Wednesday, January 23, 2013

How to dress for the cold

Yesterday I had errands in town, so I decided to leave the house shortly before noon and after things warmed up:

Weds_Jan23_weatherI took this screen shot around 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday -- it was actually 12 degrees Fahrenheit or -11 Celsius when I left the house. Brrrr!

With temps like these, biking is out of the question. A 4-mile walk is also a little insane, but the bike trail was clear of snow, the sun was shining, and I like to think I know how to dress for the elements  after living in New England for nearly a half century.

Before I got dressed, I put some body oil all over my legs and arms and some heavy-duty cream on my face and hands to prevent the flakes. Besides my standard-issue undergarments, I wore:

  • a pair of long silk underwear underneath heavy denim jeans

  • a cotton turtleneck

  • a lightweight fleece pullover

  • a toasty-warm zip-up alpaca cardigan I bought in Northampton, MA, home to WEBS. (The irony's not lost on me either.)

  • a mohair and wool full-length coat

  • a bulky wool cowl (handknit) around my neck and tucked into my coat

  • a fleece balaclava layered with an additional wool slouch hat (handknit)

  • one pair wool socks (handknit)

  • my running shoes

  • and a pair of felted wool mittens (handknit and hand felted)

I'm sure I looked a sight.

It was brutally cold but I felt impervious to it. At one point the backs of my calves got a little chilled and the tips of my toes weren't as warm as the rest of my feet, but I was never uncomfortable.  By the time I arrived at the bank I was actually hot -- too warm, in fact, to walk next door to Starbucks for the small cup of hot chocolate I'd promised myself for undertaking the long, arduous walk. :-)

I've knit a half-dozen pair of mittens over the last year for myself. I will not go outside on a cold day without my hands covered because once my fingers and toes are cold, it takes all day to warm them up again. My felted mittens are by far the warmest mittens I've ever worn, even warmer than the $60 ski gloves I bought many years ago and the thrummed mittens I knit this fall.* They're completely windproof, and they can contain my body heat without making my hands feel all clammy and sweaty. Yay natural fibers! They're not the most attractive knitted items I own, but I've had people around town stop me and ask, "Did you make those? I'll bet they're warm."


I'm still chugging away on my aran sweater, but I'm antsy for a quick project on the side. Maybe another pair of felted mittens?

* I suspect the thrummed mitts I made suffer from insufficient and/or inconsistent thrumming of fleece.


  1. I laughed when I read your comment that you must have looked a sight. In Canada nobody cares if they look a sight except the people from Vancouver and Victoria, where, I should point out, it never gets very cold. :-)

    What pattern did you use for the felted mittens. I think I might make myself a pair. I just finished my first pair of thrummed mittens on the weekend and wore them yesterday. They were nice and toasty, but it wasn't a super cold day, so they haven't been put to a real test yet.

    My one suggestion for your dressing for the cold would be to ditch the running shoes and buy some good waterproof leather hikers instead. You would be amazed at what a difference it makes.

  2. I don't think anyone in Canada would have given me a second glance, or even in Vermont where I grew up. I forgot to mention that it was fairly windy yesterday, so the wind chill made the temps even more harsh, but still, I saw people without hats or gloves, wearing skimpy jackets, as they dashed through the parking lots. I suspect Boston is a lot like Vancouver and Victoria then. ;-)

    Here's the link to my Ravelry page: My cuffs were knit on 44 stitches, but I think next time I'll do 40 for a tighter seal; I forget how small my wrists are!

    When my plantar fascitis is acting up, though, I can only wear my running shoes -- my hiking boots (which are very good Timberland hikers) are fine for little adventures, but four miles would kill my foot.


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