How to make knitted acrylic soft enough for newborn skin?
March 2, 2012 8:32 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible to make baby clothes knitted out of cheap, acrylic yarn softer? Should I even bother?

Our neighbour has made a rather large number of baby items for the impending Baby Brambory - five or so sweaters, a couple of hats, socks and mittens. They are all knitted out of a very scratchy (to my hands at least) acrylic yarn.

Will they get any softer the more we wash them? Is there some special trick to getting acrylic yarn not to have that weird squeaky feeling?

And, relatedly, will Baby Brambory be comfortable in acrylic? I'm a big fan of natural fibres and everything I've made for him is either cotton or a very soft, baby-friendly wool for comfort and breathability. However, I accept that I might be a bit of a yarn snob about this. So, am I being a bit 'precious firstborn' to cringe at the thought of putting one of these lovingly hand-knitted caps on his head?
posted by brambory to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I've found acrylic yarns to be much improved after a little steam ironing. Don't put the iron directly on the item, but turn on the steam and hover over it. Eventually it will get to a point where the fibers start to loosen and the fabric of the item becomes softer and more flexible. At this point you've basically melted the acrylic some (and as such it's NOT a reversible process and as such is often referred to as "killing" acrylic). Try it on something small like a hat first so you don't accidentally ruin a whole sweater or anything.
posted by radioaction at 8:39 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

The sweaters aren't a big deal, just put Baby Brambory in a shirt before you put the sweater on.

They will get softer as you wash them, but not a ton softer. Fabric softener will help, but then you have to worry about the baby's sensitive skin reacting to it.

I've found that high heat in the dryer helps a lot too, so maybe there is something to radioaction's idea about the steaming.
posted by TooFewShoes at 8:42 AM on March 2, 2012

For your immediate needs: Try the steaming/damp item in a hot dryer trick. Then see how the baby reacts to wearing the hats. If it's clear that discomfort is afoot, just snap one quick picture for neighbor and send it along with profuse thanks. As for sweaters, a shirt underneath should off all the protection that is needed.

For future concerns: If you suspect that neighbor may continue to give you knitted items, might I suggest selecting and supplying the yarn yourself? You might get away with this in a few ways: "Oh, I saw this color and loved it for Baby Brambory!" "Hey, I found this yarn on sale at ____" or "I really appreciate that you're making such nice stuff for the little one, and I wanted to do you a kindness in return." Of course, I work in a local yarn shop, so I can offer suggestions for baby yarns that start out soft. Neighbor may be choosing the yarns she is for a number of reasons. Cost is a big concern for many knitters. Many think, for the cost of one of those sweaters, I can make three with this. Quantity rules. Another is that many many people think there is something inherently evil or dangerous about exposing a baby to wool. It is not true that you can cause a wool allergy this way. Be aware that many wools are machine washable and very soft. Some are not. Some are scratchy. Some wools... some wools are softer than butter.
posted by bilabial at 9:08 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My MIL does this too. We solve the problem by taking a few photos of baby in it and then not using them. This might be harder with neighbor tho.

WRT baby clothes, they grow out of them SO FAST. A sweater? 1, it is so rare to actually put a baby in a sweater. My baby was in pull off pants and t-shirts/onesies at all times. If it is cold, they're in a sleeper.
And any of those tops maybe lasted a month to 3 months before he grew out of them.

Hats and booties might be a little longer lasting... Booties you can do socks under. (I'd never put knit socks on a baby anyway...) Hat will probably be okay. If baby seems uncomfortable, don't use it. (I always did organic cotton hats for my kiddo.)

Good luck!
posted by k8t at 9:08 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

What about Woolite? I find that it is gentle and seems to make clothes feel "softer."

And I agree with others. Sweaters are pretty impractical for a baby. Hard to get on and off. Hard to regulate temp. And babies spit up, drool and spill. I bought several cute sweaters at a consignment shop before mine was born and she didn't wear any of them. :(

Wrestle the baby into a sweater or hat, take some photos and forget about it.
posted by amanda at 10:01 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Try hand washing one of the smaller pieces in a two-in-one shampoo and conditioner, and rinsing it very well. I've got an acrylic dog sweater that a friend made, and it seemed to work very well for softening it.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 10:45 AM on March 2, 2012

For acrylic knitted things I find washing and a bit of stretching while wet can make things softer. Also just being a bit rough with it in general can soften it up I don't know how to get rid of the squeaky feeling though. Just thinking about it makes me cringe.

As a side note, many knitters stay away from acrylic yarns for babies. In the case of a fire or exposure to a strong heat source acrylic will melt. Wool and some other natural fibers have self extinguishing properties and will not melt the way acrylic does.

Nthing the picture idea.
posted by simplethings at 12:04 PM on March 2, 2012

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