Winter Wardrobe problem solving

Winter Wardrobe problem solving

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking out loud here the past few weeks — have you noticed? — and think I’m very close to having a fully formed thought (lol) about how to solve the fundamental problem of my winter clothes being too warm, on the whole. Last week it felt like less of a problem: It was in the 30s and gloomy and rained like it might never stop. But this week we’re back in the 50s and 60s, the trouble zone for me. I’ve come to realize, though — in the midst of my closet cleanout — that it’s a classic case of missing connective tissue that’s fairly easily resolved. In addition to the sort of layering that the dickey has inspired, I’ve been thinking about what it means to have sweaters that are less hot, even if they are wool, which means finer gauge things, shapes that don’t hold in heat (such as the breezy Big Rubble I got from Meg), more abbreviated proportions (shorter, smaller, cropped, whatever), and — ta da — sleeveless! And we know I have plenty of sleeveless sweaters.

I wear those sleeveless things mostly when I can get away with being sleeveless, and what I’ve been missing to make them work in cooler weather is basically just long-sleeve tees, which I haven’t wanted to make — or had the time to. The other day it dawned on me there are these things called stores where you can buy clothes that are already made and ready to wear (seriously, it’s like I forgot!), so I went to Everlane and ordered a couple of skinny long-sleeve tees that will instantly change the equation considerably. But I’ve drawn up the sketches above to illustrate a few of the thoughts I’ve been having:

TOP LEFT: I made that wool knit muscle tee last year to wear under things and found it a tiny bit itchy for that purpose. I’ve since realized it’s fine with my linen sleeveless tee under it (which has become otherwise problematically thin), so it will work with cardigans and such as intended. But I also discovered it’s great over things — like the black jersey turtleneck in my closet that I never wear. It should be perfect with the long-sleeve tees en route, and an excellent opportunity to add a dickey!

TOP MIDDLE: Same goes for my two Anna Vests (black and plum), which somehow don’t feel quite like me over a button-down (although I love that on everyone else) but will be great over a long-sleeve tee. And then it’s easy to add a cardigan or shirt-jacket on top of that, weather permitting.

TOP RIGHT: Same goes for my Sloper — all it needs for extended life is the right tee! Although I do love Sloper over a button-down, and will wear it that way this year as well.

BOTTOM LEFT: This is the neck blankie situation I was postulating last week, along with a shrunken raglan sweatshirt or sweater. I have my grey sweatshirt and ordered two things from Everlane that also meet this definition, if I like them when they arrive. Otherwise (or maybe anyway) there’s another Linden sweatshirt in my future. I’m still debating the cowl but between this and yesterday’s mood board, I was inspired to pull out my eggplant State Street Cowl and take it for a spin.

BOTTOM MIDDLE: For a warmer version of the dickey situation, I was thinking about making something like a Top No. 2 in wool melton or somesuch, and realized I already have the wool knit sweatshirt thingy I made last year. I’d had that in my “maybe” pile from the cleanout and have just put it back in my closet! But still considering the other idea as well. I really like the idea of a couple of easy non-sweater pullover tops for layering with.

BOTTOM RIGHT: This is actually an outfit I wore in the cold snap last week that I want to remember: jeans, black muscle tee, dickey and cardigan. The dickey is so fantastic (obviously) under a cardigan or kimono jacket or shirt-jacket — a way to feel like I’m wearing much woolier, cozier clothes than I can actually get away with. More of that, for sure.

So those are some not-terribly-original thoughts that nevertheless lead me to a make list and some further outfit ideas, coming next week!

(Fashionary sketch templates from Fringe Supply Co.)


PREVIOUSLY in Winter 2018 Wardrobe: Early Winter ’18 mood board

26 thoughts on “Winter Wardrobe problem solving

  1. The ultimate answer is still there: sweaters made of fingering weight yarn. The perfect weight for those of us with an actual “transitional” season (much like winter in Tennessee, but occuring both spring and fall), the weight of choice for those who live in winter climates even warmer than yours, and a gift to peri-menopausal women who are always warm. Many wonderful yarns are available only in this weight. Definitely this takes longer, but it is “slow-fashion” after all.

