If I can keep my head, feet and hands warm while I’m rowing in cold weather, the rest of me stays warm; pogies are my winter hand covering of choice. I sewed my pogies 14 years ago from wind-blocking fleece and I’m still using them to row on cold winter days.
Pogies are remarkably simple and easy to make. Their primary purpose is to keep wind from reaching your hands, but they can be insulated and waterproofed as well. You can use fleece, windstopper fleece, Cordura, Gore-tex, and many other outdoor fabrics. Some of these technical fabrics can be expensive but, depending on fabric width, with just a half yard you can make two or three pairs of pogies.
The simple drawing here is the basic shape of a pogie. Unlike gloves, pogies can fit almost any hand, large or small. A good starting point for the pattern’s overall size is around 12″ tall and 8″ wide. The side opening should fit the loom; if the loom is larger than the grip, the pogies should slip over it and not crowd the rower’s hands. The bottom opening should provide good clearance for the sleeve of a coat as well as the hand. You can easily customize this for your needs. I’m right-handed and need to get into and out of the right-hand pogie more often, so I made the opening a bit wider than the left.
Make a paper pattern similar to the drawing. Leave a 1/2″ allowance for seams and hems at the openings. The exact shape isn’t critical. Fold your fabric in half. If it has an exterior face make sure it’s inside the fold. Lay the folded fabric out on a flat surface and align the pattern’s straight edge with the fold of the fabric. Mark the outline with chalk and carefully cut. When cutting two layers of fabric, it helps to pin them together before cutting. Machine or hand sew the seam. Backstitch the seam ends at the openings to reinforce them. (If you aren’t equipped to do any sewing, you can use a Dritz Liquid Stitch Permanent Adhesive for the seams.) Depending on your fabric you can hem the openings to prevent fraying. Some thickly woven fabrics like fleece do not fray or unravel on cut edges. Synthetic fabrics like nylon and Gore-Tex can be cut with a hot knife to seal the edges.
Some do-it-yourselfers hem their pogies with webbing at the hand openings. That prevents the material from collapsing as you try to slide your hands in. And, depending on the material you use, you can also flatten the seam allowances and top-stitch them. This also provides a bit more stiffness to the pogie for easier entry. If you’ve used a waterproof fabric you can apply iron-on seam-seal tape or liquid seam sealer to waterproof them.
I put my pogies on the oars first, then slip my hands in. Some rowers do it the other way around. If it’s especially cold, I start out rowing with fleece gloves inside pogies and as I warm up, the gloves come off but I keep my hands in the pogies where they stay very comfortable.
Dale McKinnon began rowing in 2002 at the age of 57 and in 2004 rowed solo from Ketchikan, Alaska, to her home town, Bellingham, Washington. In 2005 she rowed from Ketchikan to Juneau. Her previous articles for Small Boats Monthly include rowing the Columbia River and the Columbia River estuary, how to row rough water, and reviews of NewGrips and CrewStop rowing gloves, Exped sleeping pads, and the Devlin Duckling 17.
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