3 Organic Cotton Yarns Compared

As I already hinted at in a recent post about dishcloths, I’ve been trying out several organic cotton yarns.

Taking care of my family’s health and that of our planet is high on my personal agenda. For almost two decades now an organic farm has delivered groceries to our door.

Going organic when it comes to knitting yarns would be a logical next step. But going organic isn’t always easy. It takes extra planning and effort, it can be more expensive, and sometimes there just aren’t any organic options available.

For a long time organic yarns were few and far between, and they were not always terribly attractive, to say the least. But the landscape is changing, and I’d like to try some of them out now. To start with, I’ve chosen 3 very similar organic cotton yarns:

  1. Anna & Clara ‘100% Cotton 8/4’
  2. Rosários4 ‘Bio Love’
  3. Lang Yarns ‘Baby Cotton’

So far, I’ve only used them to knit dishcloths. I’ve looked at similarities, differences, washability and how it feels to knit with them.

Basic facts

 

Material

Wt/M/Yds

Organic

Price

1. Anna & Clara

100% cotton

50 g/160 m/175 yds

Yes

€ 1.82

2. Bio Love

100% cotton

50 g/175 m/191 yds

Yes

€ 3.75

3. Baby Cotton

100% cotton

50 g/180 m/197 yds

Yes

€ 4.95

All 3 yarns are 100% organic cotton, and their metreage/yardage is very similar. The prices vary a lot, though, and there are other differences too.

Let’s take a look at the yarns from very close up:

Yarn 1 (Anna & Clara) consists of 4 plies
Yarn 2 (BioLove) consists of 5 plies
Yarn 3 (Baby Cotton) consists of no less than 7 plies, each consisting of 2 plies again.

Interesting! What does that mean for the knitting experience? I’ll describe the yarns one by one first, and then I’ll give my ‘verdict’.

Yarn 1: Anna & Clara ‘100% Cotton 8/4’

At € 1,82 per ball, this yarn proves that organic doesn’t have to be expensive. It has that nice, dry cottony feel and the thread is firmly plied.

To me it looks and feels like a good old-fashioned cotton yarn. Only it is not just available in white and ecru like in olden days, but in about fifty different shades, including several multi-coloured ones. Strangely enough, there are no dye-lot numbers on the ball band.

The yarn is sold in Søstrene Grene shops and isn’t available online. I don’t mind spending some time in their lovely Danish-style surroundings, with relaxing classical music in the background. But it is a disadvantage if there isn’t a shop in your part of the world or you are unable to leave the house.

Here are the dishcloths I knit with this yarn:

The ball band says: 60˚C, tumble dry on low temperature. When I first washed them by hand, the darker shades bled a little, but that was only on first washing. They shrank a little after machine washing and tumble drying, mainly in height. And the knitting became slightly harder to the touch, but still felt fine.

Yarn 2: Rosários4 ‘Bio Love’

Portuguese yarn producer Rosários4 has a substantial ‘Ecofriendly Collection’. On their website ‘BioLove’ isn’t part of that collection, however, but can be found under ‘Yarns for Kids’.

BioLove’s thread is smooth and well-plied. I knit 3 dishcloths with it and found it a really lovely and soft yarn to knit with.

The colours are matte and sort of ‘dusty’. There are 19 colours in all, in groups of 3 or 4 matching shades. A big plus for me is that there is a shade card.

The washing instructions say: 30˚C, do not use tumble dryer. I first washed my dishcloths by hand, and the colours didn’t bleed at all, not even the darkest shade.

Later I wanted to try out what would happen if I ignored the washing instructions, so I washed them at 60˚C in the washing machine and also put them in the tumble dryer. Not a great idea, because it made them shrink considerably – several centimetres in both directions. But they still stayed very soft.

Yarn 3: Lang Yarns ‘Baby Cotton’

Apart from the pale blue you see here, the shop where I bought the yarn only had a few bright and unattractive (to me) colours, so I only bought one ball. But looking on the producer’s website, I see that it is available in 52 fabulous shades.

At € 4,95 per ball, this makes for a rather expensive dishcloth. It is clearly the most luxurious of the three yarns. The thread is very smooth, the yarn is has a slight sheen and it is silky to the touch. It is loosely plied, and may be labelled slightly ‘splitty’ by some.

