Summer is approaching and for crocheters that means an opportunity to lighten things up and crochet with cotton! Today we would like to share some information about cotton and a few projects that you can make from this wonderful fiber.
Natural Characteristics: Cotton is the most-used fiber in the world today, whether woven into fabric or spun into yarn. It has the following natural characteristics:
- Soft hand
- Good strength
- Drapes well
- Easy to care for
- Dyes well
Yarn spun of 100 percent cotton tends to have similar qualities to woven fabric and little, if any, natural elasticity. For example, you’ve probably noticed that the more you wash a pair of 100 percent cotton pants or flannel pajamas, the shorter they become over time. And, T-shirts tend to not only shrink in length but to grow in width.
Unlike mohair and silk yarns that grow in length with wearing over time, cotton gradually shortens and widens. Keep this characteristic in mind when selecting patterns and determining both body and sleeve lengths.
Cotton has durability and absorbency up to 27 times its own weight. A longtime favorite for warm weather, cotton breathes, making it comfortable to wear in any climate. While many man-made fibers hold heat closer to the body, cotton naturally conducts heat away from the body, making it more comfortable to wear in warmer climates. This quality makes cotton especially good to use for spring or summer throws, baby items, jackets, camisoles, wraps, hats, beachwear and other warm-weather garments, accessories and home accents.
Mercerized Cotton: Sometimes known as “pearl” cotton, mercerized cotton is put through a treatment process of alkali that alters the cotton and increases both luster and absorbency. The process of mercerization leaves yarn both softer and shinier. Cotton is introduced to the mercerization process while under a state of tension.
Originally this process was found to be a way to improve the finish/sheen of cotton, but it also resulted in an added bonus: greater absorbency when the cotton is exposed to water or dye. Mercerized cotton undergoes certain changes in characteristics and is generally more desirable than non-mercerized cotton.
Blended Cotton: Cotton is often blended with other fibers, most often polyester, to enhance performance and to improve the overall appearance of the finished product. Yarn manufacturers select and blend certain proportions, so the best qualities and characteristics are retained. You’ll find that combinations of fibers and percentages vary from yarn to yarn.
If you’re looking for minimal care, check labels for cotton-blend yarns that are 50 to 60 percent polyester. Most blends within these percentage ranges are both machine washable and dryable. You’ll still have the best qualities and the look of cotton with the blend, while the polyester adds durability and resistance to wrinkles.
Tips for Crocheting with Cotton: Always make a swatch before beginning any project. This is especially true for cotton, as working with it is different than with most other yarns due to the lack of elasticity. Cotton stitches stand alone, unlike acrylic, microfiber and most other yarns where the stitches snuggle next to one another. The gaps created while forming stitches with cotton remain gaps and do not fill in.
Fancy stitches worked with cotton yarns tend to be more distinct and stable than those worked with other fibers because of the “stand alone” factor. Cables take on more depth, relief stitches stand out more, popcorns are more stable, and other fancy patterns are enhanced when crocheted in cotton.
Soft and pleasant to work with, cotton yarn feels good running between your fingers as you crochet, and feels equally good worn next to the body. A great choice for children, it readily releases soil when washed. Because of its easy-care factor, it’s also the ideal fiber for kitchen items like pot holders, dishcloths and towels. Acrylic yarns should never be used for pot holders or hot mats because, unlike cotton, they tend to melt when exposed to high heat.
We hope you find some time this summer to crochet with cotton and enjoy the wonderful properties of this amazing fiber!