Sensitive to wool? Try these yarns
A number of people experience contact dermatitis on exposure to sheepswool – but this is more often an irritant, rather than an allergic, response. That’s not to detract from its effects, of course: irritant contact dermatitis (that’s medical-speak for ‘a rash, ranging from feeling a bit itchy to scabs and blisters everywhere’) can be just as bad as the allergic kind.
If you experience a reaction to sheepswool, you should check which kind you have; if it’s the irritant kind, your skin is just sensitive to the short, prickly fibres in a lot of sheepswool. This is good news: it means that you may be able to wear soft Merino wool, and wool blends.
Unfortunately, the only sure way of telling which fibres you can wear is to try them out! As a fellow sensitive skin-sufferer, here are some of my favourite yarns.
Debbie Bliss Rialto
After a lifetime of feeling left out of all the love of sheepswool, I am over the moon to have discovered this wonderful range of 100% Merino knitting wools. There are a lot of Merino yarns out there – but this is the only one I’ve found that is soft enough for me. The choice is amaxing too, with a huge colour range, and so many weights available: Chunky, Aran, DK, 4 ply and the beautifully delicate Rialto Lace. Now there’s the multicoloured Rialto DK Prints too!
I would probably wear a thin cotton layer under a Rialto jumper, but I have knitted – and worn – an enormous Rialto Chunky scarf with no problems, and am in the process of falling in love with the Lace version.
Debbie Bliss Cashmerino
I promise I’m not a Debbie Bliss addict: this is another soft yarn with great choice available. There are over 30 shades of the Aran, and nearly 60 of Baby! These yarns combine Merino wool with soft microfibre and 12% cashmere. Our customers clearly agree with me: Baby Cashmerino is consistently our best-selling knitting yarn.
My big knitting project for 2014 will be a huge hooded coat in Cashmerino Aran, and I was a little bit devastated when the Cashmerino DK was discontinued. But it’s okay, because there is…
Sublime Baby Cashmere Merino Silk DK
This is so similar to the Cashmerinos that it can be difficult to tell the difference! The biggest is that the Sublime version is entirely natural: in place of the microfibre in cashmerinos, here we have silk! There’s also less cashmere and more merino. In terms of softness, I find it pretty hard to choose: we’re making an office project in Sublime Baby Cashmere Merino Silk DK and I’ve found it wonderful to work with. Don’t be put off by the ‘baby’ tag: this yarn has over 30 colours available, including neon brights and muted darks. There is also a 4 ply version that is worth checking out, but there you will only find a few baby pastel shades.
Both very popular for baby knits – but there’s no reason adults shouldn’t enjoy them too.
Cheap, chunky and cheerful
I normally find pure acrylic yarns pretty uncomfortable – but the cotton content of Sirdar Denim Ultra gives just the right amount of smoothness to its acrylic/wool blend. If you have sensitive skin and struggle to find value, super-chunky yarn; this is the one for you.
As mentioned, with sensitive skin what suits one person might not work for another. I did consult another experienced wool-intolerant – a knitter’s little daughter – and my choices tally pretty well with hers. But there are over 80 wools in our ‘Super Soft‘ category: give them a try!
Last updated: August 2nd, 2017.