Life stuff goes in waves - how many times have you found yourself with multiple weddings or a number of gift giving events, (bridal showers, baby showers, etc.) over a span of a few months? Baby showers and new grandkids seem to be quite plentiful right now. So we'd like to take this opportunity to remind you that yes, wool is ok for items designed for the the new baby or small child in your life.
First of all, it's fire retardant and doesn't melt. I know that's a morbid thought, but it doesn't need chemical fire retardants. With all the questions surfacing about the safety of chemicals and their long term affects on people, being able to limit them naturally is a huge benefit. Woolmark states that "Wool’s inherent chemical structure makes wool naturally flame resistant. It is a highly trusted natural fibre in public areas such as hotels, aircraft, hospitals and theatres. Wool is harder to ignite than many common textile fibres. Whilst cotton catches alight at 255°C, the temperature must reach 570-600°C before wool will ignite; while polyester melts at 252-292°C and nylon succumbs at an even lower 160-260°C, wool never melts so it can’t stick to the skin like many common synthetics." (www.woolmark.com) (Photo left (c) Joanna Johnson. Phoebe's Sweater made with Brown Sheep Co. yarn; pattern available on Ravelry or found in "Phoebe's Sweater" book available at Darn Yarn.)
Many athletes love wool as a base layer (it's true!) because of it's ability to absorb odor, regulate temperature and remain breathable. Which are also great attributes for baby items. All of these are possible because of wool's wicking capabilities. It's an "active" fiber that's able to wick moisture away from the skin and is anti-static so it naturally repels dirt.
Have you read about the newest "sleeping trend", weighted blankets? While people on the autistic spectrum have been using weighted blankets for a while now, the idea has become a bit more mainstream recently. And surprisingly (not to some), recent research has discredited the myths about wool being itchy, bad for people with allergies, and not good for bedding and sleepwear:
"In hot (29° Celsius) conditions, wearing wool sleepwear saw participants in the study sleep significantly longer, reflecting faster sleep onset and waking up less frequently. In both cold (17° Celsius) and neutral (22° Celsius) conditions, the combination of wool sleepwear and bedding saw participants have a more efficient sleep compared to when tested using non-wool sleepwear and bedding."
"A dedicated research team at the Queensland Institute of Dermatology (QID) in Australia has been exploring the role that superfine Merino wool knitwear has in the treatment of chronic dermatitis conditions.
A pilot study undertaken in 2012 by the QID team has shown that wearing suitably specified fine Merino wool products will not irritate the skin’s surface, but in fact benefit those suffering from skin conditions, such as atopic dermatitis."
(both from www.woolmark.com)
Good for skin conditions and promotes quality sleep? Sounds like a great combination when making items for the little tyke in your life. FYI - feeling "itchy" isn't an allergic reaction. While many might have different comfort levels, there are very few people who are truly allergic to wool, and those people most likely aren't allergic to the fiber, but instead are allergic to the lanolin - an oil secreted by sheep to protect their wool. Many of them can't use cosmetics and lotions with lanolin in them either. Sometimes however, they are able to use/handle wool that's been superwashed, boiled (a fabric treatment, not like pasta), or heavily scoured and dyed because these processes remove much of the lanolin.
To help promote all the benefits of wool the entire month of November is set aside as "Wovember" in Europe to "Celebrate Wool for What It Is" (check out their facebook page, since it is November!). And don't forget about the fiber festivals to which so many of us make annual pilgrimages - they are nothing but the celebration of all things wooly.
One may occasionally find an iconic itchy wool sweater, but many of today's wools come from sheep that have been bred to produce "better" wool. They've been trying to breed softer and softer fiber with each generation of new sheep. While softness is subjective, wool is scientifically classified and measured by a few different methods - the American or Blood System, the English or Spinning Count, or the Micron System. (Check here if you're curious about the different grading systems.)
All of these improvements in the wool benefits today's crocheters, knitters, and even spinners, because we get to take advantage of all the squishy softness of these improved wools while making modern heirlooms for all the little ones in our family as well as a few sweaters, mittens, or cowls for the rest of the family members too. And if you're not sure about the care of a wool item, today you can often find washable wool - making it easy to care for too.
Personally, wool is almost always my go-to fiber of choice. If you've been avoiding it because you remember the itchy, stiff, yucky stuff of your childhood, maybe it's time for you to take a second look at wool.