If you have a wool allergy, opt for a hypoallergenic choice for knitting.
woman's hand holding knitted scarf
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If you're knitting a sweater or a blanket for someone with sensitive skin, you want to make sure to choose a yarn that won't make them uncomfortable or give them a rash. Many people are allergic to wool, for example, so you will have to choose a different fiber for your projects if you know that the recipients are sensitive to it. The good news is that hypoallergenic yarn does exist, and you still have plenty of choices.

What causes discomfort, at least for most people, is any kind of coarse fiber. It can feel prickly or worse, cause the skin to break out into a rash. Animal fibers are also prone to causing allergic reactions in some people, the same way being around particular animals would make someone sneeze, but synthetic fibers can also make people itch depending on the material and its fiber pattern. People who are allergic to lambs wool might be perfectly comfortable with alpaca wool. This is because alpaca does not have lanolin, a wax that comes from the sebaceous glands of sheep. It may be a bit of trial and error, so it's suggested that you do a skin test with the yarn before you start knitting.

Acrylic and Microfiber

Acrylic and microfiber yarns are synthetic, so they won't irritate someone who has an allergy to animal-based products. You can put items knit from this type of yarn into the washer and dryer. Even better, acrylic and microfiber yarns hold up well when it comes to their shape and color. Joy DK Yarn by Loops & Threads ($4.49, michaels.com) has Class 1 Oeko-Tex certification, which means that it's undergone testing to ensure its fibers and dyes don't contain any irritants or allergens that might adversely affect sensitive skin.


Bamboo is soft, cool to the touch, and very lightweight. Plus, it's one of the natural world's most sustainable plant sources—growing back in just a few months—so it has the added benefit of being eco-conscious in crafting. Purl Soho's Burnish yarn ($19.50, purlsoho.com) is 100 percent rayon from bamboo, making it also vegan-friendly.

Cotton and Cotton Blends

Cotton—washable, durable, and oh so breathable—is notably perfect for warm weather tops accessories, which encourages your knitting and crocheting all year round. The beauty of its blends is that it can result in the ideal drape, softness, and texture you're looking for in a project. You can find a variety of colors, and the fibers tend to be strong and durable. To that point, Blue Sky Alpacas' Yarn Worsted Cotton ($16.20, purlsoho.com) is a two-ply yarn made from 100 percent certified organic cotton in a robust line of colors.

Linen, Hemp, and Flax

These three plant-based materials—linen, hemp, and flax—yield yarns for any project in which you want a soft, durable fiber. This variety of yarn is also great for making lightweight tops and skirts for warmer weather. Turn to Habu Textiles for their "Chibi" Linen Ramie Gima ($17.90, habutextiles.com) made from a unique ramie-linen blend or "Nagare Boshi" Indigo Paper ($25, habutextiles.com) made from hemp.


Silk feels smooth and cool against the skin. If you've ever slept on silk sheets or worn a silk blouse, you know exactly how wonderful it feels. The yarn might be a bit slippery to work with at first, but your products will be gentle enough for even the most sensitive skin. We like Alchemy's Silken Straw ($38, wildfiberstudio.comis made of 100 percent silk in sport weight; its hand-dyed palette is only made richer by its crinkly straw-like texture, hence the name.

Comments (1)

Martha Stewart Member
December 9, 2020
As a major resource of home arts instruction, I expected this article to be more...accurate. In actual fact, lanolin is a rare allergy - less than 1% of the population. Wool has proven beneficial in those afflicted with serious skin issues such as eczema and psoriasis. I can personally attest to this healing, but many studies have been conducted that supply more than anecdotal evidence. Indeed, many people who think they have the allergy have actually been found to be reacting to another substance used in the commercial textile process. The answer is of course - buy wool from your local farm and avoid all commercial processes. If you have been tested and are unfortunate enough to have this allergy, I implore you to consider the environmental impacts of acrylic yarn and seek-out other natural fibers, of which there are many (alpaca has no lanolin). Acrylic yarn is a poor substitute for wool against our skin, as it is made of plastic -which holds sweat against us and breeds bacteria, the result of which are odor and breakouts. Plastic also contains hormone disruptors in addition to many other not-so-healthy compounds as it is made from a by-product of oil-refinement. Additionally, wool from sheep fed on pasture are carbon-sequestering powerhouses, having the exact opposite effect on our climate that acrylic yarn does. It also filters pollutants from the air in your home, trapping mold, mildew, formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide and more. As consumers, I hope that people consider these factors and vote with their dollar - when you buy local or small farm wool, you support a person/family and are making an excellent choice for your health and that of the environment. As a large media outlet, I hope that the Martha Stewart brand considers revising this article to better represent the facts about the choice between natural fibers and acrylic. I recommend consulting someone far more knowledgeable than myself such as Clara Parkes, who is a NYT bestselling author and wool expert.