How do I Choose the Best Cotton Knitting Yarn?

Sheri Cyprus

Cotton is one of the most popular knitting yarns due to its natural, breathable qualities. When choosing the best cotton knitting yarn, you should consider price and value. It's important to compare cotton yarn labels and the feel of different brands of yarn, because the lowest price isn't always the best. A lower price could mean you're getting a lesser quality rather than a good bargain although today most knitting cotton sold is good quality. To choose the best cotton yarn for your project, it's a good idea to think about the properties you'd like your finished knitted piece to have.

Cotton bolls on a branch.
Cotton bolls on a branch.

For instance, if you want a little more elegance and shine to a knitted cotton piece, mercerized cotton may be the best choice. Mercerized cotton is cotton treated with a chemical process that increases the size of the fibers to create a strong, glossy texture. It's ideal for knitting tablecloths, dishcloths and washcloths because mercerized cotton is stain-resistant as well as wear-resistant. Mercerized cotton knitting yarn is also a good choice for knitted tops because it tends to take ribbing stitches better than regular cotton, which is quite low in elasticity.

A zip-up knitted sweater.
A zip-up knitted sweater.

A ribbing pattern of one knit stitch and one purl stitch, rather than thick rib patterns, usually works best on cotton yarns. Thick cotton knitting yarn is not the best type to use to knit items with ribbing. If you want to knit a cotton garment with more elastic ribbing, a cotton-acrylic blend may be a better choice.

Knitting needles and yarn.
Knitting needles and yarn.

A good tip for choosing high-quality cotton yarn is to look for labels that say the yarn is machine washable. Poor-quality cotton yarn cannot be machine washed and hand washing larger knitted items may be especially difficult as cotton gets quite heavy when it's wet. Items knitted with machine washable, good-quality cotton knitting yarn should always be washed in cold water with mild laundry detergent in the gentle cycle of the washer. Poor-quality cotton yarns tend to have dyes than run when washed such as a blue and white garment that turns all blue after washing. This is an important reason to buy only good-quality cotton knitting yarns.

Mercerized cotton has a glossy texture and is stronger than regular cotton.
Mercerized cotton has a glossy texture and is stronger than regular cotton.

Organic cotton yarn is a popular choice for people who prefer to buy products made without the use of pesticides. Many name brand yarn companies now carry organic cotton knitting yarn lines. Although the pesticide-free organic cotton yarns are available in many different dyed colors, if you choose this type you may want to try knitting with the natural colors. Natural organic cotton yarn colors include different pale shades of brown, green and gray.

When selecting cotton yarn, make sure that the color and texture suits the knitting project.
When selecting cotton yarn, make sure that the color and texture suits the knitting project.
Mercerized cotton yarn can be used to make washcloths.
Mercerized cotton yarn can be used to make washcloths.
Organic cotton yarn is typically more expensive than traditional cotton yarn.
Organic cotton yarn is typically more expensive than traditional cotton yarn.

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