Summer yarns for knitting and crochet

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What are the best summer yarns for knitting and crochet? Knitting and crochet can be used to create more than just cozy winter wear. With spring approaching, it’s the perfect time to start thinking about making light and floaty things to wear. The secret to knitting and crocheting summer clothes is to use fine yarns. They should be in absorbent, wicking plant based yarns and wool and plant yarn mixes.

Text reads What are the best summer yarns for knitting  and crochet?

 Image shows young woman in Breeze over Greenore summer vest top

Image shows the Breeze over Greenore Crochet vest, perfect for spring, summer and autumn

(TL,DR version: DK or finer yarns in plant based fibres, or plant based/wool mixes. They can be any kind of garment you like. But think about see-thoroughness of crochet stitches and next-to-skin qualities of the yarns)

This blog post will look at:

  1. The best yarn weights for summer knitting and crochet
  2. The best yarn composition for warm weather crochet and knitting
  3. The best kind of garments to make for a sustainable slow fashion summer wardrobe.

The best yarn weights for summer knitting and crochet

Text reads: The best yarn weights for summer garments
fingering/4 ply weight
sport weight
lace weight
Double knit
occasionally worsted or Aran weight cotton

Summer clothes are all about fine thin fabrics.  And the easiest way to get that, is by using thinner yarns. But, to many people, fine yarn can be intimidating.

When I was a child, my mother never knitted with anything thinner than double knitting yarn. She said that the finer yarns took too long. She used Aran or chunky weight whenever she could, and never allowed fingering weight yarns to come into our house. So I grew up with a little bit of a prejudice against thinner yarns. Many years later I switched from knitting to crochet. At that point I began to ask myself questions about some of these funny beliefs I had. I began experimenting with finer yarn, only to discover what utter joy can lie therein. In particular, they can have fantastic potential for summer garments. (And great potential for warm layering garments for winter too, but more about that another day.)

Fine yarns can be worked up on thicker knitting needles needles or crochet hooks for open, loose summer garments

The best time to experiment with finer yarns is for summer garments. These will have a looser tension, and may be worked on the same needles or hooks as a thicker yarn. Therefore work up just as quickly.

In the picture shown I made the child’s top for age 8-10 years in 3 days. The adults top in size XL took 5 days. They are made in BC Garn Bio Balance and worked on a 3.5mm crochet hook. The yarn used is a wonderful fingering weight yarn. The style and stitches used for this summer top mean that the project still flies off the hook.

The Marley Park Summer Tee in Rosaries 4 Belmonte,
Image shows child wearing a knitted tee, playing in the park

In other words, Summer garments are a great opportunity to fall in love with what a finer yarn has to offer. A project in double knit yarn on 4mm needles or crochet hook will take the same amount of stitches and time as a project in fingering weight yarn but on the same needles or hook.

So, contrary to what my mother so firmly believed, fine yarns don’t necessarily need to take longer. If they are worked up on larger knitting needles or crochet hooks, they can be just as quick. This allows us to knit up fine, smooth, drapey yarns quickly, and appreciate how wonderful they feel and look. (And when they do take longer, is it not worth it for the wonderful extra softness and fineness form a fine yarn?)

Yarns for knitting and crochet for chilly summer evenings

However, even the hottest days can turn into chilly evenings. That’s why it can be helpful to think about incorporating slightly thicker yarns into your summer wardrobe. Worsted weight yarns can be used to create a cozy evening cardigan or shawl that you can throw over your shoulders to keep the ocean breeze at bay on a perfect summers evening.

The best yarn fibres for summer garments

I spend way too much time thinking about questions like ‘Why do humans wear clothes anyway? What is their actual purpose, and how can I incorporate that into my designs?’

But, the truth is, we wear clothes for a reason, and fast fashion often pushes us away from thinking about that, so as to get us buying useless items that don’t fulfil our needs. So we then buy even more stuff, as our needs aren’t met.

Summer yarns for knitting and crochet - best composition:
cotton
Linen
Bamboo or Tencel
Nettle
Hemp
Wool

Why wear clothes, anyway?

Clothing serves the primary purpose of shielding us from the elements. In hot weather, we need to consider how we can safeguard ourselves from the sun’s heat. This is where simple T-shirts come in handy. When it comes to warm-weather clothing, we need garments that help keep our bodies cool. Unfortunately, many synthetic fabrics today do not have this property.

The first question we should ask ourselves is whether or not a particular fabric wicks moisture away from the body. In other words, if we put a strand of the fabric into water, would the whole strand become wet, and would the water travel up the yarn?

How summer yarns keep us cool – a simple experiment

This is a simple experiment that can be conducted in the kitchen. Dip the ends of the yarn into a dish of water and observe how much of it gets wet. Wool swells up when it comes into contact with water, but the water does not travel up the strand of wool. This means that wool wicks water in a specific way. However, it can absorb water, which helps keep the body feeling comfortable and dry. Plant-based fibers, such as cotton or linen, on the other hand, have excellent wicking properties. They not only absorb water but also move it away from the body. This means that the end of the strand of plant yarn, even a distance away from the dish of water, will become wet, because the water will have travelled up and moved away through the yarn.

It also means that when you wear an absorbent fabric on a hot day, you will be cooler than if you weren’t wearing any clothing, as the cotton or linen fabric actively helps cool you down.

Synthetic filers like acrylic or polyester have unpredictable abilities when it comes to moisture-wicking. They are not suitable for keeping us cool since they lack the properties of natural fibers. Wearing clothes made of these fibers in the summer will make us feel hot and uncomfortable, forcing us to increase our air conditioning usage. In the winter, they do not retain heat well either. This is why it is crucial to wear clothing made of natural fibers during both summer and winter, and avoid those made from petrol sludge.

