Choosing the right knitwear for the season

As we move into early spring dressing and styling can become a little trickier. With the weather seemingly changeable within all four seasons in the space of just 24 hours, a little extra thought is required for planning outfits when compared to throwing on a chunky jumper in the winter. 

At Colhay’s our ethos is centred on creating knitwear that has physical longevity and is classic enough in style to be worn for years to come too. We endeavour to design garments that are easy to wear with clothes you likely already own. For us, good quality knitwear is an investment and doesn’t need to be saved just for winter time. With all of this in mind, we design and produce sweaters and cardigans for different seasons, some are a little thinner, designed to be worn as we approach the warmer weather, as well as the thicker pieces for colder months you’d expect from a knitwear brand. 

It would be fair to say that wearing knitwear when it’s not chilly outside can feel slightly alien to many. The comforting idea of wrapping up, cosy and warm, in something soft and thick is prevalent, and rightly so, but not all knitwear is the same and knitted garments with particular qualities can make perfect spring-summer wear. 

The world of knitwear can be fairly technical and so we’ve put together a concise guide to some of the commonly used terminology that will help you to gain an understanding of what to look for when shopping for knitwear for warm weather. In this blog we’ve also included a small selection of some of our favourite spring pieces that we feel are ideal for days when you might experience both a warm, sunny afternoon and a grey, drizzly morning. 

Our Guide to Knitwear's Warmth

There are four main elements to consider when trying to decipher how warm a piece of knitwear is (and therefore, whether it is a piece that is more for cold weather, transitional weather or warm weather): material, weight, ply and gauge. Each of these elements helps indicate how thick a piece of knitwear might be, but all four elements must be considered together - taking just one element will only tell you one feature of the garment, and not enough to give a more rounded view on how thick/warm the piece of knitwear is. 

There is a lot of technical information below, so to sum up the approach first:

1. Focus on the material and weight (if this information is provided);

2. Then secondarily, look at ply and gauge to help support your initial conclusion. The key is not to allow these two secondary considerations (ply and gauge) to distract you from the main considerations, which are material and weight. 

For instance if the material is cashmere silk (a spring/summer fibre), and the weight is 230 grams (relatively light), then the garment is likely appropriate for warmer weather (spring/summer). The ply of that garment might be 3ply (so higher than the usual 2 ply), and knitted at 12 gauge (same as other of our essentials like cashmere crew neck), but because the material and weight are appropriate for warm weather, the conclusion is overall it is a warm weather piece. 

The other consideration to keep in mind before going into the detail, is that this is only a guide to help you when looking for knitwear for certain seasons, and is by no means meant to be a conclusive benchmark for determining if a piece of knitwear can be worn in certain warm temperatures in your locale. There are many factors outside of our control that determine a location's climate (temperature, humidity etc.), and much of it will depend ultimately on personal preference (some get cold more easily, some always feel hot, for example). These variables are specific to each person and not within our control, so the guide isn't intended to be a substitute for trying garments and seeing how you feel in person in certain temperatures. 

Now taking each element in turn:

Material, a self-explanatory term, is the most significant player of the four. Broadly speaking, our cashmere, superfine lambswool and cashmere wool collections tend to be for colder weather thanks to their insulating properties and chunkier feel.

For warmer weather, we suggest focusing on materials that contain summery yarns such as silk, linen, cotton or extra fine merino wool, or yarns blended with such materials. Silk, cotton and linen are commonly seen and favoured by people living in countries along the equator and as they need to keep cool. It is easy to see why -  they’re breathable, light and airy, and work perfectly when blended with cashmere or wool for spring as you are able to incorporate that fluffy softness you get from more "wintry fibres" (cashmere), but you get the benefit of the breathability of the summery fibres. Therefore, during the spring or summer time, we would recommend checking out our cashmere silk, cashmere cotton, cashmere linen and extrafine merino collections. 

A word about extra fine merino - though coming from the same raw material, it has a vastly different feel to lambswool. Our merino wool is a worsted yarn, meaning the yarn is finished in a way that gives it a smooth texture, and the resulting garments are therefore lighter and silkier to the touch. Many of our customers comment that it’s so soft it feels like wearing a second skin. For this reason, this light material is perfect for transitional dressing/warm weather. Lambswool on the other hand, is a woollen yarn, meaning that the way that the yarn is finished creates a fuller, spongier/fluffier hand feel, making it more appropriate for chunky knitwear for cold weather. 


Secondly, you can look at the item’s weight. Obviously, it’s likely that a heavier garment will be warmer, however, you’ll need to consider the material at the same time. Garments of the same weight but made of different materials will have different properties. A 300g made of a lighter material, cashmere silk for example, will be less insulating and warm than 300g of lambswool. 

Next is ply. This simply means how many threads go into a yarn. Looking closely at yarn, you’ll be able to spot that multiple threads are twisted together. The more threads, the higher the ply and the higher the ply the higher the thickness. This is no indication of quality, solely of the thickness of the yarn, which in turn, could be an indication of the overall thickness of the garment, but it is on its own by no means conclusive as to the garment's warmth. For example, because cashmere silk is a very thin, fine fibre, you need quite a high number of ply comparatively to create a yarn that can be knitted on a machine. So if you were only looking at ply, and it says the a cashmere silk garment is 3 ply, you might start thinking it could be quite thick, but in fact, is a very thin garment, because even with 3 ply, the yarn is still quite thin, and therefore the garment is still a warm weather garment. 

Lastly, the gauge and, as with ply, this has no bearing on quality. Gauge simply means how many stitches are within a square inch of the knitted fabric. 12 gauge would mean 12 stitches in that space, 14 would mean 14 stitches, and so on. Though in theory this is infinite, in practice knitwear producers are confined by the knitting machines they use. Generally these tend to be 3, 5, 7, 8, 12, 14, 16 and 18 - so these are the numbers you’re likely to see. 

