Best Fabrics for Winter Warmth

Making clothes

Discover the best fabrics for staying cozy in Vermont's cold winter weather, and learn about local Vermont companies crafting quality winter wear.

Vermonters are creative when it comes to staying warm during our long, cold winters. Our closets are full of pants, sweaters, jackets, hats, and other winter clothes that we wear in various combinations to keep us comfortable – even in below-zero weather.   

Fortunately, many innovative Vermont companies are helping us get the most out of winter. Using materials like wool, fleece, and flannel, they’re making clothes that efficiently retain body heat and block the chill. Let’s take a closer look at the best fabrics to keep you warm while you’re outside enjoying winter activities.


Vermont has a long history of producing wool and turning it into textiles. In the early 1800s, Vermont’s hillsides were covered with flocks of grazing sheep. In the valleys, more than 300 mills were turning millions of pounds of wool into cloth. At one point, Vermont was the second largest producer of wool in country.

Falling prices and growing competition from Western states eventually caused a large decline in Vermont’s wool production. While much of it now comes from elsewhere, Vermonters are still using wool to make world-class winter clothing.

Wool is valued for its insulating properties. The crimps in wool fibers form small air pockets, which trap and retain heat. Wool can readily absorb moisture and remain breathable, which makes it good for winter activities where sweat needs to be wicked away from the body. Because wool quickly releases moisture, it tends to be odor resistant. When used in external clothing like jackets, some manufacturers coat the wool fibers with a waxy substance to help it repel water.

Vermont companies using wool in their winter clothing products include:

  • Johnson Woolen Mills, located in the town of Johnson. The business, which has been in operation since 1842, is famous for its line of rugged woolen outerwear. At the mill, Vermonters hand cut and sew wool cloth into coats, pants, shirts, and other warm garments.
  • Darn Tough Vermont, located in Northfield and Waterbury. The company got its start as Cabot Hosiery Mills in 1978, when it began knitting socks for brands like Gap and T.J. Maxx. The company launched its own Darn Tough Vermont brand in 2004. Its high-quality wool socks, backed by an unconditional lifetime guarantee, now have a loyal following and are exported to more than 30 countries.
  • Vermont Mitten Company, located in Shelburne. The company got its start in 2021, after Essex Junction teacher Jen Ellis made a pair of mittens for U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. A photo of him wearing the brightly-colored mittens to the presidential inauguration went viral and demand skyrocketed. The mittens, made of recycled wool sweaters, are now produced by Vermont Teddy Bear in its Shelburne factory. 

Polar Fleece

Polar fleece is a synthetic material that was developed by Malden Mills in neighboring Massachusetts in 1979. It’s made of polyester yarn and mimics some of the qualities of wool, such as having tiny air pockets that trap and hold body heat. Like wool, it is highly breathable and helps transport moisture away from the body. But unlike wool, polar fleece absorbs very little moisture. That means it continues to provide insulation when wet.

Polar fleece is lightweight, soft, and dries quickly. It comes in a wide variety of weights and finishes. The fabric is also very durable and resistant to pilling. Vermont companies using polar fleece in their winter clothing products include:

  • Turtle Fur, located in Morrisville. Turtle Fur started in 1982, when Millie Merrill designed a product called The Turtle’s Neck to help skiers keep warm on runs down Mount Mansfield. The polar fleece fabric, sewn into a circle, slips over the head and is worn around the neck and chin. The company’s 25 full-time employees now produce a wide variety of winter neck and headwear.
  • Skida, located in Burlington. Skida was established in 2008, when Corrine Prevot bought some fabric and made hats for her cross-country ski teammates at Burke Mountain Academy. The hats were so popular that demand grew and the Skida brand was born. Today the company makes a wide variety of hats, headbands, neckwarmers, and balaclavas. Many of the company’s products are sewn by Vermonters.          


Flannel is such a popular fabric in Vermont that some people might think it was invented here. Flannel actually originated in Wales centuries ago, where it was worn by farmers to stay warm while tending to their crops and animals. It has grown in popularity since and is now a fashion trend.

Flannel is typically made from wool or cotton. The woven cloth is brushed to create a raised, fuzzy surface. The finished product is breathable and feels very soft against the skin. Yet the napped texture traps body heat, giving flannel excellent insulating properties.

The Vermont Flannel Company of East Barre has been making flannel clothing since 1991. The company was founded by Mark and Linda Baker. Mark had previous experience in the t-shirt business, and after moving to Vermont, he had an idea to create a flannel t-shirt. Realizing that there’s a natural synergy between Vermont and flannel, Mark and Linda launched The Vermont Flannel Company. Mark went on to develop the company’s original flannel lounge pant. Now Vermont Flannel’s wide variety of products include shirts, hooded pullovers, jackets, pants, and hats.

Many people choose to wear flannel because of its versatility, says Michelle Vincent, Vermont Flannel’s director of merchandising and inventory. “We have three different weights: lightweight, midweight, and heavyweight,” she says. “Our lightweight is about the same weight as a t-shirt — so our flannel can actually keep you cool and comfortable in the summer, or as warm as you want in the winter.” The company’s midweight flannel is an ideal year-round layering solution, and the heavyweight fabric provides extra thickness for outerwear purposes, Vincent says.

Flannel is a great option for outdoor activities year-round, Vincent says. Flannel can be worn with layers above it or beneath it to achieve the perfect body temperature, she says. “Our lightweight fabric can be a great top layer to wear on a hike during warmer seasons and help protect from bugs and cool breezes. Our midweight is a great layer to wear while skiing and hanging in the lodge later. Layered under jackets and vests, it works as an excellent insulator.” The company also sells heavyweight shackets, as well as flannel-lined jeans, jackets, and other accessories to solve a variety of outerwear needs, she adds.

Bundle Up  

No matter what fabric you prefer, there are plenty of Vermont-made products to keep you warm and comfortable during your winter outings. Be sure to bundle up and please share photos on Instagram or Facebook (tagging us or using the hashtag #snowdaysvt) during our Snow Days signature event, showing us how you’re staying active this winter. For each photo shared, we’ll donate $5 to Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports