Knitting with Cotton Yarn

Knitting with cotton yarn – 5 reasons to choose cotton

Knitting with cotton yarn is fun, because there are so many possibilities.

Cotton comes in all kinds of colors and dyes and all weights. It’s a durable yarn and it’s also cool to wear in the summer and soft on the skin.

No wonder that cotton is one of the most used fibers all over the world!

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Characteristics of cotton yarn – five benefits of using cotton

1. Breathable

Cotton yarn is perfect for knitting lightweight and breathable garments that feels nice to the skin.

The cotton fiber consists almost entirely of cellulose which will actively conduct heat away from the body.

This makes cotton an excellent summer knitting fiber!

2. Inelastic

It may stretch

Cotton yarn is an inelastic fiber. But, cotton can start to stretch out a bit when worn, it pulls downward by its own weight and can sag a bit. Especially when wet.

To prevent this you can knit with smaller needles than recommended to get a denser fabric that will be less likely to stretch.

If your knitted piece gets a bit of sag, it will be better after washing.

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Great drape and stitch definition

The inelastic characteristics of the cotton makes it drape great. A garment knitted in cotton yarn will have a elegant and relaxed drape to it.

The fact that the yarn isn’t elastic also gives it very nice stitch definition. In ither words, it makes your stitches pop and look beautiful!

Cotton is a good choice for any structure pattern or cables.

Can be a bit tricky

Cotton yarn is inelastic which also makes them a bit slippery. Some of us loves how the flyes of the needles. Some of us think they slide a little to easy! Try wooden or bamboo needles in this case, they are a little less slippery than other kinds of needles.

Tension problems

It can be hard to keep an even tension and creating uniform stitches with cotton yarn, because of it being so inelastic. This can also cause strain on hands and wrists. You should always take care of your body by getting up and moving and do some stretching when knitting. You can read more about that in this post: Pain when knitting? 7 ways to avoid pain as a knitter

3. Cotton absorbs water – great for dyeing

Cotton can absorb much water, therefore it’s an ideal fiber for knitting wash and dish clothes.

This also means that it hold dye very well and the result is that it’s avaiable in a wide range of colors and different variegated and gradient dyes.

But, sometimes the colors can be bleeding so always make a swatch with all you colors and wash it before you get going on a multicolored project to be safe.

4. Machine washable – and it goes in the dryer too!

Cotton can be washed in the machine – which is a rare feature amongst the natural fibers. THis makes it extra suitable for making baby garments and blankets. Because, let’s be real here, babies creates a lot of laundry…

It can even go in the dryer, however it can be a good idea to take it out before it’s completely dry and let it finish drying lying flat.

5. Durable

Cotton is very durable and this makes it perfect for items of daily use such as dish clothes, towels, grocery bags and such.

If you need extra durability go for the mercerized options. They are treated with chemicals to straighten out the fibers and make them even more durable, and add a little shine.

Knitting with cotton yarn – what can I knit?

Cotton yarn can be knitted up to a wide range of items. The lighter weights can be suitable for knitting baby clothes or beautiful lace table runners. While the medium weights are more suitable for summer tops and lacy sweaters for yourself.

The thicker cotton yarns are excellent for fast knit projects for your home.

Knitting with light weight cotton yarns

Light weight cotton yarns are suitable for:

  • Baby blankets
  • Baby and toddler garments
  • Table runners and table cloths

Knitting with medium weight cotton yarns

  • Summer sweaters
  • Lace tops
  • Kids dresses, tops and, shorts
  • T-shirts
  • Dish and washcloths
  • Towels

Knitting with heavier weight cotton yarns

Cotton blend yarns

Cotton can be wonderful on it’s own thanks to the characteristics mentions above. But sometimes it’s nice to add some more qualities to make it even better.

Cotton blends are often a 80-20 blend with 80 percent cotton and 20 percent of another fiber. The 20 percent is considered to be just enough for achieving the qualities of the added fiber.

Cotton and wool

When wool is added to the cotton the wool contributes with some elastic and memory to the yarn. While the cotton will add some coolness and stitch definition to the blend.

Cotton and silk

Cotton and silk together create a strong and shiny yarn. Garments knitted in this blend will have a wonderful drape and last for years.

Cotton and man-made fibers

Cotton tends to have a rather matt appearance, but with a man-made fiber like acrylic or nylon added to the cotton, it can get a little shine and texture. A blend with a little more acrylic to it can create more lightweight cotton.


Cotton yarn has five characteristics that make it wonderful for a range of knitting projects.

The five qualities of cotton yarn:

  • Breathable
  • Inelastic
  • Water absorbing
  • Machine washable
  • Strong and durable

Cotton is good for knitting summer garments, baby clothes, and items needed around the house such as towels and cloths.

When blended with other yarns different qualities can be added to the yarn such as shine, elasticity and lightness.

Want to know more about different yarn fibers?
––> This post is all about the merino fiber.
––> Click here to read 14 facts about alpaca yarn
––> Not sure how to pick a yarn? Then How to pick yarn for my knitting project? can help you out!