Cotton Yarn – Guide To This Yarn Material & Best Uses

By Jodie Morgan

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Looking for a breathable, durable yarn? Cotton fibers might be the perfect choice. I explore what cotton yarn is, and ways to use it for knitting.

Cotton Yarns in blues greens and purples on a shelf

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I reviewed, fact checked and updated this post on May 16, 2023.

Table Of Contents

What Is Cotton Yarn?

Cotton yarn is a natural fiber sold at affordable prices. This fiber is popular because it’s durable, often soft, and lightweight. They’re a great choice for summer. It’s available in all colors of the rainbow, just like bamboo fibers.

Where It Comes From

Cotton comes from the cotton plant, which is a shrub that produces white fluffy fibers. (2) The plant is native to tropical and subtropical regions around the world. Most commercial cotton is grown in the United States, China, India, and Pakistan.

How It’s Made Into Yarn

Once the cotton fibers are harvested from the plant, they’re spun by hand or machine. Hand-spun cotton yarn is thicker and not as consistent in thickness as machine-spun yarn. It’s also more expensive.

Types Of Cotton Yarn

  • Pima Cotton – This is a long-staple type of cotton that’s grown in the southwestern United States and Peru. It produces a soft, strong yarn
  • Egyptian Cotton – This is another long-staple type of cotton that’s grown in Egypt (1)
  • Sea Island Cotton – This cotton was first grown on Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina, but now is produced in the Caribbean. It’s the most luxurious type
  • Organic Cotton – This cotton is grown without the use of pesticides or other chemicals
  • 100% Mercerized Cotton – Mercerization gives the yarn additional strength, luster, and durability
  • Asiatic Cotton – This cotton is grown in Asia
  • Upland Cotton – It’s grown in the southern United States

How To Wash Cotton Yarn

Here are the care instructions for cotton fibers. Cotton yarn can be machine-washed in cool water on a gentle cycle. You can also hand-wash it in cool water. Use a mild detergent and avoid using bleach. Rinse the yarn well after washing.

After washing, dry it in the sun or in the dryer on a low-heat setting. 100% cotton yarn tends to stretch and doesn’t always keep its shape, so be careful when washing your items. Always check the yarn label for instructions specific to the yarn.

Does It Shrink When Washed?

Cotton yarn usually shrinks when it’s washed. If you’re using it for a garment, pre-wash the yarn. This allows you to determine how much it shrinks.

How To Soften Cotton Yarn

Here is a quick and easy method to soften Cotton yarn.

  • Soak the yarn in a bucket of cool water
  • Leave it for about 30 minutes
  • Gently squeeze the excess water from the yarn
  • Ly it out on a towel to dry

Washing it after you’ve finished knitting always helps!

Pin For Later

Cotton Yarn Pin

What Do You Use It For?

Wondering whether you should use it to make a project? Here’s why this fiber is used to make yarn. It’s often used for projects and things like tablecloths, dish towels, summer garments like t-shirts and tank tops, baby clothes, beach bags, bath and kitchen accessories, amigurumi, hats, and blankets.

You can find it blended with hemp yarn, another plant fiber for a strong and durable yarn good for summery projects. For other suitable summer fibers you can knit with check out my post.

Here is a video tutorial by Knit With Hannah on how to knit with this yarn. 

This helpful guide will walk you through her best tips.

Here is a video tutorial by Hannah from Knit With Hannah on what to knit with this yarn. 

It’s a must-watch for anyone who wants to know about some ideal projects to make with this yarn.

Common Blends Using This Fiber

Here is a list of common blends using this yarn, and why they’re created.

  • Linen & Cotton – Give it a softer feel and more drape.
  • Wool & Cotton – Gives it elasticity, warmth, and durability
  • Acrylic & Cotton – Gives it easier care and a lower price

Where To Find It

Here’s where to find this yarn: at a yarn store or craft stores in your area, at big box stores like Michaels, Walmart and Joann, and online brand shops. Here are brands or manufacturers of Cotton yarns to try: Blue Sky Fibers, Lily Sugar N’ Cream, Tahki Yarns, Lion Brand, or Paintbox Yarns.

