You either love it or hate it! Acrylic yarn is a man-made fiber, formed of polymers created from petroleum products, otherwise known as crude oil.
Even though it has not been sheared naturally from an animal, it still has some benefits. It is worth exploring these options when deciding what type of fiber to use for your knitting project.
In this article, we’ll run through the advantages (and disadvantages) of knitting with Acrylic wool. Not to mention a little insight into its manufacturing. As well as which projects are best suited to acrylic yarns and how to care for them.
Acrylic yarns were first developed in the 1940s by Dupont. They were being produced in large quantities less than a decade later!
The polymers are created from several processes that produce long string-like strands and then turned into short, controllable lengths resembling wool hair, and ultimately “spun” into the yarn we know.
I say spun, but unlike natural fiber yarns, such as cotton, wool, cashmere and silk, acrylic collections are not spun. Rather, they are twisted into long lengths of acrylic thread that makes up the yarn.
Acrylic Yarn Advantages
Range of Colors
As acrylic yarn is a man-made fiber. Which means it can easily be made to various specifications, including its color, providing practically endless options. With modern technology, acrylics are color-fast and are not prone to running.
If you can’t find the particular color you’re looking for in the store, you can even try dying it yourself. Food coloring and a microwave can actually be one potential possibility, don’t believe me, then take a look at this how-to video.
Acrylic yarn is mass produced in large quantities quite easily, so generally, it is one of the cheapest yarns to buy. As such, Acrylic yarn is often used in clothing as it is much cheaper than cashmere and alpaca wool.
Additionally, if you are a knitting beginner, acrylic yarn is a great place to start! It is less expensive than other yarns, and therefore ideal for practicing simple projects.
Easy to Clean
As such it is excellent for items that require ease of cleaning, such as sweaters, linings, gloves, furnishings, and blankets. It is particularly ideal for baby garments that need constant washing.
Acrylic fibers are very durable, making them excellent for any projects that require an enduring yarn. As a petroleum-based product, it will take many many years for it to degrade.
Another benefit of acrylic yarn is that since it is synthetic fiber, it is impossible for moth larvae to digest it. There are a couple of caveats to this though. Moths may mistake this for a meal if it is blended with a natural fiber or even if it stored with natural fiber garments.
Acrylic yarn is warm! It may not have the warmth of alpaca or sheep wool, but it will still keep you cozy on a cold winter’s day. To get into the details, acrylic fibers have low thermal conductivity, meaning they are not efficient at transferring heat. This property helps to trap warmth close to the body when used in garments or accessories. The insulating nature of acrylic yarn helps to retain body heat, keeping you warm in cooler temperatures.
Knitting a large blanket or throw and still want it to feel lightweight? Acrylic could be your go-to yarn for this one. The synthetic polymers that the yarn is made from has a lower density than that of natural fibers. Thus, enabling much lighter feeling items.
Acrylic yarn is often considered hypoallergenic due to its synthetic nature. The synthetic fibers are perfect for folks who are either allergic to lanolin (common in wool) or are sensitive to the scaling of wool fibers. It is also generally soft and smoother so it won’t cause any skin irritation from rubbing.
The Disadvantages of Acrylic Yarn
Lack of Breathability
Unlike natural wool, 100% acrylic yarn will not let your body breathe the way sheep or alpaca wool will. It is not because an acrylic sweater is holding onto the warm air of your body, it is holding on to your sweat. Which leads into disadvantage number two.
Holds onto Water (& Odors)
As acrylic yarn holds onto your sweat, this also means it’ll retain the smell (well, until it’s thrown in the wash!).
Additionally, if you are caught in a cold, heavy rain with an acrylic garment on – and no umbrella – you will feel cold since the sweater will lose your body heat faster as it can’t remove the water quickly.
If you are looking for something to keep yourself warm in rugged, wet terrain, it is probably wise to not pack your acrylic sweater. The extra investment in natural wool will give you the return of keeping you better protected from the elements.
Acrylic and fire should not even be in the same sentence. Under high temperatures, acrylic will melt causing terrible burns if it gets in contact with skin. You should be especially careful of dressing the little ones in acrylic if they are likely to be near open flames.
Can Produce Low Quality Results
Knitters sometimes complain that acrylic yarns do not remain even after being knitted or crocheted due to the lumpy, twisted texture of the synthetic materials.
Additionally, these synthetic yarns will sometimes pill more readily than some of the natural fibers.
Acrylic Yarn Blends
Acrylic blends are very popular as it combines fibers to get the best from both worlds.
Wool and acrylic blends are very popular, the same with cotton and acrylic. It gives a whole new type of garment as the acrylic can take some of the itchy parts away from the natural wool in wool acrylic yarn blends.
In cotton acrylic yarn blends you can get a much softer type of yarn as the cotton will add softness to the yarn while the acrylic will provide more flexibility. There are numerous of blends with acrylic in it from 80% to 10%, two-blends or five-blends.
Acrylic knitting yarn is light, soft and cheap – with the most modern yarns sometimes mistaken for wool. It, of course, comes down to personal preference. But acrylic yarn has its applications and shouldn’t be overlooked.
There are many brands and qualities of acrylic knitting yarn available. Touch, feel, squish and pull the yarn if you have the chance to do so – if it doesn’t feel good to your fingers, find an alternative.
We wish you all the best with your acrylic adventures, and if you have any questions or wish to share your end result with us, feel free to do so from the “contact us” page or in the comments box below.