While running with Jess on Monday, she asked about knitting a face warmer to wear while running. She has some machine washable merino in the stash that she wanted to use… It is interesting that we don’t think about using a fiber like wool for “performance” wear. In fact, our soldiers abroad have been put in Underarmour label long johns and helmet liners, made from the amazing wicking fabric that most of us wear when we work out or go to yoga class. Man-made fibers offer us some really cool properties (like the Mazuno gloves that I own that get hotter as you sweat in them…which is just odd, but who am I to judge. They keep my hands warm.)
But man-made isn’t always better. The helmet liner event that I am partnering on this month (Saturday from 2-5 pm at Rustico, Maj. Gen. Douglas Stone will be with us again!) is part of a larger movement of knitters to provide our soldiers with wool, rather than acrylic, helmet liners. The military issued items melt when under extreme temperatures and will actually stick to the soldier’s body. You can imagine why this might be a problem for a soldier. The Marines recently banned the polyester and nylon based items for this reason. (read more about it here.) Now don’t get me wrong. My Underarmour running underwear provide all sorts of wonderfulness for someone running in excess of 30 miles a week, but I have to wonder…what did we do before synthetics?
Now back to knitting. You may have heard me give my yarn speech before. Certainly, if you took my beginner knitting class, you have heard it. I don’t knit with 100% acrylic fiber. Mostly because I hate the way it feels and “squeeks.” I think it is appropriate for certain types of projects (like dog sweaters!). IMHO it should not be used for baby items as it melts and sticks to the skin in extreme heat or fire. Unfortunately, it is affordable and machine washable and is often what is resorted to for baby items. But there are so many wonderful properties of animal fibers.
Wool and alpaca have a wonderful wicking ability. When they get wet, they move moisture away from the skin while keeping you dry. (sounds kinda like the Underarmour, doesn’t it?) If you worry about wool being too scratchy for a baby, try merino wool. They are softer, often machine washable and will provide a great deal more warmth for baby than acrylic or cotton fibers. If cost is an issue, stock up on baby colors when local yarn shops have big sales. Often, these are the colors that don’t sell well anyway!
So in the end, Jess and I decided that her merino would make a wonderful facemask for running. If you ever finishes it, I will be sure to post some photos here.