Lion Brand Notebook

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6 Must-Know Facts About Working with Cotton

February 22nd, 2012

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If you’re thinking about starting projects for spring, then you’re probably leaning towards using a cotton yarn.  Cotton is an extremely popular knit and crochet yarn for spring and summer because of its durability, easy care, and breathability.  Cotton is a versatile yarn that can be used for a range of projects; but there are different types of cotton yarns, so it’s best to know which one suits your project needs best.

Many people love all natural fibers, but did you know that there are some really good benefits to working with cotton/synthetic blends as well?

Cotton Plant from dnfisher Flickr(image courtesy of dnfisher)

Cotton is a plant fiber which produces an organic compound called cellulose; cellulose fibers pull heat away from the body, which is a critical component in selecting yarn for warmer climates. Cotton also does a good job of absorbing water, an important aspect for creating wash cloths and coasters.  If in a humid climate, it will take cotton a long time to dry because it will hold on to the water, making it susceptible to mold and mildew. It is extremely important to ensure your cotton is fully dry before reusing or storing away; cottons blended with synthetics will dry faster.

Pros to working with cotton:

  • Cotton (especially 100%) is extremely durable, which is why it is often chosen for kitchen or bath projects such as dish and wash cloths, soap scrubbies and market bags.
  • Cotton yarns blended with synthetic fibers creates great breathable clothes in warmer months.  The synthetic fibers allow cotton to stretch, lessens the weight, and allows it to dry faster.
  • If loosely spun, 100% cotton can feel incredibly soft and be a pleasure to work with.
  • Cotton creates great stitch definition.  If creating a garment, opt for a light cotton, or one with a synthetic blend so you can use intricate stitches that will drape nicely.

Other things to consider about working with cotton:

  • Since 100% cotton has little elasticity, it’s not good at bouncing back to its original shape.  If creating a garment, it’s best to choose a cotton/synthetic blend so your garment will have some “memory” and maintain its shape (see Cotton Ease information below).
  • 100% cotton is even stronger when wet; if you get caught in the rain with a crocheted/knit cotton garment, it may stretch and weigh heavily on your body.

3 Cotton Yarns and Their Properties

Cotton Ease
Lion Cotton is a traditional tightly spun, 4ply 100% cotton yarn. Due to its natural cotton properties, it is stiffer on the hand and has no elasticity- but, it’s very durable.  Lion Cotton is an ideal yarn for wash and dish cloths. Nature’s Choice Organic is 100% cotton that’s grown and spun without the use of pesticides or herbicides. It is loosely spun, so it feels very soft and has a great handle. Nature’s Choice would be a great yarn for baby items and light garments. If you want to make a garment
in cotton, I suggest Cotton Ease because it’s blended with acrylic. The acrylic properties in this yarn give it the elasticity your garments need so they bounce back into shape. The stretch from the acrylic makes this yarn soft and easy to work with.

How do you feel about working with cotton yarn, have you tried any of those mentioned above? Share with us in the comments!

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  • Vicke Denniston

    Do you ever send out “swatches”of yarn? I would love to try the recycled cotton, but can’t find it in the stores, so I am hesitant to buy some without even feeling it. Even 6″- 12″ would let you see the stretch and some idea of the feel of it.

  • Brandyce

    Hi Vicke, it’s nice to hear you’re interested in Recycled Cotton.  We don’t send out swatches, but color cards are available for purchase on our site for all our yarns.  This way you can see the entire range of colors and feel them; you can find the Recycled Cotton color card here: http://www.lionbrand.com/6030/PictPage/1922242817.html

  • http://twitter.com/1derful_quotes Jeanette

    Lion Cotton is really nice for dishcloths. I have made several in the black/white combination.

  • Diane Wiman

    A few weeks ago, I ordered a cone of the LION green-n-white cotton yarn. Have only crocheted 1 pair of potholders so far, but I really like the feel of that 4-ply cotton looping over my finger. The potholders washed well, the colors stayed true. This is a yarn I will purchase again when the need happens.
    Over the years, especially for Newborns in Spring, I’ve crocheted baby aphgans using Size 10 Bedspread cotton, and loved the America’s Best by Elmore Pisgah, which is no longer in business. I don’t recall LION Brand having thread in that weight class…. well, a gal can get her hopes up :)

  • Katie L.

    I’ve had issues with the Nature’s Choice Organic Cotton shedding a lot while working with it. I made a shawl out of the strawberry color, and everytime I tried to wear it, I got pink fuzzies all over the place. Did I just get a bad batch, or does this happen pretty regularly? 

