I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling like a roast in the oven. A heat wave has come to stay over Germany (and pretty much the entire northern hemisphere). With temperatures over 34°C (93.2°F), no air conditioning (typical for German homes) and us living right under the roof and with 30°C in our flat even at night – I’m not happy about it. But still, I knit. Knitters will knit, no matter the circumstances. But there are some things we can consider if we want to keep knitting through the summer heat – and maybe make it a bit easier on us.
If you have to suffer the heat without air conditioning like me, the first thing I would try would be a good fan. I prefer large oscillating tower fans like most of these (*). I don’t have to turn them on so high that they would mess with anything on my desk. Another good thing would be natural air movement, aka wind. If you can sit and knit outside when there is a pleasant breeze going that might be preferable – but only if it is cooler outside than inside.
I know it’s supposed to make you feel better to drink warm beverages when it’s hot. I’m not sure if this is true or not. But drinking something cold relaxes me (relaxing is good for knitting) and seems to cool my body down a little. I sweat less. What you’re drinking is up to you but keeping hydrated is critical. Should you choose to drink something alcoholic keep in mind that it will not keep you hydrated and can have a stronger effect on you when it’s hot. And that might, in turn, have a negative impact on your knitting.
I find that cotton and cotton blends, silk, tencel, and bamboo are good fibers to work with when it’s this hot. Linen and hemp would likely also work, but I haven’t knit with them yet. These yarns often have a smooth finish and glide well. That makes them hard to weave in at the end but also optimal if your hands feel a little damp. Wool and similar animal fibers often stick to moist skin. Also, these smooth yarns are usually cool to the touch and don’t trap heat as much as others which is why they are so well suited for summer clothing.
I would advise against entirely synthetic fibers. Many of them tend to trap heat and moisture. (Sports clothing is also usually made of synthetics and does the opposite. I don’t know enough about this to say why and apply it to yarn, though.)
Similarly, you might want to stay away from yarns that felt. When you are sweating even a little, it’s hot and you are knitting you are creating perfect conditions for felting fibers together.
It’s also worth it to consider yarn weight. Lighter yarns like laceweight or fingering are optimal. You won’t have quite as much yarn in your hands and on your lap at once.
And the last thing to consider about the yarn is its color. You might want to stay away from colors that stain easily. Snow white might not be a good choice. It may not get as hot in the sunshine, but even just the sweat on your hands might stain your project. And too dark colors aren’t optimal either because yarn and project will heat up in the sun.
Bonus tip: If you are using a yarn dyed in deep, saturated colors test if the dye will rub off on you first. You can do this by either knitting a little swatch when your hands are a bit sweaty or damp. Or you can rub the yarn over clammy fingers. If there is still some access dye on those fibers, they will leave a stain on your fingers. Washing or soaking it before you knit with it can help remove that dye and keep it from further staining your fingers.
Your needle choice might also influence your knitting during the worst of the summer heat. Metal needles are usually cool to the touch but can heat up when you’re in the sun. Also, they might feel more slippery when your hands are a little sweaty.
Plastic needles might be uncomfortable to touch when your skin is damp and difficult to work with if they get a little moisture on them as well. And they might make your hands even more sweaty. But they are light.
Wooden needles should be the same to use in any weather. They are light but unless they have a very smooth finish using them to knit cotton (or similar) might be hard if you’re a tight knitter. And just in case I would be careful with them around water. Most wooden needles seem to have a coating of some kind. But if they don’t have one or are older, they might get damaged if they get in contact with too much water.
Just try your favorite kind of needle first and if they don’t work out for the fiber and situation, try a different type.
Small or lightweight projects are perfect for the summer heat. No thick sweaters or bulky blankets. Children or baby clothes are great, as are socks and light shawls. You could already get a head start on fall clothing and start a lightweight cowl or hat. Knitting a larger project is also doable without torturing yourself. It works if you are knitting it in smaller pieces that will be sewn together at a later point. Just wait with the sewing until you’re in a climatized room or get cooler temperatures.
You could also knit projects with airy patterns like lace or at a loose gauge. Such fabrics are often less warm when you are working on them because they aren’t as dense.
Try to keep the patterns you’re working simply or easily memorized. I don’t know about you, but I have trouble concentrating when I can’t even merely sit without sweating. And I keep making stupid mistakes I wouldn’t make otherwise. So the pattern has to be easy to remember, to read and to fix should I notice an error in my work. Also, paper patterns can be annoying with wind or fans – or sweat for that matter. And many digital devices can get uncomfortably hot during the worst of the summer heat and are hard to read outside unless it has an e-ink display.
There are tons of different things that can make knitting easier on you when it’s scorching outside. You don’t have to try all of these tips here at once. And you may even find that some won’t work for you at all. We are all different. I still knit with wool simply because I prefer it. But I would not knit on a worsted weight sweater right now! Try some things out. If you want to read more on this, I wrote an article last year about knitting on vacation which is a related subject since many people like to spend their summer vacation where it’s warm. You’ll find some of the points I’ve made here in that post as well.
Maybe you have a few different ideas as well that you’d like to share with me. I’d try (almost) anything to make the heat a little more tolerable – and knitting makes (almost) everything tolerable.
Are you experiencing a heat wave right now? Do you still knit? What do you do to make it more bearable? Please let me know in the comments below.
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