You’ve just heard the news that someone close to you is about to have a baby. Being the crafty person you are, you know knitting their first pair of baby booties are going to be one of the best gifts the expecting mother could possibly receive.
You’re on the right track with this way of thinking.
However, there are some clear differences when it comes to babies and our own skin. We might be able to use lesser fibers and materials when knitting our own clothes, but the sensitivity of a baby’s skin is significantly higher than a typical adult.
Coming to this realization sooner rather than later will ensure the newest addition to the world will be able to wear their knitted boots in comfort and style.
So, what exactly makes the best material for baby booties? When picking yarn for baby booties, it mostly comes down to how soft the material is and how well it withstands regular machine washing. For babies’ sensitive skin, cotton, linen, alpaca, and other soft but durable choices are ideal. Avoid scratchy wool and unbreathable polyester/acrylic.
Let’s take a look at what exactly you need to be looking for when it comes time to visit the store:
How To Choose The Best Yarn For Knitting Baby Booties
A baby’s skin is at its most sensitive during its earliest stages of development, so it’s important you choose the right material to treat it with the care and respect it needs during these very trying times.
However, these booties are also going to be subject to some rather rigorous abuse as they’re kicked to and fro. There is a fine balance that needs to be struck between finding something that’s as durable as it is soft and kind to a baby’s skin.
The more durable soft fibers will be blends of cotton, wool, nylon, or even a merino wool depending on your personal budget. You could also opt for non-blended raw materials depending on your preferences as a knitter provided that they’re hardy to stand up to the rough and tumble of life yet gentle against the skin.
These four options also come with high levels of elasticity, so the boots will stay securely in place while being worn around their new home and have some amount of stretch as the new baby begins to grow.
Their more durable nature will also mean that they can withstand the inevitable bumps, knocks, and scrapes along the way of a new life.
Knitters are usually advised that cotton and other plant fibers aren’t particularly good choices when it comes to baby boots.
There is some truth in this because plant fibers are not able to stretch very well and aren’t particularly elastic at the best of times. However, on the other hand, they don’t tend to change shape. Cotton especially is great at holding its shape.
In general, cotton can be a very versatile and well-accepted option for a baby’s sensitive skin.
However, knitters tend to avoid pure cotton, as it seems best suited for the structural look of crochet. For knitting (and crocheting too), natural animal fibers are often the top recommendation for baby booties.
Durability and elasticity will play key roles in this choice though and it is best to stick with blended cotton. Choosing mixed blends of cotton and wool generally merges the best of both worlds and will allow you to create baby booties that will last through the earliest stages of the baby’s life.
Knitters may find that raw cotton is simply too light for the task (especially in the winter) and ultra-lightweight options aren’t always appropriate for a moving, growing, and messy baby.
Your own hands and skin should be the guide in choosing the right material. If any fiber is causing a degree of irritation to your own skin, then you can rest assured that it will be entirely too harsh and irritating to a baby’s ultra-sensitive skin.
These need to be avoided at all costs. Single-ply yarns are also better options for babies.
Anything frilly, fuzzy, or otherwise a novelty will be ruined by a baby’s own natural drive to explore and ingesting yarn could make the new baby sick: something I know you have no intention of doing. These yarns also tend to be unbreathable synthetic yarns, which aren’t very comfortable.
You also need to be careful not to use potentially toxic yarns such as acrylic. Acrylic isn’t breathable and is not always soft, anyway.
You also want to avoid pure wool (sheep’s wool, not alpaca “wool” as it is sometimes mistakenly called), as it can irritate sensitive skin. You also won’t know yet if your baby has an allergy. Wool blended with softer materials is less likely to irritate skin, however.
Many new mothers will know that any wool or natural item will need to be put through a sensitive wash setting, but accidents will invariably happen and your baby booties will sometimes find their way into regular washing machine settings. This is a disaster waiting to happen, but it can be avoided by choosing a treated fiber.
Treated fibers will be marked as “Superwash” or “Easycare” materials and will have undergone extensive treatment to ensure their ability to withstand machine washing. These material enhancements can be found in cotton, nylon, wool, and occasionally mohair.
Nylon makes a particularly good pick in this regard because it is naturally able to withstand machine washing, but additional care label options will be beneficial for a new mother’s sanity when her patience is being tested and laundry accidents happen.
It is important to note that not all superwash wool or other easy-care fibers will be able to handle machine drying. This will be a separate label indication altogether and will require additional treatments by the manufacturer.
Again, this is something that will come down to your own personal preferences and wants for the new mother. Natural fibers will take some time to dry on their own, so being able to tumble dry a natural item is almost always a welcome label addition.
However, they do come with a much higher price tag as the testing involved to guarantee safety in a dryer far exceeds anything required to make sure a natural fiber comes out of a washing machine intact.
Today’s fiber market has never been more diverse and many manufacturers have released their own “baby safe” range of wool and other materials.
If you’re feeling apprehensive about the level of care and consideration involved in choosing the right fiber, then narrowing down your options to one of these baby-friendly products will almost always be a good choice.
It will be important to verify whether or not these materials can be machine washed and dried, but the greater majority of these ranges will be washing-friendly.
Test A Swatch Before Knitting
Whether you’re knitting baby booties, hats, or blankets, there is a critical requirement to perform a test wash using a swatch of knitted material.
Care labels can tick all of the right boxes, but it’s important to take things for a test drive yourself to make adjustments for water hardness, individual machine settings, and other variables in your local area that manufacturers simply aren’t able to thoroughly test.
Throwing a swatch of material into a regular load will reveal if it’s up to the task. The majority of washing machines decant their hot water directly from a household tank, so it will enter the machine hot and remain hot throughout the wash.
If your swatch survives the wash, then you’re well on your way to knitting a durable and usable pair of baby booties. Any sign of ruin should be sending you back to the material store for further research and product testing.
Remember: if it’s not surviving your own personal testing, then it’s highly unlikely to survive a new mother’s home and more rigorous applications.
It’s important to take your own budget into consideration when choosing a baby-friendly yarn. The more care features you’re looking to add, then the more you need to budget for your material options.
While some costs are entirely justifiable like choosing easy-care or superwash materials, there are others that can be questionable at the best of times.
This might include choosing a luxury yarn like bamboo for baby booties. Yes, bamboo makes an excellent choice when it comes to accommodating sensitive skin thanks to its ultra-soft feel, but it also comes at a substantial price tag when compared to cotton and nylon.
The memento is likely what you’re knitting as the usefulness phase of baby booties will pass very quickly. Babies grow rapidly and their feet become longer and wider in the process, so it’s highly unlikely the booties you’re knitting right now will be still worn in a few months time.
Choosing a budget-friendly material isn’t just a savvy move for your wallet, but is also acknowledging the natural development phases that babies will undergo during the earliest stages of their lives.
Now, I know your heart might be in the right place when wanting to choose the most luxurious plush fiber you’re able to find, but this needn’t be the case when it comes to booties. Sticking with the basics and adhering to one of the four material selections outlined will provide you with the best value.
You’re now well-equipped when it comes to choosing the right yarn to knit the expectant mother in your life the best baby booties. The cost-effective, comfortable project is waiting for you and just needs the right material selections to be made.