Sunday, May 17, 2009

Pickin' Cotton Yarn

Up until this summer, all of the hats we've made have been crafted with 100% acrylic yarn. Acrylic has some great things going for it; it's inexpensive, it's durable, it's plentiful, it's soft, it's warm, it comes in every color of the rainbow (and quite a few not), and it has no dye lots. Why use anything else? Summer hats. Acrylics great for cold weather, cool weather and climate control, but damn uncomfortable in the heat. So we decided to try some other yarn, and settled on cotton as being our best bet.

Our two local options were Lily Sugar n' Cream and some knock off Wal-Marx brand Peaches n' Cream. The latter had only a couple of colors available if the Wal-Mart carried it at all, so Lily ahoy. By combing our local craft big box trinity, Micheal's, Ben Franklin and Jo-Ann's, we found we had access to about 20 or so solid color yarns to work with. We picked up a couple of skeins and set out to work.

First off, when you think of 100% cotton, you're really thinking about cotton fabric or textiles; smooth, even and usually very comfortable. Cotton yarn feels very soft to the touch, but after it's crocheted the resulting cloth feels like something close to terrycloth. It's not an uncomfortable feel; just not as soft as acrylic and a fair trade for how much less insulating it is. The cotton hats are relatively comfortable in the summer sun, and would be a good choice for a crowded con.

Since we're working with a new material, we did some interwebs recon. The cotton yarn is dyed, and according to the Lily website, machine washable and machine dry able. We made some swatches to try it out. Here's the result:

The three top swatches were machine washed cold on gentle and machine dried as low as are dryer would go. The white swatch left us a nasty shock: the yarn was visibly pale green from the lime it absorbed from our well water. The orange and black swatches were fine out of the wash, but the orange swatch discolored irregularly in the dryer. Since we couldn't trust the house water, we made a second white and orange swatch. The second row of swatches were hand washed in distilled water then air dryed. This worked out very well as you can see.

We left a hank of orange yarn at the bottom so you could see the contrast with an unworked piece.

I think the cotton yarn will work well, even if it costs more and is a little finicky. We'll have to make a care guide to reflect that the piece need to be hand washed cold in distilled water and air dried out of the sun. I hesitate to think what hard water, water softener, briny water, city water or that god awful red clay silt I had to deal with in GA would do to the yarn. I guess it pays to do some research. Look for cotton yarn items in the store in the near future.


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