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Conversational Threads

Knitting with Crochet Cotton??????

GailAnn | Posted in Knitting and Crochet on

I reciently aquired a copywrite 1935 (The Spool Cotton Company) knitting pattern book.  Cutest, cutest skirts!  Not such cute tops, but, well it was written in the 30’s.

The patterns call for sizes 1 and 2 needles.  Instead of yarn, they use Clarks O.N.T. knitting cotton (which I can’t seem to find) or Knit-Cro-Sheen, which is still manufactured to day.

I made a swatch yesterday, and wasn’t able to get the gauge quite right.  1.5 too few stitches to the inch on wooden needles.  I think I’ll buy a pair of steel needles and see if that makes a difference.  I’m going to have to enlarge the pattern, anyway, so with just a little fussing, I should be able to achieve something of a satisfactory guage. 

A previous owner of the book had, very kindly, already done the math computations to enlarge the skirts about 3 sizes.  Bless her chubby little heart!

The resulting fabric seems quite light and not at all resilient, (as is wool)…….

My questions are:

Have any of you knitted clothing from crochet cotton (what I would probably call BedSpread cotton)? 

Any special challenges or opportunities that I need to keep in mind? 

Does the lack of resiliency cause a skirt to “bag out in the seat”? 

Any laundry problems to be overcome?

Patterns don’t call for a fabric lining, but I wonder???????????

What else should I know?  Gail

Edited 6/11/2008 2:08 pm ET by GailAnn


  1. katina | | #1

    Well done on your book, Gail. Those ladies must've been very, very patient to knit skirts with so fine a thread. One thing about cotton - it's hard on the hands. That's because it has no 'give'. If you have any arthritis, you'd need to be careful not to work too long at it. Also, stop frequently and wiggle your fingers, stretch them - that sort of exercise - to keep hands and wrists supple.

    Cotton has little 'memory' - it will lose its shape quite quickly, unlike wool or a blend; as a result, it stretches and sags over time. Washing will restore the shape for a while, until it bags out again. Also, remember that the thread might very well shrink. And the more you wash the skirt, the softer it will get and thus lose shape more quickly. That's why cottons make good summer tops - they're soft and drapey. I'd say a lining is a must for all the reasons you've mentioned.

    Needles? A matter of preference. I like Addi turbos for cottons; some swear by wood but I find the yarn 'drags' on them. Because it's so lacking in elasticity, cotton yarn is best knitted at a firm gauge, particularly for a skirt.

    I don't mean to sound negative, please don't think that, but you will need to swatch quite a bit and launder your swatches until you arrive at a fabric that satisfies you.

    My days of being able to wear knitted skirts and dresses are long over!

    Good luck and have fun swatching.



  2. starzoe | | #2

    I have knitted quite a bit with crochet cotton, twice with four (fine) threads and once with five, and a number of times with various gauge threads. The finer threads work into nicer garments.I wonder if the needles called for are US, or are they old Canadian or British sizes. It would make a difference in your swatch.I wouldn't knit a skirt with cotton thread. As mentioned before you may get one wearing before it bags and stretches and needs to be washed again to bring back the size. If it was lined the problem would not be so acute. Crochet cotton makes really good summer tops, as mentioned before.I don't care for Cro-Sheen. It is not mercerized as far as I remember. The higher-end products work best.

    1. GailAnn | | #3

      When you say four or five threads..........is that the number of strands or the size of the thread?  Gail

      1. starzoe | | #4

        Actually, the number of strands and I don't recommend it! It was Coats Ideal 80....almost threadlike, used for tatting.

        1. GailAnn | | #5

          I think the threads are numbered 5. 10, 20, 30, larger numbers mean smaller diameters.  Gail

          1. starzoe | | #6

            Yes, you are right about the sizes, 80 is the equivalent of about three strands of sewing thread.

