Sunday, August 22, 2010

Summer sweaters? ditch the knit

Scrolling through my old blog photos provided strong evidence for my decision on summer sweaters.

They were quick fun to knit, look kinda cute, but seldom get off the shelf. When the weather is hot, out come the t-shirts. Even in the rather cool conditions that bless the Rocky Mountain summer, hand-knit sweaters are too heavy to be comfortable. The fact that there's no air conditioning in most of the buildings complicates the problem.

There's a lot of places in town I prefer to avoid on a summer afternoon--shops of all types, for example, especially clothes shops. There's nothing like trying on clothes in the unventilated dressing room of a hot shop to discourage expenditures. If I were presented with the stack of summer sweaters I have knit over the past six years and given the opportunity to try them on in such a dressing room, I wouldn't buy any of them.

That's a pretty strong decision. The hours I've spent on them might not make sense without considering that when I started knitting, I lived in a very hot climate. Naturally, almost all the sweaters I knit during that time were short-sleeved or sleeveless. I used yarn that was designed to be cool and comfortable, composed of cotton, bamboo, and rayon. It seemed like a good use of my knitting time.

The problem was the weight of the yarn. Thicker yarn means a quicker knit. What's available for hand-knit sweaters is mostly dk-weight and heavier. A thicker version of a t-shirt seemed like a comfortable option for summer wear. This has not proved to be true.

Of course, there are other reasons that I am not wearing these sweaters. After all, we have 9 months of cool/cold weather here. There's always the spring or fall. There are other problems with these sweaters, such as fit and form. Some are sleeveless. For vanity's sake, I've given up wearing sleeveless tops, except on the hottest days. Some are too short. A couple are too big.

That's 17 summer sweater rejects, including 8 not-so-cute ones which aren't pictured in the collage. Some of these were so un-cute that they have been frogged. That points to another culprit -- poor yarn choice. Yes, my early knitting is full of bad yarn, bad yarn and patttern pairings, and bad construction.

There was certainly a learning curve. The first 4 sweaters I made in 2005 are all ripped out now. There's one sweater from 2006 that I still wear. The others, six of them, are history. The next year, 07, offers up three sweaters still in rotation. I'm not too crazy about them, but I still pull them out now and then. The rest, 8 of them, are rejects, mostly because of poor yarn choices. Coming to 08, there's a flip-flop. Of six sweaters, I wear four. The two rejects are still favorites, but require more cumbersome undergarments to look their best. Most days, I prefer comfy to cumbersome. The same for 09, two-thirds of the sweaters are good, adding six to those I wear. Obviously, both my knitting skills and project choices are improving.

Overall now, I'm wearing about half of what I knit, with most of those being more recently-knit sweaters. Most convincingly,though, I'm only wearing one, just one, of the 18 summer sweaters I have knit. A 95% failure rate. Among the spring, fall and winter sweaters altogether, my failure rate is about 25%. That's a big difference which defines the problems I have with summer sweaters.

This year I've completed 4 sweaters, all wool, three for winter wear and one for slightly warmer days only because it has short sleeves. I don't really plan to knit another sweater this year. If I do, it will be a longer-sleeved fall sweater.

I'll start 2011 with a new plan, repurposing my summer yarn by knitting cotton sweaters with long sleeves for winter wear and using the silk and laceweight wool for shawls.


vlb5757 said...

I am always impressed with how many sweaters you knit and how quickly you do them. I have yet to finish my first neck down sweater. Seems like there are always so many other smaller projects to be worked on with a deadline. I can't wait to see what you come up with for 2011. The best I can manage is socks.

Wool Winder said...

Sounds like a good plan for 2011. I'm looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

soknitpicky said...

This was a really good post, and I love your honesty and analysis. I'm going to have to go back and think about this topic, looking at my own pieces. Thanks!

knitabulous said...

I agree with soknitpicky - great introspective post. I already know I hardly wear any of my sweater knits, winter or summer, the only knits I really wear are accessories.

In terms of fashion choices, before I started knitting I didn't even like winter knits - and I hardly ever bought them. Kind of an ironic thing to take up then I suppost.

We're the opposite of you in Australia - probably only six months of cool weather, and nothing below 10 degrees C, so anything too warm is impractical. For me, cardigans are usually more useful - but I've still not managed to knit the perfect one...

Marjorie said...

When I was a new knitter, I was definitely captivated by cotton and "summer" yarns, and I also found that I never wore them (a few are actually on their way to Good Will this week). At that point, I gravitated to very thin wool yarns so I could wear the sweaters indoors in apartments and offices in Manhattan that were heated to ridiculous temperatures in the winter. They were fine but took forever to finish.

My current plan, which is a little similar to yours, is to knit a few heavier sweaters that I can use instead of jackets. This plan was derailed because it is tough to knit them in the hot summer months, but I plan to persist in the fall.