Some tips for knitting with cotton yarn should begin with a brief history of the fiber. It is the oldest known vegetable fiber and has been used for 7000 years. There are two basic types, Egyptian or Fine and Extra Lean Staple or ELS. Both types can be dyed numerous colors or kept in natural shades. There is a treatment known as mercerizing which involves caustic soda and stretching for a shinier, no shrink appearance.
Cotton is a comfortable, breathable fiber that is a must for any warm weather wardrobe. It is also durable, soft and strong enough to hold up to a lot of wear and washings. There are no allergies connected to it and it is very affordable. It does not pill up like other materials and your stitches will be well defined.
A trick of the trade that is helpful when handling the slippery fiber is to use a firm gauge and wooden needles. Stretching and sagging happen quite often so it is helpful to know that using smaller needles can produce a firmer, more solid garment. Always use vinegar in the first wash cycle to set the colors and avoid bleeding.
It is always wise to do a small test swatch before beginning a larger scale project. This allows you to test your pattern and colors to see if they will bleed. You’ll also be able to see how much it is going to stretch or sag. Always wash your swatch as part of your testing for color fastness and elasticity. Darker colors such as black, blue and red are more likely to bleed and should be washed separately.
Some knitters find that switching to bamboo needles helps to handle the slippery texture of the fiber. Hand strain and carpal tunnel are a common problem. Take lots of breaks and stretch out your hands regularly to avoid fatigue.
Think about what kind of look you are trying to create when choosing the kind of cotton you will use. For a shinier look that won’t sag or shrink go with the mercerized fiber. If you prefer a more natural look and are concerned about pesticides then try the organic version of the fiber.
When starting a new ball of yarn, it is best to work it in at the edge of the garment instead of in the middle because of its bulky nature. When planning a knitting project, one must take into account room for stretching and shrinkage due to the nature of the fiber. Keeping an even tension can be tricky at first and takes some practice. Keep trying and you will get used to the feel of it.
These easy tips for knitting with cotton yarn should help you get started on your next creative project. There are so many options and patterns out there that you will never get bored of creating new things. Keep practicing and test swatch ahead of time for best results. By exercising a little patience and diligence you can create beautiful designs with cotton, the comfortable fiber of choice.