Wool. I love it. I work with it daily. I wear it. I sometimes roll in it when no-ones looking. It is my favourite and I am very lucky. There are some people out there who are sensitive to wool and this makes me sad.
Studies have shown that all fibres can cause a bristly feeling on the skin if the end of the fibre is coarse enough. Like that label in the back of your neck that you just want to cut out. This is not an allergy, it’s an irritant. But with wool, sensitive skin can get a rash ranging from feeling a bit itchy to scabs and blisters everywhere caused by irritant contact dermatitis, and that’s not good.
Everyone is different and even the softest fibres can make some people itch. Unfortunately, the only way of finding out which fibres you can wear is to try them out! So here are my top fibres and yarns that I hope are at least worth a try to those in need of a snuggly jumper.
Merino wool is one of the softest yarns available. Cultivated from merino sheep, this wool has incredible softness and breath-ability, making it ideally gently against the skin. Merino wool doesn’t have the coarse, itchy feel of standard wool because merino fibres are much finer. If you have sensitive skin, you are more likely to get along with merino wool compared to others but be careful since not all yarns that state merino will suit. Two of my favourite merino yarns are Malibrigo worsted, an aran weight slubby yarn, and Sublime Extra Fine Merino DK, a beautifully soft pure merino yarn.
Cashmere is cultivated from the Kashmir goat and is an extremely soft fibre. Cashmere wool is actually the downy wool that grows underneath a Kashmir goat’s coarser exterior hair. The fibres are accomplished by combing the goat instead of clipping it. One goat produces only a few ounces of cashmere per year, which is why it’s so expensive. I have never used a 100% cashmere yarn so I can’t tell you my favourite but I can tell you my favourite cash,ere mix yarns. The first has to be Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino which I use in my Etsy shop for some of the baby clothing. It has 55% Wool, 33% Acrylic, 12% Cashmere and is beautifully soft. My second choice would be Sublime Baby Cashmere Merino Silk DK which has 75% Merino Wool, 20% Silk, 5% Cashmere, taking the acrylic in the Debbie Bliss and replacing it with silk. Just look at the shine!
Alpaca fleece is the natural fibre harvested from an alpaca. It is softer and sturdier than cashmere and lighter than sheep’s wool, making is a luxurious commodity that produces warm, silky, durable and feather-light knit wear. Unlike sheep wool, alpaca doesn’t contain lanolin, which is the natural oil found in sheep wool and a big contributor to wool allergies. My two favourites have to be Mirasol Sulka, I can’t tell you how much I want to snuggle into this yarn! I have worked with it a few times and just love it. It is not 100% alpaca but is 60% Wool, 20% Alpaca, 20% Silk. I hope to bring it into my baby collection in the near future. Rooster Almerino DK is a lovely soft yarn to work with. Very delicate and light with 50% Alpaca, 50% Merino Wool.
Finally I want to add that not all acrylic yarn is bad. Some are soft and as close to wool as it possibly can be. If you truly are completely allergic to all types of natural fibres then trying acrylic could be an option. My favourite 100% acrylic yarn has to be Bernat Satin. It comes in a large range of colours and is beautifully soft against the skin. When I receive a request for acrylic yarn (if a baby’s skin is too sensitive to tolerate any wool fibre, I use Bernat Satin.) Finally, the yarn I use for most of my baby clothing is James C Brett DK with Merino. This yarn is so soft and gently. It also comes in a large range of colours and has a high acrylic content with 70% Acrylic, 20% Polyamide and 10% Merino. I use this because of its softness and it’s machine washing capabilities, which lies with the acrylic.
I hope this post helps a little when you are looking for the right yarn against sensitive skin. Do you have any recommendations for other yarns? I would love to hear about them so I can give them a try. I’m always happy to buy more yarn in the aid of science!