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 What happens when you wear polyester?

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T O P I C    R E V I E W
eldergirl Posted - 06/18/2013 : 9:09:23 PM
I hope it is OK to quote Clara in one of her recent posts, where she is talking about being on the "Knitting Daily" show:

I've enjoyed donning the lab coat and talking with Eunny about yarns. Even if the lab coat is made out of POLYESTER, which a) is ironic for me and b) doesn't breathe a bit under those hot lights.)

So this is a fiber-related topic: I cannot wear polyester. Well, I can, but you wouldn't want to be near me, and I would be miserable wearing it. The fiber mixes with my sweat, (and I do perspire freely), and the stink is really offensive. (This was discovered many years ago, in a personally painful manner.)

Also, as Clara says, polyester doesn't breathe--or put in another way, one's own skin cannot breathe, it suffocates, and it causes me to get rashes and welts--it is anti-health for me!

I am just curious to know if I am crazy or over-sensitive, or what, by getting feedback from my KR friends. What happens when you wear polyester?

Best wishes,


Life is beautiful.
19   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
Jessica-Jean Posted - 07/31/2013 : 1:32:17 PM
I feel as though I were wearing a plastic bag when wearing polyester in hot weather, and I freeze in the cold. But, evidently, women in the Middle-East feel/sweat differently. In Syria, the only cotton garments for women are undies and some socks. EVERY other layer - and there are plenty of layers summer and winter - is 100% polyester - be it woven or machine knitted. Yes, it's easy wash/dry and no-iron, but not for me ... except ... I have a nasty black top that's a Nike brand product and is excellent in hot weather! Somehow, it's differently made and it does what it says is does: it wicks the sweat away and keeps the wearer confortable, even in high heat and high humidity and while exerting oneself! So, the polyester sold in the high-end camping-supply or sportwear stores is not the same as that sold for home sewing and worn by Syrian women. It's all labeled as polyester, but there are differences.
Kade1301 Posted - 07/26/2013 : 02:54:47 AM
Originally posted by mertle

Comments here made me wonder if we're talking about the same fabric! My experience with polyester has been wildly different.

Most probably we are not talking about the same fabric. Whereas I don't know whether there are different ways of spinning/extruding/whatever polyester fibres, I'm pretty sure that there's different ways of weaving/knitting them. And I'm convinced that the weave is just as important as the material for how the garment behaves.

Happy knitting! Klara
azblueskies Posted - 07/23/2013 : 07:13:25 AM
Have to agree, Klara. I just recently starting sewing again and worked with a linen/polyester blend that looks and feels great. Living in Arizona, I usually select cotton or linen blends but this blend doesn't wrinkle so that's a plus for me.

Reminder to myself: PROVISIONAL cast on for EVERYTHING except toe-up socks.
Kade1301 Posted - 07/23/2013 : 04:51:11 AM
What happens when I wear polyester? Nothing, or I get compliments for how well dressed I am.

Really, I was working for a fashion agency during Fashion Week Munich, the first two days all dressed up in brand new camel hair and wool suits from one of the rather expensive companies we represented, the third day I put on the old black polyester riding jacket and THEN people were falling all over themselves complimenting me :( Recently I wore polyester pants on a train journey and after sleeping in them for two nights they still looked good.

And I don't know enough about the production process, but I wouldn't be surprised if polyester was more ecological than normal (not organically grown) cotton.

Happy knitting, Klara
La galloise Posted - 07/22/2013 : 10:33:47 AM
What happens when you wear polyester sweat and you itch!
mertle Posted - 07/21/2013 : 04:27:25 AM
Very interesting. I'm confident my lunch-buddy of 15 years or my sister who seldom held her tongue would have let me know if the polyester I wore almost daily to work smelled bad. And yes, I was quite comfortable, thank you.

My impression was always that certain dyes used were what made the bad smells, even in natural fabrics. Usually a good washing took care of that (or out it went). Also, I found that polyester wicked away perspiration far better than cotton. The ease of care (from dryer to hanger - no ironing) was important as well.

Comments here made me wonder if we're talking about the same fabric! My experience with polyester has been wildly different.

My Bags
TamaraM Posted - 07/18/2013 : 8:55:53 PM
I usually am a 100% cotton or linen or wool wearing person, with a little rayon or silk thrown in for good measure. However, I recently bought (sought out, actually) sheets with 10% polyester in them because they offer a crispness that 100% cotton just doesn't. I like crisp sheets for hot/humid summer nights, and these do the trick perfectly. And they don't seem to get smelly.

