Cheap and cheerful: Cotton on

I was chatting on a forum recently and we were discussing the high price of making a garment from a pattern. Most of the designs in the magazines cost about £60 to £100 to make and many people didn’t feel confident to choose a cheaper yarn to use. I thought a series on the blog celebrating some of the best cheaper yarns on the market would be a great idea.

I am an advocate of using the best yarn you can afford because the hours of work you put into creating a garment deserve the finest materials but lets celebrate the yarns that are great but light on the pocket too.

cheap and cheerful cotton on

This week I swatched up some James C Brett Cotton On to try. I first came across this yarn when my LYS started using it in the learner kits for our classes. I was very impressed with the feel of it and how ideal it is for learning.


Price – around £2 per 50g ball
Fibre – 50% cotton, 50% acrylic
Weight – DK
Yardage – 158 yds
Range – 20 colours, 16 solid, 4 variagated in a range of pastel and stronger colours.


When I first tried the yarn it reminded me of Rowan Wool Cotton. As I had a ball of the Rowan lying around I decided to do a side by side comparison.

cheap and cheerful cotton on 2


On the left (purple) is the Rowan Wool Cotton DK (around £6 per 50g ball, 50% cotton, 50% wool, 123 yds) and on the right (brown) is the Cotton on.

I knit the two swatches on the same needles and one after the other so I could compare. Both were very easy and enjoyable to knit with. The Rowan was *slightly* nicer to knit, the Cotton On tended to want to catch to itself a little more than the Rowan.

After wet blocking both worked up to the same tension (20 sts and 24 rows to 4 in) and were very similar in appearance with good stitch definition. The Cotton On has slightly more drape. Both yarns are very soft to touch but feel like they would be hard wearing and resist pilling (those annoying bobbles you get in wearing your knitting)

Both yarns have similar care requirements and can be washed on a very gentle machine cycle.

I think Cotton On would make a great substitution for Rowan Wool Cotton and would also be a suitable substitution for a lot of the merino yarns on the market such as Debbie Bliss Rialto DK or Sublime Fine Merino DK. Both of these yarns cost more than £5 a ball and have fewer yards per 50g so the savings are significant.

The choice of Cotton On colours is not as good (less contemporary in my view) as in the dearer ranges but if you find one that you like in the Cotton On then I think it is an excellent choice and I would be hard pressed to justify spending more.

If we use 1200yds as an average for making a DK weight sweater or cardigan then we get the following yarn costs for the project:

Cotton On £16,
Rowan Wool Cotton £60
Debbie Bliss Rialto £60

I hope you found this review helpful and I would love your feedback and suggestions for other yarns to review.



  1. Hilary says

    It’s wonderful to read this, I love to knit, crochet and sew but as you say the cost can be astronomical. I found a brilliant pattern for my daughter but it required wool that was going to cost over £80, and as a pensioner that was out of my purchasing remit! I bought other wool, it still cost over £35 but the result as far as my daughter is concerned is brilliant. Like my mum and grandma before me I also unravel old woollies and reknit them into something else, it’s time consuming and takes care but it’s cheap! Thank you for doing this comparison, more for other weights would be appreciated.

    • notsogranny says

      I shall try and cover some different weights and fibres over the next few posts. I also plan a post teaching people how to reuse their yarn.

  2. says

    What a fabulous review! Thank you. The Button Boutique in Leicester has a brilliant member of staff [Tina] who is really good at giving suggestions for alternative yarns, and I have followed her advice in the past, and saved a fortune but still got good results. I think you are right about shades- the ‘budget’ ranges have less to choose. But many are good for all that.
    Blessings xx

  3. says

    What an interesting and useful series. I imagine the Cotton On would be great for decorative things like flowers and bunting (even crochet cup-cakes that I am supposed to be working on) . It was really nice to meet you on Saturday, I’m following your blog now, through bloglovin

  4. says

    A very useful series – it’s quite scary to think of investing a lot of money (not to mention time) in something that might not even fit when it’s done! Less expensive yarns are very freeing to the frugally-minded.