    • Yes, I live in California and I love lighter weight sweaters like you’re describing (at least on anyone whose style they suit)! I love Helga Isager’s patterns for this–I am working on her short-sleeved sweater, Ivory (, right now–and I’m also inspired by vintage 1930s and ’40s sweaters, which may often be sportweight rather than fingering weight, but same idea generally. I love Solanah’s blog ( and instagram, as she often shares images of these little retro sweater patterns and/or period catalog images or movies in which women are wearing them. I want to try making up an actual vintage pattern of this kind in 2019!

      And Karen, your ideas are very cool! Hope you share some photos of you in these outfits if you feel like it.

    • Yep, that’s what I meant by “finger gauge things” up there. I know myself well enough to know I’d never finish a fingering weight sweater, so of the options listed, that’s the one that means finding an alternative to knitting it myself. I’m happy to knit smaller shapes, sleeveless garments, etc, but am not likely to cast on a full-scale fingering sweater.

  2. Karen, you simply need to relocate to Syracuse NY, where the low temperature today is 10 degrees and snow is falling. I can’t imagine any sweater being too warm! Happy Thanksgiving, Karen.

  3. Ha — I had the same Revelation from Bizzaroland when I was looking for a new used car in 2011. (Well, minus the hand-making option.) After months of turning up nothing on the Craigslist used-car ads, deep in frustration, it finally occurred to me that there were PLACES where they had lots of CARS and I could just go and BUY one.

  4. I’ve had this same discussion with myself—I run warm, and I live in DC, so I just don’t need, nor can I wear typical heavier sweaters. But I’m finding cardigans are great (I can layer and open them up), as well as vesty things.

  5. I love it when you contemplate your wardrobe. I definitely live in a 4-seasons location. At the moment it’s still mainly mild autumn temperatures, but between Christmas and Easter we usually have a run of cold, murky weather so I get to wear both the thick knits and the thin knits through the year. One thing I use quite a lot are a pair of knitted arm-warmers which go up to my elbow – I find they can help eke out some extra use from short-sleeved items even when the weather gets chillier, and they are so useful if coat sleeves are cut very loose or very short. Mind you, a sleeve would have to be very short indeed not to cover me to the wrist – usually I have to roll them back they are so long.

  6. I used to only use size 10 or 11 needles so my sweaters were too heavy and hot. I graduated down to 5’s and 6’s and sport or DK weight so they are much more comfortable.I was missing out on too many great patterns!

  7. I live on the east coast of South Africa and with the climate warming we get almost no winter at all. So yes, very light gauge wool cardis, three quarter sleeves and lovely fingering weight shawls ( worn instead of a sweater) are plenty warm enough. Doesn’t stop me drooling over all the thick warm sweaters tho. Luckily I have British nephews to knit Arans for!

  8. This is the Dallas weather conundrum, too.

    Except for consistently brutal summers, the remaining three seasons are always a surprise. We’ll have a few 70+ degree days in winter, followed by a couple of days of below freezing temps, rain, no rain, now it’s mild and grey, now it’s cold and sunny, now it’s 80 degrees in December, here comes wet and cold January…there’s almost always a breeze, if not flat-out wind. Early to mid-autumn is often as hot as summer, and Spring likes to play tricks: just as temps warm up, we’re hit with ice everywhere. If it’s 35 degrees in the morning, it’s 75 degrees in the afternoon.

    My main thing is that I like my neck and feet to be warm, so I need collars and scarves and anything I can bunch up or pull around my neck. If my neck is cold, all of me is cold. A cowl/kerchief thingy with button closures is in my knitting future.

    During SOB, I started what was meant to be a lightweight knitted tee. I tripled strands of laceweight yarn to get a marled, heathered look. It looks great. It’s so drapey and soft. It’s alpaca. Derp. Why I didn’t admit/realize/think about the warmth-retaining qualities of alpaca when I was knitting a summer tee, I don’t know. How could I overlook that? I’ve removed the short sleeves to lengthen them, which will give me a lightweight, warm pullover for cooler days and a great layering piece for coooooold days.

