Sensitivity

Louet Northern Lights Pastels

Beautiful, isn’t it? It’s Louet’s Northern Lights, colorway Pastels. When I found it on the shelves of Purlescence Yarns, I couldn’t resist. I had to pick it up and bring it home, along with a bag of Violets colorway.

Unfortunately, as I was spinning the singles, I noticed that the palm of my hand felt a bit swollen. I didn’t think much of it at that time. I continued to spin merrily along. The package said “100% wool.” The wool felt a bit coarse to me, similar to how Corriedale feels to me.

Before you get up in arms about Corriedale being “soft,” I just want to say “to me.” I enjoy spinning silks, merinos, alpacas, cashmere, and some blends of those on a regular basis. Corriedale feels coarse to me. As far as I’m concerned, I’m unlikely to spin Corriedale again, no matter how beautiful Linda Diak’s batts are. This is very personal.

Back to Louet’s fiber. I sent an email to Louet to ask what their fiber content was — breed of sheep. They very kindly replied the next day to tell me that it was a medium wool, similar to Corriedale.

That first night, as I was sitting in bed reading, I realized that I was scratching my left hand. The hand was also very swollen. I was having problems bending my fingers. It wasn’t swollen like a full blown allergy attack, but more like I ate a bowl of salt, neat.

Yup. Wool sensitivity. I quickly slathered my hand with calamine lotion and took a benedryl. The itching and swelling was gone by morning.

This left me with the question — what do I do with the partial bobbin, and the remaining roving? I took a latex glove, and snipped all the fingers tips off, and finished spinning and plying the yarn. In retrospect, if this ever happens again, I would only snip the fingers required for drafting — the index finger and thumb. My pinky finger was tingling quite a bit when I was done. But it wasn’t anything like it was before.

(Really, if I was really sane, I should have donned a hazmat suit, and remove the singles from the bobbin, and tossed that along with the unspun fiber directly into the garbage. But the Frugal Annie in me couldn’t waste perfectly good fiber.)

However, it was clear that this was not going to be a pair of socks for me, as I originally intended. It was also clear that, whether I can handle it for next to skin wear or not, I was not going to be able to knit with it. So, I packaged up the plied yarn and the unspun package of Violets and gave it to Sonja.

Last heard, Sonja was enjoying knitting a pair of socks with it. She doesn’t appear to have any problems with the wool. Good for her. I’m glad that the wool found a good home.

So, the PSA? You can be sensitive to some wools and not others. Don’t panic and say that you can’t wear all wools. Check around and carefully test other breeds of sheep. And wool sensitivity isn’t the same as wool allergy. From what I understand, wool allergy is a whole different beast. My sensitivity is what Martin would have called “contact dermatitis.” Breathing it didn’t cause an asthma attack.

Of course, it’s possible that I wasn’t sensitive to the wool at all, but the dye. Unfortunately, since it was a packaged/mass produced product, I’m not able to break it down any further for scientific experiments. There are at least 2 unknowns: breed of sheep and the type of dye used. There might be additional factors, such any other chemicals used during processing, from the mordant used to the soap that they used to wash the finished wool.