How to work with 100% cotton yarn

I have never worked with cotton yarn other than for dish cloths, and I would like to make a few sweaters using 100% cotton yarn. How do I allow for the shrinkage when using cotton yarn? Do you use a size larger then the size you would normally use, or is there a different method used?

Good question! I’d love to know this, too! Mary

Someone out there must know the anwser, wouldn’t you think?

Probably! I’ve done tops with cotton blends but not 100%. I think most patterns allow for ease and the washing/care should help any shrinkage. Also, cotton usually only shrinks and isn’t like wool. I think you might be able to set it with vinegar but that may be just for setting the colors…

According to what I could find in No Sheep For You, 100% cotton will shrink once when washed but it shrinks lengthwise not widthwise so adding length should compensate. Have you thought about mercerized cotton which is preshrunk.
The only other option the book lists is washing the yarn before knitting which could be a mess.

I made a summer top with sugar and cream yarn and found it doesn’t shrink. It grows when you wear it, and goes back to the original size after you wash it. I don’t dry it all the way dry in the dryer, just halfway and take it out while damp. I use larger needles with it, size 10 or 10.5; you need less stitches therefore use less yarn and it’s not so heavy.

Hey, Diane, here’s some help!!! Thanks, Ladies! Mary

I have been researching on Ravelry what people have been making with Elann Esprit and Cascade Fixation yarn which is 98% cotton and less than 2% elastic. The people who have commented on washing socks in the washer and putting them in the dryer said they had a little shrinkage and compensated by knitting the socks a little longer than wanted.

I’ve made a number of garments in cotton (I work a lot with recycled thrift store sweater cottons) and the smaller the piece, the less likely it’ll shrink vertically. All pieces grow in width, when worn, so I always opt for a lot of neg ease and add length. The larger a piece is the the more weight there is…and cotton can get really heavy. Sometimes they’ll distort or twist depending on how the yarn was mfg’d and/or how you knit it.