Knitting in Cotton

I'm so glad you guys're here! I've recently been pretty frustrated with the differences between working with wool and working with cotton. I live in Mexico, so it's not possible to get wool in a local store...

but there's a large amount of 6-strand spun or mercerized cotton. My attempts to make something more than potholders have failed spectacularly! But I have a lot of potholders now.

What tips do you have for a wool knitter who is new to cotton? How does this change the fabric, and how should I alter the patterns? Are my wool patterns useless? What kinds of things are better made with cotton? (Useful things, not doilies.) Can I make "lace" with cotton--and does a non-frilly masculine net/lace pattern exist?

I tend to knit with average to relaxed tension, and have mostly bamboo needles with me, in the US 5-9 range, and also a set of #2 dpns I usually use for socks. I'll be in Seattle in a few weeks where I can gather more supplies, but I'm hoping to have something to knit between now and then that isn't a pot holder or tea cozy.

Suggestions appreciated! Thanks.


MWK - Houston's picture

I was recently in Mexico City and found a store call Crochet. They had a great selection of wool yarns - not any form Latin America which was dissapointing. They have several locations in Mexico - you may want to google them and see if there is one in your area - or see if they do mail order. Wool is much more fun to work with. Good Luck

solomondre's picture

Yeah, I'm in Puerto Vallarta, west coast just south of the Baja Peninsula. It's a great place, but I wasn't prepared for the complete lack of wool. Makes sense though- who wants to wear wool in the tropics? Still, I will probably stock up on wool and such when I return to the Pacific North Wet in a few weeks. Thanks!

MMario's picture

Cotton does not have the stretch and give that wool does - so you have to allow for that. and yes, cotton is excellent for lace.

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ronhuber's picture

I live in Morelia and there is little wool here either although I can buy thick wool very much like the Icelandic wool in nearby Patzcuaro - all in natural colours. How about a lace table cloth made with cotton. A dresser scarf. Little doilies to put under drinks. A pair of curtains (my first lace project made with cotton string and I still have them). If you are ever in Morelia look me up.

solomondre's picture

I'm interested in lace, like for a table runner or cloth, but have absolutely no experience with it. Do you know of any good online or book resources out there for lace patterns? There is an abundance of crotchet lace patterns, but I'm not crotchety... er, a crotcheter. :)

And if you ever take a trip to Puerto Vallarta, holler! I like visitors.

RickeScott's picture

I'm just finishing a lap blanket using cotton. It makes a nice light weight blanket good for those chilly Mexican evenings. Check my blog for pics...

gardenguy42's picture

Keep in mind that cotton is very heavy when knitted up in large objects like sweaters. This creates a problem with drooping and loss of shape, especially when the item is washed. If you are not careful in your blocking and drying it will tend to stretch, sag, and generally misbehave -- never hang cotton items on a hanger to dry, the stretching is unbelievable considering how there is no stretch at all while you are knitting!

Cotton also shows stitch detail quite nicely so it lends itself to textured patterns quite well. Some people recommend using smaller needles and knitting cotton at a tighter gauge to achieve good results. If your gauge and tension aren't great, cotton will show that much more than wool and it isn't as easy to straighten this out when blocking.

I live in the southwestern part of Florida and I can't wear woolen items for more than a couple of weeks in January and maybe early February, and when I go to visit my family up North in the winter. I still knit in wool a lot because I love how it feels and works up.

For close to year-round wear in this subtropical climate though cotton, linen, silk, and the cotton blends are the way to go. I like some of the cotton/merino blends a lot. Vests, socks, cardigans, etc. all work up nicely in cotton.

I haven't tried the cotton/silk or cotton/linen blends yet but I'm told that they are very nice to work with. I buy most of my yarn online since there is no local yarn store within a comfortable driving distance to my home and I am very satisfied with the products I have purchased.

Good luck to you and make sure you share some of your projects with us here!

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." -- Mahatma Gandhi

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." -- Mahatma Gandhi

solomondre's picture

Thanks, Gardenguy42. I've done quite a few wool socks, but the one pair of cotton socks I tried to make were disturbingly unable to stay up. Is this a normal thing? Commercial cotton socks are knit impossibly fine, and usually with elastic in them. Are hand-made ones just supposed to be scrunchy?

I like the idea of making a vest.

MichaelJames's picture

Won't most places ship to Mexico? I would think you could order from almost anywhere and have it shipped. I was just people in the tropics have more difficulty with moths eating wools? I would think that would be a problem. I am curious.
I like WEBS ( and JimmyBeanWools a lot and many many more.
I've found cabling with 100% cotton to be a bit more difficult because of the lack of give. There are, however, some beautiful cotton blends. I've also found that stretching and losing shape isn't as big a problem with high quality cotton yarns. NOTHING like a store bought sweater.
Good luck.


solomondre's picture

Yep, most places will ship to Mexico... but it will take a minimum of 3 weeks to clear Customs, I will have to pay up to a 30% duty, plus extra shipping costs... and last time I had a package shipped from the States, well, I'm *still* getting pieces of that package. Which is good, I'm glad to have it back, but little pieces over six weeks is not good, for mail.

It's not the moths so much, here, that kill wool, as it is the mold and mildew--especially over the (now very, very humid) summer, when nothing dries completely. It's murder on books, too. In about three weeks (+/- a week) the Plague of Land Crabs will descend upon us, and they will try to eat anything that is not locked away in Tupperware bins. Soap, candles, shoes... they'll take bites, spit it out, and the next 20 crabs will do the same. So it's a good time to pack up and go traveling right about now.

Much of the year, it's too warm to wear much wool. That's a big part of what I love about living in the tropics; that, and mango season. Still, it might be nice to stock up on some blends with just enough wool to give a little shape and spring to my creations.

drmel94's picture

Much of the year, it's too warm to wear much wool. That's a big part of what I love about living in the tropics; that, and mango season. Still, it might be nice to stock up on some blends with just enough wool to give a little shape and spring to my creations.

The mango season I could definitely do with, but I very much love being able to bundle up in a warm sweater and feeling the wintry chill on my nose. So long as the chill isn't enough to cause frostbite in seconds.

You might look at Cotton Fine, which is a sport weight yarn from Brown Sheep (the people who make Lamb's Pride). It's 80% pima/20% wool to help provide some spring.

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