    2. GailAnn | | #15

      Thank you for the great idea.  I made a swatch with two strands of DMC Cebelia #10 and it is lovely.  Almost the correct guage, and results in a very nice, quite pretty fabric, with a surprizingly pleasant drape.  Gail

    3. GailAnn | | #44

      Thank you for the encouragement.  I've started a baby cardigan, for pregnant niece.  Old pattern written for very fine "Baby Wool", but I managed to get the guage correct with 2 strands of crochet cotton and size 1 needles.  Only about 1/2 finished, but it is working out beautifully!  I love the hand and the fineness of the tiny stitches.  Gail

      1. damascusannie | | #45

        I love knitting in fine yarns, too. That might be why socks are my favorite knitting project.

        1. GailAnn | | #46

          Do you know Liz at Kunerts (Knit and Quilt Shop) in Gordon? 

          Liz claims to be "alergic" to small needles, but, even so, she is who first encouraged me to try knitting a sock.  I have preferred fine yarns and small needles to bulky knitting ever since.

          Also, although I seemed to have knitted a lot of "bulkies" in my time, they never really found a home in my wardrobe.  Too much, too big, just plain too bulky, I guess.


      2. starzoe | | #47

        I am happy that you are so pleased with knitting fine cotton. I really do prefer small needles and fine yarns, not for me these bulky garments (as someone here also posted). Post a picture when you are finished, please.

  3. katina | | #7

    Hi Gail

    Something else occurred to me - I wonder what kinds of fashion quality cotton fabrics were available 70-odd years ago? Certainly would have been nothing like the choices available today. So perhaps knitted cotton skirts represented a departure from the usual (heavier?) fabrics, and would have been quite fashion-forward.

    Keep us posted of your progress.


    1. GailAnn | | #8

      Hi Katina:

      I think it is true.  Cotton knits were intended as warm weather wear.  The book I wrote about shows visitors to the Empire State Building in Summer.

      I love the fashions from the mid 1930's until, well, for lack of a better time frame, the waning days of the Truman Administration, and have made a little research project of them for myself.

      I enjoy the sweetness, the feminity, and the total lack of pretention, in women's clothes, during those particular years.  Fabrics were largely natural, although Rayon was moving toward the forefront, because of the need for silks in the War effort.

      Many of the Ladies' Fashions from the Eisenhour through to the Kennedy administrations were beautiful and certainly feminine, but to my eye, they had became costumey, at times, even theatrical.  While feminine, they seem to have lost some of their ability to convey the feeling of the 'preciousness of womanhood'.

      It is that "preciousness" of womanhood that appeals to me.  Baby clothes and children's wear of the '30's followed suit.  Lovely, quite dear, always so sweet.  It is as if the person (woman, child, or infant) who was meant to wear each piece of clothing must herself, have also been, unique, individual, valuable and very, very precious.

      Perhaps Mr. Oswald only shot Mr. Kennedy, but fashion died.  Gail


      1. katina | | #10

        Oh Gail, I so enjoyed reading this little piece - thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. So now, the question: I know you are a very busy lady, but any chance you could work up an article for Threads? There are many of us here who love vintage and all the details to be found in such clothing and techniques.


        1. GailAnn | | #11

          Did Amber pay you to write that?  I'm TRYING to retire here.  Gail

          Edited 6/12/2008 9:45 am ET by GailAnn

          1. katina | | #12

            Ha! Retire??? Pull the other leg, dearie! This is just the sort of thing for you to do in your 'retirement'.

  4. User avater
    ThreadKoe | | #9

    Perhaps the resiliency factor could be overcome by knitting with the good ol' standby knitting elastic? However, it seems to me that if the skirt were lined, seat bag would not be that much of a problem. Something to consider anyways. Cathy

  5. Teaf5 | | #13

    Crochet cotton works alright for a vest or bag, but not particularly well for anything you'd like to have with any stretch, like a sweater.  A lined skirt would probably work well.

