Knitting with Cotton and Berroco’s New Yarn Elba

I have a confession to make. I kind of hate knitting with cotton. I generally find it to be too stiff and heavy for what I want—garments get too heavy and sag out of shape, which is a disappointing after spending so much time knitting with it. Cotton can even get heavy when it’s on the needles, leading to wrist pain and less time spent enjoying my hobby. I used to be staunchly anti-cotton.

Then I came across Admit, a free pattern from Norah Gaughan, and even knit it in the Berroco Modern Comfort™  and… I didn’t hate it.

“Okay,” I thought. “Maybe this is a fluke. Maybe this is just one cotton yarn I can get behind.” But then I knit a swatch in one of Berroco’s new cotton yarns for 2016 and… I think I might be in love.

Elba is a 100% cotton tape yarn that has a delightfully heathered effect when knit up. Because of the construction, it’s lightweight and springy, the way a wool yarn might be have, but remains cool and warm-weather appropriate. The phrase “tape yarn” always kind of confused me, but it really just means that instead of a rounded yarn, the yarn takes on a ribbon- or tape-like appearance, lying flat when stretched on a surface such as a table. You can see in the photo below how the yarn behaves more like a ribbon than a traditional plied yarn.

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The yarn is an I-cord tube, even though those tubes remain the rounded characteristics of the yarn. When you insert a double-pointed needle into the end of the yarn, it’s tubular in structure, even though it’s mostly flat in character.

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Even though the construction is outside the norm of what we’ve come to expect from yarn, knitting with Elba is an enjoyable experience. I worked up this swatch in a small cable pattern, because I wanted to see how the tape yarn worked up in cables. Our Berroco Elba™ booklet features sweaters and cardigans inspired by traditional gansey knitting patterns, mostly featuring gorgeous texture stitches including the mini-rope cables of Serafina, but I wanted to knit them for myself. Knitting with Elba was a joy—the swatch never weighed down the needles and the resulting fabric is light and drapey. I used size 6 needles to work up this simple swatch of left-leaning cable columns.

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We have seven knitting patterns worked up in Elba, including the free knitting pattern Sigrid, but you could use Elba to knit a wide range of patterns—just be sure to swatch first!

Sigrid, a free knitting pattern, in Berroco Elba

8 Comments

    1. Hi Maria! We categorize Elba as a worsted weight, but it’s on the lighter side–it gets about 5 stitches to the inch on size 7s.

  1. I meant to include this: I made a wonderful summer tank/ t shirtfrom Cotton Classic a couple of years ago. It doesn’t “grow” or feel too heavy. The pattern is very old, from the 70’s, I think. The reason it works is the openness of the pattern and the stitch. So there are cottons that are okay

    1. Hi again Libby!

      There are definitely cottons that are okay and don’t stretch so much–mercerized cotton such as Cotton Classic is treated to be less “saggy” than other cottons. A lot of it comes down to personal preference, and up until recently I’ve just preferred to not work with cotton. Thankfully there are some new cottons out there that I do enjoy knitting!

  2. Looks lovely! The stitch definition is wonderful. I’ve recently used several tape yarns of different fiber blends and really like them. I’m about to start swatching with your Maya yarn, a cotton and alpaca tape, and I can’t wait– seems like it will be perfect for spring-into-summer-into-fall garments.

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