Ceil Posted - 07/18/2013 : 09:38:03 AM
It's my understanding that polyester fibers are short, and can literally pierce the skin and lodge there like splinters, which I guess explains the problems so many are having. So when it comes to knitting gloves for my friend who is highly allergic to wool, I have to look for something else.

That being said, I always hated weaving with polyester yarn. It doesn't matter how soft the yarn feels on the skein, it still comes out behaving like cardboard.

(Ravelry: ceilr)
Time is never a factor when joy is involved.
materavis Posted - 07/18/2013 : 08:01:23 AM
Ditto and all of the above. I have been wearing natural fibers for more than 30 years. Even sheets must be 100% natural. Polyester feels wet against my skin and nylon itches. And too often natural fiber garments have synthetic linings.
emahar Posted - 07/18/2013 : 07:39:33 AM
I read all labels, even a hint of polyester and it goes back on the rack. Besides being unbearably hot in humid DC and SC, the stains on it will never come out.
stherio Posted - 07/18/2013 : 04:34:02 AM
I can't stand the stuff. I'm a sew'er as well as a knitter and I remember back in the 70's trying to make clothes out of the stuff. Nothing would press flat and the smell from ironing -yuck! I'm strictly wool and cotton for everything. And don't get me started on "non-natural" underwear.....

Raven_Girl Posted - 07/18/2013 : 04:07:00 AM
I have contact dermatitis so reading labels is very important as it can take weeks for my skin to clear up again and the itch to stop. Heat and humidity makes it so uncomfortable it's just not worth trying to figure out how much polyester I can tolerate. Recently my father in law asked for a sweater and picked out the yarn. It was beautiful but then my index finger started itching, then burning and finally started bleeding. Checking the label, sure enough, there was a good deal of polyester in the yarn. I had to give the yarn and unfinished pieces away and start again with a similar all natural yarn. Posted - 07/18/2013 : 03:26:45 AM
Years ago, when I was going into the Peace Corps in Morocco,I hunted without much success, for 100% cotton. All I really got was a local reputation for being a throwback hippie freak - and this was in the mid-70s! I resorted to sewing my own clothes in order to get something without polyester. I knew that with 110 degree predicted I would never tolerate synthetic. I was right. The one poly-blend shirt I took never got worn after the first attempt.

Susan Dewey

Susan - on MDI
sockjoan Posted - 07/18/2013 : 01:22:27 AM
I live in the sub-tropics, and any polyester in clothing or sheets is intolerable in warmer weather. Also it gives me a rash. For a while I was trying to wear all cotton, but cotton garments are sewn with polyester thread, so I got lines of rash where the seams were. Luckily that problem has gone away. My favourite clothing for warmer weather (it's winter in Australia now) is made of Indian cotton - I reckon the Indians know from millennia of experience how to make the most comfortable hot-weather clothes!
eldergirl Posted - 06/20/2013 : 10:14:23 AM
It's any blend with poly in it, unfortunately, Flicka, at least in shirts and blouses and sweaters.
Pants can have a little bit of poly, but not much!

Very interesting posts!


Life is beautiful.
flicka Posted - 06/20/2013 : 07:13:08 AM
I don't have problems wearing polyester, but I don't have much of it. In my family, three people have a rare genetic dermatological condition which is controlled by wearing only 100% cotton next to the skin. Otherwise they get symptoms like Anna reported, and more. So I am trying to enjoy knitting with cotton yarn, but so far it is more of a trial than a pleasure for me.

Is it a certain percentage of polyester that causes the problem? Or is it 100% polyester?

robinstephanie Posted - 06/19/2013 : 08:25:04 AM
I, too, stink to high heaven in polyester. I don't have the skin issues, but after a full day, man am I whiff. I avoid all synthetic fabrics as much as possible now.


Different is good. ~Matthew Hoover
dschmidt Posted - 06/19/2013 : 05:56:32 AM
I avoid polyester as much as possible.

Donna in VA

The Honor Roll? It's easier here than in school. Scroll up to "Want to Make Betty Happy?" and be an Honor Roll member.
Jane Posted - 06/19/2013 : 03:51:51 AM
It's been years (at least 25) since I owned anything made of the stuff. I always felt uncomfortable, sort of like I was wearing a plastic bag. Thank goodness there are options!


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