3 Fibers for Summer

Happy belated Independence Day to my U.S. readers. I hope you enjoyed your day off; I know I did.

However, as we endure our 8th day in a row with heat indexes over 100 degrees (roughly 38 C) and no end in sight, I find myself tiring of hot, sweaty large projects. While alpaca is generally one of my favorite fibers, the thought of it in this weather makes me whimper. Since I know much of the U.S., at least, is currently embroiled (yes, that is a deliberate pun) in the same heat wave, and that many are not lucky enough to have functional air conditioning at the moment, I thought I’d share my 3 favorite fibers for sweltering summer heat.

Fibers it’s not currently too hot to knit with:

1. Silk (and blends)

anna tank

Pattern is my adaptation of “Twins-Anna” by Rebecca Hatcher

I actually prefer pure silk, but let’s be realistic. I’m a teacher; silk is almost never in the budget. Silk blends are a nice alternative, and the picture above is a silk-bamboo blend, which is especially nice. Silk has a lovely drape and sheen, and the sort of gorgeous, intense color saturation I adore. It is strong, tolerates humidity/damp well, very rarely causes allergies or skin irritation (which is why it’s popular in surgical sutures). Additionally, it has a bizarre ability to apparently defy physics and keep you cool in summer while simultaneously keeping you warm in winter.

2. Cotton blends

lovely tank

Pattern is my own “Lovely”

I personally find 100% cotton hurts my hands if I’m knitting or crocheting anything larger than a potholder. Cotton blends, on the other hand, are fantastic. I’ve seen cotton blended with any number of other fibers including the full range of synthetics. Cotton-linen is a popular blend, and I’ve even seen cotton-wool for more autumnal projects. Pure cotton is cool, breathable, machine washable, and has no memory. A good blend can have just about any characteristic the crafter wishes. Because the U.S. continues to be a leader in growing and processing cotton, it also remains one of the cheaper fibers available to North American knitters.

3. Linen

broken rib tank

Pattern is “Broken Rib Tank” by Kristen TenDyke

Linen is a newer discovery for me, although I know it’s been a staple of European summers for centuries. It is one of the earliest known man-made fibers, and one of the simplest to grow. At first I was put off by the initial stiffness of linen, but it really does soften with wear (and repeated washing). This is a fiber you definitely DO want to put in the dryer. I’ve found that even though it softens considerably and develops a nice drape, linen retains a certain “crisp” feeling, for lack of a better term, that makes me feel fresh and put together even when the rest of me is wilted and steamy.

So, there you have my personal favorites. There are certainly other warm weather options, not to mention the option of using your cold weather yarns for tiny non-wearables like toys and home decor. If you’re a garment knitter like myself though, I hope this gives you some ideas to beat the heat without giving up your precious knitting time!


16 responses to this post.

  1. I LOVE linen! It feels great in summer. I mostly knit it into stockinette garments, because then I can iron it on a high setting which gives the fabric a lovely sheen.


  2. Posted by caityrosey on July 5, 2012 at 11:04 am

    Bethinks I need to break out my iron. Don’t make fun of me, but I’ve owned one for nearly 10 years and never taken it out of the box.


    • That’s all right, I didn’t even own an iron until my husband moved in. Steaming generally works just fine for my purposes.


      • Posted by caityrosey on July 5, 2012 at 12:45 pm

        How does steaming knitted garments work for you? Do you ever worry about them stretching? I assume you have to be pretty careful, depending on the fiber.

      • Any stretching that’s going to happen usually happens regardless of steaming, just because I live on the coast and it gets sticky here. So as long as I don’t tug hard enough to tear fiber it’s generally not a problem. Honestly, a nice smoothing motion generally does it for knitwear anyway; I don’t usually have to tug at all.

  3. I love your knitwear! Here in Vegas, linen, cotton blends and silk blends are also great for the extremely oppressive heat, and their drape is fantastic. I know what you mean with pure cotton yarn hurting your hands…I feel like my hands are as dry as jerky when I work with it, especially the heavier it is. I also had no idea about ironing linen (I will be careful reWOLLuzza, as you warned), that sounds awesome.


    • I’ve actually taken to just keeping a bottle of lotion beside me when I’m working with a lot of cotton. I feel like it also makes my wrists hurt more than normal though, maybe because it doesn’t have much give.


  4. Good suggestions!


  5. […] week I commented at feelgoodknitting on a posting about linen yarn and how I treat it. There were some follow-up comments and since I had […]


  6. […] one often surprises people, particularly if you recall that I also recommended silk in my summer fibers post. Silk’s innate  absorbency makes it ideal to wear close to the skin in summer, but its low […]


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