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I want to knit a tea cosy like shown in this picture (not affiliated; image source):

enter image description here

I want it to give proper insulation to my tea pot to keep the contents warm for longer. Originally I planned on using the English Rib pattern (aka Patentmuster in German), but seeing it now I'm uncertain how well it actually insulates. Due to its stretchyness it seems like a quite loose pattern.

Are there any knitting patterns that are known to be very well insulating? I would prefer to knit only with one strand, but I can do 2 strands if I must.

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    Some possible sources of info: Thermal underware for serious users is a competitive business and manufacturers have a stake in using the most effective construction. The military may even have figured out the best pattern and include it in their specs. Looking at what's used for high-end or military products might provide some insight. In frigid climates where it may be everyday clothing, people will spend their money on what works best. There are likely to be a few popular products that everyone buys, so you could look at what those use. (cont'd)
    – fixer1234
    Jan 6, 2023 at 18:26
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    Also, check reviews for tea cozies at sellers like Amazon and see if purchasers talk about which ones work especially well and which don't, and see what patterns they use. It's possible that the key is mainly something thick that traps a lot of air, and the specific pattern doesn't make a huge difference.
    – fixer1234
    Jan 6, 2023 at 18:26
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    One other thought: There are knitted glove liners that are thin and incorporate reflective threads (maybe some type of metalized synthetic?). Rather than do much insulating, they reflect the heat back like a space blanket. If you can find "metalized" yarn, you might be able to use any pattern you want and still keep the tea warm.
    – fixer1234
    Jan 6, 2023 at 18:41
  • Actually, thermal underwear may not be the best example because the clothing on top of it can do the air trapping; the underwear can mainly act as a spacer. A better model would be knit caps or sweaters. BTW, I seem to remember reading something somewhere about lengthy discussion in comments. Feel free to delete all this at any time. :-)
    – fixer1234
    Jan 6, 2023 at 19:22
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    What makes the knit, woolens specifically, contain heat are the pockets of air captured by the fibers. So a knit that is thick and creates the most closed air pockets would be the most insulating. (I don't know knitting patterns so cannot post an answer.)
    – rebusB
    Jan 11, 2023 at 14:45

2 Answers 2

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On a fundamental level, heat insulation means trapping hot air around an object (or person) and keeping cool air away from the object (or person). With that in mind I tested a few knitting patterns in a completely subjective and unscientific experiment.

Aspects that increase the heat insulation:

  • Use a fuzzy, fluffy yarn. The diameter of the core may be even less important than the diameter of the fuzz.
  • It's better to make the knitting too big than too small. If the knitting needs to stretch in order to fit the object or person, you lose insulating air layers.
  • Use a knitting pattern that results in several layers of yarn. The best patterns in my test are double knitting (double layers in all of the knitting) and English rib (double layers in half of each rib).
  • Create ridges or ribs that don't lay flat against the hot surface. This traps additional air. The best patterns in my test are cable knitting and English rib.

So in the end English rib (aka Brioche) turned out to be the best pattern for me after all. However, it may be problematic for some applications because it stretches insanely wide. If that is the case for you, double knitting is the best alternative.

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    In general crochet uses more yarn per area, so maybe this is an idea too. I made some oven mitts, doing crocheting in rounds, one side taking outer half of the last-line-slings, other side taking the whole last-line-sling PLUS the left over half slings from the first side. I do not know, if this is an official pattern, but it was useful and thick :) Jan 28, 2023 at 15:07
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    @Allerleirauh Thank you for the information, that sounds indeed like a great way to create a very thick and insulating fabric. Unfortunately I hate crocheting ;) I used Brioche (Patentmuster) and my tea stays nice and warm for 4 hours.
    – Elmy
    Jan 28, 2023 at 17:19
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A simple stitch pattern to use for a thicker, and thus more insulating stitch pattern, is double stockinette, it's a two-stitch repeat, k1 s1wyif, translation, knit one and slip one with yarn in front, and on the return row, the stitches that you knitted(aka the ones with a purl bump) are the ones that you should slip. Warning, this pattern uses a lot of yarn, since it is two layers of plain stockinette stitch but that is a fair trade-off for thicker work. This is a simple explanation, but this is a better explanation, with pictures and video.

A few extra tips for this stitch pattern, use needles a size down what your yarn recommends, and don't forget that yarn in front while slipping otherwise it doesn't look like stockinette stitch, if you change up the knit stitches, you can create double 1x1 ribbing which will be a great insulator.

Disclaimer I have no affiliation whatsoever with the website(s) posted.

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