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Perle Cotton for Knitters

Updated on September 22, 2014
Perle Cotton on Cones
Perle Cotton on Cones | Source

Perle Cotton ... what?

Perle cotton is my secret knitting tool. Very few people have heard of perle cotton (and may spell it pearl cotton), and even fewer have thought of it as a knitting tool -- but it is an excellent item to keep in your knitting bag.

On this page, I'll discuss how knitters can use perle cotton: what it is, how to use it, and where to get it. You'll have a chance to say something, too.

beige perle cotton
beige perle cotton

So What is Perle Cotton?

Perle cotton is shiny cotton cord, used in embroidery. It is very strong. It comes in several weights, with the smaller numbers being heavier cord. I like the number 5 and number 3 best, #8 is a bit too thin.. I pick a color that contrasts with most of the colors of yarn I use in my knitting, so the cord is easy to see. For me, that's a bright gold. Perle cotton comes in dozens of colors, amd even blends and metallics.

What is Perle Cotton Usually Used For?

Perle cotton is most often used these days for embroidery, when you want a thread that stands out.

It used to be used a lot for fine crochet work, where it's shine made it look a little like silk.

It was also used for tatting, a way of making sturdy lace by linking and knotting a single thread.

What Can Knitters Do With Perle Cotton?

Row Marker

Have you ever worked a knitting pattern that says something like "work in pattern for 63 rows"? Especially if the stitches are a bit hard to see, counting 63 rows several times is annoying at best. Perle cotton comes to the rescue!

Cut a length of perle cotton and lay it between two stitches, under the needle, long end hanging to the front. Work 5 rows, then flip the long end from the front to the back. Work 5 more rows, and flip to the front. You can now easily count sets of 5 rows. When you are finished knitting, the perle cotton will pull out of the knitting easily.

I have been looking for an image to illustrate this technique, but I could not find one. I will have to create an image ... look for it in the future.

Stitch Holder

There are many times when knitters need to remove live stitches from their knitting needles. Traditionally, a metal stitch holder is used to keep the stitches from unravelling. Though there are many sizes and types of stitch holders, the knitter never seems to have exactly the right one for the task at hand.

Again, perle cotton can be used to make a stitch holder for any number of stitches, from 3-4 sts between the fingers on a glove to an entire sweater body. Because it is very smooth, the stitches will slide easily along the cord.

Thread a length of perle cotton onto a yarn needle, and run it through your stitches. You can now remove your knitting needle. If the stitches need to be on hold for a while, tie the perle cotton in a loop. Then, when you need your stitches again, cut the perle cotton, slide your knitting needle through the stitches, make sure you have them all, and only then remove the perle cotton.

Stitch Markers

Tie a small length of perle cotton in a loop for a stitch marker. If you have several colors of perle cotton, you can color code your markers.

This method of making stitch markers if often used with regular knitting yarn -- when I do that, I often knit into my markers! Perle cotton is enough different from my typical knitting yarn that I don't knit the marker.

Knitting Life Line
Knitting Life Line | Source

Safety Line

If you are knitting complicated lace, some experts recommend you thread a safety line, sometimes called a life line, through a row every so often. This way, if you have to rip back, the safety line prevents your from ripping too far. Perle cotton is great for this, as it is strong and slippery.

Because it's so thin and flexible, you won't have to remove it before putting the work back on your needles.

Okay, you've convinced me. Now, how do I get some perle cotton?

Perle Cotton Buying Guide for Knitters

Where to Find Perle Cotton

Even though many knitters have never heard of perle cotton, it's not difficult to find. It is commonly used in embroidery, and you can buy skeins anywhere you find embroidery supplies. One skein is enough to last a knitter for a long time, and a ball may be passed down to the next generation! My perle cotton was my mother's.

Perle cotton is also available online, below are some links. Why not add a skein to your next Amazon order?


Perle cotton comes in different sizes. The smaller the number, the fatter the cord. My favorite size is #3, though #5 works well, #8 is widely available, but I think it is a bit too thin.


If you are buying only one skein of perle cotton, pick a color that will contrast with the yarn colors you knit with. It can be an ugly color! For me, my gold color perle cotton works well ... I can see it easily in any project.

Perle Cotton at Amazon

Amazon sells a lot of perle cotton, in colors and sizes that work well for knitters. Here is one sample. Other colors are available, click through the link to find them.

Perle Cotton at eBay

eBay often has lots of several skeins of perle cotton at greatly discounted prices. Why not get your knitting friends together and buy one lot for all of you?

The item shown below was chosen randomly, using "perle cotton" as the search phrase. The selection will change often, and may include mis-tagged items.

I hope this page taught you some new tips for knitting, and gave you a versatile new knitting tool. Feel free to add your own thoughts to this page.

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