View Full Version : acrylic vs wool??

03-14-2006, 08:37 PM
I went to my local craft store today, and came out empty handed because the acrylic vs wool thing confused me! Is one better than the other? I noticed that acrylic was cheaper, but does this also mean a "cheaper" quality garment in terms of look and wear? The good thing about acrylic that I found was that it can be both machine washed and dried, which is a good thing, since my boyfriend (who I'm knitting for) rarely checks labels. And I know wool can be scratchy for some people...

I guess the most important question I have is, will acrylic yarns make the garment look cheap? I'd hate to put long hours into the sweater, only to have it look bad.

03-14-2006, 08:48 PM
I'll take a crack at answering your question, but I'm sure there are others on this forum that will answer it better...

Not to sound like a "natural" fiber snob, but wool does have it's benefits over acrylic. I used to use only acrylic for a looooooooooooong time. I find that some acrylics are scratchy (the exception is the baby yarn in acrylic, but then you are pretty much limited to pastelly colors) and not as pleasing to the touch as "natural" fibers. Yes, acrylic is washable and that makes it great for people who don't want to handwash their garments. With natural fibers, you can get yarn that's incredibly soft. Merino wool and alpaca are two of my favorites. I use the regular cheaper wool for felted items and it works great! Some of the "cheaper" wool will pill and not wear right on a garment, but if you are unsure, most of the time someone here will have used the yarn before and can tell/warn you! :D

Of course, if you are allergic to wool or other natural fibers, then acrylic is the way to go, but for the most part, I've found that once you've worked with the better natural yarns, you'll never want to touch acrylic again, unless you are making a baby item and you need it to washable.

Really, I'm not a natural fiber snob... In fact I'd never worked with natural yarn until recently, but I'll never go back!

03-14-2006, 08:50 PM
There are nice looking acrylics and there are cheap looking acrylics; just as there are nice looking wools and cheap looking wools.

The beauty of acrylics are their easy care. I compromise by using a blend, like Plymouth Encore, for childrens' sweaters and for other things that won't get any special treatment.

If you buy the Pound o' Yarn for a Buck, your sweater probably won't hold up very well. If you invest in some of the softer, better feeling acrylics you'll be fine.

But stay away from Homespun. ;)

03-14-2006, 09:32 PM
I just checked my pattern and it calls for bernat denimstyle, which is a cotton-acrylic blend. Must I stick to acrylic-cotton blends or can I use wool or plain acrylic too?

03-14-2006, 09:44 PM
I've used the Denimstyle quite a bit, and it's a decent yarn for the price. The twist could be a bit better, but I've not had any real problems with it when crocheting or knitting with it. It washes well, and except for extreme wear areas {like an elbow}, I've had no problems with pilling. I like the colours it comes in, since I prefer muted and tweeded shades.

Since it's a basic worsted weight, you should have no trouble finding a suitable sub for it. Any basic WW that has a bit of give or forgiveness in it {unlike 100% cotton} would probably work. Anything that has a texture or nubbiness to it woud change the finished look of your project.

LM Needle Fanatic
03-15-2006, 05:28 PM
I hate to admit it but I have just become a yarn snob. :blush: I'm making a sweater (acrylic) and socks (wool) and can't believe I thought "yarn is yarn". The softness of the wool, the sandpaperiness (new word lol) of the acrylic (which I know will be softer after finished and washed, but still...). Lusting over the KnitPicks catalog. :rofling:

03-15-2006, 05:32 PM
I hate to admit it but I have just become a yarn snob. :blush: I'm making a sweater (acrylic) and socks (wool) and can't believe I thought "yarn is yarn". The softness of the wool, the sandpaperiness (new word lol) of the acrylic (which I know will be softer after finished and washed, but still...). Lusting over the KnitPicks catalog. :rofling:

Exactly what happened to me!

03-15-2006, 05:40 PM
It is a slippery slope! Even when I knit with 'rough' wool, it's preferable to me than most acrylics. There are some that I just can't stand the feel of anymore. I knit the preemie hats with acrylic and I didn't have a seizure or anything, but I don't think I'd be happy making something large from it, even though it's soft and not plastic-y feeling like some are. I never expected to feel this way, but quality is quality. Now, once you've used alpaca. . . . .

LM Needle Fanatic
03-15-2006, 06:02 PM
Stephanie...now to figure out what to do with my acrylic stash. :??

Ingrid...I'm fighting not to order the alpaca/cashmere Ambrosia from KnitPicks. I want it sooooo much, and the sweater pattern that goes with it (heck I can afford the pattern lol)

03-15-2006, 06:11 PM
Sometimes elann has alpaca for a good price.

Jan in CA
03-15-2006, 06:58 PM
I made a sweater for me and a baby sweater out of Bernat Denim Style. It's very soft and actually pretty warm for cotton/acrylic. I do find that it's pilling slightly, but it's not a problem and due to the patterning of the yarn it's not obvious. It was nice to knit with.

You can see both sweaters on my blog linked below.

03-15-2006, 10:00 PM
Ingrid, I'm scared of alpaca because they say it's SOOO warm. Is that really the case? What about mixed with silk? Is it warmer than wool? And what about pilling? I made a wool sweater from Paton's Merino and it's pilling pretty good. Is that the difference in expensive wool and not-so-expensive wool? The pilling?

Sorry for picking your brain, but I'm on a mission to find some wool that won't pill so.

03-15-2006, 10:48 PM
They say alpaca is the warmest, but there is also thin alpaca that you can knit with. I have an alpaca sweater --or two or three-- on my to-do list--I've only used it for a scarf, so I don't know how much warmer it is. With you being in S. Cal, though, that's more of an issue for you than me. ;)

The sweaters that I have had the longest are made from Shetland wool and there is no noticeable pilling. Just one or two--normal stuff. The sweaters from Encore--acrylic/wool blend--have some pilling on the forearms, but really not more that a few which can be plucked off.

I've only just started wearing the merino sweater I've made, so I don't know how that will wear. It's Debbie Bliss, though, so if quality prevents pilling, then I hope I'll be OK.

Amy wrote that the length of the fibers when spun is what causes pilling--if there are short pieces spun with the longer fibers you get more pilling, and cheaper yarn probably has more short fibers.

I made a Cozy shawl with Reynolds silk--I gave it to my dd, but the nature of the yarn doesn't strike me as something that would pill at all.

I guess this is a very long post without a really definitive answer, huh?

03-16-2006, 07:46 AM
Stephanie...now to figure out what to do with my acrylic stash. :??

I use acrylic yarn all the time for charity knitting. It's actually required for making the preemie and newborn hats and booties for hospitals, because they have to be able to wash it easily.

Here's a link to the Threads of Love website. I'm sure they'll be happy to use your acrylic yarn. (Or you can just send it to me, and I'll use it for my local chapter.)