    Crochet cotton is fairly heavy, and tends to expand with wear; I make the sections slightly smaller and substantially shorter to account for this tendency.  Check the color-fastness/bleeding of a sample hank before you begin the project; one of my vests has stayed colorfast and bright for ten years, but another swatch was horrid.

    Wash in cold water, spin dry, and dry on medium-low heat or lay flat to dry.  Avoid hanging dry or hanging to store.  For storing, fold loosely, possibly with acid-free tissue or clean white cotton fabric between the layers.

    Since crochet cotton has virtually no flex, work stitches fairly snugly so that they don't stretch out.  The resulting "fabric" is much more like a woven than a knit.

    1. GailAnn | | #14

      Thank you for the fine advice.  I noticed in the back of the book was the caution to "carefully fold garments for storage when not in use".  Gail

  6. BernaWeaves | | #16

    There is a difference between crochet cotton and knitting cotton yarns.

    Knitting and weaving yarns are spun Z and plied in the S direction.  If you've never heard of this before, take a strand of yarn and hold it vertically in front of you.  There will be a slant to the twist of the yarn.  If the slant matches the direction of the center of the letter Z, then it's twisted in the Z direction.  If the slant matches the direction of the center of the letter S, then it's twisted in the S direction.  Turning it upside down does not change the twist.  The twist you see in the yarn is the whatever was used during the last time it was plied.

    Now,  most yarns are traditionally spun from raw fiber into a singles yarn with a Z twist.  Then to keep it from getting all kinky, 2 or more strands are then plied together with an S twist.  However, if you use S-plied yarn for crochet it will unravel on you.   So crochet yarn is specially made by spinning in the S direction, and then plying in the Z direction.  If you try to knit with crochet yarn, it will unravel on you.

    By unravel, I mean it looses it's twist, and you may split stitches and it will get loose and come apart.  This is because of the way the yarns are held and manipulated in knitting and crochet is different.



    1. starzoe | | #17

      I have done a lot of knitting with crochet cotton, especially the DMC and mercerised ones. I don't use the heavier gauge and have never had any problem with the splitting or coming apart. I can see that happening however with the cheaper brands and heavier (and cheaper) weights.

      Edited 6/17/2008 2:37 pm ET by starzoe

      1. GailAnn | | #18

        I had a disagreement with a friend once, who thought me extravagant for buying a more expensive yarn.  I can easily feel the difference with my hands, but she can't.  Berna Weaves is right in that it is very disappointing to use fine skills on lesser quality yarns.  Highly discouraging.  Gail

    2. damascusannie | | #20

      The information about the twist affecting how successfully a yarn can be used for knitting or crocheting was very interesting. Now I have a question: I crochet right handed (holding the hook in my right hand) but knit left-handed. Shouldn't have affect how the yarn reacts? I've knitted and crocheted without regard to the stated purposes of the yarns and threads and really haven't had any trouble. I like to knit cotton mitts out of crochet thread to wear with my historical costumes and I've knitted a whole sweater with Peaches and Cream, which is a heavy-weight crochet cotton. Do you think it's because I knit left-handed that I don't have trouble with the yarn untwisting as I work? On the other hand, I have no trouble working with knitting cottons either--I knit my own cotton socks--so that would seem to indicate that my left-handedness is NOT a factor.

      1. GailAnn | | #21

        I don't know a thing about left or right handedness or brainness.  I know I knit "Continental Style" and that my hands seem to take over as my thought process fails.  I tried to explain knitting to my husband once, failed miserably, as I had to admit that although my hands knew how, my mind didn't have a clue!

        I have knitted several Winter baby sweaters of Peaches and Cream and I don't think there is a better yarn to be had for that particular purpose.  Soft, cotton, completely washable.


