Thursday, 31 October 2019

Levels of woolly

Here in England there's significant variation of wet/dry and hot/warm/cold, even over a single day. In the spring and autumn, we have times when our south-facing back garden has an entirely different temperature from our north-of-the-house wind tunnel street. You would need a cardigan to walk down the street but not to sit in the garden.

In early October, if I walk up the road for groceries I might be warm enough with a sleeveless cardigan (waistcoat, tank top, vest), but in our old Victorian house I'd need a cardigan as well if I'm holed up writing all day.

Now we're coming into November, I'm wearing a cotton shirt, with a merino vest (waistcoat not underwear), and over that a cashmere cardigan. I'm warm enough. But if I go out later, I'll swap the cashmere cardigan (which is warm but relatively light) for a sturdier lambswool knitted jacket.

What I'm calling a cashmere cardigan I bought as a "cashmere shirt". It's very versatile because it can function either as a middle layer or a top layer.

In January on the coldest days, I'll probably wear a cotton long-sleeved tee, under one of the "cashmere shirts", under my most heavy duty rare-breed-sheep-wool vest, with a lambswool jacket on top. And a hat and mittens. I have merino tights and a knitted wool skirt.

All of which means I don't need to run the central heating. If it's really cold I stay nice and toasty under the duvet with a hot water bottle.

I prefer heating the person over heating the space. I am not a believer in central heating, though I do like fires. A fire is beautiful, fragrant, cheerful, promotes air circulation, and is alive. Not so central heating; and I feel a deep suspicion of all these wires and tubes and pipes connecting me to a central grid that might be run by Mammon . . . you never know, do you, when it all just comes from "away"?

I enjoy looking at people's capsule wardrobes online, but I consider these Texan types with their short-sleeved tees and mini dresses in utter perplexity, wondering, "But . . . where are your layers?"

I've even known it snow in June in England, and there is also what our weathermen call "the wind chill factor". You set out on a lovely sunny day to sit by the sea, and when you get down onto the ocean shore it can be frrrrreezing. Or else it can be normal inland and then down by the sea in town where there's a wind  blowing and no trees at all, just buildings and then the shore, the heat can be bouncing off everything creating a kind of oven in the summer — if you don't want to burn you need a hat.

And talking of hats, we lose a lot of heat through our heads because the body prioritises keeping the temperature of the brain stable over keeping limbs warm. Also, we lose heat at places where large blood vessels run near the surface (ankles, wrists, neck). So during in-between seasons where it's cold to sit on a train station but you warm up once you're walking, a hat and gloves and scarf are the first go-to, before a jacket or cardigan. If you keep your head and wrists and neck warm, you might not need a coat. Shirts and tees with collars or polo/turtle necks are handy for that. I don't have any polo-neck tops, but I do have shirts and cardigans with collars, and a couple of Indian cotton scarfs — soft and light, tuck in round my neck.

And of course — for managing temperature variation — cotton, linen, bamboo, silk and wool are your friends. Acrylic and micro-fleece are not adequately responsive to changes in heat and cold, and I can think of no useful purpose for Mademoiselle Polly Esther whatsoever.


Elin said...

English weather is certainly changing all the time. One minute it rains, the next it is sunny and then again it changes in some other way. That's my experience at least and you really need to remember to bring your umbrella because you often have heavy rains that just happen without much warning first. I don't think that England and southern Sweden are that different in what type of weather it is or the temperature but it changes so much faster in England compared to Sweden. Here it is often raining all day if it rained in the morning or sunny all day if it is sunny and the change is slower, if the sun goes away the clouds seem to build up more slowly and you are often able to go inside or change clothes more easily.

I am in the thick layer season now and soon to be in the winter coat season. We have a little snow on the ground now and it is around 0*C now. Today I wore two cardigans, a wool poncho and a thin cotton hat. I still wear my sandals with wool socks but that is mostly because they are more comfortable than my winter shoes. If they were equally comfortable I would wear them so I don't have to watch were I put my feet with regards to the snow.

greta said...

here in iowa, we are on our second snowstorm for the week. the wind is blowing; flakes are falling. layers are essential. long sleeved turtleneck topped with a sweater, knee socks, long pants, a down coat, hat, scarf and mittens. the temperature is still warm enough that the long underwear has not yet made its debut but that's coming! i agree with your premise that we should be heating ourselves more than our homes. we are the middle unit of three condos which means that we benefit from heat on either side as well as protection from the wind. we dress warmly and keep the thermostat down. but then there are those days, usually after the first of the year, when temps drop well below 0 (that's fahrenheit!) at that point, the furnace runs almost constantly and we steel ourselves for the upcoming gas/electric bills. those can be doozies.

Rebecca said...

I like that "heating the person rather than the space concept". I wish I could make that fly with my 93 yr. old father....meanwhile it's a wet and chilly day. I think I'll twist a scarf around my neck for a spell...🧣

Sandra Ann said...

Your clothing always exudes calm, it is something I aspire too ❤️

Pen Wilcock said...

Elin and Greta, I can imagine you! I love the detailed descriptions of what you are wearing and why. Elin, I thought you were in the north of Sweden — you are in the south? Greta — snowstorms already! Wow! I wonder if Julie B in Minnesota has snow yet, then. I must email and ask her.

Rebecca — yes, I think it could be very helpful for really aged people to heat themselves rather than the space, because central heating (and especially blown air heating) is so drying to the skin. We try to minimise our space heating as much as possible, because we have a strong red-hair gene in our family; though only some of us actually have red hair, all of us have the thin skin. And the hyper mobility means our skin is more fragile too. All this means that winter is nose-bleed and eczema season in our house as fires and radiators dry out the moisture from the air. Old people's skin is typically thin and fragile, so central heating may be problematic. My prayer partner Margery had no central heating in her apartment until she was in her eighties — just an open fire in the sitting room. Her family persuaded her to instal a central heating system, and ever after that she suffered from asthma which she'd never had before, and had to add Oilatum to her bath.

San — I think it is the dark colours, and also solid colours. Not all my clothes are dark and I do have a few flowery prints (mostly summer skirts), but mostly it's navy blue and dark green and dark red — colours of peace. The cheerful reds and golds are nice in the winter though, and I think the strong shades of pink your Pip likes look lovely on her.

Elin said...

Yes Pen, I am in the north, I just compared the climate in the south to England, it is similar. Sorry I was confusing you all.

Today was slightly colder, perhaps -1 or -2*C and it is sunny with a clear light blue sky and the air is crisp. Very nice for a November 1.

Pen Wilcock said...

"-2"!!! We'd be horrified! It's 15C here. Calm and drizzling rain. Forecast of high winds tomorrow.

Sandra Ann said...

Aw thanks for the comment regarding Pip, her face paint was a small cheap set from Asda and I am grateful it came with instructions! I cannot find your Pinterest pages, I really enjoyed looking at them, so peaceful especially your capsule wardrobe page xx

Pen Wilcock said...

Asda! They are a Godsend! You did a brilliant job for Pip, and I could see she was delighted with it.
I come and go from Pinterest. I do still have a Pinterest account, but I deleted all my boards a while ago. I used to like Facebook and Instagram and Pinterest too, but I'd like to gently push in the direction of less screen time. I find that minimalism/simplicity can be quite transformative if I allow it to seep into all areas of life; it has great spiritual power. I know that I can be minimalist in a variety of ways and then not at all in electronic realms, so every now and then I rein it in. Sometimes I think I'll go back to Facebook, then I think "No, don't do that". And I feel similarly ambivalent about Pinterest. Capsule wardrobes are interesting though, aren't they?