Knitting with Cotton
"Give Me Five" quick tips for success knitting cotton yarns
by Jackie E-S
Have you avoided knitting with cotton because you were told you shouldn't? Or maybe you tried it once and were disappointmented. Read on for tips to help you knit cotton with success.
Quick Tip 1: Use a smaller needle than usual.
Cotton is by its nature an inelastic fiber. This characteristic may cause you to have trouble adjusting your knitting style and tension if you are used to knitting with springier fibers like wool. Going down a needle size (or two) from your usual can help you achieve a final gauge equivalent to a wool yarn in that same thickness.
Quick Tip 2: Choose knitted pattern stitches that are inherently elastic.
You can knit some elasticity into your fabric, even with an inelastic yarn! Choose pattern stitches that produce an elastic-type structure. For example, vertically alternating columns of knit and purl stitches, even over a few rows and knit at a firm gauge, introduce elasticity into the resulting knitted cotton fabric.
Quick Tip 3: Choose cotton yarn types that have "internal energy". (or spin your own!)
The spinning of fibers introduces "energy" to yarn structure. Even when the yarn is balanced, the twist energy in the singles and plys can produce a yarn that is more elastic than it's component fiber. A good example is a cabled yarn. i.e. two or more strands of already plied yarn, plied again in the opposite direction. This can produce a yarn that has inherenet "springiness".
Quick Tip 4: Take knitting breaks.
Knitting with a less resilient yarn like cotton is more tiring than knitting with one that is springy like wool. So plan for frequent breaks. Your knitting experience will be more enjoyable, and you will actually achieve more in the end because you won't be knitting with tired hands.
Quick Tip 5: Wash AND DRY your cottons.
Cotton retains its strength when wet, so machine washing is fine. Also, machine drying can actually revive a stretched-out fabric, assuming that the fabric was knit at a firm enough gauge to begin with. I have been washing and drying cotton sweaters for 10 years that still look like new.
Dry cotton knits on medium-high heat until almost dry. Shake out lengthwise. For example, I hold cotton sweaters by the shoulders and snap them downware a couple of times. Then I hang them to complete the drying, supporting the shoulders so they don't stretch out over the ends of the hanger. For other articles, I lay flat until completely dry.
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