Saturday, April 30, 2011


Four different cotton yarns - from left - seine twine, 2/8 warp twist, 8/2 and 3/2 Perle
click to biggify

Chart showing cotton close up and fibre characteristics

New weavers sometimes don't understand that just because a yarn is made from a particular fibre, that doesn't mean that they are the same in terms of how they function.

Cotton fibres for textiles range from about .75 of an inch to up to 3" depending on the variety.  Some of the best quality fibres are Egyptian, pima and Sea Island.  A new variety called Supima is now available commercially although I doubt handweavers can get their hands on that, yet.

Even though all four of the above yarns are made from cotton, they are very, very different in how they behave as yarns, and therefore will create very different qualities of textiles.

Cotton seine twine is the original netting yarn.  It is extremely dense, hard wearing and stiff.  It is very useful to weavers for rug warp.

2/8 warp twist cotton is less dense than seine twine but more than strong enough for warp.  It is more flexible than seine twine and can be used for things like placemats, table runners, heavier weight garment fabric.  I've even used it doubled for rep weave rugs where it behaved quite nicely.  I still have some of these rugs and they are wearing quite well in lightly trafficked areas.

8/2 cotton is carded and much more loosely twisted than 2/8 warp twist yarn.  It is loftier and more absorbent.  It is also weaker than 2/8 and not much loved for warp because of that.  It is useful for weft in towels, baby blankets and other textiles where a lofty, flexible textile is desired.

Perle cotton is combed, not carded, mercerized and engineered for embroidery so built to withstand abrasion.  In comparison to 8/2 cotton, Perle cottons are extremely strong and much loved by US weavers for warp.  The yarn is generally available in a multitude of beautiful colours.

While all of these yarns are made from cotton, they are very different and weavers need to look beyond the colour at how their yarns have been manufactured to know and appreciate them for what they are, and what can successfully be made from them.

Currently readying Lying Dead by Aline Templeton


Judith said...


I have never seen cotton for sale that indicated it was
'warp twist'. How does one know. i.e. 8/2 from Maurice Brassard..
is their 8/2 warp twist?


Laura said...

Yes, the yarn available generally in Canada is 2/8 warp twist. The 8/2 cotton available commonly in the US is not. The two yarns are very different in terms of density, smoothness and strength.

Swedish 2/8 or 8/2 (I can't remember how they label their yarn) is spun from Egyptian cotton and is even stronger than the 2/8 cotton found in Canada.


Judith said...

Thanks for the info. It's very
interesting to know the difference.


Anne Niles Davenport said...

Hi Laura ~

I just today, in a rare binge, finished Lying Dead, and have now taken up with another of Templeton's books -- In the Cold Ground (or thereabouts). Thanks for the precise differentiation of these cotton yarns.


Martha said...

Thank you for this useful info. There's always so much more to learn....

Anonymous said...

I thought the difference between 2/8 and 8/2 was mearly the European or North American way of writing things. But, I have actually compared the sample card from Brassard (2/8) and Jane Stafford (8/2). Under a magnifying glass, I can see that Brassard's is a tad thinner, tighter twist, less fuzz. The cotton from Jane Stafford, is a bit thicker, not as tight of a twist, and fuzzier. I had just thought it was just a difference in quality.
Val D.

Laura said...

I thought that at first too, until I started ordering yarn directly from the spinning mill and learned that they are actually spun differently. :) It was the mill manager who explained that what I wanted was called 'warp twist'.

Jabberwarpy said...

Strength, flexibility, elongation, recovery, elasticity, resilience, density, and absorbancy. All excellent traits in people too. :)

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