      2. starzoe | | #22

        By saying you knit "left handed", do you mean Continental style, or do you mean actually knitting from the right to the left?I am a Continental knitter and I think there are so many advantages to that method, but of course I was taught that way and have been doing it for 70 or so years!! So I am prejudiced. When crocheting I hold the hook in my right hand and the yarn, as in Cont. knitting, over my left index finger.I did teach myself to knit backwards which is a big help when doing entrelac, or bobbles.

        1. damascusannie | | #23

          I knit the stitches from the right needle onto the left needle, not continental style. I'm left-handed and just happened to learn to do it that way. Oddly, enough, it doesn't really seem to affect the way I knit off patterns, although sometimes I do have to switch the direction of decreases or increases.

        2. User avater
          ThreadKoe | | #24

          Please explain Continental Style Knitting to me?  I have heard the term but do not understand.  Thanks, Cathy

          1. rodezzy | | #25

            Continental Knitting means you hold your yarn in one hand and pick the stitches and pull them through without any additional hand movements I believe is how to explain it.  I am a continental knitter, and I believe mine started because I learned both knitting and crocheting together when I was about 9.  I took to crocheting more so than knitting and being right handed, I held the yarn in my left hand.  So when I transitioned to knitting, I still held the yarn in my left and carrying it along with the needle.  So with the left pointer finger I tension and guide the yarn so it can be picked up with the right hand needle to complete the stitches, as opposed to using your hand to wrap the yarn around the needle (throwing) to complete a stitch.  I can't throw knit for the life of me, and I've tried.  But once the knitting shows came on television, I found that it doesn't matter which techique you use, it's all good stuff.  Have you ever watched "knitty gritty" before.  I taped many of the shows. 

          2. GailAnn | | #26

            Hi again, Miss Rodezzy. 

            Continental knitting is more popular in countries with a Northern latitude, and fewer hours of daylight for much of the year.  It's great advantage over "throwing the yarn" is that it can be accomplished in low light as we feel the work ,as much as see it.  Just try knitting in the dark.  You'll be surprized how natural you will find it. 


          3. katina | | #27

            Yes; I have a blind friend who knits beautifully in the continental manner.

          4. rodezzy | | #29

            Wow, that is incredible.

          5. rodezzy | | #28

            You know what?  Thinking about it, I do a lot of feeling my work as I'm knitting and crocheting as opposed to seeing it, because I usually am watching TV while working.  You can feel the stitches as you go.  Mostly with stockinette, and/or knitting or purling every row.  Also with crocheting one stitch throughout. 

            Sometimes I don't want to sew because I have to pay too much attention to working the machine, creating the project, or whatever I need to do while sewing.  When sewing quilting projects (mostly straight stitching) I can do things that are more repetitive and think more. 

            I never thought of it before.  I also fade into my mind, working out things in my mind while I knit or crochet.  Wow, Gail, you're on point with that one.  Something to think about. 

          6. katina | | #30

            Hey Rodezzy, that's why they call knitting the new yoga....


          7. rodezzy | | #31

            Hey sweetems:  you so funny.  I'll be knitting by September.  I have some sewing to finish first. 

          8. damascusannie | | #32

            >>Rodezzy wrote: So with the left pointer finger I tension and guide the yarn so it can be picked up with the right hand needle to complete the stitches, as opposed to using your hand to wrap the yarn around the needle (throwing) to complete a stitch. I can't throw knit for the life of me, and I've tried. >>Gai wrote: Continental knitting is more popular in countries with a Northern latitude, and fewer hours of daylight for much of the year. It's great advantage over "throwing the yarn" is that it can be accomplished in low light as we feel the work ,as much as see it. Just try knitting in the dark. You'll be surprized how natural you will find it. ~~I don't throw the yarn with my hand--I just do a quick flip with my left index finger to throw the yarn around the point of the needle in that hand. (remember, I knit left-handed.) It's a very fluid movement and I can read, watch TV, or walk while I knit, so I've never seen a need to switch over to continental style.

