Thursday, January 24, 2013

Handknits in the cold: how the magic stands up

Yesterday was the perfect day (aka, -19C plus windchill when I first left the house, paired with a zillion errands to do on foot) to test the efficiency of some so-called 'warm knits.' 

Magical Cowl

Omigosh, how did I ever live without this thing?

It's basically a turtleneck with a little collar split at the shoulders to cover up any gaps where the wind might get in, and it is warm.  The bulky handspun yarn I used was too big for the needles I had, so the cowl stands its ground - no flopping open, and it's thick as cardboard.  Because I chose ribbing, it clings to my chin.  I can walk with my head high and it just cups the edge, keeping my neck secure, or I can tuck my head down a bit and get the freezing tip of my nose into safe haven.  Of course when I do that, my glasses fog up, but I can always look over the top of those.  It's great in 'warmer' cold, but in the 'cold' cold yesterday it was stupendous.

Magical Hat

I probably should have chosen a better band stitch because this pseudo-mistake rib doesn't hug my ears as snugly as I'd like.

However, like the matching cowl, it is super warm, much more so than my other 100% wool hats.  I don't know whether it's the bulky yarn I spun, the fact that it was handspun - do you trap more air pockets when you spin? - or the sheep it came from (Polwarth), but I love this hat.

Warm Twined Mitts

I didn't expect these mitts to work in very cold temperatures because they are, after all, knits.  The wind is going to blow through the stitches.

At -17C, I had to keep my mittened hands in the pockets of my down coat to keep my fingers warm enough, but at -10C, after walking for about 15 minutes, my hands were a bit sweaty even when loose.  That's a great performance, and not at all worse than my storebought, high-tech winter sport mitts.  Again: is it the fiber (mohair and wool) or the handspun yarn trapping more heat?  No idea.

Sailor's Delight Socks

My tall white boots by The North Face  are crazy warm, but in this kind of weather, they need help keeping my toes from freezing.  Yesterday's pick was a pair of toe-up socks I finished off with my very first functional handspun when the blue/green yarn ran out - again, all mohair and wool from Stoddart, like the twined mitts.

Note: this picture was SO not taken yesterday.

Those things are toasty, as well as stupendously soft inside.  At -17C, I was warm enough; at -10C a little too warm.  In a waiting room where all were required to remove our wet footwear: attractively attention-getting.  Go handknits!

Hope your day is warm enough (and not too warm, my lucky friends in Australia and New Zealand), whatever you have to wear to make it happen.  See you tomorrow!


marilyn said...

You can always use double elastic thread inside the ribbing to make the hat as right as needed--another tip from Elizabeth Zimmerman!

jezz said...

Would you consider giving us instructions for the magical cowl?

Mary Keenan said...

I can try, Jezz! My handknit yarns are always a bit wonky and their knits heavily improvised, but I can certainly do the math and the stitch was super simple. I'll post that next week.