Crocheting Blog

Top 10 Tips for Crocheting With Cotton Yarn

Cotton yarn is an ideal choice for crochet as we move into the warmer parts of the year here in the Northern Hemisphere. Cotton fiber creates breathable items that are also wonderfully sturdy and durable.

Here are ten tips to consider when crocheting with cotton yarn.

cotton yarn

Cascade Ultra Pima Cotton Yarn

1. Yarn weight matters.

Cotton tends to be a heavy yarn, especially once it has gotten wet. Pay particular attention to the yarn weight when choosing projects. Cotton thread and sock weight cotton will be less dense, of course, than a worsted weight or bulky weight cotton. Of course, if you’re working on a thick project that you want to be really heavy (such as a winter blanket or a big crochet basket) then the heaving yarn weights make sense.

full_3641_1677_OvalCottonStorageBins_3

Image via Craftsy member KnotSewCute

2. Cotton is for items that don’t require stretch.

As a rule, cotton doesn’t stretch. This makes it a great choice for items that are intended to be sturdy and durable. For that reason, cotton yarn is great for making crochet baskets, dishtowels, market tote bags and amigurumi. Lion Brand Kitchen Cotton Yarn is one example of a 100% cotton yarn often used to make kitchen towels and potholders.

Note that when cotton does stretch (such as when you hang a wet piece of cotton from a line), it is inelastic so it won’t bounce back into its original shape. It will stretch out like a big yawn and then just hang there, slack-jawed and unable to return to normal.

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3. Use textured stitches for holding shape.

If you want to create cotton items that don’t stretch out that way when wet then you should crochet textured stitches. Post stitches, especially those that lock around each other to make crochet cables, are a great choice.

Crocheted Cotton fiber

Image via Craftsy blogger Lisa Gutierrez

4. Cotton blends may work better for wearables.

Because cotton doesn’t stretch, it can sometimes be unforgiving for wearable items where you might want more drape. For those projects, you might want to choose a cotton blend. Rowan Wool Cotton Yarn is an example of a blend that’s 50% cotton, 50% merino wool.

5. Pick “organic cotton” to be eco-friendly.

Many people choose cotton yarn because it’s a natural fiber and they seek to engage in earth-friendly crochet. That’s great! However, if that’s why you’re choosing cotton, then you want to be careful to select “organic cotton yarn”. Pesticides are frequently used on cotton that’s not organic. Dayna Boyer of Canadian Living explains:

“The website for the Sustainable Cotton Project says 10 per cent of all agricultural pesticides produced worldwide are used on cotton. So by purchasing organic cotton, you’re sending a strong message about the use of pesticides on plants.”

Lion Brand Kitchen Cotton yarn

Lion Brand Kitchen Cotton Yarn

6. Get familiar with the term “mercerized”.

Mercerized cotton has been treated in such a way that it appears more shiny. The downside is that it’s usually less absorbent than un-mercerized cotton. Either one can be a great choice for crochet, but you have to pick wisely depending on the characteristics you seek in your final product. You’ll also need to consider this carefully if you want to dye your own cotton yarn. Crochet designer Emjay Bailey of Nerdigurumi explains:

If the yarn is not mercerized (a process that smoothes the fiber, makes it less likely to shrink when washed and makes the yarn have a glossier, shinier finish), each loop in a stitch is locked into place from the friction of the other loops. The strands don’t slip or slide or shift, meaning the integrity and shape of the stitches and rows hold out well and finished ends woven in are pretty much locked in.”

7. Block your cotton.

As we’ve discussed, cotton lacks elasticity. When it stretches, it typically doesn’t bounce back. The power in this is that you can use blocking to stretch your cotton crochet items into the right shape and the shape will tend to hold after blocking. Alternatively, if you don’t want the shape to change much when you are blocking your cotton items, then you should use steam blocking (not wet blocking).

Bonus tip: You can get some great crochet blocking tips from Andrea Sanchez’s article “Get the Kinks Out with These Tips for Blocking Crochet“.

8. Washing makes cotton softer.

You will notice that your cotton crochet items get softer and softer over time. If you create something and it feels too rough, just throw it in the wash a few times and you should notice that it softens up a bit.

9. Matte hooks work best for cotton.

Cotton yarn tends to slip around too much on crochet hooks that have a slick, polished finish. Choose crochet hooks that have a matte finish or a bit of grip. Avoid acrylic crochet hooks when working with cotton.

Cotton Coasters

Image via Craftsy member Melmaria

10. Use cotton for photographs.

Think cotton if you are creating your own crochet stitch tutorials or other photographs for a blog project. That’s because cotton has terrific stitch definition.

What is your favorite fiber type or fiber blend? Cast your vote in the comments section!

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9 Comments

angela howard

I like cotton blanket and making ponchos andcrocheting jumpers and cardigans and bags that’s what I would like to see on my on my lessons.

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angela howard

making blankets with different colours bright colours

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Rosemary copeland

Can someone tell me what DKcotton is? I found a pattern for it but can’t find it at Joanns or michaels. What do u use it for? Obviously, I’m a beginner at crocheting!

Reply
shizzl

DK is weight catagory 3. Most cottons/yarns are weight 4, and bulky are 5 or 6. So it’s thinner than Lily or Lion brand cottons.

Reply
Di Childs

DK is a yarn weight commonly used in the UK. I think in some countries it’s known as 6ply. The usual knitting needle size is 4mm, gauge/tension 22sts and 28 rows to a 4 inch square. For crochet I would use a 4mm or 4.5mm hook depending on the density of the yarn and the pattern stitch used.

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Kathleen A Cheriki

All it means is that it is a number 3 in the weight chart if you look at yarn catalogs such as willow yarns it will tell you what weight it is next to the yarn product. When I first started crocheting I was mystified by this too and could not find it at Wal-Mart or JoAnne although a lot of patterns call for it. Try catalogs or the internet. Your librarian can help you if you don’t have a computer at home.

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Mrs Jane Langlois

Hi I would like to make a Cotton bedspread in crochet I would like it soft but I do not know what kind of cotton to use i do not want it to thick I was wondering if size 20 in cotton would do and would it go out of shape thank you would you be able to answer my text that would be grat Jane x

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Christine Ashley

I am having trouble crochet ing a cardigan in 4ply cotton. Either it is too big and I size down in my needle or it is too wide. I don’t seem to get the happy medium. My pattern cAlls for a 3.50 needle and I have gone right down to a 2.50 needle but to no avail. Can you help me please. Thank you.

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Zurainny Ismail

Hi,
I have lots of milk cotton yarns in my stash – bought them when I thought they would make nice hats for my sons. We live in the hot tropics. But I learned through my sons’ experience that cotton/wool blends would make cooler/more comfy hats. Now, I reserve my cotton yarns for other projects such as bags, shawls or blankets.

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