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Why I Sometimes Choose Acrylic Yarn

Most of the time, I like to knit with natural fibers. There’s a whole host of reasons for that, which we can get into later, but I want to make sure one thing is very clear here: acrylic yarn has a place in my stitching life, too.

A top-down image of a pale yellow crocheted child's sweater with a pink knit child's sweater folded on top and a cream-colored ball of yarn. They're surrounded by a teacup full of coffee, a plate with tiny baked treats, and antique paper ephemera.
This is all acrylic yarn! Every last bit of it!

See, knitters have a bad reputation for being incurable yarn snobs. I have no time or patience for that. It’s one thing to choose only natural fibers for yourself, but it’s another thing altogether to sneer at other knitters for making different choices.

We don’t do that here.

There are all sorts of perfectly valid reasons to choose an acrylic yarn. Here are five of the reasons that I sometimes decide acrylic is the right choice for my project.

Acrylic yarn is easy to care for.

Sometimes, I’ll choose acrylic yarn for a project that I know will get a lot of use or that will need to be washed regularly. If I’m knitting for my kid or making a blanket, nine times out of ten, I’ll be using a yarn that is primarily or entirely made of synthetic fibers.

That’s because it’s absolutely true that acrylic yarn is easier to care for than most animal fibers. I can throw those projects in the washer and dryer without worrying. There’s no stressing about felting in the wash. I don’t have to lay things flat to air dry. I just wash and go.

And when I’m caring for little sweaters covered in PB&J remnants or blankets that regularly get used when someone is sick, that ease of care is a big deal.

A zoomed-in image of a pale yellow crocheted child's sweater with a pink knit child's sweater folded on top. In the background is a cream-colored ball of yarn. They're surrounded by a teacup full of coffee, a plate with tiny baked treats, and antique paper ephemera.

Also, if I’m honest, I’m pretty forgetful. I try to be careful, but I’ve felted knits on accident before (RIP, my beloved Berry Scone Shawl). While knits for myself don’t need to be washed often, so I can minimize the risk of forgetting they’re involved in the laundry, household knits and knits for my kid need a little more frequent laundering.

It can be less stressful for the recipient.

I don’t knit gifts often, again for a whole host of reasons, but when I do, I always check with the recipient about their fiber preferences.

Sometimes they don’t care. Sometimes they’re fine with a natural fiber for a special item but would prefer synthetics for everyday wear. Sometimes they have a strong preference for one or the other.

And whatever the recipient wants, that’s the fiber I use.

Often, when I make baby gifts, the new parents tell me they’re too worried about taking care of handknits made with fancy yarns. In those cases, I’ll often use acrylic to help cut down on the stress for them. They’ve got enough on their plates without worrying about whether they’re going to ruin something I’ve spent 12 hours making.

That’s a driving force behind my gift knitting philosophy, and something we’ll have to explore here soon. Ultimately, a gift that makes work (even emotional work) for the recipient isn’t much of a gift.

Acrylic yarn can be less expensive.

There’ve been times in my knitting journey where there wasn’t a ton of spare room in the budget. I economized in lots of places, and yarn choices were an easy way to do that. Acrylic yarns tend to be less expensive than most wool yarns (though this isn’t an absolute, and if you want to use wool, don’t let budget scare you away!).

A zoomed-in image of a cream-colored ball of yarn in the center of the photo. It is surrounded by a pink knit sweater, a pale yellow crocheted sweater, and, blurred in the background, a teacup of coffee and a plate of tiny baked treats.

Even now, when finances less of a concern, I’ll often opt for acrylic for a very large project. If I’m going to be using 2,000 yards of yarn or more, that can get pretty pricey pretty fast.

In that scenario, an acrylic yarn is one way to help control the cost.

It’s easily accessible.

I grew up in a town that, while not small, didn’t have a lot of fancy amenities. I had never heard of a local yarn shop until I was in my 20s.

So it will probably not surprise you to learn that I grew up working with acrylic yarn. It was what we had available, and it was abundant. My friends and I made blankets for our dolls and experimented with weaving on toy looms. Acrylic yarn helped our imaginations grow.

