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It’s the final month of summer, and if you still haven’t knitted a summer top, now is the time! Summer tops are fantastic garments to knit for beginners. No sleeves, and oftentimes, little or no shaping at all. A summer top is the perfect garment to familiarize yourself with reading a pattern that is a little more involved, and maybe learning a new technique or two.
I have selected 10 well-written knitting patterns for summer tops that are all great choices for your first knitted garment. They vary in difficulty, with the easiest at the top, approachable for a complete beginner, and the most complex pattern at the bottom, appropriate for the advanced beginner or intermediate knitter. You can choose one that fits your skill level, your temperament and sense of adventure – and your taste, of course!
Summer yarns are often less expensive than winter yarns. It’s cotton, bamboo, linen, and also silk if you venture into the more luxurious yarns. The patterns have their own yarn suggestions, but I have made additional yarn suggestions for all of the patterns presented here to give you something more to choose from. Also, several of the pattern suggestions are discontinued, so you would have to find a substitute anyway. The yarn substitutions were made with the US knitter in mind. Apologies to my non-US readers. Feel free to ask questions in the comments, if you need help choosing a yarn.
Remember to always knit a gauge swatch when knitting garments, and more than one if you need to. This is especially true when you substitute the yarn. If you are new to swatching or think it’s a waste of time check out my Instagram series #ReasonsToSwatch – there’s a new reason every Wednesday on @knitwithhenni.
Alright, let’s get on with it. I present to you – the patterns!
Knitting patterns for beginners
Easiest Classic Knit Top
The Easiest Classic Knit Top from Mama in a stitch is brilliant in its simplicity. If you can knit two rectangles, you can knit this pattern. Two rectangles are sewn together in strategic places to form a cute top. The pattern is available for free, but please do consider supporting the designer by purchasing the print version of the pattern. This goes for (almost) all the free patterns.
The suggested yarn is a superwash merino yarn, DK weight, and it is knitted with 2 strands of yarn held together on US size 11 (8 mm) needles. In other words, this is a quick knit. A good substitute yarn for this top could be King Cole Luxury Merino DK. King Cole is great value for money (0.042 $/yd) and the yarn has the same fiber, texture, weight class and gauge as the pattern suggestion.
Truthfulness Tank Top
The Truthfulness Tank Top from Brome Fields is knitted in a fingering weight Shetland wool, but knitted loosely on oversize needles, US size 10.5 (6.5 mm). Knitting with needles that are “too large” for the yarn takes a little getting used to, but it is fun and fast, and you end up with a fabric that has a cool, airy quality. The top is knitted mostly in the round, but the top part is knitted flat. If you are unfamiliar with circular knitting and the difference between knitting stockinette in the round and flat, then take a look at my introduction to circular knitting.
The yarn suggested in the pattern is discontinued, but a good substitute is Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift (0.056 $/yd). The yarn gauge is a little different, so you may have to adjust the needle size up by 1 or 2 needle sizes to match the pattern gauge, but it’s also a 2-ply Shetland wool and will knit up in a very similar way. Best of all, it comes in a huge selection of gorgeous colors.
Silver Spring Tank
The Silver Spring Tank from Wiseknits is another great beginner tank. It’s knitted flat with minimal shaping at the armholes and the neckline. The shaping is done with a combination of binding off and the decrease knit 2 together. If there’s ever a stitch in a pattern that you are unfamiliar with, head straight to YouTube and look it up. Then make sure that you practice it while knitting your gauge swatch so that you are not trying the new stitch for the first time in the middle of the pattern.
This tank is knitted in worsted weight 100% cotton yarn. Cotton yarn is a summer classic. It’s cheap, washable, and great on summer days. You can opt for the budget version and use something like Lily Sugar ‘n Cream (0.021 $/yd). This is actually a near perfect match for the pattern yarn, but it can be a little rough on the skin, as it’s most often used for household items like dishcloths and placemats. Alternatively you can go for Paintbox Cotton Aran (0.032 $/yd), which is a great value for money yarn, or you can splurge and go for a cotton cashmere blend like Rowan Cotton Cashmere (0.095 $/yd) for a softer feel.
The Peak-a-boo Tee from Knifty Knittings has a great name, and it’s also a cute, clever, yet simple design. The garment is knitted flat as two T-shapes that are seamed together. There’s no shaping with increases or decreases, instead the short sleeves are made by casting on extra stitches. There’s a video tutorial for the pattern to help with the unfamiliar parts.
The Peak-a-boo Tee is another pattern designed for 100% worsted cotton. The pattern can be purchased as a part of a yarn kit directly from Lion Brand. You can also find the suggested yarn Lion Brand 24/7 Cotton here (0.027 $/yd), or you can use any of the cotton yarns from the previous pattern.
Emerald Knitted Tank Top
The Emerald Knitted Tank Top from The Blue Mouse is a great choice for your first project knitted in the round. It has stripes which keeps things interesting when you knit, and there’s no shaping. The straps are the only part of the top that are knitted flat.
