A Spinner’s View of Cotton Crochet Thread
Understanding your yarn is the first step toward a happy yarn/project pairing. I love thinking about yarn, so I offered to turn my spinner’s eye to cotton crochet thread for Interweave Crochet. Even though I didn’t spin the yarn for the projects in their Summer 2018 issue, I shared a bit about what makes cotton crochet thread perfect for certain projects.
Cotton fiber is easy to pull apart (imagine a cotton ball), but plied yarn—yarn with two or more strands twisted together—can be difficult to break. One rule of thumb is that more layers of twist make yarn stronger. Cotton thread is typically made up of fine strands plied together. Crochet thread is hard to break by hand, but 8/2 weaving cotton (8 is the size of the ply and 2 is the number of plies) is about the same weight and snaps easily. Because cotton fibers are very short and fine, they require tight twist to hold together. To make thicker cotton crochet thread without pilling, manufacturers often combine more thin strands rather than simply making thicker strands.
In most cases, twist applied in one direction is balanced with twist in the opposite direction by plying. This will be familiar if you’ve ever twisted fringe or made a twisted cord; the fringe stops twisting when it’s countered with opposite twist. The twist that keeps the fibers tucked in also keeps the plies together and makes them difficult to split with a crochet hook. Twist also tends to make yarn harder and stiffer.
In cabled yarns, such as Omega Eulali, there’s yet another layer of twist when plied yarns are essentially plied again in the opposite direction. This makes them very stable; notice how the Eulali didn’t kink up when washed, because its twist is well balanced. Sometimes plied yarns can be twisted together in the same direction as plying, as in DMC Natura Just Cotton, which makes them relatively easy to untwist.
Although cotton crochet threads may hang loose when you use them, many of them have twist that has gone to sleep. When you tie a length and dampen it, any extra twist wakes up again (as you can see in the photo above). That excess twist energy makes the yarn want to kink up when you’re using it—just as when you turn around and around on a swing, the twist energy wants to push you back in the other direction. Tightly twisted yarns make for great stitch definition.
Featured Image: Each of these yarns comprises a different number and arrangement of plies. Very tightly twisted threads such as Handy Hands Lizbeth and Aunt Lydia’s are difficult to split with a hook. Photos by George Boe