Read what are the best sweaters for your climate region depending on the typical winter weather, and the knitwear’s thermal and moisture properties.
- Not all Sweaters Are Alike
- Sweater Styles
- Tightness/Density of the Knit Affects the Air Exchange and Insulation
- Techniques to Increase Insulation
- Best Sweaters for Rainy Weather
- Alaskan Qiviut Sweaters Are the Warmest
- Wrapping Up the Best Sweaters for Your Climate Region
- The Stylish Monday Sweater Edit | October Link Up
Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post.
Not all Sweaters Are Alike
In Germany, my mom distinguished between sweatshirts and pullovers. Sweatshirts were made from the same material like sweatpants. They were a no-no to wear anywhere but on the sports ground, jogging, biking for speed or long-distance, and for the gym. The worst, as sleepwear top with sweatpants when we were camping in The Netherlands at the North Sea in March.
Then there were the pullovers. They could be machine knitwear or hand-made. Mom and I always had a big disagreement about both. She regularly got hand-me downs for us from her bff who was a very talented knitter. This woman had a boy a couple of years older than me. She used expensive 100% pure sheep woolen or worsted wool. I am allergic to sheep wool and got itchy skin irritations wearing sweater in this material. Because of the high quality and beautiful craftsmanship, Mom wanted that I wear them, but I didn’t want to. Anyhow, one day they led to a deal after a fight that gave me my first pair of real jeans.
Machine knit pullovers could be either industrially made or made by Mom on her knitting machine. I loved the latter. Mom always used some synthetic materials that weren’t itchy. I still prefer Luxe inexpensive agrylic attire over wool.
The second part of the disagreement was a style thing. Obviously, in this case, the friction occurred when Mom shopped alone or with me for a new winter top. I prefer my sleeves sleek. No more than an inch of ease difference in the circumference or my arm and my sleeve. Mom loved her sleeves loose to have “the freedom of motion.” Never understood it! Anyhow. Whenever she bought a sweater for me with statement sleeves, they wouldn’t be worn. I found them “fattening”, ugly, cold and unpractical. Have you ever tried to roll up bell sleeves, trumpet sleeves or puff sleeves? More on sleeves style history.
Of course she never liked when I pushed my sleeves up to 3/4 length. “It looks like a blue collar worker!” “What’s wrong about that? It’s so much more comfy when you write and work.”
Stylist tip: Roll up your sleeves for style.
Tightness/Density of the Knit Affects the Air Exchange and Insulation
Obviously, the looser the knit, the easier the warm body heated air underneath your sweater can exchange with the cold air outside of the sweater. Add wind like in the Pacific Northwest or in mid-latitude West Europe and you have a recipe for catching a cold. No matter of the material of the sweater. More on dressing for the Pacific Northwest.
Interestingly, knits of same tightness can have quite different air exchange depending on the material. Some materials form yarns that have little “hairs” which can interlock with each other. Often even the mix of different materials in the spinning process leads to “closing” the gaps formed by the knit.
Techniques to Increase Insulation
Thermal conductivity is a material property. It measures how fast the material conducts heat. Thin air layers are bad conductors for heat, i.e. they are great insulators. Thus, sleek layering can increase insulation and thermal comfort. Not to mention it can be incredibly stylish. Learn more on how to layer for style and warmth. In general, thermal conductivity is greater for moist than for dry clothes. Furthermore, when clothes are layered, the overall conductivity thru the layer depends on the space between layers and tat of the materials as well as the the looseness and texture of the knits.
The sweaters, we weren’t supposed to wear in public except when doing sports, were jersey cotton knit on the outside and had flannel on the inside. Flannel is created by roughening the fabric to create the smooth structure. Sometimes cooking of the fabric is involved (e.g., loden, original jankers). More on this technique in the fashion history of the Janker. The little resulting air pockets provide extra insulation.
The bad thing about cotton is that it takes up and gets wet from sweating. When this happens in cold weather, you feel cold. Thus, cotton sweaters are not great for winter weather below 50F (10oC).
Cotton knit sweaters are great for chilly days in the subtropics. More on how to dress for subtropical humid weather.