    I really like the organic aspect of this yarn, as well as it’s wonderful softness, but the shedding is really annoying.

  • Zengirl41

    I prefer cotton and use it as much as possible.  Once in a while I will use a blend with as little acrylic as possible.  Never wool, I don’t like wool.  If I have a problem with cotton draping I switch to a larger hook.   I did use wool ease for a sweater for my husband once and it gets all pilly. 

    • Katem

      I’ve had the same problem with wool ease, I don’t use it any more which is too bad because I love the colors and the feel.  But it just doesn’t wear well.  I made three sweaters with it before I gave up on it and they all pilled.  This doesn’t happen to me with other yarn.  I prefer wool over cotton though.

  • beth

    It seemed like your article spent more time trying to convince the crafter to use a blend, than actually giving tips on working with 100% cotton.   

    • Brandyce

      Hi Zengirl41, thanks for your comments.  I just wanted people to be aware that if they are working on a specific project and want to use cotton, there are some things to think about to ensure your project will have a long life and suit all of your needs.  I once made a hat in 100% cotton and realized it wasn’t the best option for myself, because it kept stretching and wouldn’t stay on my head properly.  And now I know, had I used a yarn with some acrylic, it would have memory and wouldn’t slide off all day.  I do love 100% cotton too, for different reasons though; I use it for soap cozies and wash cloths. 

  • 9memaw

    I have used lion cotton bamboo,really enjoyed working with it.Also have some  cotton ease,yet to find the right project to use it on but I take it out of the stash from time to time to admire it.

    • Brandyce

       Hi 9memaw, if you click on the Cotton Ease yarn page and scroll to the bottom (http://lby.co/a7BNZO), you will see “Patterns for this Yarn” – that might help you figure out what to do with your yarn!

  • Vivientaylor

    Years ago, I knitted a shell with cotton thread, and at that time you had to knit the cotton along with a very fine viscose thread, so the item had some memory.  I am so very thankful we’ve come a long way into
    future.

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  • http://www.poeticfairy.etsy.com lilmissdisney

    Cotton yarn is my favorite! While I love Lion Brand I have yet to try any of your cottons. I prefer to buy cotton in larger skeins (minimum 400g) and I haven’t seen any larger skeins of cotton available from Lion Brand. When I do get to try your cottons I really would like to try the Organic. I wish there were more organic options and I wished they could be priced similar to “normal” cottons.

  • Bouranis

    I use lion Brand Cotton, and other brands as well, depending on what I need at the time.  I absolutely love Cotton Ease, and make baby bibs, and now I am making chemo caps with it, too.  In Arizon, it is very warm, but cotton by itself is a bit more difficult to wash up for a sick person, and some cottons have different washing instructions.  Cotton Ease is also very lovely to use–I enjoy each stitch!!  If I could afford it all the time, I would also make blankets with it.

  • Pweldon56

    I like the CottonEase for making Amigurumi dolls, but I’m often frustrated because of the limited color selection.  There isn’t many to choose from and no bright yellow or true blues and greens. 

  • gtbunny

    I read that Lion Band Organic Cotton Yarn should not be put in the dryer. It sounds perfect for a hooded baby towel but no new mom has time to be doing “dry flat”. Could I make the towel oversized and machine wash and dry it before giving as a gift? Will it keep shrinking with each drying?

    • http://www.lionbrand.com/ Zontee

      Hi there, both “Lion Organic Cotton” and our “Nature’s Choice Organic Cotton” do recommend drying flat because, while cotton is a fiber that does NOT shrink, the organic fibers in both yarns are loosely spun to keep them fluffy. Therefore, the agitation of machine-drying may wear out the piece more quickly. However, since cotton is a very durable fiber, it will definitely survive a trip into the drier if it’s tossed in. If you’re looking for a baby-friendly, machine-wash-and-dry option, we’d definitely recommend our Cotton-Ease yarn or its cousin, Baby’s First:
      http://www.lionbrand.com/yarns/newcottonease.html
      http://www.lionbrand.com/yarns/babysfirst.html

  • Michele B

    Can cotton 4 ply be used in place of acrylic 4 ply for summer hats for ex.?

    • http://www.lionbrand.com/ Zontee

      Hi Michele, generally you can replace any yarn specified with a yarn of a similar gauge; the effect might be be different depending on the new yarn’s texture and drape, but it will work. For more info, check out this FAQ from our site: http://www.lionbrand.com/faq/14.html

  • Betina

    I simply love cotton. I barely work with anything else – and living in Brazil, I have access to some of the best cotton yarns you can find. Cotton has the best stitch definition… wich is awesome when you crochet.

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