I bet you wear it every day!
We all wear or use cotton every day, but I'll bet not many of us know
much about this very common, useful fiber.
It is classed as a
natural vegetable fiber and is grown on plants. It is grown only in warm
places and it is formed inside pods called 'bolls'. When they burst then it's ready
Once harvested the fibers must be separated from the pods and seeds.
The cleaned fiber is then either blended with other fibers then spun,
or just spun as a 'pure' yarn . There are many, many ways of 'finishing'
the yarn - each affecting the way it looks, feels and acts.
Cotton is a very strong and hardwearing. I know I've had t-shirts that
I've worn for years and then they've progressed to being dusters when I
got sick of them. They take ages to wear out.
If you've ever heard the word 'mercerizing', that is a process that makes
the yarn even stronger and can also make it more elastic or stretchy - a
quality that cotton doesn't have naturally. It also has a tendency to
wrinkle easily. Again, it can be treated during finishing to remedy this.
Cotton is a great summer yarn as it does not conduct heat, which is why
it feels cool in the warm weather. It is very absorbent as we all know. Think
about how heavy wet towels are - they soak up a load of water.
You can wash it easily and it's a tough cookie. It won't felt like wool,
so you don't have to
be too gentle with it. However it can shrink considerably after washing.
I now buy 'long' jeans as the ones I like to wear tend to shrink in length in
This versatile fiber can yellow if left too long in the sun, and will
discolor with perspiration. It also can
mildew if it's left damp for a long time, but it is not attractive to
insects. You won't find moths in with these sweaters unless they
have a wool content.
Be warned - the acid in orange, lemon and grapefruit juices can damage cotton, so rinse with cool
water if you spill!
It dyes well - just be careful how you wash a hand-dyed yarn. Especially
the first time you wash it, wash it alone.
A yarn which has cotton blended with silk will act differently to a
blend with wool or acrylic. That's why you must check the washing
instructions on the ball band. I can't stress that enough!
Cotton yarns are great for dishcloths, summer tops, doilies, table runners,
Christmas decorations, cardigans, summer sweaters, purses and more.
The yarn weight
you need for projects will be greater than that of other fibers, as cotton is
a comparatively heavy yarn. Buy by length if you're using a pattern worked
in a different yarn.
It is a fairly easy yarn to work with other than the fact it doesn't give
or stretch as you're working.
If you choose a smooth yarn, the
stitches worked will look very crisp and defined. It is great for use with
textured stitches as they really stand out well. The down side is, if
your work isn't very neat then every 'iffy' stitch will stand out more.
So - that's the 'low-down' on cotton yarns. Try a small project first
to see if you like it. I wouldn't recommend it as a beginners yarn, but
feel free to experiment. After all - it's your project.
Know why wool shrinks in the wash?
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