Focus on Fiber: Acrylic Yarn

By Caissa "Cami" McClinton – 20 Comments

Since it’s so much fun, I thought we should continue our yarn chat on a regular basis, with a focus on different types of fibers and their qualities. I thought we should start our fiber-specific conversation with the basic standby, acrylic yarn.

Acrylic is probably the most common type of yarn. It is very popular. In fact, good old Red Heart Super Saver has been used in almost 107,000 projects on Ravelry. Acrylic yarns are readily available at big box stores and craft stores, and they are relatively inexpensive, making acrylic very accessible.

Did you know that acrylic is made from petroleum? That’s right. The same substance that runs your car warms you with that brightly colored afghan you made. Aside from afghans, acrylic yarn is popular for all kinds of projects.

Acrylic is loved for its easy care. Because it can be machine washed and dried, it is an excellent choice for baby and child garments. It is soft to the touch and popular in warm garments. It also drapes well, particularly when blocked with steam. One drawback to acrylic is that it can pill easily, but pilling can be minimized with hand washing and drying flat.

Do you have any fun facts about acrylic? What is your opinion on acrylic?

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20 Comments

  1. Cris says:

    I tend to migrate towards acrylic yarns for the very reasons you listed. Although there are a lot of blends out there with organic fibers spun with acrylic like the superwash wools.

  2. Lane† says:

    Very interesting, Cami! All of my crocheting is with acrylic- since it’s the cheapest. However, I don’t love it. Probably because my mother is not a big fan of acrylic. She loves %100 wool, cotton, and alpaca! I guess she’s rubbed off on me… :o) As for daily crochet needs though, acrylic certainly fits the bill!

  3. Grace says:

    I, personally, use acrylic for anything that I make for kids. It’s because it can be chucked in the wash making it easy to care for.

    Everything else is whatever strikes my fancy. My favourite? Marino wool for it’s softness. <3

  4. Donna says:

    There is one thing I’d like to know about acrylic yarn…what is the melting point? Can I put something fresh out of a HOT oven on it???

    • prplfairi says:

      I love acrylic as well, primarily for cost savings. Lately I have been making hot pads in cute little squares with 2 strands of (usually Red Heart super saver) yarn held together. I have used these hot pads at friends and families’ homes to pull hot items out of the oven (glass and metal) and set hot things on them on the table or counter and none have even shown a mark. When they dirty though, super easy to wash up! I don’t know the scientific answer for you, but I hope sharing my experience helps!

    • Jean says:

      i can answer this. the melting point would be 550 or higher. since we do not cook anything at that temperature, acrylic is good to use for potholders, hot mats. i made myself a set of acrylic potholders and they last for years. machine wash and dry fast. I once had a wood stove that i was cooking on and a fire fly landed on one of my potholders and it did not catch fire it only ‘melted’ in that one spot where the small fir fly landed. I have never had a problem with them melting when i use them to take something out of the oven. by the way i make my potholders double thick. just sew or crochet the 2 panels or circles together.

      • Judi Gums says:

        I too have used the acrylic yarn for pot holders and have never had any problem with them melting. One I made way back in the ’80’s and it is still going strong.

        Judi G

  5. Mary says:

    This isn’t politically correct, but I like it better than natural fibers because it is more washable, it doesn’t fade, and it holds its shape better.

  6. Acrylics is great for home decor but I can’t use most of it for clothing. Caron simply soft, lion brand homespun or others like them are the only kinds I can take on my skin. I’ve bought clothing made of acrylic before but it was super high-grade and felt like mercerized cotton. I can’t use “super saver” types of acrylic for anything but home decor (chair covers, curtains, curtain ties, ornaments, etc.). I won’t even use it for blankets or shawls since they rub against the skin. It feels prickly and itchy to me, like a thousand tiny needles. I can’t use wool for the same reason.

    • Judi Gums says:

      I use super saver for my afghans all the time, yes it isn’t nearly as soft as many of the other brands,but I just put them into the dryer with 3 dryer sheets and soften them up. I do so many afghans and need to save as much as I can on each. Plus I give a lot of them away to nursing homes, homeless shelters and such and it helps with the expense.

      Judi G

    • Colleen McCaffrey says:

      I am the same way with acrylic. But I am also allergic to most animal fibers, so I can only crochet with the really soft acrylics, bamboo, or cotton. I really wish my skin weren’t so sensitive.

  7. Simone says:

    Acrylic can serve a purpose, and it’s a good bargain mostly. I sitll have some in my stash, and I used recently 100% acrylic for an amigurumi.
    But in direct comparison, acrylic doesn’t have the same soft feel (at least for my hands) as wool mixes.
    I’m not an experienced crocheter, and though I do like the color choices acrylic offers, at the moment, I tend to use sock yarn for my projects.

  8. Mandy says:

    I love love love crocheting with wool, I would take it over acrylic any day. That said, I do most of my crocheting with acrylic. It’s so much more affordable and I just can’t afford to pay for enough wool to make anything big. The biggest thing I’ve made with wool was a hat. I also love the wide range of options as far as color, size, and texture for acrylic.

  9. M J says:

    I prefer wool as it is insulating even when wet and fire resistent unlike synthetics which melt and stick to skin and burn releasing toxic gases.
    Fine wool particles inhaled can be absorbed by the lungs as it is organic unlike the inorganic nature of the synthetics
    Wool is biodegradable whereas synthetics takes hundreds of years to breakdown

  10. Judi Gums says:

    Since my passion is mainly afghans in different textured stitches I use acrylic yarns for them, mostly Red Heart Super Saver as it is the most accessible for me. For clothing I would prefer some of the softer yarns, they don’t have to be wool, but I do feel wool is warmer then acrylic for clothing. I make hats, scarves and hand warmers, but I don’t do clothing, I don’t like the fitting to get the patterns adjusted.

    I too love the colors in acrylic yarns, and they work nicely for many types of projects.

    Judi G

  11. Carla says:

    I don’t care for acrylic because it pills so badly. If I’m going to put alot of my time into a project, I’d prefer to avoid pilling. I love using cotton and bamboo. Also wool. Wool and nylon blends are very durable. This winter I’ve enjoyed working with mohair and cashmere. Lovely.

  12. Heidi says:

    Acrylic yarns are the best for yarn bombing! I tested! Amongst cottons,wools,bamboos and acrylics, acrylics hold their color and shape longer when exposed to the elements. Some of the brighter shades held their color for a full 6 mos of sun, rain, wind and snow! Love yarn bombing! Don’t wrap trees!

  13. Perry says:

    I use more acrylic than I’d like because it’s cheap, but I dislike the fact that it’s plastic yarn. I much prefer cotton over acrylic, especially for towels and things, as acrylic doesn’t absorb AT ALL (I’ve tried washing dishes with acrylic scrub pads, talk about an exercise in frustration!)

    However, for outerwear, because I can’t afford wool, acrylic with a cotton lining (for wicking) is what I prefer to do. It’s a lot of extra work, however.

  14. Sandy says:

    I would like to know name brands of yarns that don’t pill, for making shawls and throws. I don’t want to spend a lot of time on a gift for someone and it looks awful and cheap after the first laundering.
    Can anyone help?

  15. Renee says:

    hate the pilling. it’s only good for children’s crafts.

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