“Babies- And people generally– have been dressed in wool since around the beginning of history. Even as comparatively recently as my own youth I can remember neither the word, nor the phenomenon, of wool-allergy. A minimal minority wriggled their way through my boarding-school days complaining of scratchy underwear, but they outgrew the sensitivity — they had to. I believe that the dressing of babies in the very softest wool, automatically and naturally immunizes them against any allergy to it.”
– Elizabeth Zimmermann, The Knitter’s Almanac
I think of this quote a lot, and it’s definitely worked with my children, nieces, nephews and of course…
Elliot. Each of them has been swathed in the stuff from the word go – I’m a big fan of wool on babies and littles for a million reasons, you guys know most of them. It’s warm when wet, resilient, sustainable (remember, polyester is plastic) biodegradable, naturally flame resistant and hypoallergenic. (Somebody’s going to go bananas at that last one, but look up the definition first.)
In all the years I’ve been knitting for kids, I’ve always knit with wool (non-superwash, where I can) and handed the sweaters out with abandon. I know, I know, someone else is going to go bananas and say that it’s a terrible burden to give a new family woollies, for laundry reasons, and someone else will say that they’re afraid they’ll be ruined. To them, I say this. If you don’t think they can take care of something as precious as your knitting- the very container of your time and love, then maybe you should buy them something nice? Maybe they’re not your target audience
As for the laundry problem, woollies don’t need washing often (another advantage of wool, it’s naturally antimicrobial and repels dirt) and you wash them just the way you wash the littles who wear them, so I feel like all parents are competent to handle the task. (Assuming they are successfully washing the littles in question, and if they’re not then I think there’s another issue to address before sweaters.)
In any case, all the babies and kids I’m lucky enough to know have a full wardrobe, wear their wool with gusto and nary an itch, and I think of Elizabeth often.
Pictured: Elliot’s Christmas sweater this year. Pattern: Winter Cocoa. Yarn: Miss Babs Yowza. (One skein for the size 2, knit a little longer in the arms and body, because Elliot’s almost the height of a three year old, but pretty skinny.) Needle size: 3.5mm (See that? I can be taught.)
PS the blanket is coming along I’ll show you tomorrow.
PPS Meg, thanks for taking the pictures. I know he’s a fast moving target.