Elizabeth wears an organic cotton handknit Carol Bralette with elasticized edges. The bralette is a lovely burgundy tonal. She is leaning on one elbow with the other raised above her head.

My Cotton Knit Bralette

Thank you all so much for the love you've shown the Carol Bralette pattern! One of the questions I've been asked the most is, "can I knit this with cotton?" So, I knit one in cotton and now I can tell you all about it!

     I must admit, I purchased this organic cotton from Great Adirondack Yarn Company at a Local Yarn Store (Criativity here in Florida) well before anyone asked me about a cotton knit bralette. I love cotton knits and I knew I wanted to test this pattern with cotton right from the start. If you notice subtle contrast edgings in the photos, those are leftovers of LeRoo Cotton which I used for my Alice Tee. I did all of the interior linings for the edges in this yarn for a little extra fun.

     As most knitters know (or learn the hard way), cotton is a very different fiber than wool. I wasn't sure if the Carol Bralette pattern would still work as a functional and comfortable bralette when knit with cotton. Wool was the natural choice for my official pattern sample, however; unsurprisingly, you have all asked me if you can knit this pattern in cotton. So, here we go! Scroll through for all of the thoughts and feels on my cotton Carol bralette after a couple of days of wear.

Fiber Review: Wool vs. Cotton

     As I mentioned above, wool and cotton behave very differently. Wool has a lot of elasticity and memory. Cotton, doesn't. Let's do a bit of imagining to expand on that (or go ahead and grab a skein of wool and a skein of cotton from your stash if you have it!).

     Imagine taking a single strand of wool yarn and holding it on either end. If you tug the ends apart, the wool will stretch and get a bit thinner. When you let go, the wool returns to it's plumper state. Especially if it's got a lot of twist and several plies.

     Now, treating the cotton in the same way will not produce the same result. You'll feel that the cotton is most likely not stretching much when you tug it - unless you tug it really hard. If you are able to stretch it, you'll notice that it doesn't go back to shape. 

     The way this property translates to knit garments can vary. Cotton yarns can be constructed in a variety of ways, I find the ones in a chainette construction usually have more elasticity. There are also cotton blends that will have elasticity, most especially if it's blended with wool. The cotton I used for this bralette was a 2-ply worsted spun fingering weight. 


Elizabeth sits tall facing the camera in a burgundy cotton knit bralette. It fits her like a lounge bra, with a wide elastic band and low support.

     This is the fourth Carol Bralette I have knit, and the third one for myself! First was a prototype which was created with my first draft of the schematic and pattern. Second was my pattern sample, which was knit in a single ply wool from La Bien Aimee. That bralette follows the pattern and schematic as they exist today. It's the "final draft" so to speak. 

     For this version, I knew there were a couple of things I wanted to try. All three of my bralettes are knit following band size 2 and cup size 3. However; as I'm fairly short, I don't really need the height of the bralette as written. For this version I decided to remove about 1/2" of short rows from the bust apex, as well as another 1" from the armhole and front neckline. I removed the inch from the arm and neckline by subtracting out 12 of the plain knit rounds in the pattern at different points. Changing the short rows required me to do a little bit of reworking the pattern - I spread the side stitches over 18 rows instead of 24 and made sure that the stitches on either side of the central "hump" stayed the same.

     I made one other significant modification to this pattern. I used a 3" elastic in the underbust band instead of the 1" elastic I used for my sample. This super wide elastic makes this Carol Bralette more of a lounge bra, one I can wear as a crop tank all day at home or walking around the neighborhood in the summer. I expected this band would roll or fold a bit more, I have a store bought bralette with the same size band which I do wear a lot! In order to help with this phenomena, I sewed the band down on either side with a simple vertical line of hand stitching. I'm tempted to try and sew around the top portion of the band for further stability, but I'm not sure I am brave enough or bothered enough to try.

What I Love

     The good news is that it totally worked! The elasticized neckband and the precise fit of the underband make this bralette supportive enough for me to wear comfortably as a bralette or top. It is super comfortable, I'm wearing it even as I type this. I expect I'll get tons of use out of this version.

     I was worried that the fabric would feel less breathable - cotton can be heavier or denser than wool, especially at a fine gauge. This particular cotton doesn't feel heavy at all. The underband is a little bit looser since it's so wide, and I made sure the pressure would feel good for me before I sewed it. Wider elastic can definitely feel more confining if it's too tight.

     This cotton knit bralette will work super well for me living in a warm climate. I have been able to wear my wool version many times even in the warmer months, but I try to remember to change out of it before I go for a long walk or I'll sweat a bit extra. My wool version is also knit with a single ply yarn which is super soft, but has started getting fairly fuzzy and a little pilled already. I expect this one will wear very well without fuzzing.

What I Don't Love

     I'm hesitant to name this section "What I Don't Love" because I am very happy with this project. However; I want to be fully transparent about what might cause problems in the future so that you won't have any surprises if you decided to knit Carol in cotton.

A rear view of Elizabeth wearing a cotton knit bralette. You can clearly see the increases made along the side seams as she glances over her shoulder.

     As I said, cotton does not have the elasticity that wool does. In the day and a half of wear I've put into this bralette, I have noticed she's stretched out a little. My store bought cotton bralettes do this too, unless they've got elastic in them. With my other cotton knits, I usually let them stretch a little and then wash them and put them in the dryer so they shrink back to size. I did put this bralette through the dryer after a good first bath, so I expect I'll use this same method to handle any stretching that happens.

     The biggest issue is the rolling of the 3" band. This doesn't have anything to do with the bralette being cotton. I'm not sure how this band is going to deal as it wears. It's folded in a bit in the front already. So far, this hasn't had any real impact on the wearability but I think next time I'll use a 1 or 2" band instead.

In Conclusion - Would Smash

     I'm happy to report that cotton is definitely an okay fiber for the Carol Bralette - as long as you're okay with a bit less support than you might have from wool. It's a super comfortable option, especially if you want to be able to wear your Carol as an actual bra all year.

     While designing Carol I did intend that you could use any fiber fingering weight yarn you wanted. That's why the elastic neck edging is so wonderful, it creates so much support you don't have to rely on your fabric for that support. I think if you used a cotton yarn that included some elastic content (whether it's a wool blend or a cotton sock yarn with nylon), it would work super well for folks who don't want to lose out on support.

     Have you knit a Carol Bralette? I'd love to hear about your experiences! Please feel free to leave a comment or contact me.

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