Nowadays, I’m back in that hometown, and while it has changed quite a bit, the nearest dedicated LYS is still 40 minutes to an hour away (depending on traffic). I’ve got a small kid and not a ton of spare time, and sometimes I just need to pop into the store to get an extra skein of yarn to finish a project.

It’s nice to be able to just walk into a big box craft store and pick up what I need.

Pests don’t eat acrylic yarn.

Moths, carpet beetles, and silverfish are the bane of those of us who like to work with animal fibers. There’s nothing worse than opening up a hank of yarn, only to find the telltale splitty signs that show some little critter has been munching on it.

It’s even worse to find those telltale signs in a finished project we’ve spent hours working on.

A zoomed-in image of a pale yellow crocheted child's sweater. In the background is a pink knit child's sweater folded in half and a cream-colored ball of yarn. They're surrounded by a teacup full of coffee and antique paper ephemera.

There are, of course, things you can do to help cut down on the possibility of creepy crawlies getting into your animal fibers. You can use cedar sachets, regularly air and rotate your wool, be sure to wash garments before storage, and more. Plenty of knitters never have a pest problem.

But you can also avoid the problem by using a material that pests won’t want to snack on.

Acrylic is a synthetic material (essentially, plastic), which isn’t exactly great for any digestive system, even an insect’s. As a result, they don’t tend to nibble on acrylic yarn. While there are other concerns involved in using a synthetic fiber, this is certainly a benefit.

Ultimately, every knitter has to balance and evaluate their own needs and priorities when making fiber choices. There are so many factors that go into the yarns we choose, and that’s okay! Each of us is on our own knitting journey.

But as for me and my knits, there will always be room for a bit of acrylic in there. After all, if I don’t use it right away, it’ll keep.

How about you? Drop me a note in the comments and let’s chat about fiber content.

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Deb Van

Saturday 6th of August 2022

I relate to all of the above. My first-ever sweater was reduced to doll-size the first time I washed it when my mother (not a knitter) decided to "help me" by putting the just hand-washed 100% wool turtleneck in the spin cycle so it wouldn't take so long to dry! I've made afghans and sweaters for many family members, and always make them in something machine washable and dryable. It avoids stress and heartbreak for all concerned. Have come to love both washable wool and bamboo for letting me combine ease of care with natural beauty, but wool/acrylic blends and quality acrylics are always on the menu.

Monique

Saturday 6th of August 2022

When making mitts I combine acrylic with wool blends... Double thickness.. And this actually helps avoid the shrinkage problem a bit... And makes a very sturdy mitt.

Judith Merryfield

Friday 5th of August 2022

I agree. I like acrylic yarns. I find that for me, right now they are easier to work with. (I am a beginning knitter). And they are easy on the budget.

Lauren Rad

Friday 5th of August 2022

Welcome to the party! I hope you're enjoying your learning journey. What exciting adventures you have ahead of you.

Maxine Fausak

Wednesday 3rd of August 2022

I too used acrylic years ago and was always happy with the results, still do. My beautiful daughter, who is now 57, lol and older then me😂, is absolutely allergic to wool of any kind. So I alway use acrylic for anything I make for her. I have used wool, and other animal fibers, Noel’s and then, but almost always use acrylic. I have been crocheting for 73 years and knitting for 70 years. Knitting and crocheting is good for the brain, nerves and whatever ails you!! And both are a lot of fun, too!! Thank you for your wonderful article! I really appreciate what you had to say about the yarn I like to use the most! ACRYLIC!! Have a great day, sincerely Maxine😊😄❤️

Lauren Rad

Wednesday 3rd of August 2022

Thank you for the kind note! I hope to enjoy so many happy years with my yarn, too.

Josephine

Wednesday 3rd of August 2022

My thoughts exactly. I have knit a number of baby items in both natural Fibers and acrylic. Most of them have been acrylic because of all the reasons you mentioned. Unfortunately, there are some in my knitting group who are ultimate yarn snobs and would ask: how is the "plastic" baby blanket going? Wish knters would accept ALL knitters and keep their mouths shut.

Lauren Rad

Wednesday 3rd of August 2022

I'm so sorry they were unkind about your project. Knits of all sorts are welcome here.

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