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Unlike the rest of the country, I live in a city where the seasons don’t adhere to something like a calendar. In San Francisco, one day in June could be foggy grey or sunny with a wind vortex sucking in the parked marine layer. In addition, the city’s topography creates very distinct microclimates. I’ve looked out my bedroom window located at the back of the house, dressed for the day, only to find a completely different temperature outside the front door. Anyone who’s visited this city by the bay knows that’s only a tiny exaggeration.

This makes dressing in layers compulsory and has turned me into an enthusiast of the summer sweater. That light, extra layer over a sleeveless top means never taking a cloudless, blue sky at face value.

Sonya is wearing: Raglan shrug (her own pattern) in Svale by Dale of Norway; 100 ACTS OF SEWING Dress no. 1; and Pants no. 1.


The summer sweater. It’s like a contradiction in stitches. Knitting is warmth and wool, evoking cozy images of sitting indoors by the fire, with a cat or small dog curled at your side. For me, the summer Rowan or Interweave Knits never elicited the same keen hunger as those thick pages of the fall and winter issues. There should be a saying, as empty as a wool shop in July.

Nette by Julie Weisenberger in Habu Nerimaki Ito; 100 acts of sewing Dress no. 1 and Skirt no. 1.


So what to wear when it’s not wool weather? Cotton seems to have bit of a bad reputation. Maybe it’s a holdover from all those oversize sweater designs from the 80s or the way it loudly broadcasts tension inconsistencies as you’re knitting. Cotton isn’t a forgiving fiber. Working with cotton, along with its close cousin linen, is hard on the hands. As a hobby, knitting should generally be a pleasant way to pass the time and not a painful struggle. My prescription for making friends with plant fibers: going slowly, taking frequent breaks, and don’t use wooden needles. Hard blocking or washing can help restore your stretched-out cotton and linen handknits.

Knitting Pure & Simple #294 Summer Open Cardigan in Linen Print by Rowan; Bias-cut dress with contrast yoke + hem; and 100 acts of sewing Pants no. 1.


Silk is another fiber choice for creating lightweight wear. With silk, there’s a tendency to pigeon-hole it into the single category of shiny. Along with that sheen comes a slipperiness, the sort where looking at a stitch the wrong way may cause it to fall off the tip of your needle and plummet twenty rows down in a matter of milliseconds. Thank goodness for nubby raw silks and the magic of blending fibers, because there’s just something so beautiful in the way silk takes dye and makes the colors glisten.

Featherweight Cardigan by Hannah Fettig in Tahki Jeans; Bias-cut dress with contrast yoke; and linen pants


Even for those living in places where the barometer is almost always in the region of sweltering, there are occasions where a summer sweater can be put to use. A colorful shrug will help ward off that indoor air conditioned chill or an evening breeze. The large open-work of lace stitches can add interest when worn over a simple sheath.

Goodale by Cecily Glowik MacDonald in Rowan Purelife Cotton DK; 100 ACTS OF SEWING Dress no. 1; Pants no. 1.


All this is to say, whether your summer is balmy or blustery, we could always look to sheep for an answer: wear wool whatever the temperature, simply less of it.

About The Author

Sonya Philip is an artist, designer, teacher, and the author of The Act of Sewing. She has made it her mission to convince people to make their own clothes, by teaching classes and selling patterns. When not covered in bits of thread, she can be found knitting another shawl or cardigan. Sonya lives in San Francisco with her family and their scruffy terrier duo, Willie and Hazel.


  • These sweaters are all so cute! I want them all in my closet now! Oh wait, I have to knit them. Sigh. I should have started last month.

    • I hear you! I am always about a month behind, my past self is always super ambitious. If only I could figure out how to knit while sleeping.

  • Sonya, you are amazing! Thanks for the suggestions and photos.

    • Thank you so much Janet, that is so very sweet of you! Glad you liked this month’s column.

  • Sonya, I’m in love with your style. I might even dust off my sewing machine. Thanks for being an inspiration.

    • Oh Donna, thank *you* that just makes my day. So glad to hear your sewing machine will be out and stitching!

  • I like to wake up on Monday to beautiful inspiration!

    • Thank you Elizabeth Ann, hope you’re having a beautiful week!

  • Just beautiful. I love all the happy colors.

    • Thank you Eloise! And you’re right about happy colors, I love them and that’s what I plan on writing about next month. Stay tuned!!

  • I love every outfit! Thank you so much for sharing your artistic talent with us.

    • You’re so welcome Tasha, thank you for your lovely comment.

  • Oh I love your style so much! Very creative and fun! I’m wondering where you got your awesome teal blue clogs, what brand are they? I want a pair!

