Sweaters are a typical fall/winter item that exists in every closet. We often take them for granted and just buy them when we see one, we like or need a new one. However, there is more to them. This post covers thermal properties of this clothing item. It may help you to buy the best sweater for your climate region.
- Not all sweaters are alike
- Sweater Styles
- The tightness/density of the knit affects the air exchange and insulation
- Thechniques to increase insulation
- Best sweaters for rainy weather
- Alaskan Qvuit 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 maschine 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 wool. I am allegric 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.
Maschine knit pullovers could be either industrially made or made by Mom on her knitting maschine. I loved the latter. Mom always used some synthetic materials that weren’t itchy. I still prefer Luxe inexpensive agryl 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 bellsleeves, trompet sleeves or puff sleeves?
Do I have to mention that 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.” Do I have to mention the style factor?
The 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 in this post.
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 interhook with each other. Often even the mix of different materials in the spinning process leads to “closing” the gaps formed by the knit.
Thechniques 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 flanel on the inside. Fanel 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 air pockets formed by this process provide some 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. Learn 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 load of moisture before feeling wet.
Great alternatives are the Shetland or so-called Fair Isle as well as the Norwegian Lice sweaters. ee post at the link for 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 Qvuit sweaters are the warmest
Qvuit 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 mattern. Learn more about qvuit 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? Learn more on wearing neutrals without looking boring.
Don’t let your outfit be a random thing. Wear the right look in every situation by looking up what to wear when in How to Dress for Success in Midlife. Buy the book now.
Cashmere is great for winters in cold climate regions.
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, tightly woven sweaters are best for windy regions. Wool is great in wet, cold climate. Qviut keeps you warm for the longest at same temperature.
The style/cut determines whether or not you will have cold bridges. Learn more on cold gaps and how to avoid them.
The Stylish Monday Sweater Edit | October Link Up
Welcome to our October monthly Stylish Monday Linkup party. October is the start of sweater time. Thus, we present you our sweater edits.
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
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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
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