It's only just beginning to feel like summer, and I'm ready. I run cold and have to soak myself in the sun like a lizard all spring, but even I struggle with the sticky heat of the Mid-Atlantic. Even so, I wear sweaters all year round. When you say sweater, everyone thinks heavy wool sweaters, but knit summer tops are technically sweaters too. We just don’t call them that because the very word conjures up too much heat when the temperature reaches 90+ with humidity to match.
True summer sweaters are actually the perfect garments for hot weather - especially if you’ve knit them in linen, silk, cotton, or otherwarm-weather blends that we talked about last week. In addition to using cool fibers, there are other strategies that you can use to create a warm-weather wardrobe of hand knits that you’ll be happy wearing when everyone else is melting.
Choose light yarns and knit them a little more loosely than recommended. For instance, I know that fingering weight yarn, especially sock yarn, has a recommended gauge of something like 28 stitches/4 inches on a US 3 (3.25mm). If you knit that yarn on a US 5 or 6 (3.75-4.mm) for a gauge of maybe 22 stitches/4 inches, the fabric will be a smidge more open - not so open that you’ll be arrested if you wear it without another layer - just a little more breathable and comfortable. I know there are all kinds of reasons (structural integrity, longevity, and more) to knit yarns at a tight gauge, and I’ll be the first to tell you the downside of pushing your gauge, but a fingering weight yarn at 22 will be fine for a little summer top.
Knit loose garments - rather than knitting something designed to fit closely to your body, try things with a lot of ease. Dropped shoulder or cap-sleeved tops with lots of drape are perfect. Look for boxy garments that hang loosely from your shoulders and feel like you’re not actually wearing anything at all. This style allows the air to flow freely around your body and almost creates its own breeze as you move, keeping you as cool and comfortable as you can be when it’s miserable.
Wear less fabric. Short sleeves - no sleeves - no shoulders, cropped - whatever you’re most comfortable with. This one’s kind of obvious, and very personal. Everyone has a different comfort level when it comes to exposing skin, but you should wear what keeps you cool and makes you happy. There are no rules about the age at which you have to cover up your arms or who’s allowed to wear a halter top or a cropped sweater. It all comes down to what you like and your personal style. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.
Here are some of my favorite summer sweaters that will be cool and comfortable and flattering for all kinds of figures.
This light little tee has a dropped stitch that makes the fabric nice and open. It’s worked in Rowan Cotton Cashmere at a gauge of 19 stitches per 4”, which is much looser than this yarn’s native gauge of 22 stitches/4”. It has about 8”-10” of ease, so it will hang away from the body. Short sleeves, and a deep v-neck mean less fabric. A winner.
Thissweet little knit cami is a beautiful bare top that looks great on a variety of bodies. Worked in cool, crisp Summerlite DK, it’s great on its own or as a layering piece.
Slope, a sleeveless top by Shellie Andeson gives you nice bare arms and hangs away from the body for a look that's beautiful and elegant as well as practical for hot weather. This would be absolutely perfect in Noro Asaginulinen and paper blend.
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