Baby Cotton has the longest metreage/yardage of the three. Knit on the same needles with the same number of stitches, the dishcloth became the same size as the others, with considerably more yarn left over. In other words: this yarn goes a long way.

Washing instructions on the ball band: wash at 60˚C, do not tumble dry. There were no issues with bleeding, but I didn’t try any darker shades. I washed my dishcloth at 60˚C and put it in the tumble dryer. It didn’t shrink at all widthwise and only a little lengthwise, and it stayed just as supple and shiny as when it just came off the knitting needles.

My verdict

As you probably already know, I’m not sponsored by shops or yarn producers. Everything I write here represents my own, subjective opinions and experiences. So, here is my verdict.

  1. Anna & Clara. An excellent yarn for knitters with a small budget. Perfect for dishcloths, soft toys and projects that eat up a lot of yarn, like summer blankets.
  2. BioLove.This would be my yarn of choice for baby clothing. It is soft and stays soft, has an enchanting colour palette, and, well, most of all it is just a feeling. This feels sooo agreeable and right for little ones. For me, this has the swoon factor.
  3. Baby Cotton. This is the yarn I would choose if I were to knit something for myself or another adult, a summer top or cardi, say. It has a more luxurious look and feel because of the super cotton quality – smooth, silky and drapey. That’s apparently what those 7 very fine double plies do. It would be great for baby clothing and dishcloths, too, but it comes with a price tag.

3 Tips

  1. Machine washing is no problem for any of these yarns, even at 60˚C, but if using BioLove for baby clothes, I’d stay on the safe side and wash it a lower temperatures. And be careful with the tumble dryer. In my experience it’s mainly that that causes shrinkage. That’s no problem for dishcloths, but for (baby) clothing I’d definitely avoid tumble drying.
  2. The knitting shrinks more in height than in width. So, if you want your dishcloths square, knit them a little higher (approx. 2 cm/¾”) than wide, and they’ll end up more or less square after washing and tumble drying.
  3. The Organic Consumers Association gives 9 Good Reasons for Choosing Organic Cotton.

Yarn Review: Manos ‘Fino’

Do you know that feeling – you see a yarn and immediately fall in love?

Nowadays I try to be sensible and only buy yarn with a specific project in mind. But it still happens to me every now and then that I see a yarn that is so beautiful I just have to take it home with me, even though I have no idea what I’m going to do with it.

‘Fino’ from Manos del Uruguay is one of those yarns. The tiny ball in the yarn bowl in an earlier post already gave you a glimpse of it.

Mini-skeins

The yarn I’m showing you in this blog post is a set of mini-skeins in a colourway called ‘Flora’:

Before I start describing the yarn, I need to tell you that these mini-skeins are exactly the same yarn as the full skeins of Manos ‘Fino’. A set of five 20 gram mini-skeins has the same yardage and the same weight as one 100 gram skein. And all of the colours in the mini-skein sets are also available as full skeins.

The yarn

Some Manos yarns are still spun by hand. Fino isn’t, but it is hand-dyed, and that shows. I realize that may sound negative, but that’s not what I mean at all. On the contrary. The hand-dyeing process yields beautiful colours, as you can see below:

From top to bottom the colours are: 433 Folly, 404 Watered Silk, 408 Crystal Goblet, 407 Velvet Pincushion and 423 Tincture.

Folly, Watered Silk, Crystal Goblet… it looks like they’ve found their colour inspiration at some 18th or 19th century mansion, doesn’t it?

None of the colours are completely solid. Some of them are semi-solids, with lighter and darker shades of the same colour, like the darkest green (Tincture). Others are more variegated, with a combination of different hues. For instance, overall the second colour from the top (Watered Silk) looks pale turquoise. But looking more closely at the yarn knit up in a swatch…

… you can see that there is pale turquoise and even paler turquoise in it, but also some purplish grey, steel blue and mauve. All in all, this gives a lively (but not too busy) effect.

Fino is a light fingering-weight blend of silk and wool with a subtle sheen. It is a single-ply yarn. This means that it consists of just one strand of yarn, unlike most yarns, which have several plies twisted together. I’ve taken a close-up, so that you can see what this looks like:

The yarn is not entirely even – it has slightly thicker and thinner bits. I think this adds to its charm on the whole. There were one or two blobs of silk in my yarn that were too thick to my taste, but I was able to remove them very carefully without damaging the thread.

