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Old 12-01-2008, 02:59 PM   #1
Kibben
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WOOL FIBER VS ACRYLIC FIBER
What is the advantage of using wool fiber? Most professional knitters & "upscale" knitting patterns use wool instead of acrylic fiber. Thank you for your response.
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Old 12-01-2008, 03:04 PM   #2
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I am no expert, but animal fibers such as wool are much better at keeping you warm and dry. So, if you are making a hat or gloves or the like, it is better if you stick with wool.

ETA I just made my very first pair of mittens and I used acrylic. They seem fine to me, but I think I am going to use a wool or alpaca blend for my next pair.
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Old 12-01-2008, 03:34 PM   #3
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Generally I think wool is used for many reasons including it's warmth and it's nice to knit with. Acrylic is man-made which is a turn off for some, plus some people say it it makes them feel sweaty because it doesn't breath. I don't have a problem using it though.
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Old 12-01-2008, 03:59 PM   #4
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I don't have a problem with either.

I like wool because it works to regulate temperature rather than just hold warmth and it's superior at wicking away moisture. Wet wool still insulates.
But wool is more expensive and harder to wash (assuming it's not a washable type which are even more expensive). Wool also tends to take on odors (sometimes even create its own odors).

I use acrylic because of price. If I could afford it I would use nothing but wool.
But I like to hunt so having the good insulating/wicking properties is important to me. I think for some it's nothing more than perception.
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Old 12-01-2008, 05:50 PM   #5
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Wool and alpaca are protein based natural animal fibers. They both insulate naturally. Both retain body heat even if you are soaking wet. Traditional Fisherman Sweaters kept fishermen warm. Wool is also naturally flame retardant. It will burn but more of a smoldering sort of burn and will stop when moved away from the flame. The natural quality gives depth to color and creates interesting texture. When knitting it has nice give and warms up in your hands. It makes some stitches like cables look fantastic. The drawbacks are that it can be itchy depending on the breed of wool and how it is spun and processed. Some people are allergic too it.

Once you get hand washing down it is really not that difficult to wash. I happen to have a front loading washing machine with a hand wash cycle. I can put a wool sweater in a garment bag, run it through the hand wash cycle and lay it out to dry. Even in top loader if you are careful you can probably rinse and spin a sweater in the delicate cycle if you use a garment bag.

Acrylic is petroleum based. It comes from oil. It does not breathe the way natural fibers do. So while you may be warm in something acrylic it is because it is holding in your sweat. If you are soaking wet in acrylic you will be cold and not retain any body heat. So out in the woods it won't protect you from hypothermia the way wool would. It is easy care for so people often choose it for kids things. However it actually is not safe for babies at all. It is not flame retardant, it melts when exposed to flame and can cause horrible burns. Stephanie Pearl McPhee aka the Yarn Harlot asserts that no baby should be left unattended with acrylic for this reason.

Actually lots of modern clothing with acrylic and nylon pose the same danger if you are wearing them in a fire. If your clothes catch fire you can be terribly burned by the melting of the fiber. Children's pajamas that are labeled flame retardant have been treated with chemicals.

Cotton and Linen are natural vegetable fibers, they do not insulate. They might burn in a fire but won't melt all over your skin. They can also offer interesting textures and color.

Natural fibers come from renewable resources. Acrylic does not. However acrylic is in much of our modern clothes and carpeting. I don't know anyone with wall to wall 100% wool carpet.
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Old 12-02-2008, 03:22 AM   #6
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I personally like acrylic yarn for the simple reason that it's cheaper and I'm highly allergic to wool and alpaca. Cotton is alright, but the skiens are small and expensive.
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Old 12-02-2008, 06:19 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by newamy View Post
Wool and alpaca are protein based natural animal fibers. They both insulate naturally. Both retain body heat even if you are soaking wet. Traditional Fisherman Sweaters kept fishermen warm. Wool is also naturally flame retardant. It will burn but more of a smoldering sort of burn and will stop when moved away from the flame. The natural quality gives depth to color and creates interesting texture. When knitting it has nice give and warms up in your hands. It makes some stitches like cables look fantastic. The drawbacks are that it can be itchy depending on the breed of wool and how it is spun and processed. Some people are allergic too it.

Once you get hand washing down it is really not that difficult to wash. I happen to have a front loading washing machine with a hand wash cycle. I can put a wool sweater in a garment bag, run it through the hand wash cycle and lay it out to dry. Even in top loader if you are careful you can probably rinse and spin a sweater in the delicate cycle if you use a garment bag.

Acrylic is petroleum based. It comes from oil. It does not breathe the way natural fibers do. So while you may be warm in something acrylic it is because it is holding in your sweat. If you are soaking wet in acrylic you will be cold and not retain any body heat. So out in the woods it won't protect you from hypothermia the way wool would. It is easy care for so people often choose it for kids things. However it actually is not safe for babies at all. It is not flame retardant, it melts when exposed to flame and can cause horrible burns. Stephanie Pearl McPhee aka the Yarn Harlot asserts that no baby should be left unattended with acrylic for this reason.

Actually lots of modern clothing with acrylic and nylon pose the same danger if you are wearing them in a fire. If your clothes catch fire you can be terribly burned by the melting of the fiber. Children's pajamas that are labeled flame retardant have been treated with chemicals.

Cotton and Linen are natural vegetable fibers, they do not insulate. They might burn in a fire but won't melt all over your skin. They can also offer interesting textures and color.

Natural fibers come from renewable resources. Acrylic does not. However acrylic is in much of our modern clothes and carpeting. I don't know anyone with wall to wall 100% wool carpet.


I prefer natural fibers, too, for all the reasons that newamy detailed. Very good information amy! Well said without going overboard! Easy to follow and understand!

I love knitting with the fiber of an animal...and I also like the cottons, bamboos, and hemps for summery things.

However, that said, I have used acrylic yarns many times for little kid's hats, sweaters and blankies. Mainly because of the washability. I have only used fine fibers for little kid's things when I know the mother well, and am sure she is willing to make the time to handwash my handknit gift(s). No mother has the time. She has to make time usually. If I'm unsure, I just make it in the nicest washable yarn I can find. There's no sense in making it harder for a mother, especially since most mothers also hold fulltime or parttime jobs outside the home.

Whatever yarn we choose to knit with, the important thing is THAT WE KNIT! It's all about the love in the gift! It's also about what you can afford to use, or what you have access to! Just keep knitting! And sharing your beautiful projects! I admire all the projects I see in Whatcha Knitting. I don't usually pay any attention to the type of yarn. The most outstanding feature is the knitted item itself, and who its for!
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Old 07-14-2013, 10:19 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by newamy View Post
Wool and alpaca are protein based natural animal fibers. They both insulate naturally.


Natural fibers come from renewable resources. Acrylic does not. However acrylic is in much of our modern clothes and carpeting. I don't know anyone with wall to wall 100% wool carpet.
Well said....Natural fibers are best. I love my all wool tapestries and small area rugs.
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Old 07-15-2013, 05:23 PM   #9
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I read somewhere that wearing nylon/acrylic clothing on a plane could up your chances of getting serious burns if the plane crashes, because of these fiber's tendencies to melt into your skin with intense heat.
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Old 12-02-2008, 08:13 AM   #10
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I like acrylic in some forms. The softer versions like Caron Simply Soft have a great feet to them, but I find they don't retain their shape in larger patterns. I have used wool, but sparingly as I actually want people to wear what I have knitted. Some folks find wool itchy and refuse to wear it. I like the smooth yarns, as they feel great to my hands when knitting. I use a lot of acrylic because it is cheap and I have huge stashes of it.
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