Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Nothing up my sleeve that an itch-protector wouldn't help

I obviously have little enough to do with my time that I can actually read the little black and white ads towards the back of The New Yorker.

Thus, I happened upon an ad for SoftSleeves, insert-able sweater sleeves that you can put into scratchy sweaters and jackets so that they can be worn more comfortably over short sleeve or sleeveless tops.

I have certainly had my share of scratchy sweaters over the years - remember those cool looking, funky and colorful sweaters that Peruvians sell in big city flee markets; and how about those wonderful Nordic ski sweaters with all the reindeer and snowflakes on them - just thinking about them make me want to just schuss on over to Oslo and buy by them by the armful. But I managed to resolve the scratchy sweater problem in one of two ways.

  1. I wear a long sleeved shirt under them, which pretty much is the way to go. After all, you wouldn't be wearing a camisole under a Nordic, snow-flake pattern woolly-wool sweater to begin with, unless the cami was under your long-sleeved turtleneck.
  2. I got rid of those items that were so insidiously scratchy and porcupine quillish that the wool made its way through the protective long-sleeved layer.

But, for some folks, these are apparently not options.

And one of those folks is Marnie Fricke, who invented - and patented - the SoftSleeve.

Plagued by the erratic heat-chill on airplanes, and often traveling to destinations with different weather than in her departure city, Marnie likes to travel in a sleeveless shirt, with a wool sweater to throw on as needed.

I'm with Marnie on that layering. Whatever the season, I do not step toe in an airplane cabin without a sweater and a scarf.

When I'm traveling to or from a warm weather place, which is, admittedly, seldom, I'm always amazed when people get on in flip-flops, shorts, and tee-shirts - no cover up in sight. Even with my sensible sweater and scarf approach, I can't get to the shut off valve for the air blowers fast enough when they start jetting in all that stale air that feels like it's just passed over Greenland (which it may well have, on flights heading to and from Europe, I suppose).

And then, of course, there's the opposite effect, generally on overnight flights when you're trying to sleep, and the cabin heats up to a stuffy 80+ degree bake-off. Talk about sleepless in Seattle. How about sleepless over Seattle?

So my in-flight entertainment is often getting comfortable by donning and doffing my top layer and scarf.

Sleeveless doesn't factor that heavily in my wardrobe, nor - as noted above - do scratchy sweaters. So I'm good to go without a SoftSleeve.

But Marnie likes sleeveless, and is apparently someone with pretty sensitive skin: even cashmere isn't soft enough for her. After finding herself using a cotton sweater as a buffer zone between her sleeveless shirt and her sweater, she whipped up her alpha pair of SoftSleeves, "'the scratchy sweater solution.'"

As they say, every product is the solution to something.

With her SoftSleeve invention, Marnie no longer has sweater-avoidance issues. She can buy "'any sweater in any store.'" With SoftSleeves, she could even wear a hairshirt - if the hairshirt had sleeves to protect from.

Buying 'any sweater in any store' used to work for me.

Now, in addition to avoiding those ultra-ethnic sweaters that are interesting, but make you look like the carton the refrigerator came in, not to mention take about 3 1/2 months to dry, I avoid any item containing ramie (a.k.a., TDR - or the dreaded ramie). Ramie I avoid because of the drying problem, and the fact that, in my experience, sweaters containing ramie look really terrible after you've worn them a couple of times, and definitely look terrible if you've ever washed them - post wash, they tend to resemble shredded pulp. (Many the times I've picked up a cute sweater, only to find that it contained, alas, TDR.)

Although I don't like ramie sweaters, I never experienced itchy sleeve difficulties with them.

I guess I'm just not the sensitive type.

But, judging from the endorsements on the SoftSleeve slight, a lot of women in California are. (For one endorser, they even "add a couture feel," which may be the only time that something made  of polyester charmeuse has been described as couture-ish.)

SoftSleeves aren't perfect, and the site warns against using them with any "heirloom-quality garments" or where there's a potential for snagging.

I have some pretty nice sweaters, but I don't think that any of them actually qualify as "heirloom-quality". Although, come to think of it, the itchiest sweater I own is probably my mother's old Christmas sweater, the one with the poinsettias that I usually drag out on Christmas Eve. This sweater perhaps qualifies as an heirloom.

Anyway, while I don't need SoftSleeves myself, I would guess that they'd be useful for those who want to be both both sleeveless and warm. Me? I just roll up my sleeves if heat's an issue, and roll them down to protect my baby-soft skin from contact with scratchy wool.

SoftSleeves, as I mentioned, are patented - so don't get any ideas. Plus part of each sales goes to support services for homeless women and kids, i.e., people with problems far greater than whether their arms itch. So you should buy from Marnie, not roll your own.

I have no idea just how big this business is, but it's an interesting one.

Find a niche and fill it. Find an itch and scratch it. This really is an infinite economy, isn't it?  Maybe this is why and how the US economy will rebound: one scratchy idea at a time

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