Non-wool knitting

Monday, February 02, 2009
(This post is in response to the many many "discussions" on Ravelry, in the Blogosphere, and via email lists about "those people who claim they're allergic to wool but just haven't seen the light.")

I fully admit that I'm not allergic to wool. However, I CAN'T wear it - and I can't put my husband or child in it either - because it totally drives me up the wall to touch. I once even had a sweater with only 5% wool content, and even though I hadn't read the label (so didn't know it had wool), I had to take it off within a half-hour of putting it on, I got so itchy.

Unfortunately I've discovered that alpaca, mohair, and cashmere (yes! cashmere too!) also make me itch. It makes me very very sad, especially since it's really hard to find sock yarn that hasn't got at least some wool content.

I can knit with wool - for some reason it doesn't bother my palms - though I do get a welt on the outside of my carrying hand's fingers and have to either be wearing long pants/skirt or have a blanket over my lap. In the summer I knit exclusively with plant fibers and silk because it's too hot to cover up my legs! There's something funky about the way I hold wool too that makes my hands ache after a pretty short time. I think I'm subconsciously holding it stiffly and away from my body so as not to have it touch bare skin...

I love the No Sheep for You book. It's a wonderful resource for those of us who aren't wool-inclined. I wish more designers, teachers, and spinners/dyers would recognize that a large portion of the population isn't trying to be difficult or whiny, we're just tired of being itchy. Yes, I know plant fibers don't hold in heat when wet, and they relax with use, and they don't dye as easily. But then again, I don't live in a climate where I'm likely to be cold and wet at the same time, I like long tunics, and I don't dye my own yarn.

I think this year I'll devote more time to designing for non-wool yarns. There have got to be more people like me who want garments that are cooler, itch-free, and don't felt in the wash. Right?


  • km

    Yes! Although I don't break out itching from wools, my mom does, my kids do, and we live in Southern California. My mom is so sensitive, Cotton-Ease has been the best thing for her so far. And while I enjoy my wool socks, I can't imagine needing a wool sweater. It's been in the 80's on and off this January. My kids are still wearing shorts and flip flops. Cotton, Silk, Bamboo, Soy...bring it on. Just not the tofootsies...I'm allergic to that.

  • Cindy AKA ChessWidow

    Yes! I have been tested and I am allergic to wool, but I can wear it if I have a cotton blouse or something between me and the sweater. If you are breaking out from holding it and itch like crazy when wearing it, you ARE allergic to wool. I thought I would be okay with alpaca and found out it really does itch me after making a scarf for myself with some yummy hand painted chunky alpaca. *sigh*

    I'd like to find more nice yarns in silk or bamboo or something. I'm sick of itching too -- or having to give away things I'd like to wear.

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