The higher the gauge, the more densely you are knitting the garment, which is an indication that the yarn used is thinner, and in turn, indicates that the garment is overall likely to be a thinner garment. For example, if you hear that a piece of knitwear is knitted at 14 gauge, which is quite high, the yarn used will be thin, so you can probably deduce that the garment is therefore also quite thin and more appropriate for transitional or warmer weather. Conversely, knitwear that is knitted at a lower gauge indicates that a thicker yarn is used, and therefore, in turn indicates it is overall a thicker garment. For example, our superfine lambswool shawl collar cardigan is knitted at 3 gauge, so very thick!

Again, you cannot only look at the gauge though, because it only tells you how densely the machine is knitting. You can use a very thin yarn and knit at a low gauge, resulting in a very porous, loose garment with lots of holes, for example (some fashion houses might do this to create that specific effect on a piece of knitwear). Generally speaking though, when looking at Colhay’s items, the lower the gauge, the more likely it is to be a thicker knit and this is because we insist on knitting at the highest tension possible at whatever gauge, so as to create a very dense, firm fabric (for durability). 

Ideal Transitional Pieces from Colhay’s

With Spring on our doorstep, we will go through some of our favourite items for these transitional months, and use them to illustrate the how to determine a garment's warmth as explained above.    

Cashmere Silk Tennis Polo Shirt 
Gauge: 12 gauge
Ply: 4 ply
Weight: c. 260 grams

Our tennis polo is made from a blend of cashmere and silk, a luxurious "spring/summer" yarn. The weight is around 260 grams, so it is generally lighter than the other styles in our knitwear range. These two elements combined indicate that the piece is, on first view, a spring/summer piece. The fact that it is 4 ply and 12 gauge are secondary considerations here. The reason why it is 4 ply is because cashmere silk yarn is a very thin yarn, which is why you need 4 strands of that to knit a garment at 12 gauge. Even after using 4 ply of the yarn, it is still only weighing 260 grams. In addition, cashmere silk as a material, feels and knits up a lot lighter than 100% cashmere, and it also weighs lighter than our 100% cashmere crew necks, v necks and polo shirts, so overall it is a spring/summer garment. 

Cashmere silk is very fine in comparison to cashmere yarns and the hand feel is remarkably soft and light, given the 30% silk component in the knitted fabric, which really opens it up and invites air in and enhances breathability.

The softness of this piece feels wonderful against the skin, but, if you want to avoid having to wash the shirt frequently, you have the option of wearing a deep v neck undershirt underneath. 

Cashmere Cotton Breton Stripe Sweater 

Gauge: 12 gauge
Ply: 3 ply
Weight: c. 300 grams

Ecru with thin navy pinstripes, this sweater is perfect for spring in terms of aesthetics. Practically, too, it’s great for warmer weather wear. It’s made from a cashmere and cotton blend that sits at an almost 50:50 ratio. Though it’s knitted in a very similar way to our 100% cashmere sweaters, the difference in material (i.e. the high percentage of cotton in the blend), makes it much lighter. Again, wear an undershirt if you’d prefer not to have the fabric sitting against your skin. Cashmere cotton yarn is thinner than 100% cashmere yarn, which is why you need 3 ply to achieve even the same weight as our 100% cashmere essentials. But even at the same weight, the garment overall still feels lighter and more "airy" on the skin, because of the high cotton component in the material. 

Cashmere Cotton Collegiate Sweatshirt 
Gauge: 12 gauge
Ply: 3 ply
Weight: c. 300 grams

As with the Breton Stripe Sweater we’ve outlined above, this garment is made from our cashmere cotton blend which is ideal for spring. With a ribbed hem and cuff, the sweater works well with a shirt or tshirt underneath - perfect for days when layering is essential. 

Extra Fine Merino Club Cardigan 
Gauge: 8 gauge
Ply: 2 ply
Weight: c. 600 grams

At 600g, the weight of this piece might on first view, imply it’s quite heavy, however, because it’s made from extra fine merino wool, it’s actually more of a midweight piece for spring/summer. Flowy, with a springy texture, this cardigan is great for layering in the evening or morning when even summer days can have a slight chill. It’s another very versatile garment that can be worn with chinos, jeans or even shorts in the summertime, making it excellent value.

This is another example, where you have to look at the other factors in the round - the fact that it is extra fine merino is the thing to focus on and it trumps all. Extra fine merino by its nature feels very light and breathable against the skin, so even if it is heavy by absolute weight, it doesn't feel like that when worn, because the fabric feels so light and airy on the skin. 

Merino Sports Shirt 
Gauge: 12 gauge
Ply: 2 ply
Weight: c. 210 grams

This piece has been designed to be an elevated version of a t- shirt. It’s a casual piece that has a more refined look than a t- shirt, ideal for casual weekend wear. It’s made of extra fine merino wool and, at 210g in weight, is a lightweight piece. The fact that it is extra fine merino (spring/summer yarn), coupled with the relative light weight (210 grams), indicate that it is overall a warmer weather piece.

The fact that it is 2 ply and 12 gauge then becomes less of a consideration when determining appropriateness for warmer weather. Of course, there is always a limit, and it may not be conducive to very hot and humid temperatures (e.g. 30 degrees plus), it being a wool yarn after all, but it is a great option for temperatures around 15 - 25 degree celsius. 

If you’re interested in knitwear for spring and summer, but aren’t sure which garments would suit your lifestyle best, please don’t hesitate to contact us. It’s highly important to us that our customers understand the knitwear they are buying and that they purchase knitwear they’ll be able to wear over and over again. For this reason, we frequently advise customers on what’s most suited to them.