Cotton

The Caitlyn Henley to s designed for pure cotton yarn, and it's free if you sign up for my newsletter!

Cotton is a popular plant-based fiber used in yarns today. It’s a great option for summer yarn for knitting and crochet due to its absorbent properties. Cotton wicks moisture away from the body, keeping you cool and comfortable. Plus, fine, thin cotton feels soft against the skin. However, there are some concerns surrounding the ethical issues of cotton production, such as the unknown origins of the cotton and labor conditions for workers. Heavy water usage in cotton production can also have negative environmental impacts. While cotton is a better option than acrylic, it’s important to consider the potential consequences of its production.

Even if we recognize that cotton production has its issues, buying cheaper cotton yarn and making summer clothes is still a more environmentally and socially conscious decision for those who don’t have the means to buy expensive yarns, or dedicate hours to research yarn properties. It’s a way to be more eco-friendly and supportive of social justice than buying synthetic summer clothes from a store.

Linen

The Little Dargle summer footsie sock knitting pattern

Linen, a natural yarn, has been used for a much longer than cotton. Its use use dates back to pre-history. It grows well inside the EU and around the globe, and so unlike cotton, does not need to be imported from parts of the world with social justice concerns. Linen is known for its strength and durability, making it a popular choice for tablecloths, garments, and other items that can last for over a century. It has been used as a yarn for summer knitting and crochet for centuries. Unlike synthetic fabrics, linen stands the test of time. The oldest knitting found in Ireland was a pair of stockings knitted by hand using linen yarn.

An issue with linen that can put people off who haven’t tried it before is that new linen can be stiff and unyielding for knitting or crochet. But it softens (quite dramatically) with age. Every wash and wear softens the fabric, making it the most luxurious garment in your wardrobe after a period of wearing and washing.

Nettle

Rami is the name of the fabric or yarn that we have gotten from nettles for almost all of human history; these were a significant source of fiber and fabric worldwide. In recent years, they have become less popular, and people just think of stinging nettles and don’t imagine it would be nice to wear, whereas, in fact, they still have a huge amount to offer for lightweight and summer yarns.

The humble nettle adds a shimmer and shine to any yarn in which it’s included, as well as adding great levels of strength, durability, and softness. So, if you find yourself considering a yarn to make a summer top that includes some nettle, I would strongly encourage you to give it a try, and you might be very pleasantly surprised.

Hemp

Hemp is a versatile fiber that can enhance the strength and absorbency of any yarn. It is particularly well-suited for summer crafting projects. Although it was once popular, hemp fell out of favor for a time due to pressures from colonial and racist capitalist industries, which sought to maintain control over the production of fibers and discouraged the use of organic materials produced by indigenous populations. However, in recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in hemp as a sustainable and eco-friendly material.

Bamboo and tencel

Text Reads: The Summer in Carlingford Pullover is made in double knitting bamboo yarn

Image shows 2 women wearing the pullover crochet pattern

The Summer in Carlingford summer pullover

Plant-based synthetic yarns have been a topic of debate due to their synthetic nature, despite being made entirely from plant-based raw materials. Yarns like bamboo and tensel fall under this category and are manufactured using a similar process to acrylic. The raw material, obtained from wood, is dissolved in chemicals and reformed into yarn. While some may not trust these yarns, and highlight the dangers of artificial, chemical based fibres, I believe science has a role in finding eco-friendly solutions and moving away from petroleum-based fibers like acrylic and polyester. We should applaud companies and scientists researching and developing new ways to mitigate the ecological disaster we are facing. However, I am open to changing my stance if I come across evidence contradicting my current views.

Wool

The Series Summer Top for adults and children in BC Barn Bio Ballance

Wool is my favorite material for knitting or crocheting. Even though it’s mostly used in winter, it can still be a great option for summer yarns. Wool provides elasticity, stretch, and softness that pure plant-based fibers cannot match. Currently, I’m working on two summer patterns using a fine-weight yarn that is a blend of wool and plant-based fibers.

For my 2024 summer collection, I am using BC Garn Bio Balance, a high-quality Gots-certified yarn made of 55% organic wool and 45% organic cotton. Despite its quality, the pattern is still affordable due to the fantastic yardage of the yarn. The 45% cotton keeps the yarn cool and perfect for hot summer days, while the 55% wool provides stretch, elasticity, and softness. My second pattern is made from Rosarios 4 Belmonte, another Gots-certified 100% organic yarn. This yarn is a perfect blend of 50% wool and 50% organic cotton, and like the first pattern, has a fantastic yardage. You can make the pattern for a reasonable cost due to fewer required schemes.

The best knitted or crocheted garments for summer

The best knitted and crocheted garments for summer
cool tee shorts
floaty cardigans and tops
sun hats
light, absorbent socks
drapes scarves, shawls and wraps

When it comes to crocheting for summer, there are a few things to consider. Firstly, since we tend to wear fewer layers in hot weather, it’s important to choose yarns that won’t feel too scratchy against our skin. For winter wear, this isn’t such a concern, but for summer garments that will be in direct contact with our skin, we want to opt for softer, more comfortable yarns. Additionally, we should be mindful of the stitches we use, as many crochet stitches can be quite see-through and lacy. While this can be an advantage for generating warmth in winter, it may not be ideal for summer wear where we don’t want to wear too many layers. So, when choosing yarns and stitches for summer crochet projects, it’s important to keep these things in mind to ensure that our garments are comfortable, practical, and suitable for the season.

The Eniskerry Garden Cardigan is worn over a little tank top, so most of it is next to skin. It is important that it is in a soft, absorbent comfortable yarn.

By Ciara

I learned to knit as a young child, and came to crochet much later in life when I could no longer knit. Sharing the joy of crochet with sustainability and slow fashion in mind is a passion

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