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Message Board > Fabrics and more... > Removing the Scratchiness of Wool ( Moderated by CynthiaSue)

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Removing the Scratchiness of Wool
How can I eliminate the scratch factor
kcstarr49
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kcstarr49
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Date: 10/2/13 2:09 PM

I would like to purchase several yards of wool knit to make a few professional dresses however I am afraid that I won't want to wear the dresses due to my skin being so sensitive to the scratch factor of wool.

Any tips to make this beautiful fabric not be so itchy?

Thanks in advance!

Kiawe
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Kiawe
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Date: 10/2/13 2:26 PM

I'm super sensitive to wool and all I can suggest is a full lining.

PeppermintPam

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In reply to kcstarr49 <<
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Date: 10/2/13 3:49 PM

It really depends on you. How sensitive to wool are you? For me, some wool knits are itchy and some aren't -depends on the quality. But some people can't wear wool at all - even if it's lined, or is blended with some other fiber. I've personally found (in the past) some wool/acrylic blends that not only are warm and non-itchy, but you can also machine wash and dry. Do you really want 100% wool, or maybe you could find a nice wool blend that isn't itchy.

I would recommend (if at all possible) to go to the store where you can wrap some of the wool fabric around your bare arms to see how itchy it is - is it unbearable, tolerable or OK? Even if you line it, most likely the edges (neckline, sleeve hems, bottom hem) will still come in contact with your skin - so could you live with that or would it drive you nuts? You could also line the dress and use some other matching or coordinating fabric to bind or finish the edges.

If you can't go to a fabric store, I would suggest using online retailers who are know for their quality fabrics, and order 1/8 yard swatch - which is enough to wrap around your neck, or spirally wrap around your arm to see how it feels.

There isn't really anything you can do to the fabric itself to change it's 'itchiness' level - at least not that I know of. And everyone is different when it comes to how itchy a fabric feels to them, but there's nothing worse than being uncomfortable (or miserable) all day just because of the fabric you're wearing.

EleanorSews
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Date: 10/2/13 3:56 PM

It really depends on the fabric. PeppermintPam had a great response.

It is important to understand that if you are sensitive, it is likely to be an allergy and you will be breathing in the fibers so that wearing wool could be more problematic than itchiness if worn for a full days for example.

I have found that a hard finish wool, such a gabardine is something I can wear without the itch factor. I can wear merino wool sweater and even cashmere, but not angora. The sweater discoveries came while helping my aging mother on a shopping trip years ago. I actually put on a sweater and left it on while helping her with try-ons. It was enough time to know if there would be a problem.

Best wishes. I share your desire to wear wool and understand the complications involved.

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"We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." Anais Nin

"Attitude is the difference between an adventure and an ordeal." unknown

BrendaR
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Date: 10/2/13 4:27 PM

I can tolerate woven wools, as long as they are good quality. Knits, not so much--I can wear cashmere knits and some wool blends, can tolerate them on my arms, but not on my chest/neck/abdomen. I'd suggest a lining but if you use a woven lining you'll lose the quality of the knit and the garment might not even fit the same way (you'll defeat the stretch factor.) See if you can find a tricot knit for lining if you decide to use a lining. Many people like synthetic "ponte" knits now and I've seen a few (very few) that look just like wool.

tlmck3
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Date: 10/2/13 7:46 PM

Angora is actually rabbit or goat, not wool. It's the long, outer hairs of the animal. And it tends to shed, terribly, even in "quality" knits. I can wear wool, no problem but I find angora makes my nose and eyes itch--and I'm really not very sensitive/allergy prone at all.

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Terri A
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Date: 10/2/13 8:51 PM

These tips for vinegar or glycerine might help. I would test on a swatch to see how it affected my wool though...


Scratchy wool treatments...

Elona
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Date: 10/3/13 0:55 AM

I like peppermint's suggestion. There is no substitute for physical contact with an iffy fabric. In a store, try carrying a bolt around in your bare arms, under your nose. When doing internet purchasing, always get a swatch first and put it in contact with your skin for a while. That will tell you pretty much what you need to know, and it will spare you the disappointment of painstakingly making something you cannot wear.

