Summer Sweater 101 April 3, 2014 – Posted in: Project Ideas, Thursday This and That

When I am looking outside my office window right now, I can see blue sky. The sun actually provides some warmth and it feels like we are finally on the way to warmer weather. (The wind is still a witch with a b.) It seems my strategy of knitting a sweater in linen while Winter is still raging is paying off – it will be indeed done by the time the weather lets me wear it.

Today I am going to give you some hints and tips what to look out for when knitting a summer sweater. As I have mentioned before, designers like to play with gauge, especially when it comes to summer knitting. Very often a thinner yarn is knit up at a looser gauge than recommended on the label, which in return gives you an easy, breezy fabric that mostly does not react the same way as when knit up at a tighter gauge. You’ll see a lot of fingering and sport weight yarn knit up at a gauge of for example 20 sts instead of 24-28. A loosely knit fabric has a lot more drape and is also more stretchy than the tighter variation. Depending on the material this will affect your finished garment.

It can be explained – or rather: reasoned – by the fact that cotton, linen and the like have no stretch in itself. Meaning, a sweater knit in wool – even at a tighter gauge – will stretch differently than a sweater knit in cotton. A wool sweater will go back to the original measurements on its own – wool has what we like to call ‘memory’. Cotton is forgetful, there’s no memory to be had. Once the sweater is stretched by wearing, it will only go back to its original size by washing. Or think about those linen pants that fit quite well when you put them on but during the day the stretch in different places and stay that way. Knitted linen summer sweaters react about the same.

I cannot emphasize enough the necessity of (eye rolling ahead) knitting a swatch and washing said swatch. Depending on the material the fabric can stretch lengthwise, making for more stitches per 4″, or in width, making it less stitches per 4″. Another thing I do when knitting a summer sweater: I do rely heavily on row gauge. I count my rows per inch, and when the pattern says: knit until piece measures 10″ I calculate how many rows I am supposed to knit instead of measuring, meaning, if 5 rows make 1″, I knit only 50 rows – no matter if the piece measures 10″ already or only 8.5″. Reason for this is the ‘after’ effect. After washing the whole sweater is going to have the same row gauge as my washed swatch. If the swatch stretched lengthwise and I do not account for that, the sweater will stretch too much in length, and instead of 10″ I have all of a sudden 12″.

I know, I know, this seems like a lot of work, I insist on saying: It isn’t. Put in the extra time and you’ll end up with a garment you want to wear. The knitting will be just as enjoyable, just let it precede by some thought for the finished project before plowing ahead.

Here are some of my favorites, found, as usual, on ravelry:

Harpswell Apron by Pam Allen – not a sweater, but I am intrigued. This is definitely in my queue. (Yes, I do have the yarn sitting and waiting.) It is knit in Quince Sparrow, an organic linen, and yes, we do have it at the store.

Picture from here

Whispers by Veera Välimäki – we have a store sample! We used Handmaiden Seasilk, but you do not have to. The gauge is 20 sts/4″ – lots of choices to be had.



Maja – Kiito by Marita Rolin – Habu Tsumugi Silk is perfect for this!

Picture from here

If you are looking for some summer knitting, also check out the latest Knit.Wear – lots and lots of possibilities!

Happy knitting, as ever!

– Mona