          9. katina | | #34

            People knit in all sorts of ways. It amuses me when some comment on a knitting style as being 'wrong', and that there's only one (proper) way to knit. Provided that your style doesn't cause you pain, whatever works is the right way for you, IMHO.


          10. GailAnn | | #35

            You can knit while walking!!!!!!!!!!  What a talent!

            My sister makes fun of me because I can't even drink a soda while walking.  Gail

          11. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #33

            Rodezzy, I think I have a visual. I will have to watch different knitters and see the difference. I know I try to knit with a minimum of movement to save my hands, but I didn't know there was a difference. I have seen different ways of tucking the pins under the arms, etc. but I will watch the other ends closer. thanks, Cathy
            PS my TV only has Rabbit Ears, so unfortunately I don't get a lot of the wonderful shows that are on. If I'm lucky, I can sometimes get PBS sort of clear in the afternoons, but the sound is awful.

            Edited 6/27/2008 11:08 am ET by ThreadKoe

          12. rodezzy | | #36

            "Knit and Crochet Today" comes on PBS on the "Create" broadcasting.  It was on yesterday.  I only have rabbit ears now myself.  Turned off cable.  I purchased my digital boxes already and have them hooked up.  So I'm looking at the new digital channels already.  They sometimes have signal problems, but they say it will be stronger after the Feb. 9, 2009 shut down of analog TV and full on to digital. 

            But I recorded on VHS tapes some of "Knitty Gritty" and "Uncommong Threads" before they were defunct and before I cancelled my cable subscription.  Too many cooking programs for me though.  So I watch a lot of Nova.  I do miss the "Discovery" channels on cable though.  But, I'll get over it.

          13. rodezzy | | #37

            Actually "Leisure Arts" has an excellent knitting DVD that shows both ways.  I have both of the knitting DVD's.  I love them.  One has both knitting and crochet instructions and projects.  Great!

          14. damascusannie | | #38

            You can find some great knitting videos at YouTube, too.

          15. Gloriasews | | #41

            Thanks for the description, Rodezzy.  I guess I'm a continental knitter, too - I just didn't know what it was, as I am self-taught.  It just seems so natural.  Maybe it's because I live in a northern latitude, as Gail mentioned, & our daylight hours are less in winter, but no, we don't knit in the dark :).  I'm sure she was referring to 'in the old days'.   She has such a wealth of knowledge.


          16. starzoe | | #39

            Google for continental knitting - there are hundreds of sites to show how it is done.

          17. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #40

            Thanks for all the suggestions on where to look. I'm new to the net and have not got the hang of googling things yet. I am getting there tho. The girls got me set up on facebook now and thats been fun too. Thanks for the info, Cathy

          18. Josefly | | #42

            I thought I was the last person on earth who receives only broadcast television. (You should see the room where our tv set is - two sets of rabbit ears, one for the tv, and one for the vcr, so it's dangerous to walk over to the tv set lest one get an "ear" in the eye.) But back to the subject. if you go to http://diytv.com/, then click on "Crafts", then on KnittyGritty, there are some very clear, brief videos showing continental and English style knitting.

          19. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #43

            Thank you so much for the link!  Another cool site to explore.  Now I understand, and I will have to try out the continental knitting just for the experience.  Thanks, Cathy

  7. rekha | | #19

    You are quite brave to take on a 'new'  hobby.

    I used to knit and tat(ting) a lot but  that is completely out of the question now because of arthritis.

    Would like to hear of your experience with the new toy

  8. maryd_3 | | #48

    wanted someone to knit with crochet cotton

    I would like to find someone to knit a picture  of a house with crochet cotton

  9. marionswish | | #49

    I never use crouch cotton, but only soft wool, when I recently did a mermaid knit for my niece I used crouch and it was a disaster, so had to switch back to wool, but it turned out really well, found loads of patterns here http://www.wowfreestuff.co.uk/free-mermaid-knitting-pattern/ and I just love it. 

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