I think most fiber artists find that one of the first yarns a large majority of us begin experimenting with is Acrylic yarn, due to its durability, accessibility, and affordability (all of which I will go further into in just a moment). Therefore it felt quite fitting to start this series off by talking about Acrylic yarn!
Why is it called “Acrylic” Yarn?
Now you have probably heard the word “Acrylic” used to refer to several different materials throughout your life, and that is because the name derives from a chemical compound (methyl methacrylate) which is used for things like Acrylic Pain and many types of Glass. However, Acrylic Yarn Specifically comes from the chemical compound (polyacrylonitrile) that when processed in different ways can create several different kind of fibers that can be used for wigs, faux fur, you name it; but one of its biggest products is indeed Acrylic Yarn. This type of yarn is largely known as a “synthetic fiber”, meaning that it is man-made and is not sourced naturally the way that Wool and Cotton are.
Why use Acrylic Yarn?
As I mentioned earlier, many beginners usually start experimenting with Acrylic Yarn (not that you should stop using it once you become more advanced or anything, I still use Acrylic all the time), and I think that this is for a few reasons.
- Acrylic Yarn is extremely accessible. Go into any run of the mill craft store and you will 100% find yourself some Acrylic Yarn, although higher end yarn stores tend not to carry it, I’m assuming because it is a more commercial produced yarn.
- Acrylic Yarn is incredibly durable (in most cases), it’s a very strong yarn, which means that it is very forgiving when you have made a few mistakes. Frogging rows (which for anyone who does not know the term, just means having to rip our or undo your work) can often lessen the integrity of a yarn and it can begin unravel and split on itself. Acrylic yarn will often hold its integrity through multiple frogging sessions, making it a great yarn to use when you are just starting out.
- Acrylic Yarn is typically very affordable. This is because it is mass-produced and not very expensive to make. You can usually pick up a decent yardage ball of Acrylic Yarn for $3 or less, and there are going to be so many colors to choose from.
What kind of Feel/Texture can I expect from an Acrylic Yarn?
I have often heard Acrylic fiber being criticized for being “rough” or “scratchy” and I will not lie, Acrylic yarn typically will have that kind of texture. Some brands will be softer than others, if you ever find yourself using Craft Smart Value Yarn you may find that it has a rather rough texture to it compared to a Red Heart Super Saver Yarn. Although they are both 100% Acrylic Yarns, they are manufactured by different companies and therefore will most likely be processed slightly different depending on the company, so even though Acrylic has a reputation for being a lower quality “rougher” yarn, it really depends on the brand.
However, one of the nice things about Acrylic Yarn is that it is indeed machine washable, and from personal experience, one trip to the washing machine can bring a whole new life to Acrylic Yarn! I have made several garments such as Cardigans and Sweaters out of Acrylic yarn and had plenty of reservations about if would be comfortable enough to wear as I was working it up, but giving it a cycle in the washing machine or even just going over it will a steamer loosens up the fiber like magic. What was once felt like a Brillo pad now feels like a cloud, so don’t discount Acrylic as an option just because it feels a little rough at the start!
Anything else I should know about Acrylic Yarn?
Yes actually! A very important thing to know about Acrylic Yarn is that since it is chemically produced, it is much more flammable than other fibers. Therefore you should never use Acrylic Yarn to make anything that may come in contact with direct heat, specifically kitchen products. Pot Holders and the like are great projects especially when you are just starting out, but you are much better off using a cotton for those.
On a more positive note, Acrylic Fibers are extremely hypoallergenic friendly! Because most other fibers are natural, individuals may find they have an allergy to certain fibers, however, there have not been many cases in which someone has reported being allergic to an Acrylic Fiber! In addition, because it is not a natural fiber, it does not attract moths or any other kinds of critters that enjoy eating your precious clothing.
Acrylic Yarn is probably one of the most straight forward yarns out there, once you get used to it the feel of it, you know pretty much what to expect from an Acrylic Yarn, it is some of the Natural Fibers that get a bit trickier and have a lot more variety within them, so I look forward to diving into those as well!