Fiber content can be a big issue when the weather goes summery. In high humidity, lightweight animal fibers like angora and mohair can become a real liability. And although it would seem to make sense to start knitting winter garments now, something like a bulky wool/alpaca blend is just not going to be your friend on a hot summer night.
This is a great time of year to explore alternative plant fibers. Modal is made from the cellulose fiber of beechwood, a sustainable tree crop. Ramie is made from a plant which is related to the nettle (but I have it on good authority that the yarn does not sting). Lyocell (brand name Tencell) is a cellulose fiber made from reclaimed wood pulp. Viscose and rayon are both made from wood pulp, as well. Flax is made from a sturdy bush of the same name, pictured above.
All of these fibers have one thing in common: they are sustainable, and way better for the environment than cotton. As much as I love my dishcloth cotton yarn, I have to admit that cotton is one of the worst crops, environmentally speaking.
There are a ton of yarns out there which are using these alternative fibers, typically in a blend with something else to help with the yarn structure. Depending on the yarn, you can make just about anything under the sun with these fibers, from a fine lace shawl to a cozy sweater. Start by swatching and experimenting, and see where your curiosity takes you!
Socks are another classic item of summer knitting. If you have been thinking about testing the sock knitting waters, now is a great time to start! You can go top-down or toe-up, use two circular needles, one long circular needle (the Magic Loop method), and either four or five double-pointed needles.
Socks are a small project, which helps avoid the "giant pool of hot yarn in the lap" problem. And while most sock yarn is a wool blend, it hardly seems like it when you're knitting. A lightweight sock yarn like Opal, Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock, or Regia - sock yarns that knit up at between 6 and 8 stitches to the inch - are great companions on a hot summer afternoon.
The same can be said for lace knitting, with a caveat: choose your fiber wisely. Lace projects are a great way to learn how to knit from a chart, and unusual techniques like nupps and different decreases. As a bonus, a lace shawl is something you might actually wear in summer, albeit perhaps only in the evening.
However, many lace yarns can turn sticky when knit with sweaty fingers. Look for a silk blend, or a smooth merino blend. This is not the time for any yarn that has a bloom to it, so a firm twist and a smooth hand are key!
Photo credit: Flickr/Brenda Anderson