Knitting with cotton

I’m new to the website. How wondrous! Those videos, especially with the audio, are amazing! So helpful, especially to a newbie like myself.
Question about knitting a sweater with 100% cotton. I’ve been told that it stretches (not sure if length or width or both) and I should take that into account when I am knitting. How? Should I use a needle 1 or 2 sizes smaller? Make it a size smaller than it would ordinarily be in wool? Hang a big swatch with weights for a couple of days to see how it stretches? Any help much appreciated!

Welcome WildandWooly!

I’m such a wool-lover, that I’ve actually never knit with cotton! I don’t know the answer to this one…

Any one else know???


I’ve been doing a lot of knitting with cotton recently. Nothing big, mind you, just dishcloths.

It does stretch a lot more than wool or acrylic, in all directions (width, legnth, diagonally). It also seems to “bounce back” into the original size.

I’m afraid I can’t help you with how to adjust your pattern, but I would defiantely reccomend a test swatch.


Maybe you could just knit it as normal, and then if it stretches too much, throw it in the dryer to shrink it!


thanks for your suggestions. I met a woman in the knitting store today who suggested a similar thing - she said it stretches as it gets worn, then comes back into shape when washed and blocked. If it doesn’t, she suggested dipping it in hot water for a brief time. I’m going to knit the sweater in k1p1, which hopefully will help hold its shape.

I’ve asked around, and I got a couple more tips. The best one, I think is this: knit a swatch. Measure the gauge. Wash and dry it. Measure again. Knit garment to post-washed gauge.

Another tip which sounds bizarre, but they swear it works: when the ribbed edges of the cotton garment have stretched, wack the edges against a counter to bring it back into shape. They say it saves on having to over-wash the garment.

Good luck!


Amy, you are great! Thanks so much for these ideas. I also found something interesting on a website - “Elastic thread has been a life saver for these stretched out sweaters and it comes in a rainbow of colors to match about any yarn. Any method where you weave it in and out of the ribbing for about three rows works fine.” I’m on my way!

The easiest method of “weaving in” elastic thread is to just knit it in tandem with the yarn, of course. Although this uses up more thread than skimming it through the back of knitting later.


I found a wonderful article about knitting with cotton - . However, she missed the tips you gave me earlier! thanks, Amy

That article has great info! Good to know!