Quiet Nova Studios Nature's First Green organic cotton yarn

Working with Organic Cotton Yarn

Lindsay LewchukAnnouncements, eco world, Fiber Focus, How-Tos, Pattern Related, Puddles, Q&A, Yarn 3 Comments

Preamble ~ Fiber Focus: Organic Cotton Yarn 2019

Fiber Focus, this year we’re breaking from tradition by looking in depth at different eco fibers. First up Organic Cotton yarn!

Fireside Knits with Puddles by the fire
(Aside: I wrote that much of this blog – the intro 2 sentences – on January 18, 2019 to accompany the release of Fireside Knits, shown in 100% organic cotton yarn from Blue Sky Fibers. However, it’s a story of the the best of intentions, then, life and freelancing. I am, however, happy to return to the year as originally planned.)

In a nutshell, organic cotton is cotton yarn grown and produced without pesticides and chemical fertilizers. But that’s just the beginning! Since this subject has been extensively studied in previous years, check out the list of blogs at the bottom for more information.

Today’s specific Organic Cotton topic is:

Working with Organic Cotton Yarn

sketch of what happens to organic cotton in the knitting process

When working with organic cotton, the most important advice I have to share is knit a generous sized swatch (generous = at least 7”/ 18cm square), take the gauge, wash and block the swatch as you intended to wash and block your finished item and then once it’s dry take the gauge again. Use this second gauge as the gauge reference to match up on the pattern you’ve selected. Why is this SO important with organic cotton? I like to call it the road hump effect.

This cellulous fiber has zero stitch memory. On the needles it remembers the shape and size of the needle used. When it moves to the wash cycle, it begin to relax and forget the former beautiful shape it once hand. By the end of the dry cycle, the beautifully needle shaped curves have averaged out to wider shorter stitches… looking less like the circular needle they were originally shaped by and looking more like road humps chillin’ on your swatch.

the roles needle size and yarn weight play

There are three important factors to consider. Needle size and yarn dimension (aka weight) are the first two. Organic cotton fiber relaxation is controlled by the space available – therefore, smaller needle or thicker yarn weight, the less space for it to relax. That’s why I so often will use a US 7/ 4.5mm on a worsted weight organic cotton where US 8/ 5mm would be considered standard. By limiting the space inside the curve for the yarn in which to relax, I’ve put a halt on the road hump effect.

Twisted rib on organic cotton
how stitch choice effects organic cotton

Stitch is the final factor to keep in mind. For the purposes of yarn review experimentation, I use Stockinette stitch in the “data mining” gauge summary parts because stitch does play a role in your gauge.

For instance, one of my favorite “beat the road hump” trick-stitches is twisted stitches because the twisting action limits the space available for relaxing and changes the direction of the yarn giving it negative force against the desire to relax.

swatches close up

Ready to put it to the test? Grad your favorite organic cotton and a selection of different sized knitting needles and get swatching! Take your gauge after it’s off the needles. Wash and block and take the gauge again. What do your results say?


Selection of previous Organic Cotton Yarn Blog links:

Fiber Focus: Organic Cotton Yarn (what is it and why is what it is important) ~ 2014
Q&A: Organic Cotton for Winter Hats
Dye to Perfection (dyeing organic cotton, an interview the Vegan Yarn)

100% Organic Cotton ~ Yarn Reviews:

Birdies Knits Bulky Weight Yarn Review https://knitecochic.com/birdies-knits-bulky-weight-yarn-review
Organic Cotton Petite DK from The Unique Sheep https://knitecochic.com/organic-cotton-petite-dk-yarn-review/
Shibui Knits Fern Yarn Review https://knitecochic.com/shibui-knits-fern-yarn-review/
Yarn Review Lana Grossa Organico Uni https://knitecochic.com/yarn-review-lana-grossa-organico-uni/
Yarn Review Quiet Nova Studios https://knitecochic.com/yarn-review-quiet-nova-studios/
Yarn Review Sierra Yarn Inka Sign Green Yarn https://knitecochic.com/yarn-review-sierra-yarn-inka-sign-green-yarn/

Discontinued Brands
Best of Nature Organic Cotton https://knitecochic.com/best-of-nature-organic-cotton/
Yarn Review Classic Elite Yarns Mika https://knitecochic.com/yarn-review-classic-elite-yarns-mika/

Comments 3

  1. What a great post! Informative, and I love the graphics for the stitches – they illustrate your points very well.

    1. Post

      Thanks so much, Lisa! I’m glad the artwork helped convey the points. I love knitting with organic cotton… especially now that I’ve learned how it acts. Enjoy your yarn adventures!

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