I always like to know where a yarn I’m using comes from. What the story behind it is. So I did some research and discovered that Manos yarns have a very interesting story to tell.

Fair Trade

What I found out is that Manos del Uruguay (Hands of Uruguay) is a not-for-profit organization, comprising 12 individual cooperatives, owned by the women who work there. The cooperatives are all located in rural areas of the country and their products are certified by the World Fair Trade Organization.

There’s much more to tell, but the artisans can tell their own story much better than I ever could. In honour of their fiftieth anniversary they’ve made a 6-minute video that gives a great impression of their work. Don’t you just love those long, long lines with skeins of dyed yarn, drying on the air outside?

The knitting experience

So what is it like to knit with this yarn? Absolutely lovely, in my humble opinion. I’ve knit some small swatches, one in each colour:

I have a little more experience knitting with this yarn than just these small swatches, as I’m also working on another project in Fino, an easy-to-knit accessory that I hope to tell you more about later this spring. I first used the blues and greens shown here, and I’m making another version in a totally different (but equally beautiful) colourway now.

The yarn knits up to a fairly even fabric. Very fine, or more open and drapey depending on the needle size used. The yarn is so beautiful that just plain stocking stitch would be a good choice, but I think it will work equally well in a cable or lace pattern. Because it is so soft, it is perfect for accessories worn close to the skin, like shawls, cowls or hats. I don’t think it will stand up to frequent (machine) washing, so I wouldn’t recommend it for baby knits.

Some bleeding is common in hand-dyed yarns. But when I soaked the items I knit in a non-rinse wool detergent these colours didn’t bleed at all.

Yarn facts

  • Name: Fino
  • Manufacturer: Manos del Uruguay
  • Skein weight: 100 g (mini-skein sets 5×20 g)
  • Length: 450 m (490 yds)
  • Recommended needle size: 3-3.75 mm (US 3-5)
  • Recommended tension/gauge: 24-28 sts to 10 cm (4 in)
  • Composition: 70% wool; 30% silk
  • Made in: Uruguay
  • Available in: 40 shades
  • I used: Mini-skein set ‘Flora’
  • I paid: € 29.70 for a set (February 2019)

Yarn shop

In fact, I didn’t buy this yarn in a shop, but at a big annual needle crafts fair, where I spent a wonderful day with a friend who loves knitting just as much as I do. The yarn seller does have a shop – De Roopoorte, near Ghent in Belgium – but I haven’t been there, so I can’t tell you about it. What I can tell you is that Evelyne, the owner, has a good eye for beautiful yarns and interesting pattern books. And she stayed calm and friendly all day long, patiently giving people advice about yarns and patterns, no matter how big the crowds milling around her stand got.  

Silly but honest

You may (or may not) have noticed that I sometimes add notes to my blog posts saying something like ‘This post is not sponsored in any way’. I feel a bit silly adding these notes. I mean, who’d want to sponsor me?

The reason I’m adding these notes is that I want to make it clear that nobody is paying me to say nice things about their yarn, shop, designs, books etcetera. When I say nice things about something or somebody, it’s because I really mean them. This also applies to this post. Honesty and integrity are important values to me. So even though it feels rather silly, I’ll keep adding these notes from time to time.

Fun

I’ve had such fun playing with this yarn – winding the small skeins into balls, knitting those tiny swatches, taking lots of photos. I hope it’s been fun to look at and read, too. Thank you for spending some time here.

Yarn Review: Rowan ‘Cashmere Tweed’

Recently someone not a million miles from here made a remark about my blog that set me thinking. He said: ‘I have to read/scroll through quite a lot of stuff to get to the point of your post.’

That stopped me in my tracks. To me, this reading/scrolling thing is the point.

O dear, am I doing this all wrong? Should I make my point first, and expand on it afterwards? There is something to be said for that.

Hunters and gatherers

After giving it some thought, I came to the conclusion that this is a great illustration of the difference between hunters and gatherers. A remnant from a time when we lived in caves and had to hunt for meat and gather berries to prevent starvation. Some people were better at one thing and some at the other.

I consider myself totally and utterly a gatherer. I often find lots of delicious berries (i.e. seemingly irrelevant but fun stuff) along the way and easily get distracted by them. And that is also the way I write my blog. But I do realize that not everybody is like that.

