knitting with summer cottons

April 19, 2021

I'm back after only one day, but a reader asked about cotton yarns and I got so excited replying to her comment that I decided to write a blog post about knitting with cotton yarns. I consider myself a bit of an expert on this subject. I live in Northern California and summer days can be mild and summer evenings are often chilly and our humidity is low. Also, I naturally tend to run on the cold side, so with these factors combined, I knit and wear cotton sweaters all spring and summer long. I have favorite yarns that I go  to again and again and I'm sharing them below. I'm sure you have your favorites too and I'd love to hear about them. If you don't often knit in cotton because you think it might be tough on your hands, I hear you. I don't like that either! The yarns I recommend are easy to knit, I promise. I have found that the lighter colors can be softer than the darker colors. Maybe the dye saturation has something to do with that? The difference is negligible, but I thought I'd toss that out. I stay away from mercerized cottons as they are too rough on my hands.

As for care, you should always follow ball band directions, but I'll confess I sometimes don't. I often put my garments in the washing machine (in a mesh bag with the setting on gentle with cool water) and sometimes even pop them in a dryer on the lowest setting. The sweaters last longer if you hand wash and dry flat, but sometimes I'm in a hurry. Also, I find a 10 minute pop in a low dryer fluffs the garment back into shape and then it can finish drying flat.  Here are my yarns in LOVE order edited to add links to my Rav pages where you can find the pattern and yarn links, plus my mods if any:

Rowan Handknit Cotton is by far my favorite cotton yarn. The handle is soft and easy on the hands, machine washable (I even put it in the dryer), the colors are gorgeous, it is value priced and long wearing. I have sweaters that are still in rotation that I knit many years ago and they continue to look great. I have knit 19 garments with Handknit Cotton and will be knitting a white Fonda soon to wear this summer. This is a cool cotton and I can wear it on a warm day. Below are two of my Handknit Cotton sweaters.


Love Note


Rowan Softyak DK is wonderful in every way. It is my 3 year old grandson's favorite yarn. It is soft obviously or he wouldn't like it. It glides though the hands like a silk stocking and loves any needle you throw at it. The stitch definition is divine and perfect for anything from stockinette to cables and lace. Garter stitch holds up well in this too. It is not value priced, but I still think definitely not an overpriced yarn. My earlier sweaters knit with this continue to look beautiful, and children's garments hold up well and can be passed on, even after a season of hard wear. The colors can be muted because of the yak fiber, but there are quite a few brights and some lovely pastels as well. There is no white. I have made 23 garments out of Softyak DK and many more to go! I love it for hats and children's garments, but I knit garments for me as well. This is an all-season yarn for our climate and while I cannot wear this on a warm day, it works great for a chilly summer evening. I would love to see this in a fingering weight. Below see some of my Softyak DK garments.

Alaskan Pullover

Silver Birch

The Golden Hour

Rowan Summerlite comes in both DK and 4 ply weights. This cotton feels like well-behaved silk when knitting and like a cloud when wearing. I'm knitting a Petite Knit summer tee in the 4-ply now. The yarn can go in the washing machine, and don't tell anyone, but I also put it in the dryer using the same precautions that I mentioned above. I've knit 7 garments so far with Summerlite. Summerlite feels cool when wearing and I can wear it on a warm day. See a few below.

Tulip Romper



Rowan Creative Linen is a 50/50 blend of cotton and linen. It is not a super soft handle, but with so much linen in the content, it is amazingly easy on the hands. The linen gives this cotton yarn some muscle and it will work up into anything beautifully--shawls, tees, cabled cardigans, you name it. The finished garment has a cool feel next to the skin and I can wear this on a warm day. This is a well-priced yarn, not exactly value priced, but the yardage is excellent and the garment will be long wearing and is a great choice for something summery. The colors are clear and bright and the white is a beaut.

Lila Top Down


Rowan Cotton Cashmere is mostly cotton with a touch of cashmere. It feels almost suede-like while knitting and the fabric too comes off with a bit of a smooth, suedyish feel. The colors tend to be soft. It makes a good transition sweater as it's one of the warmer cottons to me. I have knit 4 garments with this yarn and I can wear them in spring and fall and also on cooler summer nights. 

White Horse


You'll note that the above choices are all from Rowan. Rowan, an English brand best known for their wools, actually make the BEST hand knitting cottons on the market. You may remember that I was a Rowan Ambassador at one time and while I have put sponsorships behind me, I still love to promote products I love and Rowan yarns have rarely disappointed me. I'm sure there are many other Rowan cottons and other brand cottons that you love and I'd be so happy to hear from you in the comments section below. You may have noticed that I didn't add Cotton Glace to my list. It's a fav of many, but does make my hands tired after a while so I don't knit with it anymore. 

Berroco Modern Cotton is also a lovely yarn. It comes in beautiful brights and pastels plus a pure white. It is a blend of cotton and acrylic and is easy care and easy knit. Stockinette looks gorgeous in this yarn as do cables. It has great yardage and is value priced. I don't have as much experience with this yarn, but I have liked it when I used it and did want to give you a Rowan alternative. And one more cotton I've tried and loved is Skinny Cotton by Blue Sky Fiber.

As for purchasing, I'm lucky that my LYS is a Rowan Flagship store. If you cannot find these yarns in your neck of the woods below are links that will help you.

Find a local Rowan retailer here.

Find a Rowan online retailer here.

I've added links below to the Rowan site so you can read descriptions, get yardage, see colors, etc. plus they have online shopping. Some colors are unavailable but I think that is because of the pandemic. You should be able to find the colors you want with an online search.

Handknit Cotton

Softyak DK

Summerlite DK

Summerlite 4-ply

Creative Linen

Cotton Cashmere

Hope you enjoyed reading about my favorite cottons. Please, let me know yours! If you'd like to make a comment, please scroll down or click here.

Happy summer knitting. Kristen

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  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Claire. My opinions, but I am a big believer in cottons.

  2. Thank you so much for this valuable information!!! I too live in a warmer climate but have been hesitant about using cotton yarns for sweaters and such. Question, what pattern is the white sweater you are wearing with the green slacks? Stunning. Love every project you have shown here. What a talent you have.

    1. Thank you! The first sweater is Seacoast by Joji Locatelli. I have made it three times and love it so much. It's meant for BT Shelter but is great as a summer knit. I've edited my post to include Ravelry links.

  3. Hi there!
    I really enjoyed this article you wrote about all the ROWAN yarns..Now for a request....
    I would LOVE to know the names of the ladies items, as they are all so gorgeous...I particularly like this style of neckline ..which I find flattering..

    Thanking you, in anticipation

    1. Hi Nora. Thank you! Not adding links was just laziness on my part. I've edited my post to include Ravelry links to my own project page, but from there you can access the pattern, yarn and read any mods I might have made.

  4. Lovely sweaters Kristen. I made Seacoast with Rowan cotton. The sweater is lovely and the yarn is delightful to work with.


    1. Thank you Carole. I love your Seacoast! Time to pull it out and start wearing it again!

  5. Thank you for your recommendations. I'm currently knitting with Shibui Fern which I believe is discontinued now. It is such an easy cotton to knit. I love it.

  6. Thank you for your recommendations. I'm currently knitting with Shibui Fern which I believe is discontinued now. It is such an easy cotton to knit. I love it.

  7. Thank you for your recommendations. I'm currently knitting with Shibui Fern which I believe is discontinued now. It is such an easy cotton to knit. I love it.


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