    • Thank you, thank you! Since knitting and sewing my clothes, getting dressed is very fun. My clogs are Troentorps and the color is actually more of a green – I love and highly recommend them.

  • Another great post from Sonya! Inspired by the fabulous mix of pattern in the fashion show.

    • Thank you Liz!! I do love my prints 🙂

  • Inspiring! I am just starting to sew. It’s a great way develop your own style.

    • Absolutely agree with you one hundred percent there Michelle – there’s just so much good fabric and yarn out there, just asking to be made into something. Enjoy your sewing!

  • I am reading this timely post while wearing my ancient Rowan Summer Tweed V-neck and mourning the loss of this yarn, which was the perfect match for San Francisco Bay Area summers has been discontinued. This, my friends, is why we knitters keep a stash, Konmari be damned.

    • The tweeds and colors from Rowan during the early 2000s were just SO GOOD. When you find that perfect match, the cruelty of it being discontinued hits very hard. I myself am in mourning for Rowanspun DK. Laura, we are Sisters in Stash.

    • I have some lovely stashed Summer Tweed in light green that needs to be knitted, acquired in 2006 at the Yarnery in St. Paul, MN!

      • A very fine vintage Julie. I’m a believer in letting the yarn whisper what it needs to be. And sometimes, this takes, um, a long time!!

  • Amazing!! Sonya has inspired me to start sewing! I aspire to have a completely handmade wardrobe!

    • That’s fantastic to hear! I started slowly with dresses, moving on to pants and skirts. I had my sweaters and shawls already covered from years of knitting. As I was sewing more, I would swap out my clothes, donating my old, store bought clothes for my handmade ones. It is really wonderful to be able to make what I want.

  • Beautiful work! I am so happy to learn of Sonya’s work and to be reminded that the hand crafts work in all seasons.

    My mum taught me and my sister to use her sewing machine, to make our own clothes, to alter and tailor clothes we bought, to hand sew a seam and a hem, to knit and crochet. And macrame, too! I am grateful for those lessons in the value of hand work.

    • Thank you so much and I love hearing about your mum’s lessons. I learned a lot about making things from both my parents as well as in school. I think these lessons are really important, not only because of their practicality, but also how empowering these skills are – that value as you mentioned. As an aside, I learned macrame as well and see that it is becoming popular once more. Time really is circular. Enjoy your making Tiffanie!

  • Love your dresses

    • Thank you so much Tania!

  • Such great sweaters! Such great style! Also, I live on the Oregon Coast where a summer sweater or sweatshirt or other jacket situation is always appropriate, especially after the 5 o’clock “breeze” comes up! I find that Elsebeth Lavold’s Silky Wool is a good choice for those non-winter garments.

    • Thank you Laura! The Oregon Coast is SO beautiful. I was just in Cannon Beach last Thanksgiving, such a beautiful part of the world. I’ve visited during the summer and we weren’t prepared and needed to buy raincoats! Oh my. Your comment reminds me, I have some Silky Wool in my stash that should come out and become a sweater.

  • Oh, I love your style! I am also inspired to dust off my sewing machine. I’m in a knitting rut at the moment so this inspiration is timely.

    • Thank you! I am a true believer in the craft-tandem of knitting and sewing. And hurrah for dusting off sewing machines!!

  • The Goodale pattern has been in my Rav queue since August 2010, thanks for the reminder – maybe it’s time to start knitting it!

    • It’s a sweet pattern and very wearable. A friend and I had a tiny knitalong otherwise it would still be in my queue. That reminds me to look at Ravelry and blow out the ol’ queue cobwebs.

  • Great array of cardies there. Good to see them in the wild with real outfits I would wear!

    • Thank you Romney, I am a bona fide cardigan lover! They’re really such a great piece for layering.

  • Oh my gosh, every outfit you are wearing is so sunny and happy and fun – I want every one of them! I am currently in a bit of a knitting/crochet rut (partly because of the summer-weather-wool thing you describe) but I am very new to sewing and this makes me want to use this summer to get on my sewing machine more! (Too bad sewing isn’t more portable – a real plus for knitting/crochet.) I must make some of these adorable dresses and pants in a bunch of pretty contrasting prints! It is my dream to have my closet full of some homemade outfits – it wont prevent me from still shopping, I’m a very slow crafter – but I can dream of that future day of fantastic homemade outfits!

    • Thank you so much Wanda! I sometimes think it’s like a fairy tale craft curse – Knitting: You will be portable and great in social situations, but mostly very slow! Sewing: You will require concentration, space and special machines, but be very fast! That’s why I think they work really well together and not because I tend to be a bit of a craft magpie, hopping from one shiny new project to the next. I don’t do that, who does that? I wish your handmade wardrobe dreams become a reality and that you enjoy starting to sew this summer!

