This week in my continuing explorations of fiber characteristics I will be discussing cotton blends. I hope you all are finding this information useful, as it is essential to at least understand the basics about fibers to make informed yarn substitutions and sewing fabric choices. If there is more you wish for me to discuss, please let me know I'll be happy to incorporate your suggestions.
Also, please note that much of what I describe for yarns also applies to sewing fabrics!
Yarns and threads made from blends of fibers offer the best qualities of each fiber included in the blend. There are two main methods that are used to blend fibers.
The first method is to mix the fibers together, either before or after dying, in the desired proportions before spinning it into yarn. This type of blending allows for a mixture fiber characteristics to create a new overall character that is unique to the specific blend. One of our newest yarns, Lotus Yarns Autumn Wind is a great example of this type of blending. It is 90% cotton blended with 10% cashmere. The result is an absolutely, heavenly, soft yarn that one simply must pet every time one walks by it!!! I think it will be fabulous knit up into shells, tanks, scarves or anything that is in close contact with your skin. It would be perfect for that little lacy nighty you always dreamed of knitting!
The second method is to ply together separate singles composed of each fiber. Blending fibers in this way maintains the individual fiber characteristics and takes advantage not only of each fibers strengths but add new characteristics from the interaction between the fibers. The type of twist used to ply the strands together can also add some interesting characteristics. Rowan Summerspun is an excellent example of this type of blending. This 50/50 Wool/Cotton yarn is composed of 4 strands of wool plied into one highly energized ply and 8 strands of cotton plied into a very sturdy ply then the two are plied together so the yarn looks like a two ply. This unique construction makes a yarn that is both light and breathable yet very springy and resilient. The yarn is dyed after plying in variegated colors and because the wool & cotton take the dye differently the result is in a soft marled variegation.
As I mentioned in my last fiber post, we currently have at least 51 different cotton blends in our regular stock of yarns. There are just too many to list individually so I'll give you a little run down on each type of blend.
Cotton/Wool blends offer more resiliency that pure cotton yarns because wool is more elastic than cotton. Anything made from this blend will retain a more warmth that pure cotton but not as much as pure wool, especially when wet. Which is why this blend is not good for winter socks but works well for sock for spring & fall. The cotton in this combo will add drape to the wool.
Cotton/Acrylic blends balance the durability, sturdiness and lighter weight of acrylic with the heft, drape and feel of cotton. Berroco Weekend is a great example, I love this yarn for beach coverups, summer skirts, kids clothing and blankets. It works especially well for Tunisian crochet (aka afghan stitch) and comes in DK, worsted and chunky weights.
Cotton/Silk blends offer the luxurious hand and drape of silk combined with the soft, loftiness and easy care of cotton. This can be one of the softest blends! These blends can either have a soft sheen or matte depending on how the fibers are prepared. Some of my favorite examples are Cascade Pima Silk, Knit One Crochet Too Cozette (I've taken to keeping a hank of this one near me when I work in the retail store just to pet from time to time, it's that soft!), Misti Alpaca Tonos Pima Silk & Hand Paint Pima Silk, Classic Elite Yarns Classic Silk, and Rowan Summer Tweed. I'm just finishing up a project out of Summer Tweed and am really enjoying knitting with this rustic, slubby yarn. Just have the sleeves and neckline to do! All of these yarns are just the thing for summer tops and wraps!
Cotton/rayon or viscose blends. I'll go into the specifics about rayon, seacell, tencel & viscose in a future post but for the present, suffice it to say that these fibers impart about the same characteristics as silk - excellent drape, shine and durability. One thing to be aware of, especially with older yarns, is that not all rayon has been dyed in a colorfast manner. So be sure to care for it as directed on the label. If the label says dry clean only check for colorfastness. We have some lovely blends that are perfect for shells, tanks, twin sets, skirts, beach coverups, and evening wear. Examples are Rowan Panama, Trendsetter Phoenix, and Classic Elite Sanibel.
I already mentioned cotton/linen blends in my April 26th post on linen yarns. In my opinion this blend should be everyone's go to for summer projects just like worsted wools like Cascade 220 are go to yarns for winter items. Rowan Creative Linen and Berroco Linsey being the two I would go to first.
I hope this is providing useful information to help you in your yarn decision making. If you ever need help determining which yarn(s) are suitable to substitute in your pattern we will be happy to assist as best we can. Just give us a call on our toll free number 877-529-5648 or email your questions to me at askTerry (at) jimmybeanswool (dot) com.
Happy Knitting, Crocheting and Sewing!