So, if you are a hunter type, and prefer to get straight to the meaty details, please scroll down to a box entitled ‘Yarn Facts’, followed by ‘Conclusion’.

If you are more of a gatherer, please read on.

A bit of history

A long time ago, I became a member of Rowan International. For those of you who don’t know: Rowan is a Yorkshire-based yarn company especially famous for its tweed yarns and innovative designs.

At the time Rowan International members received a beautiful, large-size magazine twice a year, packed with knitting and crochet patterns and some interesting background articles. Plus the new autumn/winter or spring/summer shade cards. And a free gift of yarn with a pattern for a small project.

I still have the original shade card folder:

Changes

After a while things began to change. The shade cards disappeared. We didn’t receive yarny gifts anymore. The company was taken over by a big international firm. The patterns were no longer all that exciting. The pattern sizes became tiny (in my country, I’m an average size person, but sometimes even the largest size was too small for me). And there were a lot of changes in the yarn lines. To make a long story short: I ended my subscription.

But in recent years things have gradually changed again. The pattern sizes are back to normal. The patterns are more appealing. And there are some really exciting new yarns. So, when I saw the new Rowan shade cards last autumn I decided to buy them.

Shade cards

Maybe I’ll go into my love of shade cards some other time. For now, I’ll just say: All those beautiful colours! So many possibilities! So much to dream about! Just look at these two pages. Don’t all those gorgeous colours just make your heart sing?

I looked at and felt the yarns and knew straight away that I had to try out some of them.

One day in October last year, I was in Amsterdam. I was there for a different purpose and didn’t have much time, but I quickly popped into De Afstap, a small but well-stocked yarn shop specializing in Rowan. I had an interesting chat with the lady behind the counter and bought three balls of Cashmere Tweed, in a deep burgundy colour called ‘Andorra Red’ (shade 006). It has flecks of a brighter red, orange, black and grey.

Cashmere Tweed is a mix of merino wool and cashmere. It consists of two plies of slightly irregularly spun yarn incorporating dots of wool in different colours for a tweedy effect. It is a dk-weight yarn that knits up to a lovely soft and filled-out (but not dense) fabric. Cashmere Tweed is available in 13 shades, including some natural browns and greys, a pale pink, several really bright colours and some muted and darker ones.

I bought the yarn especially to make the two pairs of Welted Fingerless Gloves I wrote about in a previous post.

The knitting experience

The yarn was a joy to knit with. It is very soft and woolly, without being itchy at all. There were no knots in any of the balls.

I’ve read some complaints about the yarn breaking easily. I agree that Cashmere Tweed is not a very strong yarn. It is easy to break the thread by hand. But I only had problems with the yarn breaking during knitting once. That was at the thumb hole, where I messed things up, had to unravel and re-knit a bit.

The yarn broke when I passed one stitch over the next with some tension on the thread. An awkward place. But, to be fair, I think that this was more due to my unravelling and handling of the yarn than to the yarn itself.

Yarn facts
  • Name: Cashmere Tweed
  • Manufacturer: Rowan by Mez Crafts UK Ltd
  • Ball weight: 25 g
  • Length: 88 m (96 yds)
  • Recommended needle size: 4 mm (UK 8 / US 6)
  • Recommended tension/gauge: 22 sts x 30 rows to 10 cm (4 in)
  • Composition: 80 % extra fine merino; 20% cashmere
  • Made in: Italy
  • Available in: 13 shades
  • I used: Andorra Red (006)
  • I paid: € 9.40 per ball (October 2018)
Conclusion

Rowan ‘Cashmere Tweed’ is a luxurious dk-weight yarn that gives a very soft fabric with a good ‘body’. It is easy to knit with, but may break after unravelling and under too much strain. Considering the price, I think it is especially suitable for accessories like shawls, scarves, cowls and hats. Just a few balls will make a lovely gift to a special person (or yourself).

The yarn shop lady

The lady at the counter of the yarn shop was none other than Carla Meijsen, who has just published her third book: Magic Motifs: Knitting with a Secret Message. I don’t have it, but I’ve taken a look at it. In one word: intriguing.

This post is not sponsored in any way. I’m interested in the knitting materials I use, and like sharing my experiences.