Blog · The Yarn Corner · Yarn Education

Cotton Yarn

I am really excited to dive into the world of Cotton Yarn in this post! I have been obsessed with Cotton Yarn for quite some time now and there is so much more to learn about it than you would ever guess!

Did you know that there are different types of Cotton Yarn??

It makes sense that there are different types of Cotton, but it was something that I had never really considered before. The main reason that there are different types of Cotton is that it is grown and sourced from so many different parts of the world, that each kind of Cotton has its own specific set of attributes based on what region of the world it comes from and how it was grown and processed. Of course there are SO many strain of cotton because of this fact, but here a few of the most common kinds that you are likely to come in contact with when Crocheting and Knitting.

It is also important to note that the quality of Cotton Yarns is often based on its “Staple Length”, which is referring to the length of the individual fibers within the cotton bud before it is processed and spun. The longer the Staple Length, the higher the quality of the cotton, as the length of the individual fibers determines the softness and strength of the cotton.

  • Pima Cotton – If you find yourself involved in the Fiber Art Social Media community you have probably heard of Pima Cotton a lot by now. Personally, I had never heard of Pima Cotton until it was made more popular by brands such as We Are Knitters and Betta Knit. Pima Cotton is an “Extra Long Staple Cotton”, meaning that it is considered a very high quality yarn. While Pima Cotton originated in Peru, it is now also grown in Australia and The United States, as certain more coastal regions of these countries also offer the growing conditions needed for this type of cotton. In order to achieve this level of quality, the care put into producing Pima is very specific and rigorous as it can only grow properly under very certain conditions. It is because of this that the production of Pima Cotton is very limited compared to other cottons, which decreases its accessibly and increases its price. I have had the privilege to work with Pima Cotton before and I can attest to its high quality, softness, and strength. If you have the money, it is a very pleasant experience to work with it at least once!
    • Supima Cotton – If you have heard of Pima Cotton, then you might have come across Supima Cotton. The difference between the two is technically quite minimal. Supima Cotton is the same thing as Pima Cotton; however it refers to Pima Cotton that is only grown in certain regions of the United States and has been grown under the standards and regulations of the Supima Association. These growing standards are a bit more defined and strict than Pima Cotton grown outside of the US and therefore the quality is often even higher than a standard Pima Cotton. Personally I have not come across many yarns that claim to be made of Supima Cotton, I believe it is most often used to make clothing and bedding materials, but now you know the difference between the two!
    • Sea Island Cotton – Sea Island Cotton is another thing you may come across should you do some research on Pima Cotton. It is essentially, like Supima Cotton, very similar to Pima Cotton. This specific type of cotton typically has a longer staple length that regular Pima Cotton making it an even higher quality as well. It is only grown on the sea island of South Carolina and Georgia.
  • Egyptian CottonAs you may have been able to guess, Egyptian Cotton is cotton that is grown in Egypt. I have heard that Egyptian Cotton is higher quality than Pima Cotton, which is both true and false and the same time. While many of the cottons grown in Egypt at indeed “Extra Long Staple” just like the Pima Cotton (and can sometimes have even longer fiber than Pima), a large portion of cotton grown in Egypt is also “Long Staple”, making it slightly less of a higher quality than Pima. The tricky thing here is that any cotton produced in Egypt will be labeled “Egyptian Cotton”, making it hard to determine if you will be getting the “Extra Long Staple Cotton” or the “Long Staple Cotton”. In addition to using Pima Cotton, I have also used “Drops Safran Yarn” , although I do know that it is made of Egyptian Cotton, yarn brands don’t often specify if it is an Extra Long Staple or Long staple, so you are unlikely to know. I can personally say though, that I can feel the difference between the Egyptian Cotton and the Pima when I have used them. Don’t get me wrong, the Egyptian Cotton is still a very lovely fiber to work with, but it isn’t quite as soft or strong as the Pima Cotton.
  • American Cotton  – Just like the concept above, American Cotton is cotton that is grown in the US (excluding the Pima Cotton and Sea Island Cotton). This is typically of lower quality that the above mentioned strains of cotton; cotton is an extremely popular and practical fiber and therefore there will always be strains that are more mass-produced and these will not be of the same quality of the fibers that are grown under very strict conditions. Of course the quality of American Cotton can vary greatly, for example, I find myself using “Lily Sugar and Cream Cotton” fairly often, but let’s be honest, it is not THE softest cotton you can get your hands on, but it does come in a large variety of colors at a low price. Generally if I am making some kind of Garment, I will try to aim for a higher quality cotton, however Standard American Cottons can definitely be used for garments and is also very useful for making more practical things like pot holder, place mats, rugs, etc…

If you are looking into different types of Cotton Yarn you may have also come across the words “Carded” “Combed” and “Mercerized”. All of these words refer to the type of refinement that the natural fiber has undergone for it to be spun into yarn.

  • Carded Yarn has been through the most standard process of being “carded” in which the fibers are placed between, what is more or less, two large fine toothed brushes. This is to remove any debris from the natural fiber and loosely align all of the fibers with one another. This is a step that is necessary before any kind of cotton yarn can be spun, so it is technically the most basic refined yarn.
  • Combed Yarn has been through the Carding process, but is also subject to a slightly more rigorous refinement in which it is processed through the fine tooth brushes multiples times in order to remove any shorter length fibers and make sure that the fibers are more exactly aligned. This extra step will lead to the yarn being stronger and softer.
  • Mercerized Yarn has been through the process of being either Carded or Combed, and after it has been spun, is then soaked in Sodium Hydroxide for several minutes which will ultimately cause the yarn to become stronger and shinier afterward. The process can sometimes effect the original softness of a yarn; however, the change is usually quite minimal.

As I stated before, I am obsessed with cotton yarn. If you ever want to make garments for the Spring and Summer months, then Cotton will likely be your best friend. Personally I feel like Cotton Yarn is a little under appreciated sometimes haha, I think it has gotten more popular slowly over time, but due to the fact that a large variety of Cotton Yarns are not easily accessible (and some also not easily affordable), a lot of makers don’t get to experiments with a lot of different types of Cotton. When I first became interested in making crochet items for the warmer months, I knew that I had to use Cotton, but I also wanted to broaden my options and not just stick to Lily Sugar and Cream, which is probably the easiest Cotton to get your hands on, so I went on a little hunt and found a few brands that produce Cotton Yarn that personally I find to be pretty affordable and high quality!

One of my favorites is Gazzal yarn (I did a review on it a while back that you can read here). I have mentioned their yarn quite a few times on my blog, and I am not affiliated with them in any way, I just actually like their yarn that much haha. You can read all about it that review, but if you are interested in trying out some new Cotton I highly recommend giving them a shot!

Another Cotton that I have recently become a fan of is DROPS Safran (I also have the DROPS ❤ You, but have not used it yet). I hope to have a full review for these up soon, but what I can share for now is that I purchased them online from a site called Wool Warehouse, which I must say I am a big fan of so far. It is a British based company, therefore all of their products are priced in pounds, however, they do give you estimates in other currencies if you wish to use that function. They have a wide variety of brands on there, all at fairly reasonable prices, the DROPS in particular is extremely affordable, I got 20 balls of yarn for $29! So if you want to check out their website and see if anything calls to you, I highly recommend it!

I hope that this basic break down of some common Cotton Yarns/Terms was helpful! I am learning myself as I write these so if you have any questions or comments, I may not know the answer right away, but I am more than happy to do more research to make this post more informative!

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