The Best Yarn Choices for Sensitive Skin
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.
Three of my favourite merino yarns are Malibrigo Rios, a hand dyed aran weight beauty from Peru, Fyberspates Vivacious DK, a hand dyed DK weight of pure luxury, 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 cashmere mix yarns. The first has to be Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino which is beautifully soft and ideal for baby clothing. It has 55% Wool, 33% Acrylic, 12% Cashmere and is machine washable. 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! If I were to save up and buy a 100% cashmere yarn, I think it would be Hand Maiden Cashmere 4 Ply as it looks so soft and luxurious. It would need to be for £40.99 per 50g skein!
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 three 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. Rooster Almerino DK is a lovely soft yarn to work with. Very delicate and light with 50% Alpaca, 50% Merino Wool, and the very gorgeous Blue Sky Fibers Sport Weight which is 100% alpaca and incredibly soft. Be careful of using some alpaca yarns for baby items as alpaca can shed long fibres easily.
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.) I also highly recommend James C Brett DK with Merino. This yarn is so soft and gentle. It also comes in a large range of colours and has a high acrylic content with 70% Acrylic, 20% Polyamide and 10% Merino. I have used this in the past because of its softness and it’s machine washing capabilities, which lies with the acrylic. Finally, although I have never used it personally, I would also be willing to try Caron Simply Soft. It has such a beautiful shine to it and looks lovely and soft too.