Today I want to share a couple of tips with you about picking Summer Yarns. Now that the weather is warming up, I start to get the itch to work with lighter fibers to knit and create lighter garments that I can wear year round here in Missouri. Yes, I am often the crazy girl wearing wool in June, here, but I really love working with Cottons, Linens, Rayons, and all kinds of other summery blends, too!
The Jetsetter Cowl, still one of my faves, made with a chainette yarn!
Some knitters take a hiatus in the summer from working on their projects because of the heat, but I’ve always found that I get even more done in the summer. Maybe it’s the longer days helping me squeeze more out of the daylight, or my old tendency to think of the school semester and a summer break, but I love making things I can wear when I finish them in this season. I also love to design spring and summer knits, maybe because they are sometimes unexpected.
I’m going to share with you a few tips I’ve picked up over the years about choosing yarn for your summer knits:
A linen blend kerchief that I designed, pattern available for free!
1.) Pick your Fiber. Here are three of my favorites!
Cotton: A classic summer staple, from t-shirts to denim shorts, cotton is great because it breathes and is easy care (often machine wash). One thing to keep in mind when knitting with it is that it can be physically heavy in weight (regardless of which knitting weight you’re using), and prone to stretching.
Linen: My favorite summer fiber, especially when blended with silk or rayon. Some people find linen to be a little stiff to work with, that’s why a blend can be favorable. Linen has a great natural drape, making it perfect for summer knits. It has a papery or crunchy feel to it, but it softens up with each and every wear and wash, just getting better each time!
Rayon/Tencel/Lyocell: These manufactured regenerated fibers are made from either wood/paper/cotton waste or other natural materials, but then manufactured into a fiber that has some properties of cotton, but others, too. They are usually cool to the touch, and drapey, making them perfect for warm weather knits. I love them blended with cotton or linen because they lighten things up! There are many different varieties of these on the market, so sometimes they are represented by specific trade names that you can see in the fine print.
One of my patterns that uses a Tencel yarn in a chainette construction.
2.) Pay attention to yarn construction
Traditional: A lot of people have the most experience with traditionally spun yarns. These have bundles of fibers twisted into a yarn, and with summer yarns they can be heavy, because they have a dense construction. Blending fibers helps with this and a few of my favorites are Bella Lino, Modern Cotton, and Vera.
Chainette: This is a relatively new technique in the hand-knitting world, but it’s availability is exploding now that people are catching on to its benefits. Basically, a thread of fiber is knitted into a small round tube that makes up the yarn. There are some variations within the concept, but basically it lightens things up, so that a heavy fiber blend, like say Alpaca/Cotton, is cooler, and more supported from stretching out. Some of my favorites are Maya, Tencel Tape, and Espresso.
Chainette yarns can be prone to unraveling, so if you use fringe, be sure to knot it or use fray check!
Other constructions: Many companies are finding neat ways to make summer yarns, and one of my favorite recent additions is Knit Collage Wildflower. Here, block printed fabric is cut into strips to create a yarn to knit with. Super summery and still knits quick because it’s chunky!
Wildflower Fabric yarn from Knit Collage, and a bag pattern I need to finish…ha!
3.) Swatch & Hang
Ok, so I don’t know where you fall on the swatch spectrum, but I’m just as likely to skip it as the next person. But, I have learned over the years the repercussions of skipping it, so I go in eyes wide open knowing that if I screw something up I will be starting over.
Swatching can come in super handy when you’re working with summer fibers, because of their tendency to grow. If you make a swatch, let it dry, measure it, and then hang it up for a couple of days, you can measure it after hanging and see if the growth will affect your finished project. This means you can account for that before you cast on, instead of finishing that beautiful summer t-shirt only to find that halfway through the day it becomes more of a summer dress. With holes. Just saying.
A swatch also lets you test out your stitch definition for any patterning you might be doing. Sometimes, stitch definition is fabulous in summer yarns, and sometimes it just isn’t. Or sometimes with a nice crisp and shiny cotton, it’s too much for the design you’re making. Swatching will tell you this before it’s too late.
Swatching will tell you how a yarn will behave in the stitch pattern, like this mesh pattern that expands and stretches out.
4.) Check the care
Although many cottons and linens are easy care, they are prone to shrinking in the dryer, so you will often still want to lay flat to dry. They are also prone to growing and stretching when wet, so one trick is to place these items in a mesh lingerie bag if it is labeled for machine wash. This will support the fabric and keep it from warping when being washed.
Again, this is a place where that handy swatch can come in handy. You can make it, and then abuse it in the wash to see how it behaves and take notes on what might happen with your actual piece. I’m on team swatch, except for when I’m lazy, but sometimes I do it because I am lazy! I want to do this step to test out the care on the back end of my knitted piece, so I take the extra steps at the front end, and am lazy forever in washing something in the machine. I call that a win-win.
I hope you find these tips helpful as we breeze into the warmer season! Maybe you’ll find that you enjoy knitting as much in the summer as the cold months, too!
Until next time,
P.S. The deadline for the Mystery Knit-A-Long kits is this Friday May 26th at midnight! Click over here to check out more details or get yours ordered in time for the June 16th cast on!
P.P.S. Love summer yarns? I’ve got a few planned for the Yarn Year Round Club, and final signups are coming soon! Want to know when they open for July subscription? Enter your details in the form below to get the updates!