonderful warm weather fabric.
In this week’s podcast I’ll be looking at some of my favorite cotton and cotton blend yarns. Here’s what I’ll be showcasing:.
Rowan Handknit Cotton Yarn
One of the most popular cotton yarns is Rowan Handknit Cotton Yarn. It’s been in their line for more than a decade, and for good reason. When you think of quality cotton yarn, this is what you think of. A sturdy worsted weight, that’s machine washable and dryable, Handknit Cotton is a real workhorse. Great stitch definition and a wide color palette make it a super choice for a variety of garments and accessories.
Juniper Moon Cumulus Yarn
Another great cotton worsted weight yarn is Juniper Moon Cumulus. Thanks to a chainette construction, Cumulus is light and airy with a super soft hand. Perfect for sweaters, and accessories, but I especially like Cumulus for baby garments and blanket
Rowan Four Seasons Yarn
New for spring 2023, Rowan Four Seasons is a heavy worsted weight cotton blend yarn that will change the way you think about cotton yarn. Four Seasons is a round yarn that’s bouncy and elastic with great stitch definition. It’s also lightweight, and breathable thanks to the moisture-wicking effect of the microfiber, Super affordable too.
Galler Inca Eco Yarn
Another worsted weight cotton yarn is Galler Inca Eco, which is completely different from the others. Loosely spun with a slight thick and thin texture, Inca Eco is soft and cozy against the skin. A very different look and feel from the others, Inca Eco has its own charms Made from 100% organic cotton and dyed with minimally impactful dyes.
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