Sweater Knitting: Working With Cotton

One of the things people said to me when I initially did colorwork with cotton was that it was really difficult. I think I picked a perfect first cotton colorwork project with Tecumseh because the fit was oversized so I didn’t have to worry that it wouldn’t give. Now with a more intricate pattern and me wanting to achieve a closer fit I can see where some might say it’s difficult. But I’ve figured out how to adjust and wanted to share what I’ve learned.
Cotton yarn doesn’t have the same kind of stretch or blossom when blocked that wool does. Don’t get me wrong, it definitely changes and expands but in a different way. For the Guthrie sweater I decided to knit a size medium, it’s closet to my natural bust size and I didn’t want a lot of ease. I got gauge with size 5 needles and after doing the yoke I realized it was going to be super fitted and not give it I kept going. So what did I to do adjust?
I went up a needle size! I wanted to make sure this was going to be able to go over my chest with ease and that I wouldn’t be sausaged in and now it does! I also know with a little blocking it will ease up a bit but the goal is to have a more fitted tee with elbow length sleeves (I’m hoping it will pair nicely with a lovely green pleated skirt I have) that’s perfect for spring, summer and fall.

So don’t let cotton intimidate you, figure out ways to make it work for you and the pattern you’re working on. Anyone else want to offer any tips for knitting with cotton?

18 Replies to “Sweater Knitting: Working With Cotton”

  1. It’s so pretty, Dana. You are my knitting idol! I only knit dish cloths in cotton yarn. I use box store yarn and I find it very hard on my hands because of the lack of give.

    1. Lion Brand has a 24/7 cotton I believe that wasn’t too bad on my hands. I’d use it again. This Berroco Modern Cotton is definitely some of the best, much easier on my hands than others.

  2. Love your color choices! Love your solution. Thank you for sharing

  3. It’s looking great! And your hair!! SOOOO cute!! 🙂

    1. Thank you! I need a haircut so you can see my part again but I really am loving it being this short.

  4. Looks great! Glad you were able to salvage the work you put into it without frogging! 🙂

  5. Great solution to go up a needle size! Gives the fit you wanted without really being larger.

    I do know that as I wear cotton sweaters the begin to stretch and bag. Then I throw them in the washer with cool water, dry low or lay flat, and they go right back to size…just like jeans. 🙂

    Your sweater is gorgeous!

  6. I just love your blog! Such an inspiration. I am often intimidated to make a change that will actually let me WEAR the finished product. It’s great to just read about your process and learn it’s not the end of the world if I have to make an adjustment like changing the needle size. Thank you!!

    1. Hey all the hard work we put into our projects they should be wearable. And don’t be afraid, what’s the worst that could happen? You have to frog it or go back and fix a mistake? It’s all about learning ☺️

  7. That (partial) sweater looks fabulous on you…..the colors are just great for you.

  8. Looks good! The yarns like Modern Cotton are nice because they are a bit lighter and more forgiving. I find they don’t stretch out as much.

  9. Beautiful colors for summer, cool and minty. My experiences with cotton have been: really bad, better, good. My first project was to use a large bag of Cotton Fleece to make my husband a sweater, and I got ambitious and made a fisherman (Vogue Very Easy (not!)). So, the ultimate Bad Sweater experience – wish I’d documented it. Wrong yarn wrong sized needles wrong gauge wrong size. And it grew two, or three sizes when I put it on him, oh my, from 44 chest to 54 chest and looong sleeves.
    Frogged, rebuilt using size 4 needles instead of size 8 (!). Do not use the suggested needle size, which was wrong anyway, use a 6, or a 5 since I knit loose, or better yet, a 4 since my knitting guru says go down one more, because, cotton. It now fits great, with minimal stretch, being tightly knit.
    I have made a really cute sleeveless tank in Quince sport weight Willow(?), changed the back to be same as the front because it was skimpy. That yarn was lovely to work with. Pattern, Vogue Spring 2009, #2 by Mari Lynn Patrick, in a flower petal center out, modular. Fun and it fit, in bright red, very summery.
    Just started watching your blog, need to look up back posts! Thanks for the progress reports.

    1. I can only imagine the visual of the cotton sweater going from a 44 to a 54. LOL Those sleeves must’ve also been soooo long! And welcome 🙂

  10. Dana, I digress to comment on the sister cardigans you made.I love the colors of the baby striped cardigan! As a challenge to myself, I would like to make that sweater for myself! How do I start?

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