Subscriber Exclusive

Why You Should Wash This Cotton Yarn (Before You Knit!)

With a little prep before you knit, these cotton yarns can be a pleasure to work with (and wear).

Kate Larson Jul 3, 2024 - 6 min read

Why You Should Wash This Cotton Yarn (Before You Knit!) Primary Image

The Chameleon Shawl knitted with natural-color cottons. Photos by Matt Graves unless otherwise noted

For years, I did not like knitting cotton. The yarns I tried were not as elastic as wool and stressed my hands. Then I learned to spin natural-colored cotton in the traditional way, using a sweet device developed by Mahatma Gandhi, and I fell in love with knitting my handspun cotton. Unlike the fairly dense millspun yarns I’d tried, my handspun cotton is velvet-soft, lofty, and resilient. Cotton fiber is naturally fluffy, and I wondered if I could coax those traits back into millspun yarns.

Sally Fox sent me these breathtaking cotton bolls from her cotton fields. Can you see the airy, open nature of the fibers in their natural state? Photo by Kate Larson

I purchased several cones of millspun 10/2 cotton yarn from Sally Fox to experiment with. Similar to a laceweight knitting yarn, “10/2” describes the yarn weight in weaver’s speak, and these cones are primarily purchased by weavers. But I dove in to try finishing, washing, and preparing the yarn for knitting as I would my handspun cotton to see what would happen. Spoiler—it was a great success!

No subscription? You're missing out.

Subscribe today to access all of the premium knitting content available.