Monday, July 13, 2009

Never Wear a Handknit Sweater to Chem Lab

This, my friends, is what they do not cover in the chemistry lab safety video. As you know, I filter much (if not all) of what goes on around me from a knitter's point of view. While I learned about putting out fires I couldn't stop myself from thinking, "I'm never wearing a hand-knit sweater to chem lab." Stains, acids, fires! I then remembered wool has some natural resistance to fire.

In honor of Embrace Your Inner Geek Day, which I learned about from my chem lab partner, I researched some of wool's properties and share them here with you. The following is from the American Sheep Industry Association (, Industry Facts/Fast Facts:

RESISTANCE TO FLAME Because wool contains moisture in each fiber, it resists flame without chemical treatment. Instead of burning freely when touched by flame, wool chars and stops burning when it is removed from the source of fire. Wool is self-extinguishing. It will not support combustion; this is why wool blankets are recommended for use in extinguishing small fires.

CHEMICAL STRUCTURE Wool is a natural protein fiber that grows from the follicles of the sheep’s skin. It is like human hair in that it is composed of keratin-type protein. Chemically these proteins contain 5 elements: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and sulfur. These 5 elements are combined into 19 amino acids linked together in ladder-like polypeptide chains.

OK. Evidence seems to point to wool being a resilient, marvelous fiber. Maybe, just maybe, I'd attire myself in hand knits for lecture and lab. How about you? Ever wear wool to dangerous places? Of course, with three kids, danger does seem to lurk everywhere -- juice spills, sticky lollipops (not in my cashmere!), baby drool. Knitters beware and be brave!

Embrace your Inner Geek and your stash of wool!