The popular weights it’s available in are worsted, sport and fingering.

What’s The Price Like?

The price depends on the brand and quality, so the best cotton yarn is more expensive.

Interesting Facts

Want to know some fascinating tidbits about this material? Impress your friends with these.

  • The cotton plant was domesticated over 5,000 years ago
  • Cotton is the world’s most used natural fiber and has been in production for thousands of years (3)
  • In the United States, Texas produces the most cotton

FAQS About Cotton Yarn

Is Cotton Yarn Safe For Babies?

Cotton yarn is usually safe for babies. Look for Oeko-Tex certified yarns that are tested for harmful chemicals and found to be safe.

Is Cotton Yarn Ethical & Eco-Friendly?

It’s a natural fiber, but cotton is a water-intensive crop, usually grown with the use of pesticides and other chemicals. Look for organic cotton yarn that’s grown and spun without the use of pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals.

What Can I Make With Leftover Cotton Yarn?

You can make things like scrubby dishcloths, washcloths, and summer garments.

Is Cotton Yarn Itchy?

It can be, depending on how sensitive you are. It’s best to test a small swatch before using it for an entire project. When knitting with some cotton yarns, they feel quite rough on your hands. This was my experience when I knitted multiple dishcloths with Omega 100% cotton yarn. With subsequent washing the finished item is soft.

Is Cotton Yarn Good For Clothes?

It’s often used for making clothes because it’s soft and breathable. It’s also easy to care for.

Is Cotton Yarn Good For Winter?

It can be, depending on the weight of the yarn. Heavier weights like worsted weight are better for winter garments. Though it’s best if you blend it with other yarns.

Is Cotton Yarn Good For Summer?

Yes, it’s good for making summer garments because it’s light. It keeps you cool in warm weather.

Do Cotton Yarns Pill?

It can happen with any type of yarn, but it’s more likely to happen with natural fibers like cotton.

Can You Dye Cotton Yarns?

Yes, you can dye it with natural or synthetic dyes.

Is Acrylic Or Cotton Yarn Better?

Acrylic is a synthetic polymer, whereas cotton is a natural fiber. Acrylic is affordable and easy to find. Cotton is softer, more durable, and more popular.

Do You Need To Block Cotton Yarn?

It is important to block cotton to even out wonky tension, rather than to get the right shape or measurements. Cotton has little to no memory.

Is Cotton Yarn Good For Scarves?

Cotton is great for scarves as it’s machine washable and dryable.

Is 100% Cotton Yarn Good For Clothes?

Cotton yarn is more breathable and comfortable, and it isn’t elastic, which makes it have a great drape. Scarves, bags, and draped garments are perfect for cotton.

What Are The Differences Between Wool And Cotton Yarn?

Wool yarn is warmer and has more elasticity than cotton yarn. Cotton yarn is stronger and more absorbent than wool yarn.


Happy crocheting or knitting! Hope you enjoyed this article. Do you have questions? Please leave them below!


  1. Chatburn, James. 2018. “What’s the Difference between Sea Island and Egyptian Cotton?” Acorn Fabrics. June 12, 2018.
  2. “The Life Cycle of the Cotton Plant.” n.d. CottonMill. Accessed October 14, 2022.
  3. “Skein of Variegated Cotton Yarn.” n.d. Accessed October 14, 2022.

About The Author

Jodie Morgan From Knit Like Granny

Jodie Morgan (Author & Founder) | Lives In: Regional Australia

Author: Jodie Morgan is a passionate knitter and blogger with 40+ years of experience currently living in regional Australia. Taught by her mother and wonderful grandmother “Mama”, she fell in love with crafting from a young age. When she’s not knitting, you’ll find her enjoying a cup of coffee with cream, or sharing helpful resources and tips with the online knitting community. Get to know Jodie and the team on our meet the team page.

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