“Hypoallergenic” Knitting

Is there such a thing? What does it mean? Am I one?……After some research, yes, I am a hypoallergenic knitter. Am I happy about it? Yes and no. But it does answer a lot of questions I’ve had and it also nixes a lot of plans I had.

Due to the dear daughter’s wedding, I’ve had to postpone sewing for a couple of weeks and find stress relief working with more portable fiber projects.  I’ve been knitting and crocheting like a fool.  I find myself drooling over the brilliantly-colored hand-dyed yarns that can be found on the Instagram posts of YarnInk, Handspunstagram, Vividyarnstudio and Hauteknityarn, just to name a few.  I have dreams of so many projects that can whipped up in the soft superwash merinos.  I’m hesitant to try them. Superwash merino is wool.  Many years ago I discovered I have a problem with wool.  It makes my palms swell, itch and become very painful.  So I assumed I was allergic to wool.

Working at an academic library, I proceeded to conduct some research into the subject of wool allergies.  Many blog posts stated that a wool allergy is rare and can be avoided by knitters by switching to alpaca fiber which is much less irritating to the skin.  So as a scientific experiment, I rounded up some alpaca and proceeded to knit up a pair of wristers for the wedding photographer.

Two hours into the project, I decided that I must finish the wristers in one sitting because I did not want to ever pick up alpaca again.  The alpaca fibers stuck to every surface that was exposed to them, much worse than the dog hair that is a continuing problem in my house.  My neck, which seemed to be catching the alpaca hairs flying around, broke out in a rash.  The inside of my throat became raw and irritated.  Yep, I must be allergic to alpaca.  So back to the research.

Further study revealed that anyone allergic to animal fibers should turn to plant-based fibers for their yarn projects.  (There goes every hope I ever had of visiting the Southern Animal Fiber Festival!)  After a couple of clicks on sources of cotton, silk, bamboo, and hemp, I noticed that some commercial yarn sites place these fibers in a “hypoallergenic” fiber category.  So, thus, I am a hypoallergenic knitter.  Who knew there was such a thing?

Gone are my hopes of knitting with those brightly-hued hand-dyed fibers.  It seems that gorgeous hand-dyed color is  something that is more easily achieved on animal fibers and is very, very difficult to accomplish in plant fibers.  One must search far and wide to find the couple of vendors that offer a dyeable hypoallergenic yarn that has a more yarn-like than twine-like feel. Hand dyers of those yarns are even fewer and far between.

So, here I am 2 days later and all my hopes are dashed of ever knitting beyond acrylic and cotton.  Bamboo and silk are also nice but are a slicker fiber than I want.  Hmmmm, my state just legalized the growing of hemp…..perhaps I could be a trailblazer in dying that fiber?  But who would buy it and who would want to use it? I’m willing to bet there are not many hypoallergenic knitters out there.

And, I have this crazy rash on my forearms.  I’m thinking the alpaca has not had its last say.

Further reading:
What is a wool allergy?
Winter and Hypoallergenic Yarns

 

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