Hi dear friends, today is finally the day! I’ll finally start sharing all about how my handmade clothing performed in the cold Winter of Northern Finland! I’m really excited to share this information with you, not only because I know some of you are quite curious about it, but also because I believe it can be quite helpful to anyone considering making their own clothing for cold climates.
My aim is to share the kind of information I wish I had found when I was on my own handmade Winter clothes’ making journey.
When I first started writing this post, I was describing the whole making process for each piece, adding all the steps I took and the materials I used… until I realized that information alone could actually be its own blog post due to the level of detail I wanted to share. Therefore, and in order to avoid diluting the purpose of this article, I will solely focus on the clothes’ performance here. If you’re interested in learning about how I actually made some of these garments, then stay tuned for future blog posts! And thank you kindly for your interest ❤️
Winter Temperatures in Kierikki (Yli-Ii)
I think it is important to start by sharing how cold it actually got during our time in Kierikki, Yli-Ii, Finland. Our Stone Age Winter Experiment lasted for 7 days. The first 3 to 4 days were not very cold, with temperatures oscillating somewhere between +2ºC and -2ºC, approximately. After that, the temperatures dropped quite a bit, varying between -4ºC and -20ºC, approximately. We had a bit of wind and light rain on the first couple days of the experience, which (funny enough) I found more challenging to deal with than the coldest days I experienced later.
We lived in one of Kierikki‘s Neolithic wooden houses, sleeping, cooking and doing basically everything in the same division. We were a total of 9 adults and 1 child, naturally creating body heat that helped keep the house warm. There was also a fire going all day, except for the night when we would bury a few embers under the ashes and let the rest slowly die to minimize the smoke in the house. Sometime during the experiment, we were given a thermometer to check how warm it was indoors compared to the outside of our amazing home, made out of simply wood, birch bark and reeds. In the morning, we found out that while the temperature outside was -19ºC, inside was -10ºC (without any fire going). A difference of 9ºC. Pretty cool, don’t you think? 😀
If you’ve read my previous post about my clothes’ making journey, you know that time wasn’t really on my side and materials were limited too. I could only create a certain amount of layers and, because of this, I had this slight concern they wouldn’t be enough to help me withstand the cold temperatures of Northern Finland. Thus, I ended up making the decision of wearing a thermal layer underneath all of my other handmade clothes.
The thermal underwear was bought in a sports shop called Decathlon and it was actually quite inexpensive (I used this shirt and this long johns). There were other more expensive (and supposedly better) alternatives. However, giving 40 euros for a thermal shirt alone was a bit out of my budget.
Looking back, I think I would have probably been fine without it. Nevertheless, I used it the whole time and felt it added a bit of extra warmth and protection against the cold. Besides that, I also used modern wool socks.
The trousers were made out of a felt blanket I created myself with Bordaleira wool from Portugal, and they performed great! The felt proved to be super flexible and durable, and allowed a lot of freedom of movement. I was super comfortable the whole time and the seams held really well too, even in zones under more tension such as the crotch area. I’m usually someone who can withstand cold on my legs without much of a problem, so I guess a person more sensitive to low temperatures would potentially prefer an extra layer to feel extra warm and toasty. Personally, I felt great! I will definitely make an adjustment to the in-built belt system, so that it’s not constantly moving up towards my belly (I will explain this better in a future post), but besides that they were perfect! So happy with the outcome ♥️
The shirt was also made out of felt. The felting process of the white wool didn’t go as nicely as for the brown wool (due to the fact I was already quite exhausted by this time), so the shirt ended up being a bit bumpy on the chest which had more of an aesthetic impact than a practical one. It was a bit itchy at times around the neck with the wool touching it all the time. To solve this, I will probably end up adjusting the neck section to be a bit more open. Nevertheless, it kept me warm and worked really well in combination with the vest, which I used all the time.
Felt Boots + Leather/Sheepskin Outers
I used a combo of inner felt boots plus leather/sheepskin outers. Damn, I was so freaking impressed by how they performed! No matter how cold it was, they kept my feet really warm and protected. I already knew wool was amazing, but these felt boots really outperformed my highest expectations. I even used them in the snow without the leather outers once and they still kept my feet warm and cosy without any problem! Truly amazed and grateful by the power of wool as a thermal insulator.
There were just a couple of times when my feet felt a bit cold. Both times happened at night, when I was sitting still around the fire and outside temperatures were at least -10ºC. Later I realised I shouldn’t have made my boots tight fit because it reduced the air space around my feet. That was actually one of the most interesting lessons I learned with Cold:
that it is very important to not use clothes or shoes that are too tight around our bodies because otherwise we lose a very important insulation layer made out of warm air.
The outers were specially useful to keep the snow away from the entrance of my boots. Also, no snow would touch the felt boots. Sometimes the outers were all covered in snow, which later would melt when inside the shelter, making them damp. Thus, my routine was to remove the outers as soon as I entered the shelter, and then let them dry by the fire. In the meantime, my felt boots were always kept dry.
Interesting thing I discovered: my leather outers would become really stiff with the cold sometimes! I believe that happened mainly when they were still a bit damp, and so the water would freeze and make them hard.
The only time my boots didn’t quite work out were during the first couple of wet days, when temperatures raised above 0ºC and the snow started to melt. My felt boots became wet, the outers all floppy, and I ended up having to use my modern boots for a day because I couldn’t keep my feet warm otherwise. It is definitely harder to deal with wet cold than dry cold, and these kind of boots are perfect for the latter. For wet cold, the outers would need to be waterproofed. I thought about covering them in pitch mixed with beeswax, but unfortunately I didn’t have time for that. I’m really happy we only had a couple of wet days!
Overall, these boots performed great and I couldn’t be happier with them. It would have been impossible for me to have frozen feet all the time, so I guess that’s why I feel so impressed about them. They allowed me to just live a normal life and explore the lake and the forest without ever feel cold. If you live somewhere with snowy Winters, definitely give it a try! You can follow Joan‘s (@feral.lion) felt boots tutorial, which is the one I used to make my own boots and is great!
This is the end of PART 1 of this blog post! I really hope you enjoyed it and found it useful.
In PART 2, I will share all about my other clothes’ performance – vest, coat, mittens, hat and scarf – plus a couple of things I learned on the way that are worth sharing. In the meantime, you can read about my Winter Clothes’ Making Journey here.
Also, if you have any questions about this topic, do write them on the comment section bellow and I’ll make sure to answer them! I’m really happy about sharing about this topic and help anyone I can to start their own journey into making their own leather and felt clothes 😊
Many Spring Equinox Blessings!
Much love and take care,