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Acrylic Issues

November 27, 2011
by Erin B

I am … I’m not certain allergic is the right word, but let’s go with that anyway.  It’s a medical term that I think applies, but since I haven’t been diagnosed as such, I shouldn’t really be using…. but that’s another post….

I am allergic to acrylic.  It started one winter in the 1990’s when I was in high school and fluff sweaters were popular.  My budget for sweaters only stretched to acrylic and I wore a sweater every day all winter long.  The next year, I dug my sweaters out of storage and wearing them gave me puffy red blotches anywhere they touched me.  It looks like a contact dermatitis, like poison ivy, but it does itch… much.

In my regular life, it doesn’t really make much difference.  I just don’t buy acrylic.  I don’t get the same effect from polyester or nylon.  I don’t buy rayon because I don’t like how it washes, but I don’t get the same response.

In my knitting life, this is a severe disadvantage.  I would estimate about 2/3 of the yarns in my price range are acrylic blends.  Not really a problem, it is likely the only thing keeping my yarn stash under control.  It does mean that any projects I take on have to be thoughtfully planned out.  And that a lot on my wool will be likely bought on the internet.  It isn’t fair to the LYS to have to bring in a case of some wacky product so I can buy one ball for a thing I’m working on.

I am amazed and delighted that LYS lady was able to find John Deere green wool for T’s Christmas present, but…. now she has a whole case.  It stares (as much as wool can stare) at me accusingly every time I go into the shop now.  Other than another tractor person, I can’t imagine who would buy it.  I am going to have to go into heavy green item production to help take it off her shelf.  In fact, watch for a tractor themed knitting etsy store coming soon.  Maybe.

The thing is… I could work around it.  Until Wednesday. Wednesday, Little Girl ran around the yarns store and as we were leaving her face started to puff up.  By the time we got to a bathroom to wash her face, one eye was near swollen shut and her hands and face were covered by red lumps that look suspiciously like my acrylic allergy.  Fortunately, a few moments after washing of hands and face, the redness started to fade and the swelling went down, just like having a shower helps with my acrylic reaction.  And that is why I am not comfortable using the description “allergy.”  Allergies don’t usually wash off.

So… now what?  Do I take Little Girl to knitting again and see what happens?  It could be not related to the products at all.  Is it completely horrible to risk having her swell up again?  Do I purposefully expose her to acrylic to see if we can duplicate the problem?  Do I give up on knitting group when I don’t actually know what caused this?


2 Comments leave one →
  1. LAT permalink
    November 28, 2011 12:46 pm

    I think you should do what the allergist would… rub some acrylic yarn on Little Girl’s arm and see what happens. I would say that the reaction goes away with washing because the actual fibers of acrylic are physically there. With something like poison ivy oil, wouldn’t it soak in a bit and be harder to scrub off?

    I wouldn’t feel guilty about the yarn order. She knew how much you would buy, and like any business person she bought as much extra as she thought she could sell to everyone else. It’s a very nice green, and it is Christmas season… 🙂

    • Erin B permalink*
      November 28, 2011 1:13 pm

      I found out afterwards that the minimum order for a store is 12 balls in a colour…. As for the allergy test…. know anyone with an acrylic sweater?

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