It is not specified in the description which yarn the designer suggests for the Emerald Knitted Tank Top, but it’s designed for a worsted weight yarn. Since this is a very summery top, I would choose either a 100% cotton, so everything in the above two patterns will work, or maybe a cotton linen blend. I quite like Rowan Creative Linen (0.068 $/yr). It’s 50% cotton 50% linen, and the teal color is a favorite of mine. Imagine this top in the teal and natural colorways! Linen has this amazing quality where it gets softer the more you use it, and the more you wash it. I don’t know how that works, but it does.
Knitting patterns for adventurous beginners
Spiced Breeze Crop Top
The Spiced Breeze Crop Top from Drops Design is a great project for an adventurous beginner. It’s not very difficult, but there’s a little bit of shaping, and you have to understand how flat knitting and circular knitting are different when producing both garter stitch and stockinette. It’s a good learning piece, and with the shorter length it’s also a fast project.
Spiced Breeze is another worsted cotton top – if you are beginning to recognize a theme, it’s because cotton and summer go hand in hand. The pattern is from Drops Design which has a great selection of free patterns, but they are European and their yarns are not readily available in the US. You can of course use any of the worsted cotton yarn suggestions in this blog post.
Cowl Shell Top
The Cowl Shell Top from Myrna Batten is very flattering with the waterfall neckline. It’s not as complicated as it looks. There’s some shaping involved, and you will have to learn a handful of different increases and decreases, but the pattern is well-written, and with YouTube at your side, you will be fine. Be sure to use stitch markers.
The Cowl Shell top switches things up a a little in terms of yarn fiber. It is designed for a DK weight 100% soy silk yarn called Oasis. This yarn may be hard to come by. The important thing is the drape of the yarn, and you should get a similar effect from yarn with blends of either bamboo, viscose or silk. One option could be Rico Fashion Silk Blend (0.046 $/yd). It has the same chained structure, and the drape is very similar. Another good option is Patons Silk Bamboo (0.069 $/yd). This yarn also has excellent drape, and it’s a favorite summer yarn of mine.
Knitting patterns for advanced beginners and intermediate knitters
Tip Top Tank
The Tip Top Tank from Cheryl Murray is my personal favorite of the bunch. I love the cute detail of the ribbing creating the straps and the boat neckline at the same time. This pattern is a little more tricky than the previous ones, because you have to pick up stitches for the parts with the ribbing, and there’s a bit of shaping as well. If you are comfortable with a little trial and error and watching YouTube videos for help, then you can absolutely tackle this is a beginner. The pattern is very well written.
The Tip Top Tank is designed for a Fingering weight yarn, held double, made of a cotton and bamboo blend. A proper breathable summer yarn. I am unfamiliar with the suggested yarn, but an alternative that I really like is Schackenmayr Baby Smiles Cotton Bamboo (0.026 $/yd). The gauge is spot on, and the yarn has a similar fiber, structure and sheen. Alternatively, you can go up a yarn weight, and knit with a single strand of something like Stylecraft Naturals Bamboo & Cotton DK (0.02 $/yd). This is a more economical solution, because you will not need as many yards when you knit with a single strand.
Get in Line Knit Tank
The Get in Line Knit Tank from Yarnspirations comes in three different lengths, and either one of them is sure to be a hit in your summer wardrobe. The pattern requires both shaping and some stitch combinations, but the combinations are repetitive, so it is easy to get into a rhythm.
The Get in Line Knit Tank is designed for Patons Silk Bamboo (0.069 $/yd) that I introduced as a suggestion for the Cowl Shell Top. With 70% bamboo and 30% silk this is a luxurious, yet affordable summer yarn in DK weight. The colorways are subtle and soft. This yarn is definitely a hit with me.
The Cumulus Top from Expression Fiber Arts is interesting to knit because of the changes in the stitch pattern for different sections of the top. It can get a little repetitive and boring to knit an entire top in stockinette, but this pattern will keep you on your toes. Row counting will be essential. You will have to learn to make drop stitches as well, but they are not that difficult. The top is knitted loosely with a DK weight yarn on slightly oversized needles.
The Cumulus Top is designed for one of the luxurious Indie yarns by Expression Fiber Arts – It’s a DK weight baby alpaca and mulberry silk blend. If it sounds nice, that’s because it is. Did I mention that they hand-dye all their yarns? At a price point of 0.143 $/yd, for most of us, this is only for that once in a blue moon ego-knit project. The Patons Silk Bamboo will work great for this project as well, and that’s only 0.069 $/yd. Another, even cheaper solution is Cascade Ultra Pima. It’s 100% cotton, but it’s made from the finest cotton there is, and it has a little of the sheen and drape of the silk blend yarns. It only costs 0.046 $/yd and it comes with the added benefit of being machine washable. You’ve got to love cotton.
What will you be knitting?
I really like all of these 10 patterns for knitted summer tops. Will you be trying one of them? Have you already knitted one or more summer tops this summer? Join the conversation in the comments below.