My Wooly Valentine
Issue #2: The Itchy and Scratchy Show
I assure you I will not spam you like this regularly -- I did not mean to send another issue so quickly! But since there are clearance/sale items in here, and I felt duty-bound to send it right away. Also, there is snow on the ground and I don’t want to walk the dog.
One of my favorite humans, the great Christina Tucker, soon after she signed up for the newsletter, utterly ignored the email protocol (email@example.com for recs and requests) and texted me immediately (it’s cool, she’s my future wife) with this important question:
This feels like your skill set: perfectly lovely and warm wool sweater, very Knives Out but my GOD the itching!! Is there a remedy?
It is! It IS my skill set!
Necessary caveats: When I was bouncing around NYC as a twenty-something a popular style was to wear sweaters in the dead of winter that had no back. In the winter. Like, a fair-isle sweater that was… backless. Did I love this trend? Oh how I loved it. My best friend and I had these Diesel sweaters that we bought at a sample sale; they were pure scratchy wool and had nothing in back but a huge satin tie. You could not even wear a bra with this thing and I wore it dancing. I cannot find photo evidence of this craze, but I remember vividly how it felt. It was like freezing in a sexy piece of sandpaper. So! Suffice it to say that while I don’t like discomfort very much, if it’s in the form of a beautiful textile, a sample sale sweater, or child I am raising, I can power through. (Please don’t do this with exfoliants, I’ll explain in another issue.)
That said, you do not have to power through and can protect your delicate self! I have done a lot of thinking about skin and wool and temperature and believe I have something to offer here.
There are two things you can do in the case of a gorgeous wool that you want to love but is giving you prickles. I have only done the first one once because it is such a huge pain in the butt, but it is very much the cheaper of the two solutions, though it is a bit risky if you’re talking about a beloved piece of clothing.
Option One: Give the offender a spa treatment. I did this once with a wool sweater from Everlane and it absolutely worked. It was a risk but I did it for the sake of the newsletter I would one day birth and now I’m glad I lost that day and a half. Here’s what you do: find a tub of some type, or bucket, or sink even. Using cold water and a touch of vinegar -- say, a shot -- you turn the sucker inside out and soak it in the water until every bit is soaked. Drain the water.
Here’s the spa part: using a pretty good hair conditioner (you don’t want it to be waxy, you want it to rinse clean) massage it into the sweater. Are you laughing yet? As I wrote those words I got the giggles. I cannot believe I did this. Let the hair conditioner stay in there for 30 minutes. (I forgot about the whole project and came back after two hours.) Now rinse it in cold water. Thoroughly. Enjoy the part where you realize that your sweater smells strongly of that dumb Living Proof conditioner that did not work for your hair. Dry flat -- this is always an issue for me, and now I just put stuff on a towel on the dining table. I think you can actually buy stuff to dry sweaters but that feels like a bridge too far even for me.
Okay there’s one more truly hysterical step. Fold your dry sweater in a ziploc, and put it in the freezer overnight.I know! It’s insane. Did I do this? No, I did not, but I was supposed to and now I wish I had, just to tell the story of what happened when my husband opened the freezer and found Chris Evans’ Knives Out sweater in there. (Has he ever found my wallet in the fridge? I’ll never tell.) I have it on good authority that this does exactly the thing that is meant to happen when you rinse your conditioner out of your hair with cold water -- closes the cuticle essentially -- making it smooth and shiny. I have never rinsed my hair in actually cold water either. Please let me know if this has ever worked for you.
Now, remember, I have a high itch tolerance! But to my tender skin the sweater, even skipping the freezer step, is genuinely softer. I don’t have any memory of cleaning this sweater again, so I don’t think I can weigh in on how long the effects last, but at this moment it is still quite silky. It also smells like a salon. And every time I put it on I laugh about the time I gave the sweater a day off just to meditate and relax.
Option two: line the offender with something soft. This is probably the thing you were expecting, right? It’s generally the thing I do now with a fabric that isn’t soft enough, and you probably have these things in your own closet already, or someone else is selling them on Poshmark or Mercari if you don’t want to buy stuff.
I have loved the J.Crew tissue turtlenecks forever -- they are light and breathable and fit tightly to the body which I think helps with itch as well. They are, however, so light and comfy that they are prone to armpit holes and sometimes those pinprick holes that develop as a result of rubbing against the buttons on jeans. I love the prints, and they are pretty cute poking out of a crew neck or a larger turtleneck. They are massively marked down at the moment, and I am a firm believer that no one should ever pay the full price for these things because of their delicacy. ‘Tis the season to stock up on them. Make sure you use the promo code (SHOPSALE) because whenever you don’t, I feel momentarily faint and maybe an angel loses its wings.
Are you guys familiar with this line called Cuddl Duds? What happened to the “e”? I don’t get it, but they certainly make duds that cuddl well. Super stretchy, tag-free, smooth. I have one that I put underneath my itchiest stuff and it’s breathable and great. I don’t have a great recommendation of where to buy these, but again, I think it’s stock up season because many of them appear to be on sale.
Last but not least, I bought one of these things from Amazon, if Amazon is a place you patronize. It is pretty great as well, and clocks in at twelve bucks. I’ve had it two years, no holes, no rips. (Also it is described as a “bottoming garment,” which is now how I describe all my base layers.)
One more wool-related digression: This holiday, I spent a determined couple of weeks making a private gift guide over text (I’m sure it wasn’t annoying at all to receive one hundred texts from me while watching White Christmas) for a friend whose mother has a wool allergy. And these scarves from Abercrombie and Fitch are acrylic and soft and just so lovely. They are on clearance now for under $20. I haven’t found them to pill very much, though of course, I’m not much of an active lady, and the sizes are generous and cozy. A bonus for me is that Abercrombie was the most popular brand in my high school, and though I did not own a stitch of their clothing as an eighteen year old, I do now and it gives me a laugh as I, um, cuddl with it.
Feel free to send me questions as Christina was kind enough to do, and recommendations of your own, at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am so gratified to have an email box filled with both requests and recommendations! Also it turns out many of us like the same things -- lots of back and forth about warm things to lie on (hot water bags!), sit on (bidets! The best!), and of course, wear.
Right now I am working on answers to the following challenges, in no particular order.
Severely dry winter lips.
Face oils: which, and why?
Dog beds that aren’t ugly, because dogs are cute.
Preventative skincare for people in their early 30s.
Stemmed wine glasses that don’t break easily.
Retinol, retinal, retin-a, tretinoin.
Nerf blasters and Freud: an exploration.
See you Friday!