Summer Knitting Solved: Why We Love Cotton Yarn

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It's hot and sticky and you just want to find some shade and … knit? Wait, you say, won't knitting make me feel even hotter? While even the thought of wool might make you sweat, it's not your only option: Discover the amazingly summer-friendly, plant-fiber coolness of cotton. Cotton yarn (like its friend, linen, which also comes from a plant) just feels cooler and is perfect for loose, summery designs — tops, lacy shawls, light cardigans, even swimwear and beach cover-ups. It's a win-win: perfect for knitting with AND wearing this summer.

Knitting with cotton yarn is it's own beast, so we talked to Bluprint resident textile expert Sunne Pollart Meyer for some tricks, tips, and caveats.

  • Wool yarn has some give, but cotton yarns are firmer. If your struggle with tension is real, this might not be your yarn. "The lack of elasticity can also make cotton yarn hard on your hands," Meyer says.
  • Take extra care with blocking and washing, as wet cotton garments can get heavy and stretch out of shape. The good news? You might be able to toss your finished garment in the dryer to regain shape and body.
  • The first washing will soften your project. "Most cotton yarns have some 'stay' in the finishing that makes them a little rougher straight from the skein," Meyer says, "But over the first wash or two it washes out and becomes very soft."
  • For maximum shape retention, look for a pattern that's not too long in the body, and avoid thin straps — choose a sleeveless top over a strappy tank.
  • This is a great time to practice cables and lace patterns. The texture will help keep the shape of the cotton and will look amazing!
  • Cotton is super durable, so think baby blankets, pillows, or washcloths. (Plus, these small, simple projects are extra appealing in summer.)
  • When knitting clothes, look for mercerized cotton or braided cotton blends. The mercerizing process will give the finished project more stability, less stretch, while braided construction makes for a slightly lighter garment and also adds stability.

Light and lacy or colorful and cabled, your cotton knit will be awesome — and you won't melt while making it. And when fall rolls around, your fingers will be totally in shape for that chunky wool.

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