Wear What You Make: The Summer Sweater
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.