    And because I am forever in love with the versatility of cardigans, I’ll be sewing a few more button-front shirts to layer with them. I also have in mind a knitted vest with an argyle pattern. So retro, lol.

    And, hopefully, I’ll find that camel-colored wool to sew my new coat.

    Last note to this very long comment: When we got that 30-degree cold snap awhile back, the flannel-lined Morgan jeans were the best thing in the world. At some point, I’ll need to sew another pair.

    • Oh yeah, glad you were able to rework the alpaca sweater! I don’t attempt to wear alpaca, but I did just buy some alpaca socks, which is perfect.

      • TBH, I felt pretty silly for not considering alpaca’s ability to retain heat!

        Alpaca socks! Now that’s nice and toasty for icky cold days!

  9. I am enjoying your problem solving adventures. Your realization “there are stores” reminded me of a time when I had a one year old who could now walk outside wearing a snowsuit and therefore needed mittens. I immediately dug into my small stash (I hadn’t had so many years to accumulate yarns) and came up with lime wool yarn, cast on and shortly she had mittens. It was years later in retelling the story I realized I could have simply gone to the store.

    • That reminds me of the time my niece and nephew visited the Bay Area from FL one Christmas and had nothing for their little hands. So while everyone else was in a children’s museum or something, I sat in the car and knitted them quick little tubes with thumb holes.

  10. Hmmmmm… this post made me think of the pattern I was stalking yesterday. I love the concept of Nora Gaughan’s Interchange worksheet with for different sweater body types and four different cabled yokes that can be mixed and matched. My favorite was the Swirl Topper which is a cropped length and has above the elbow sleeves. I’m also really into the chunky standing collar, since I love the idea of turtlenecks but in practice they always feel too constricting around my neck. And apparently the pattern works with any weight from DK to Aran. Such a genius idea, I just love the flexibility! Not sure if this would be the type of winter sweater you’re looking for, but it might be worth checking out.

  11. I understand your weather dilemma, as I used to live in southern Arizona and reached similar conclusions. I found it ironic that the only thing I really could justify knitting there was sweaters – they were just always loose-fitting and fingering weight, often cardigans, and/or short sleeved. (Or cotton, but I often find knitting with heavy cotton uncomfortable.) I found it hard to justify mitts/hats/cowls/scarves/shawls because for me, those really are cold weather wear, and Arizona didn’t have enough cold weather to justify the investment. (They’re also items I find it tougher to incorporate into my work wardrobe, whereas I can just wear a sweater.)

  12. I’ve lived in parts of Ontario and Quebec, as well as Washington, DC. Our house in DC, which lacked proper insulation, was the coldest of all in winter (or what passes for winter there). I lived in thick sweaters and fingerless gloves from December through February. Now, back in Canada, my thick sweater season is extended, but those fingering weight sweaters for spring and fall are still perfect for layering. With last night’s windchill at minus 16C, the more layers the better! Let’s hope that climate change doesn’t mean COLDER for this neck of the woods.

  13. Long sleeve cotton tees are going to energize your wardrobe like nothing else. I have a few of those in my favorite colors and a couple with stripes, and they are really perfect for layering. Under a cardigan, lightweight or bulky, under a sleeveless tunic or a lightweight sweater. Perfect for the mid-seasonal weather. Moving from the cold climate of Canada back to Western France where there are virtually no extremes in temperature, I found they were invaluable.

  14. I live in long sleeve tees – perfect for northern California winters, layering and my “transitional” internal thermometer lately. But i’m pretty picky about the fit (slim, a bit stretchy, and long enough so there’s no draft coming up my back when worn untucked). I WOULD love a post or info on making one’s own – for a newbie like me. I live in cotton tanks + long sleeve tees and I love the idea of making my own and customizing it into a tunic, boat neck etc. too. How hard could it be? :)

    • Check out Grainline’s Lark Tee pattern! Or the free Hemlock she sends when you sign up for her newsletter.

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