Hi dear friends, I hope you’re all well and taking good care of yourselves. As promised, here goes PART 2 of how my handmade Winter clothes performed in the cold of Northern Finland! If you’re interested in this topic, make sure to start by reading PART 1 here, so you can know all about what modern gear I used, what kind of temperatures we experienced as well as some more details about our living conditions during our Stone Age Winter Experiment in Kierikki’s Neolithic village.
In my last post, I shared about the performance of my handmade trousers, shirt and boots. Today, I’ll focus on my vest, coat, scarf and mittens, plus a few extra things I learned on the way that might be useful to others. Enjoy!
I love my vest so much! It kept my core super warm and I just love its overall aesthetic. For the vest, I used two sheepskins (one for the front part and another for the back part) and decided to keep the legs hanging instead of cutting them off. Though I really liked how it looked, the legs did annoy me a bit when trying to get into the sleeping bag at night as they tended to just get stuck under my body all the time (not very comfortable 😆).
Overall, the vest performed really well. I feel it was probably one of the most important pieces I had because it allowed me to remove my coat to work and have a greater freedom of movements while still keeping the core of my body warm.
My sheepskin coat! I love it so much. When making the coat, I was unsure if I should keep the wool facing inwards or outwards. I went with the idea that it would be better to use the skin as the animals themselves, so I decided to keep the wool facing the outside. However, if I did it all again, I would now choose to keep the wool on the inside of the coat.
On the first day, I used the coat as I designed it and I actually felt really warm (and everyone wanted to hug me because I looked like a huge, two-legged sheep! 🤣). However, the first days were actually quite warm compared with those that followed, and I’m glad I made the switch the next day. Even though I didn’t plan it to be reversible, I flipped it over and, from the second day on, used it with the wool facing in. I felt super warm the whole time – even when it was -20ºC – as the wool trapped my body heat better that way.
I had an improvised belt that was supposed to keep the coat closed (unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to add buttons). However, using it was a bit of a fuss, so I ended up giving up on it altogether. I discovered I was actually warm enough even if the coat was not perfectly closed. The vest definitely helped a lot here! I would have definitely liked to have a coat with a hood, so that’s something to consider in the future! Also, I’ll surely make my next coat longer – maybe up to knee height – to better cover my back and partially protect my legs.
The hat worked ok. It kept my head warm, which was the most important thing. However, due to its design, it would sometimes cover too much of my forehead, making it more difficult to see if I moved my head up. If I had to make it again, I would choose a “trapper’s hat” design (I believe this is how they are called) with the wool facing in and flaps covering the ears and part of the neck.
My scarf was very simple… just a fox skin around my neck. The skin was obtained from a fox I found already dead by the road. Instead of letting her rot, I salvaged her skin and fat tanned it myself, while the body was buried in my own land with a very simple ceremony.
Fox hair is amazing… my neck was extremely warm the whole time, and I really noticed the difference in temperature every time I would remove the scarf. Needless to say, it performed super well. The only thing is that you need a system to keep it in place, otherwise it will constantly be sliding down your neck (it happened to me all the time in the beginning). I ended up finding a simple solution by using a piece of leather string to keep it in place with just a regular knot.
My mittens were made out of… sheepskins! (of course 😄) I made them with the wool facing inwards and they performed quite well too. They weren’t too tight, which was good because this allowed the creation of a pocket of warm air inside and also some freedom of movement. When I didn’t use my mittens for some reason, my fingers would quickly become really cold and even a bit painful, and they’d take quite a while to become warm again even by the fire. On the other hand, if I used my sheepskin mittens, my hands were kept warm and comfortable enough to withstand the cold temperatures.
My mittens’ wool wasn’t very thick, so I wonder how much warmer they could have been if I had made them slightly larger and with ticker wool. I hear some people make mittens like these with a double layer, i.e., a bit like a glove inside another glove: the outer layer with the fur facing outwards, and the inner layer with the wool facing inwards. I might try that in the future! Something I also need to consider for future mittens would be how wide I’d make the cuff next time, so they would better fit around the coat’s sleeve (or vice-versa). Anyways, for the range of temperatures I was exposed to (the coldest was about -20ºC, as far as I know), these mittens worked quite well.
A few extra things I’ve learned
- Bulky clothes: Bulky clothes make it really hard to move. This might sound pretty obvious, but a few of us ended up experiencing this one way or another through the clothes we used. When preparing for an experience like this, it’s easy to end up making bulky clothes because they just seem warmer. However, in reality, the use of several layers on top of each other tend to work much better to keep ourselves protected from the cold temperatures. Personally, most of my clothes were quite flexible and gave me a lot of freedom of movement, with the exception of the coat that slightly restricted my movements (though fortunately not too much). In a next time, I would probably keep the coat, albeit with a few modifications, such as choose softer skins, add a hood, make it longer, add an efficient closing system, etc. Also, I would probably create an extra layer – maybe something similar to a sweatshirt – that would be both warm and flexible enough to be used when movement is highly needed (e.g. tan a hide, skin an animal).
- Grass on shoes: This one I learned with Lynx Vilden. Lynx made an experiment in which she used a wool sock on one shoe, and only grass on the bottom of the other. She found out that her foot on grass was warmer than the one in the wool sock! How cool is that?
- Reindeer clothes: Reindeer clothes are beautiful, however, depending on when the animal died, it can either be an amazing experience or a nightmare 😆 from what I’ve learned, the best skins to use for clothing are those from reindeers that have died during the Summer (before September). Skins of animals killed during the Winter will release a lot of hair… like, really a lot of hair 😄
- Snow shoes: Snow shoes are incredibly helpful when walking on deep snow. We didn’t have much deep snow during our time in Kierikki, but enough to see how helpful these kind of shoes are. Both Lynx and Lucy made their own snow shoes, very different from each other and yet both very efficient! Lynx used some wood she harvested in the forest (spruce, I believe) and Lucy opted to weave hers with willow. Next time, I’ll be sure to make my own as well! ehehe
- Felt boots: As I mentioned in my previous post here, my felt shoes performed really well. However, besides making them slightly larger (I explained why in my other post), next time I would probably make them with one or two more layers of wool to be sure my feet would still be warm enough if temperatures dropped bellow -20ºC. The boots I used were made with a total of 3 wool layers.
Alright guys, this is it! I really hope you’ve enjoyed Part 1 and 2 of how my handmade clothes performed in the Winter of Finland. I also hope that this information is useful to you now or in the future! If there is anything you would still like to know that I didn’t cover in these blog posts, please go ahead and let me know in the comment section bellow! I’ll make sure to get back to you 😊
Much love and take care,