We often suggest "soft" yarns for our next-to-skin accessories, but you may be wondering how we define "soft". Actually, what's important is how you – and your skin – define soft; it varies from person to person. But we can tell you how we measure our 'personal prickle tolerance' (PPT!) – we rub the skein against our neck(s) to see if this is a yarn we'd enjoy wearing. A yarn that's soft in hand is not always as soft around our necks or on our heads.
And 'soft' doesn't mean just cashmere or musk ox. Softness is not just a matter of yarn content; fiber length and thickness, and how it was raised, processed, and spun are all factors. Alpaca and mohair can be divinely soft fibers – or they can be a little scratchy. Merino is a favorite softie, but again, some yarns crafted from this fiber are better for mittens or socks than for scarves.
A great fiber primer is Clara Parkes's, The Knitter's Book of Yarn, as well as her subsequent excellent tome, The Knitter's Book of Wool. Dubbed 'the yarn whisperer' (the title of her fourth book), Clara is in fact now producing a small line of her own yarns, using American raised Cormo, which she describes as incredibly soft.
There are soooo many yarns with which we fall in love – for their color or sheen, texture or twist, plumpness or provenance – and yarns are created to suit a multitude of end uses. We encourage you to choose a yarn that truly suits your project. For hats, scarves and cowls, you'll wear what you knit if your yarn choice passes the 'neck test'!