Finding a Way Around

glass-flasksThis week I finally had a breakthrough in a personal project on which I’ve been working. I am trying to complete a medieval alchemical separation process. The process historically required colophony in most instances, a substance to which I’m allergic. After months of trying to find a way, I have done it without using colophony. I unsuccessfully used a colophony-free recipe and then altered the process by using other medieval ingredients. The result is a brilliant blue paint pigment made from gemstone, and I’m ecstatic.

Sometimes hobbies and allergies just don’t mix. Entering a large room packed with people is a horrible idea for me, as the dusts and scents from all their personal care and cleaning products waft through the air. If I want to be there, there’s not much choice but to take what precautions I can and deal with the consequences of the exposure. On the other hand, if you like to paint, making your own paints or changing the painting media can be enough to eliminate exposure or reduce it to tolerable levels. Here are some of the accommodations I’ve made:


  • Buy simple fabrics online when possible. When shopping at a fabric store, know exactly what you want and get in and out quickly. If you don’t know where to find what you want, ask. Once the fabric is at your home, disturb it as little as possible and wash it as soon as you can. From then on, things should be easier. Avoid making dryclean-only clothes, or clothing that can’t be washed.


  • Use only small amounts of paint. Try making your own paint, if desired, from pigment and binder of your choice. Work in a well-ventilated area, and avoid using solvents in living areas; keep them outside.


  • Ventilation, natural fibre protective clothing, and safe-for-me sunscreen are key. These are safety issues for anyone doing this kind of work.

Fibre work (working with yarn, etc):

  • Wash the yarn as soon as feasible. Keep excess fibre in a bag or other container while working.

Dyeing and printing:

  • Work with natural (plant and mineral-based) dyes and inks. The more you do yourself, the safer you can make it, as you choose the methods and materials.


  • If paper and inks are a problem, consider ebooks. If like me, books are generally okay, unless you buy a used book that has had neon green cleaner leaked onto it at some point in the past. Don’t be like me. Buy clean books, not books full of cleaner.

Outdoor sports:

  • Use safe gear and stay away from the center of large crowds. For me, outdoors is much safer than indoors.


  • Stick to natural bodies of water and salt water pools if you have chlorine issues. Use your own towels. Not yet sure how I will choose to deal with the swimsuit polyester/spandex allergy issue.


  • Bring your own cleaning supplies, towels, and bedding.

How do you accommodate your allergies in your hobbies? Comment below

Leave a Reply