“Former” as in, last night.
I *am* a wool snob. I have violently hated acrylic yarn since I was fourteen years old and was given a garbage bag full of it by a sweet neighbor who heard that I liked to knit. It was ugly and had the feel of strung-out plastic and I knit a horrible, beginner cardigan with it that sat in my closet for several years before finally being thrown away during a move. Although I was rather thankful for the yarn and the thoughtfulness of my friend at the time, I was deeply scarred by the finished “plastic bag sweater” (could you tell?) and have been a hard-core, no-going-back, dyed-in-the-wool, wool snob ever since.
I don’t like acrylic fabric in clothing. I sat on the sidelines of the world and watched in disgust as my fellow Crafters fell head-long into the fleece frenzy of several winters ago. I haunted the edges of the fabric store looking for wool- any wool – and found none. “It’s just not that popular anymore”, the attendant said, and I felt as though the libraries had suddenly decided to stop putting Charles Dickens on the shelf in favor of the Twilight series…
So, there you have it. I knit with wool. I wore a wool coat for many years and had many a wool sweater. No fleece. No acrylic. And of course our pocket books would never allow for alpaca or cashmere, so that left us with good old sheep fur.
And then, when I was about 17 years old, I realized that I was terribly allergic to wool. How did this come about, you ask? Everywhere my favorite wool jacket touched skin turned bright red and the skin grew hard and flaky and extremely painful. I had to give up wearing it.
My “disadvantage”, which honestly seemed life-threatening at first to one such as I, has saved me from becoming an opinionated, crabby, snobby old woman someday. I don’t think we are nearly thankful enough for the things in life that keep up supple, at least I’m not. I can thank God for the best things, and I have learned to see His hand in the worst, but what about all the little things in between that seem like random annoyances or plain old ‘bad luck’? What about the things that keep a spring in our spine and save us from atrophying too soon? Gotta be thankful for those things too, yup, I do.
I started wearing fleece, which was soothing for my angry, vengeful skin, and if there is wool in anything I put on it is usually blended quite generously with acrylic or alpaca, and yes, even cashmere or silk or cotton. I had to drop the illustrious title of ‘Wool Snob’.
Things shifted, but I never stopped knitting with wool yarn and that seemed to be the saving grace – at least I didn’t have to stop knitting with wool, my hands never seemed to mind it – there was one spot I didn’t have to give up, and I treasured it. I have a modest, but lovely collection of wool yarn that I have toted across this wide land, adding to it with gifts from friends and loved ones and a scattering of clearance sales at JoAnn’s.
I love my wool yarn. I really do – it’s probably the second thing I would grab if I had to run for my life. What’s a life without knitting, right? (And if you’re interested, having no children or pets, the first thing I would grab is probably our personal records and an emergency survival kit – how unromantic we become when we reach real life!) Not that I could easily grab the lot and run for my life – I would probably end up succumbing to whatever godawful horror was at hand.
Then I noticed the skin on my hands hardening slightly. “Oh look,” I thought, “I have calluses from knitting!” The skin continued to harden, deep down, and then it started to ‘chip’ off when I bent them and the pain was very intense. The fingerprints and feeling dissolved into hard flakes of shiny skin,and the cuticles have disappeared from around my nails as the skin swelled and cracked around it. Yup.
I know I have sensitive skin – ok, I have extremely sensitive skin, like, can’t use handsoap sensitive – but wool yarn has never bothered my hands so I didn’t even think of it. It’s just been getting worse and worse and I’ve been clueless and knitting up a storm. So I started praying about it and last night the answer came and knocked the wind out of me.
I’m allergic to wool.
I know, I thought we already covered this ground, but I had to walk it again in order to see. I’m allergic to wool. Even my hands. The End.
Yes, I was sad. I still am a little bit, but you know what – I’m feeling kind of free today. I can’t keep any of my lovely hoarded wool yarn and my heart wouldn’t stand for selling something I have treasured that much, so it’s being given away to friends and loved ones. It’s still going to be knit into wonderful, creative things, things I couldn’t have thought up, I’m sure. And my hands are going to heal.
I’m going to buy yarn that won’t hurt me – and that’s OK. Seems so simple to everyone else, I suppose, but I’m an odd duck – never denied it – pretty dense up top and rather set in my thoughts. And – I’m also pretty thankful. I’m thankful for the Lord giving me the lovely yarn in the first place and I’m thankful that He is giving me the opportunity to give it away to others. I’m thankful that He works through my dense dimness. I’m thankful that He is keeping my spine lubricated and pliable. I’m thankful for His answer to my silly prayers and that my hands have a chance to heal. I’m thankful that He gave me a sweet husband who says, “Have I denied you any good thing I have the power to provide? You will get more yarn… good yarn.” I’m thankful that his estimation of ‘good yarn’ is that it be the kind that won’t hurt me. I’m thankful that he doesn’t measure my value by how dyed-in-the-wool I am, as I often do. He doesn’t care how old fashioned I am, how hard-core, as long as I am “healthy and happy and loving him”.
So – it really isn’t that tragic after all, is it?