Best Sweaters for Rainy Weather
Untreated sheep wool. The traditional Irish cable knit sweater is perfect for rainy weather and high moisture, cold conditions. The oil of the wool just makes water pearl off. Moreover, wool can take up a lot of moisture before feeling wet.
Great alternatives are the Shetland or so-called Fair Isle as well as the Norwegian Lice sweaters. More on the original Fair Isle sweaters. You can find more on the insulating knitting technique of the Lice sweater in the post at the link.
The disadvantage of pure 100% sheep wool? I mean when you aren’t allergic? When it gets wet it smells nearly as bad as wet sled dogs.
Alaskan Qiviut sweaters are the warmest
Qiviut is the wool of Arctic musk oxen. This material is the best you can get to stay warm. However, sweaters made from this material are really expensive for two reasons; the material is rare and the pieces are hand-made with secret tribal pattern. More about qivuit fashion in the post at the link.
The look chosen for this post shows a cashmere sweater. Its knit is very tight and the fluffy material “seals” the gaps from the knit. I found this sweater in a consignment store. I bought it despite I already had a red turtleneck cable-knit and a red plain cashmere sweater. The V-neck was difference enough. It’s perfect for layering.
Why three red pullovers? Well, when you are reading my blog already for a while, you know that I consider red as a neutral. You cannot have enough neutrals, right? More on wearing neutrals without looking boring.
Wrapping Up the Best Sweaters for Your Climate Region
The material properties and the knit density as well as the yarn treatment affect the insulation factor your sweater provides. As a rule of thumb, the best sweaters for your climate region are
- Tightly woven sweaters in windy regions.
- Wool sweaters in wet, cold climate.
- Cashmere for winters in cold winter climate regions.
- Qiviut in cold arctic winter climate.
The style/cut determines whether or not you will have cold bridges. More on cold gaps and how to avoid them.
The Stylish Monday Sweater Edit | October Link Up
Nina Bandoni from Sharing a Journey,
Andrea Schwartz from Pearls and Pantsuits,
Suzanne Bell from Ask Suzanne Bell
Ada Furxhi from Elegance and Mommyhood
Emma Peach from Style Splash
Jessica Jannenga from Elegantly Dressed and Stylish,
Julie Augustyn from Fashion Friends and Trends
Nancy Baten from Nancy’s Fashion Style,
Shelbee from Shelbee On The Edge
Enter the Stylish Monday linkup party
Mölders, N., 2019: Outdoor Universal Thermal Comfort Index Climatology for Alaska. Atmospheric and Climate Sciences, 9, 558-582. doi: 10.4236/acs.2019.94036
Oğlakcioğlu,N., Marmaral, A., 2007. Thermal comfort properties of some knitted structures. Fibers & Textiles in Eastern Europe. 15, 64-65
Rood, E.S., 1921: Thermal conductivity of some wearing materials. Phys. Rev., 18, 356. doi: 10.1103/PhysRev.18.356
Photos of me: G. Kramm
© 2013-2022 Nicole Mölders | All rights reserved
This Post Has 6 Comments
I am so with you, red is totally a neutral – and my favorite knit is cashmere, they are really the best! Like Shelbee, once they’ve seen better days, I move them right on into my lounge wear drawer and get a few more seasons out of them!
Such an informational post! Thank you!
I always love reading your posts Nicole because there is so much back story, knowledge and learning to gain from them. I will say though: sweatshirts have come a long way! You can dress sweatshirts up with pleated skirts or chiffon skirts and heels nowadays. Speaking of skirts, your leather one is gorgeous and I always love seeing red with black paired together. You look great!
Hope you will enjoy my sweater post too. Join my weekly Thursday Moda linkup, too. Have a great rest of the week! =)
Very chic outfit! Red, black and leopard print is a great combination!
Oh yes, cashmere is my favorite! So cozy and warm!
Nicole, I love this outfit! Black and red and leopard always look so great together. And cashmere sweaters really are the best. I have one old one in gray that has gotten all misshapen but I still wear it to lounge around the house and sometimes even sleep in it because it is so warm and soft!
Thank you for this informative and detailed post. You look great in the red cashmere sweater.
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