Knitwear is not something you immediately associate with the long, hot days of summer. Putting on a woolly jumper or sitting with a heavy, aran weight knitting project on your lap is probably the last thing you want to do when you’re trying to keep cool.
However, to forego knitwear or knitting in the summer is to miss out on a whole array of wonderful possibilities.
Summer is the perfect time to explore cool, plant fibre based yarns such as linen, cotton and bamboo.
Cool to the touch, these fibres have quite different properties to the wool yarns that most of us tend to knit with, giving drapey fabrics that more easily stretch out of shape, but also skim beautifully over the body.
To learn more about knitting with plant fibres, see my posts, Here Comes the Sun: lightweight linen or Here Comes the Sun: knitting with cool cotton and bamboo.
Helpful hints when picking plant fibre yarns for summer garments
Plant-based fibres are generally more dense than wools and so their garments will feel comparably heavier than a wool or acrylic based item, especially if they have cable or other texture details.
This is particularly noticeable with heavier worsted, aran or bulky yarns. While many patterns use such yarns for summer patterns, I personally prefer to opt for lighter weight yarns (such as lace weight, 4-ply/fingering weight or 5-ply/sport weight) as I find them more comfortable to wear in the summer, and also easier to layer with other pieces in the spring and autumn.
Alternatively, you could consider reducing the weight of a worsted/aran yarn by choosing a plant fibre blended with a lighter fibre, such as wool or acrylic. Or try out a different construction of yarn, such as a chain construction which produces a less dense yarn.
(It is also worth noting that fabrics knitted from heavier weight yarns are more likely to stretch out of shape because of the weight of their fabric- see suggestions about how to alleviate this below.)
Helpful hints when wearing plant-based yarns
Remember that fabrics made out of these fibres tend to stretch as they are worn. This is particularly important to consider when wearing little tank tops or v-neck garments that may reveal far more by the end of the day than you anticipated. You can compensate for this by knitting a slightly higher neckline than your desired depth, or by reinforcing the neckline to help reduce the stretch, e.g. by working a line of slip stitch crochet, or by adding a double (UK) or single (US) crochet border to neckline.
To learn more about the crochet slip stitch technique, see Roxanne Richardson’s video ‘Fix sweater shoulders/neck that are too stretchy//Technique Tuesday’ below. Or for a written explanation and photo tutorials, see Olive Knits’ ‘Fix a sweater that slides off’ here, or the more chatty article by the Yarn Harlot here.
To purchase or find out more about a pattern, see links in each photo description below.
Ogee by Sari Nordlund – see image at top of post.
Cardigans and Jumpers
Shawls and Wraps
Further summer knitting inspiration
See my posts about summer knitwear trends, which include many pattern suggestions: Knitwear Trends for Summer 2019: Contrast Colour & Vintage Revival, Knitwear Trends for Summer 2019: Shabby Chic, Knitwear Trends for Summer 2019: Intarsia Colour-work, Knitwear Trends for Summer 2019: lots of lace, and Knitwear Trends for Summer 2019: Embellishments.
Over to you
I’d love to hear any of your suggestions for summer patterns using cotton, linen or bamboo. Do you enjoy working with plant based fibres? Have you got any summer garments on the needles?