      • Please tell me you have a boutique shop that sells these awesome wardrobe options for those of us with no sewing talent!!

  • I am so in love with the dresses. Totally planning to break my fabric moratorium for them.

    • Thank you so much Cathy! Oh fabric moratoriums, I am inching towards one of those VERY SOON!

  • LOVE your style and am currently perusing the 100 Acts of Sewing site. These are exactly the kinds of clothes I’m gravitating towards as a “woman of a certain age”. Linen, linen, linen! Funky prints, etc.
    Thank you!

    • Thank you so much Wendy! I’m really glad that you’re embracing the prints and linen – clearly my favorites! I seem to remember reading a MDK letter Kay wrote about Big Linen Shirts and nodding in the street to other women wearing the BLS. We will all be handmade members now!

  • Sonya I love your photos and yes the backdrops are amazing ! Cheers and Thank You for comfy inspiring patterns and projects

    • That is so sweet of you Kelly Ann, thank you so much! And I have to admit, my family now knows the drill, if I do a sudden stop, it must be because I want a photo taken.

  • Sonya – I can’t say anything that hasn’t already been said, but must get out my pom-poms and chime in. I LOVE your happy look. Wow!

    • Thank you Tamara, life is too short to be unhappy about your clothes – wear colorful ones I say! And I heart your pompoms.

  • The movie theater I frequent is FREEZING inside, so if you dress for the weather, you suffer through the film if you don’t bring something to wrap up in. I definitely need a summer sweater there. Thx for the ideas!

    • I was *just* talking about this with someone earlier this week. It can be hard to concentrate if your teeth are chattering!

  • Adorable. Wearable. Inspirational.

    • Thank you so much Joy!

  • This made me smile today, so fun! You are inspirational.

    • That is so very sweet of you Josephine, thank you!

  • She’s my fashion hero! Great style and individuality!

    • Fashion hero, you are TOO kind. Thank you!!

  • Is there a pattern available for the scrumptious bias cut dresses?

    • Hi Susan, there isn’t a pattern for it specifically, but I will be posting a tutorial for how to make one using my Dress no. 1 pattern.

      • I too love this bias dress w/contrasting pockets & neckline. If I have the Dress no. 1 pattern, will your posted tutorial give enough info to make this beautiful dress? Or hey, maybe its time for a new pattern!? Yes, please!! Um, giddyup!, I’m ready NOW Mxo

      • Awesome!!! Time to bust out the sewing machine!

  • Sonya’s raglan shrug is so elegant and classic. Any chance she’d make the pattern available?

    • I’m so sorry to butcher your name, Larue not Laurie! My goodness.

    • Thank you Laurie! It’s based on Knitting Pure & Simple pattern # 294, the Summer Open Cardigan. The sleeves and body are both shorter.

  • Love your style! I’ve had the dress #1 pattern for awhile and need to break that out. Do you have any good suggestions for where to buy fabric in the Bay Area? Mostly, I see thinner quilting cottons here in San Jose. Thanks!

    • Hi Thea, I love A Verb for Keeping Warm in Berkeley and Stonemountain and Daughter in Berkeley. Also if you like a bit of adventure, Fabric Outlet in the Mission can have some surprises, usually a good selection of linens.

  • I love Sonya’s style! I have two of her patterns. I just have to get up the courage to cut into the fabric. And I bought the Goodale sweater pattern on Ravelry . . .

    • I know *exactly* what you mean. It’s kind of hard to get your mind around the finality of cutting fabric when compared to knitting and yarn. But I highly recommend taking the plunge! And hurrah for Goodale, it’s a lovely and very wearable sweater.

  • I am now cardigan crazy. Such a great piece, Sonya!

    • Sorry, not sorry – thank you Anne!!

  • Ok. I know I found your blog late, but my goodness; I love your style! You are so creative with your clothing. And it all works and looks good; ( I never use the word ‘creative’ to mean ‘odd’, or ‘ bizarre’, which sadly, often is the case when people attempt to be ‘creative’ with their clothing. )You have style. I am so impressed. I am promptly going to go away and start copying some of what you’ve done here. Beautiful work.

  • Would love to purchase the pattern for Sonya Philip’s Raglan Shrug, is it available?

  • Sonya,
    I am so happy I was surfing the internet for patterns that are simple and fun.
    I found you and your patterns and bought them all!!
    I have read every article you have written and it really changed my thoughts on sewing to please me and for once I was comfortable in my clothes.
    Now I am going to start collecting your knitting patterns.
    Thanks so much …..what a breath of fresh air you are

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