Getting drape from cotton yarn (plus a free pattern!)

When I think drape I think silk, sea cell, or bamboo. I don't think cotton, especially the smooth, sorta stiff mercerized cotton yarn that's ubiquitous in  spring and summer knits.

But I'm thinking again because Kristin Ohmdahl and Eunny Jang, hosts of Knitting Daily TV, are here to show us all how to knit with cotton and get the drape we want. With the right shaping and pattern, you can get a great result.

The Clinton Vest, a free pattern from Knitting Daily TV

I have quite a bit of cotton yarn, which I usually use for baby projects; there's just no sense in knitting something non-washable for little ones, and cotton is long-wearing and long-washable. I've also used mercerized cotton to knit a tee-shirt for my mom. The cotton I used was a DK-weight and it had a sheen that's inherent in mercerized cotton, which I like a lot.

Anyway, I always thought mercerized cotton came in just one style, smooth and straight, like Tahki Cotton Classic or Knitting Fever King Tut. Then, at Interweave Knitting Lab last fall I discovered Tahki Ripple and I fell in love with it. It's the yarn used in the Clinton Vest, pictured at left.

Like Kristin says in the video clip, Ripple knits up with automatic drape because of the thick and thin nature of the yarn. The drape is great; add to that the interesting texture you get from plain old stockinette and this yarn is a real winner.

I have a few balls of Ripple in my stash, but I'm going to get more and knit that Clinton Vest. I love vests and this one is really pretty and simple. The color I have is a beautiful winter white—perfect for springtime.

Learn a bunch more about knitting with cotton, whimsical details, and interesting knitting techniques—download Knitting Daily TV episode 808 now!


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Kathleen Cubley

About Kathleen Cubley

Hello daily knitters! I'm the editor of Knitting Daily. I've been obsessed with knitting for about ten years now and my favorite projects are sweaters. I like the occasional smaller project, but there's nothing like yards of stockinette with a well-placed cable or a subtle stitch pattern here and there. I crochet a bit now and then—especially when I need to produce a baby blanket in time for the baby shower. I've been in publishing for 20 years and I'm finally exactly where I want to be: at the crossroads of knitting and communication. I live in Spokane, Washington and when I'm not knitting I enjoy gardening, snuggling with my dogs, swimming, reading, and playing in the snow in the winter. But, really, I'm pretty much always knitting!

17 thoughts on “Getting drape from cotton yarn (plus a free pattern!)

  1. On a related topic, I made a sweater for my sister out of cotton, and had to knit a lot of gauge squares to get the tension because I haven’t used much cotton. There was a definite improvement in drape with the looser tension, so I chose one which looked good and rechecked the sizing based on the gauge before choosing which size to knit. This works for simple designs but it would be trickier if there is a lot of shaping. .

  2. Yay cotton! I am allergic to all animal fibers so cotton is my fiber of choice. Once you understand the fiber it’s easy to find the type or blend that works best for your garment. All cottons are NOT created equal! My favorite of the moment is Goshen by Valley Yarns. It is 48% Peruvian cotton, 46% Modal, and 6% silk. It has a nice twist and knits like a dream!

  3. My experience with cotton isn’t a good one. The shirt I knit is heavy and the stitches are uneven. It splits and is a mess. I purchased some merchanised cotton in bright red. I did that as a beginner; now I don’t know what to do with it. Perhapes this vest pattern. I love cotton and did purchase some “cotton supreme” which is the softest most beautiful cotton ever. We shall see as I haven’t gotten to the project as yet

  4. A question about the Clinton vest pattern and sizing. Do you choose the bust measurement as if you are going to “close” the vest? I’m in between a Medium and Large size. The vest looks stretchy so should I opt for the smaller size?
    Thanks for your help!

  5. My experience has been dreadful. I made a lovely lacey summer cardigan, but it stretched so much just with wearing, that the shape became unattractive. I am now skeptical about knitting any garment with 100% cotton.

  6. the only time i’ve really had trouble with cotton yarn was a sweater that was waaaay oversized — but it was my first sweater, and only my third project total, so i think the problem was me more than the yarn. i can only utilise Malabrigo merino (for some reason, there’s no lanolin in it to make me break out), so my fibre of choice is any plant fibre, and cotton is the easiest to get. i’ve made pullovers out of Sugar’n Cream, for heaven’s sake, and they were just fine and have never stretched or sagged. (sug?) i do a gauge swatch (or two) only to make sure i’m getting the fabric i want; if what i want is not quite to gauge, then i’m willing to do some math (after Calculus, the math for adjusting stitch numbers is a breeze). i understand that not many are amenable to doing the extra work, but then, very few people are as picky about the density of the resultant fabric as i am. i’ve ended up knitting dk/light worsted on #0 circulars because of this.

    i really think knitters and crocheters get scared away from non-wool fibres, and especially cotton, by constantly being told that it’s difficult to work with — which is a pity here is Southern California, where you’d think cottons, linens, and bamboos would do really well. i try to let folks know that these fibres are not that bad, wash and wear very well, get softer with each wash . . . for the more crafty, are very easy to re-dye in your bathtub or bucket . . . just overall underrated.

  7. I knit with cotton a great deal. A trick I’ve found to deal with knitted cotton garments that stretch is to toss them first in the washing machine and then the dryer – experiment with a sample like a hat to find out what heat setting will tighten the knitting up but not shrink the thing into unuseability! Also watch out what brand of cotton yarn you use. I personally feel most companies yarn is way too “limp” in feel for my taste and for the hard use my knitted garments are subjected too. I prefer a yarn that is pretty tightly spun. I like Lion Brand Lion Cotton,or Village Yarn Craft Cotton (these are both roughly worsted weight). For higher stitch count I use either 3/2 Perl Cotton or cotton Carpet Warp (I knit this one two strands together); both of these I get from Yarn Barn of Kansas. All of these yarns can go into the washing machine in my experiance.
    Be aware that because cotton is less elastic than wool it’s rougher on your hands to handle, especially if you like to work at a high tension. I find that using smaller pins than usual lets me work at a looser tension and still get the reasonably firm fabric I want, without making my hands sore.

  8. What’s the halter top free pattern mentioned in the video called? I can’t find it and I really want to make it. Can you post the link to it maybe? Thanks!

  9. I’m doing a cute little dress for my 3-yr-old granddaughter in an interesting, softly spun worsted-weight 100% cotton yarn called “Cotton Cloud” from Estelle. I’ve enjoyed knitting with it –however, I am close to assembly and the pieces roll a bit at the edges–they need blocking. But I’m anxious–how do you block cotton (especially this softer, almost but not quite fuzzy cotton) without stretching it out of shape or ruining the finish?

  10. I would love to know where to find the pattern for the knitted tank with the rose-y neckline. All of the garments are gorgeous, by the way, but this one really stands out to me! Love the video. TFS! Annette

  11. sstolnitz wrote
    on 04-18-2012 7:01 PM

    What’s the halter top free pattern mentioned in the video called? I can’t find it and I really want to make it. Can you post the link to it maybe? Thanks!

    Me too!! In the video, Eunny said both the vest and the yellow halter top would be available as free patterns. I love the halter top and would like to try it.
    Thank you.