How to Soften Cotton Yarn


If you're finding that your cotton yarn is a little stiffer than you prefer, which may be the case for garments in particular, then try some of these helpful tips to re-awaken your love for this wonderful natural fiber.

Some knitters and crocheters find that 100% cotton yarns can be a little too stiff for their preference, especially when making garments. We wanted to share some of our tried and tested tips and tricks on knitting and crocheting with cotton yarns. 

 Why should you knit and crochet with cotton yarn?

  • Cotton is a natural fiber that's hypoallergenic, and a great choice for people with wool allergies or sensitive skin. Much of our modern wardrobes comprise cotton or cotton blend textiles thanks to its smooth comfort. 
  • If you need to be able to to machine wash your makes, then cotton yarn is an excellent choice. Almost every cotton yarn can be machine washed on a gentle cycle and laid flat to dry. Some can even be tumble dried! 
  • Cotton is durable and generally won't pill the way loosely plied wool yarns can. Whatever you knit or crochet with cotton yarn will look the same in 5 years as it does right off the hook - with a few exceptions. (Read on!) 
  • For knitters and crocheters who love yarn with a crisp stitch definition, cotton is the way to go. Every stitch be it textured, colorwork, or cabled, shows up sharp and defined. 


Soften cotton yarn with these hacks


Things to watch out for when knitting and crocheting with cotton yarn

  • Because cotton readily absorbs water and moisture, garments and accessories made with cotton yarn should be laid flat to dry, not hung up, which can cause the garment to droop and sag. 
  • Cotton yarn can "split" when working with it, which means the plies loosen and you only catch part of your stitch with your needles or hook. To combat this, try using larger needles or a larger hook for a more gentle tension. 
  • Cotton doesn't have any natural elasticity, so keep that in mind when planning your project. Having a more form fitting garment could be difficult to achieve, but they're great for more relaxed, casual looks. 


How to soften cotton yarn


How to soften cotton yarn

There are a few different methods to try and soften cotton yarn, but here are our two favourites! Keep in mind that mercerised cotton, which is heat treated to prevent the splitting we mentioned above (it will say on your yarn label if it has been mercerised, don't worry), won't "bloom" the way untreated yarns will, and will remain very consistent in construction. 

Wash your cotton yarn

After you complete your project, give it a machine wash on the gentle cycle. Check the yarn label for drying instructions, some can be tumble dried, but that could stretch out your garment if it should be laid flat. The more you wash cotton yarn, the softer it becomes, allowing the fibres of the yarn to fluff up and become softer. 

Think of it like a pair of new bluejeans versus your oldest, comfiest pair - it's the washing that helps! 

Use hair conditioner 

This can be a useful way to soften not just cotton yarns, but any fibre of yarns! You can use cheap hair conditioner to soak your completed project in warm water for about an hour. Then, give it a quick rinse in cool water and lay flat to dry. The conditioner deposits a thick coating or a resin that smoothes the fibres and fills in the spaces that make them feel scratchy and rough. This method is quicker than allowing your cotton yarn project to soften over time with washing, which is why we like it. (Be careful: too much conditioner can clump to your project and make it sticky! Use about a capful of conditioner for an average sink size of water.)

Soften cotton yarn with these quick hacks using things you already have in your home!