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Been knitting on and off for about 50 years, sporadically trying to crochet, just bought a lucet. More details about my knitting, crochet and tunisian crochet can be seen at https://www.ravelry.com/people/Rosebark for which you need to be a member, but this is free.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Knitting and Allergies

Another photo-less post.  I feel it's about time to explain why I mostly knit with acrylic.  One reason, of course, is that it's cheap and the yarn snobs who state that they only knit with such-and-such beautiful, expensive yarn always seem to imply that they think anyone who knits with acrylic (said in a sneering tone) is a cheapskate.  They don't really believe it if you say you are allergic to wool.  Occasionally they will grudgingly concede that some wools may be a bit itchy.  If it was just a matter of being "a bit itchy" I could possibly cope, but that is by no means the whole story.  When I was about 5 my Mum knitted a lovely jumper for me with all sorts of cables etc and a high turned over neckline.  Even at that age I appreciated that she had put a lot of work into creating something beautiful for me.  I put it on and a few minutes later had to very regretfully and apologetically take it off.  At first it just made my neck itch, but very soon after my eyes started puffing up and feeling like there were wool fibres in them.  This was not just "a bit itchy".  Incidentally, I had the same reaction after a woolly monkey had sat on my head at the Woolly Monkey Sanctuary in Cornwall a year or two later. (They're not allowed out amongst the visitors nowadays due to upgraded health and safety regulations, but they were back then).

I am slightly surprised that my wool allergy has not disappeared or at least diminished over the years.  I had it explained to me by an allergy consultant that one's allergies change over the years; one becomes less allergic to substances outside the body and more allergic to foods, etc and it is true that although I was allergic to roses for a while in my teens and twenties that allergy has disappeared..  The poor man who explained this to me was no longer able to drink dry sherry, which had been his favourite tipple, as he was now allergic to it.  However, my allergy to wool seems to have remained.  I can pick up a ball of yarn, put it against my neck, which is my most wool-sensitive area and tell you if it has a high, low or non-existent percentage of wool (but see next paragraph) and if it is reasonably low, I can knit with it, but some yarns I don't even need to put up to my neck - they make my hands itch, which somehow seems even worse than my neck itching.  I then throw the yarn down in disgust and wipe my hands thoroughly.

For a very long time, I thought I was allergic to all wools, except that I was aware that Shetland wool was different, as I find it even more nastily itchy than any of the others (this would be one I would throw down).  However, since I've got back to knitting in a fairly big way, I have discovered that this is not so.  Yes, Shetland wool is still awful, but I have found that merino is completely OK.  I have heard that this is quite common amongst us people with wool allergy.  Daughter and I have been comparing notes, as she also knits and seems to have inherited the wool allergy.  She finds merino OK too.  However, she also seems to be OK with Blue Faced Leicester, which I am most definitely not, whereas I find only last month that Romney wool is OK for me, but I don't think she was entirely happy with it.  I don't think this is because the wool allergy is abating, just that different sheep produce different wool. We both find alpaca feels fine, but then that's another animal entirely.  Also bamboo and cotton are fine, but they are plant-based.  I suppose there may be people who have problems with plant fibres, but I haven't encountered this.

I am aware that there are people who have similar problems with man-made fibres, which must be at least as much of a nuisance.  It used to be called being allergic to the 20th century when people were allergic to all sorts of man-made materials.  I wonder what it's called now that we're in the 21st century.

I accept also that some people just don't like the feel of acrylic and sometimes it squeaks on the needles (usually when you're using metal needles and they're cold, or your tension is way too tight).  My conclusion is that knitting should be fun and if you find a particular yarn is not fun for you to knit with, try others until you find what you do like knitting with and ignore people who are sneering or scathing or otherwise disapproving of your choice.

1 comment:

  1. That was a very interesting post ...and I agree with your sentiments. I do not see the problem in knitting with acrylic any way, especially when its for kids who would quickley out grow a garment fashioned with expensive yarn....maybe different for a non allergic knitter/wearer creating a one off design for an adult.xx