Under the tutelage of my grandmother, I once attempted to knit a peggy square. Just once. The tedium of knitting nearly drove me mad with boredom: swapping loops of wool back and forth from one needle to the other, with nothing to look forward to but more of the same, for row after endless row. And the result of all that teeth-gritting effort? A gangly woollen shape of uncertain geometry, composed entirely - although surely, this can't be possible? - of holes.
I share this harrowing glimpse into my childhood, only to explain why I have nothing but admiration for the skill and patience which produced the knitted garment I am currently in love with. It is but the most recent in a long line of odd-ball hand-knits, in whose embrace I have enjoyed passionate winter-long romances.
This particular paramour is an extremely large cardigan, almost a coat really, knitted in a fair isle pattern in purple, grey, green, brown, cream and pink. It reaches below my knees and so would the sleeves, if I didn't roll them up four times. The pockets are set so low that I have to bend over to reach into them, but they are large and very handy for storing essential winter survival items like Chapstick, tissues, reading glasses and snacks. The ape's arm length of the sleeves and the low slung pockets are a trifling matter.
What's really important is that this garment is very warm and extremely capacious - many layers of merino can be worn beneath it.
Every winter I fall in love with a different woolie. The winter before last it was a jersey of such ramshackle charm and enveloping warmth that I overlooked its dull mouse-brown colour. Last winter my favourite was a lime green mohair jumper which was toasty warm but terribly itch-inducing. Upon our divorce it went to live in the dog's basket. This winter I searched for an equally colourful, but less irritating consort. When I spotted my current multi-hued Fair Isle paramour among a crowd of pedestrian machine-made winter wear, it was love at first sight.
As my unhealthy interest in hand-knits may already have suggested to the perspicacious reader, I am a martyr to the cold. Nesh is what the plain speaking folk of Yorkshire call this sensitivity to cold. It's a term which implies a general softness and inability to cope with adversity, which I rather resent: Professor Google advises that a study of twins has suggested a genetic basis for exaggerated temperature perception.
Nesh or not, I don clothes when all about me are doffing theirs. I shiver when others perspire. I rarely swim even in the summer. I introduce a hot water bottle to my bed as early as February, and follow it soon after with an electric blanket and an extra duvet. Reading in bed on particularly cold nights, I wear gloves to keep my book-holding hands warm.
I once shared an office space with a woman who - possibly in the throes of a punishing menopause - suffered the opposite problem. We spent most work days fighting over the remote control of the heat pump. As soon as the office was balmy enough for me (palm trees, tropical lagoons, ukuleles) she snatched the remote and plunged us into sub-arctic temperatures that suited her, but had my teeth chattering like castanets.
I am far too nesh to risk the hoots and jeers which a public display of my wooliest obsessions might incur. However, if you keep warm indoors by wearing a woolly mammoth plus a scarf and several merinos it's a challenge to find an ensemble which will keep you warm outdoors.
It was my kind ex-husband who first alerted me to the solution. We were watching a TV documentary about migrating birds and one scene showed a raft of ducks fast asleep, buried up to their necks in snow. "How come they don't freeze to death?" I asked my kind ex-husband. His one word reply was eloquent in its simplicity. "Eiderdown" he said.
This light bulb moment must have coincided with the introduction of down-filled jackets to New Zealand, because when I bought my first knee-length puffer jacket it seemed fiendishly expensive. Gradually however, down jackets have become ubiquitous and retail prices have fallen. They've started appearing in opp-shops. That's why I now own a brace of down jackets and coats, in a variety of styles and colours, bought at rock-bottom prices.
The most cold-proof of them features a hood trimmed in wolverine fur, and is so huge I can wear another puffer jacket underneath it. As Mae West said, too much of a good thing can be wonderful.
There is a downside to owning a large bevy of puffy, high loft jackets, and that's storing them. My wardrobe threatens to buckle at the seams all winter. Stand back when you open it. Poof! Freed from confinement, those puffer jackets burst out of the wardrobe like dangerously over-inflated marshmallows.
Courtesy: Grey Urabnist
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