JOshiro
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Date: 10/3/13 10:10 AM

Individual wool fibers can vary in thickness, and it is usually the ends of the fibers sticking out of the spun yarn that irritate the skin. Generally, a thickness of 30 microns is considered the threshold for skin itchiness. Some sheep breeds are bred specifically for fine fiber (think Merino, Rambouillet, Cormo, others - these are typically in the high teens and low 20s for micron thickness), and they are soft and comfortable to wear. (For comparison, a fine cashmere is low to mid teens in micron thickness. Human hair is 60+ microns thick.) A lot of people say they are allergic to wool, but it's not an allergy in the true biological sense (ie, it's not an immunoglobulin-mediated reaction), it's just sensitivity to the coarse ends of wool fibers poking their skin, it tickles just like a bug walking on your arm tickles, and people scratch and assume it's an allergy.

I've been a handspinner since the late 90s, and I've never found any technique to truly reduce an itch factor - wash in vinegar, hair conditioner, slight fulling, etc - if the wool is just coarse to begin with, it is coarse forever. If you're looking for wool fabric, find one that's breed specific for a soft breed (eg, Merino). If you find a washable wool fabric (sometimes called superwash), that may be comfortable, depending on how it was made washable. Some superwash is such because the wool scales (that cause felting and fulling) are chemically stripped off the fiber, others because the wool fibers are individually coated with some kind of substance that covers the scales. The latter is thought to be gentler to sensitive skin because the poky ends are coated. (The problem with the latter is that the coating can eventually wash off. The problem with the former is that the scale stripping is thought to weaken the fibers and make them brittle.) YMMV.

I also am plagued with really sensitive skin. I wear full-length pantyhose underneath wool pants and cotton or silk shirts/blouses underneath wool sweaters. Sometimes, I can still feel the itch through those layers. As much as I love wool (love working with it, anyway), I'm extremely careful about what I make with it. I work only with superfine fibers and superwash superfine fibers. Also, I've noticed different parts of my body are more sensitive than others (my neck/shoulder/arms are more sensitive to prickle factor than my legs).

The suggestion of getting a small swatch and "wearing" it is a good one. Many knitters suggest putting a swatch of a potential yarn inside the bra (presumably a place with sensitive skin) and keeping it there all day to see if you can tolerate it. I tend to rub fabric on my face, around the lip area, which is (for me) the most sensitive area. (I try not to do this in a store, LOL.) Your fingers are actually a terrible judge of potential itchiness - you may have fingertip callouses if you play guitar, garden, or even type a lot, and if you are even the slightest bit cold, your fingers do not process sensory information as well because the blood is withheld slightly from the extremities when your body is chilled.

Sorry to be a little rambly. I hope this is useful!
June

JOshiro
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Date: 10/3/13 10:22 AM

Angora rabbit needs to be spun very tightly (short fiber length) for it to not shed. 100% rabbit is actually too warm for most applications, so it's often blended with wool (to cut price, too - wool is cheaper than angora). Because wool fibers often are longer and need less twist to hold together, the yarn is spun to match the wool characteristics and not those of the angora, which means the angora is relatively underspun and then sheds like the dickens. I've worked with craptastic angora yarn that practically disintegrated while I was knitting with it. Terrible.

Angora goat fiber is more commonly called mohair. It has longer fibers and doesn't usually shed (long fibers means you need less twist to hold a yarn together, indiv fibers less likely to come out b/c of length) - the fibers are shiny and its natural curls make a great boucle. If mohair is shedding, the fiber may be suspect - insect damage? Poor processing (cutting fiber to make it machine spinnable)? I find adult mohair unsuitable for clothing (so coarse, argh) - but it makes an awesome rug yarn. Kid mohair, however, is divine and fluffy and wonderful in its softness and halo.

Shedding (in any yarn) can be 90% eliminated if the yarn is properly spun (shorter fibers, more twist). It's a shame that this often isn't done well commercially.

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