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Summer Knitting: Five Simple Strategies for Success

It’s May here in Ventura, which means summer heat is not far off. If you’re a casual knitter, you might assume there’s no point to knitting during summer. After all, it’s hot. Who wants to make and wear knits in the heat?

But oh, my friend, you would be wrong.

See, knitting isn’t a winter sport like skiing or snowshoeing. No, it can be​ an all-year-round activity, and it just requires a couple adjustments to keep going even through the worst of the heat. Here are some of the ways I make sure I can enjoy my summer knitting.

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Three pairs of socks—one mint green, one pink, and one green with brown and yellow speckles—are laid out in a staggered stairstep fashion on top of a white marble countertop. They're surrounded by small white roses.

A Caveat about Summer Knitting

Every time this topic comes up, I often see some version of the following response: 

Why do we have to keep knitting through summer? It’s okay to honor seasonal shifts and to set aside winter activities for wintertime. Why are we so obsessed with being productive all the time?

But for me and for many other knitters, that’s not what’s driving this at all. I genuinely love knitting and find a lot of comfort in it. It’s a soothing activity that slows my racing mind, and it’s something I can do in social situations to keep from fidgeting in less helpful ways (like tearing apart paper napkins or clicking pen lids).

In other words, I’m not spending my hot summer days buried under piles of yarn because I have some misplaced need to keep producing at all times, nor am I fighting against the natural rhythms of life. I keep knitting during the summer season because for me, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

If that’s the case for you, too, then this blog post is full of ideas for you. If you don’t identify with those feelings, though, it’s okay to set aside the needles and come back in the fall. There’s no value judgment here either way, just some tips and tricks for people who share the same needs I have.

1. Make small projects. 

One of the worst things about knitting in hot weather is that it overheats you. That only really happens, though, if you’re making something large enough to insulate your body while you’re working on it. 

If you make small things, like socks, mitts, and hats, the summer heat isn’t such a problem. Those little garments give you the stitching opportunities you crave without putting the weight of a sweater or blanket in your lap.

Here are some of my favorite small designs that are perfect for summer knitting:

Comity Socks

Lucida Socks

Madeleine Hat DK

Prograde Orbit Mitts

If you’re more of a garment knitter, don’t worry, there are lots of options for summer tops that are a little lighter and easier to wear. You can knit tank tops or tshirts (I just finished Samantha Guerin’s Salty Air Tee–more on that soon), too. Those will generally be smaller than a giant cardigan or even many of the wintry pullovers with long sleeves.

2. Make summer knits that can be pieced together

Look, I know a lot of us love a good, top-down, seamless sweater, but those things are big and heavy. That can make them kind of unpleasant to work on during summer.

What you can do, though, is knit sweaters that are seamed together later. Working on a front panel or a sleeve is much less yarn in your hands and on your lap at any one time. Much like the smaller items recommended above, this is a great way to keep working on projects without having the full bulk in your lap.

If you want to make a blanket, instead of choosing one that’s knit in one large piece, look for one that’s knit in strips or patches that are seamed together at a later date. Save the seaming for evening or later in the year when the weather has cooled off.

These types of projects are great for those of us who really prefer working with warmer fibers, like merino wool, or who are knitting items for use later in the year when it’s cool again. 

A modular project can also be a great project for travel knitting because you don’t have to bring the entire thing with you. For example, if you’re working on a sweater, you can bring the back panels on a trip and leave the front/sleeves at home.

A white woman's hand holds up a light green shawl in progress on the knitting needles. Blurred in the background is lots of greenery and a speaker giving a presentation to a small crowd.
Summertime knitting at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in 2023. We got to learn about frogs and toads, and then go on a firefly walk.

3. Change the fiber of your summer knits. 

We all have our favorite fibers, and even though I live in Southern California, I’m really partial to wool. I just love its springiness and its texture and its pretty sheen.

Wool is actually surprisingly good to use in warm weather because of its sweat-wicking properties, but I’ve learned to enjoy working with linen, cotton, and bamboo yarn, too. I don’t really like anything thicker than a DK yarn in those fibers because they tend to get pretty heavy. A fingering-weight linen tee, though, can be really pleasant.

There’s an extra benefit to this idea: after you finish your project, you can keep wearing it through the summer months instead of putting it away until the weather cools off.

Here are some of my favorite plant-based yarns that are each an excellent choice for summer knitting:

  1. Katia Lino, a 100% linen yarn that softens beautifully with washing (this is my new favorite summer yarn, but I don’t recommend it for everyone—see below)
  2. Tahki Yarns Tiburon, which blends organic cotton and lyocell (50% each)
  3. Knit Picks CotLin (affiliate link), an affordable blend of linen and cotton with a great range of colors

You’ll notice there are a lot of linen-blend yarns on that list. That’s on purpose. Pure linen has stunning drape, but it can be a real bear to work with. If your hands are prone to aches or you dislike rougher yarns, I recommend choosing a blend for your summer clothing.

You can also try knitting with silk yarn, like Knitting for Olive Pure Silk. This yarn is a light-weight yarn that’s great for a summer sweater or other knit top to wear on hot days. If you’re feeling experimental, you can also work it up at a looser gauge than recommended. The resulting fabric will be a little less durable but it will also be more breathable, and silk fabrics are soft against the skin.

Knitting yourself a summer wardrobe can be uncomfortable if you have the wrong fibers in the mix. I’d suggest avoiding mohair, alpaca, or anything else spectacularly warm and fuzzy. With the right yarn, though, you’ll find yourself whizzing along through some great summer knits.

4. Change the time of day you stitch. 

This is kind of a last resort, admittedly, but sometimes it helps to embrace the natural rhythms of the day. If it is just too blazing hot once the sun is fully up, you can try knitting in the early morning or in the evening. When the sun has gone down, or before it’s had a chance to really heat up the world, you can get in a little stitching time and stay comfortable.

This is one of my favorite strategies during true heatwaves because residential air conditioning wasn’t common here until relatively recently. Our house stays pretty comfortable if we keep the shutters closed during the worst of the heat, but sometimes, even that’s just not enough to keep me cool enough while knitting. When a strong heat wave hits, even the perfect summer yarn and a small project aren’t enough to defeat a truly hot day. I adjust accordingly.

5. Do some summer knitting near the water.

If you can, take your knitting to the beach—the ocean, the lake, the river, whatever. If you’re near a body of water, it’ll do.

I have a pop-up sun shelter that I take to the beach on sunny days (sun protection is serious business) and tuck myself inside it while my kiddo builds sand castles. 

It’s always cooler at the beach, especially when the afternoon breeze comes in off the water. Being near the water also means I can duck in and cool off quickly whenever I need to.

A light green knit shawl in progress sits on a floral blanket on the beach. Blurred in the background are soft ocean waves.
Knitting on my favorite blanket at the beach on Santa Cruz Island.

Mary G.

Thursday 16th of June 2022

Most of the time in the Summer you’ll find me knitting small projects indoors with the air conditioner cranked up as it gets really hot in the Northern Central Valley of California.

Lauren Rad

Wednesday 22nd of June 2022

Oh yes, does it ever! We regularly drove up the 5 from Ventura when I was a kid to visit my cousins in Placerville, and we used to stick our hands on the windows of the car to feel how hot it was outside.

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