Putting Your Handspun Cotton to Good Use: Part One

Posted by Jessica Ybarra on

spinning blog

I admit that I often spin just for the delight of spinning with no thought of what I will do with the yarn.  At best, I will try and make a consistent yarn for whatever batch of roving or sliver I am spinning so I will be able to use it for a project. I usually do turn these yarns into something knit, crocheted or woven.

I have also spun for a specific project. I highly recommend that at least once, you spin for a project. The exercise of spinning with a project in mind teaches you how to plan, choose the right fiber, calculate and complete your project.

Where to Start: Pick a Project.

Weaving with cotton handspun:

  • It is best to use 2-ply cotton for warp.
  • After some experience you can use a cottton single as warp. Use a higher twist in the single than you would for the weft.
  • Singles can successfully be used for  weft.
  • Your first cotton handspun no matter how irregular can be used for weft with a commercially spun yarn for warp.
  • Some spinners will go straight to the loom with their handspun cotton without any finishing.
  • You may want to first sample to check the shrinkage. Watch for differential shrinkage – in other words the 2-ply warp may not shrink as much as the single weft causing a puckered fabric.
  • Leave your handspun cotton on your bobbin overnight to temporarily set the twist. The yarn does not tangle as easily. To permanently set the twist handspun cotton requires boiling or steaming.


Knitting with cotton handspun:

  • Two or more plies are the most common yarns for handknitting.
  • Use a 2-ply yarn for lace (opens up the lace more) and 3-ply for socks (stronger yarn).
  •  For “British” or “American” style (AKA throwing the yarn) knitters, spin Z and ply S. This way the yarn does not untwist while knitting.
  • A single can be used if finished (boiled or steamed) to set the twist so the knit fabric will not bias. Be sure to do a swatch if you try this.
  • Cotton yarns are heavy – much heavier than wool. Keep this in mind when choosing your project.
  • Finer cotton yarns (lace, fingering or sport weight) will make lighter garments.
  • Needle size is important  – start with one size smaller needle than for a woolen yarn of the same diameter. A very open knit fabric in cotton has no body – maybe desirable for lace but not for a sweater.

Crocheting with cotton handspun:

  • Crochet fabric is thicker than knit or woven fabric in the same size of yarn.
  • Again the finer yarns here – lace or fingering – will give the best results for garments.
  • Hook size may need to be a little larger to keep the crocheted fabric soft – depending upon the project, of course – a potholder needs to be firm. Swatch until you get the fabric you want.
  • Some spinners will spin S and ply Z for crochet. This really depends upon the crocheter. There seems to be less untwisting of yarn in crochet.

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