2.28.2010

Acrylic yarns, the good, bad and the ugly, and some vintage crochet afghan patterns

Your weak points are your strengths run amok. This is especially true for acrylic yarns. But it goes both ways.

Good or Bad?  You decide….

Indestructible = Still in use after 30 years, ah the memories, and now we can resale them as vintage

Wide range of colors = Not always good color choices, or remember what we thought looked good together, arugh….

Scratchy and cheap = great dish scrubbies, and car window bug scrubbers

Machine wash and dry = Hey, spill on it, abuse it, like Mike Tyson says it’s asking for it

Non-allergenic = no animal fibers, unless you get a wool blend

Can be blended with any natural fiber = results in the best of both worlds

I was recently at a family members house and saw an afghan that I had crocheted when I was in collage. (yes it was till surviving, although in rather a sad pilly form).

granny squares

I learned to crochet in grade school, but didn’t start making afghans until I was in high school. My first was a country blue one, in a ripple stitch. I had decided I wanted one big enough to cover a queen size bed, for when I got married. Well I bought 18 skeins of 8 oz acrylic yarn and got started, I did finish it and actually used it when I did get married. It was so big and heavy it slid off the bed all by itself, it had a life of its own. I washed and dried it and used it, until I could stand the color anymore and gave it to Goodwill.

I was so proud of this huge creation, it started me on a marathon of crochet afghans that was both loved and hated.  It was the perfect gift in my mind. No matter what the event, just adjust the size!  I made one (smaller) for everyone that got married, or had a baby (even smaller). My favorite easy baby blanket pattern.

I know, for some knitters acrylic is a dirty word. Synthetic knitting yarn is made from coal or petroleum products. Types of synthetic knitting yarn include acrylic, nylon, polyester, spandex, and polypropylene.  Acrylic yarn can be rough, scratchy, or squeaky, but not all acrylic’s are bad. They are not the same yarns that we remember from the 70’s, that burnt orange and avocado green afghan that is still in the basement.

acrylic yarn

I admit  I still use natural fibers almost exclusively, and there are so many new ones out there to get excited about, but that is another blog post. But there are very much improved manmade blends out there.  I urge you to get out there and take a look at some of the new acrylic yarns and their blends. Just stop past and feel some in your local craft chain stores. Squish them and see what you think.

I’m currently destashing and as a result I am knitting scarves out of my acrylics and my friends are getting them.  They seem to love them, and want those, instead of “wool” ones.

When you use acrylic yarns, use good ones, (look at the cost, remember what your mother taught you is true, you get what you pay for). If you have bought one and it is terrible to knit with (squeaky is bad), don’t continue, stop and look for a better quality yarn. Listen to your hands and the needles. If your finished project won’t feel or look good. It is not worth you time.

I like to use acrylic yarn for baby blankets, or a fine acrylic and wool blend, this allows for great wear and ease of care. The other items are scarves and  pet blankets. No worries if you spill, well anything on you item. The durability and ease of care is a great plus, especially for infants. I have even had a neighbor bleach a baby afghan that I gave her after an especially heinous leakage occurred. I think it was made of Red Heart, and it came out fine, the color didn’t even change. She REALLY loved that.

I am still amazed at the people that “hate” wool, most of my family, friends and co-workers. They can’t understand why anyone would knit with wool. I guess they remember that band uniform, that hot scratchy, heavy, ugly thing, (oops some band memories I forgot), and those poor people that are allergic to wool, (but now, happily, for any that are allergic there are so many new “natural” fibers to pick from).  script-ohio

After a lot of trial and error, the below are my recommendations. These are based on using them for afghans and scarves, which get a lot of heavy wear, and washing. All of the below yarns are worsted weight unless noted otherwise.

SOFT ACRYLICS…

-Red Heart Soft and Caron Simply Soft- Feels nice and soft, has a good selection of colors, and a subtle sheen, may not hold up well if you are using it to knit, can get “ploopy”, and limp, or loose its shape”,  after washing.  Nice if you want something with “drape”. But I use these two for crochet, since crochet is thicker and sturdier than knitting.  I DO recommend these for Amgurumi crochet. Free Amgurumi bear tutorial here.  If you are a Red Heart lover, there is even a Ravelry Red Heart Group.

There are acrylics that are described as “super fine”, usually a blend of acrylic and nylon, when I first found these I was surprised. They are a good option, low to medium price and nice feel.

GOOD OPTION FOR KNITTING

-Berroco Comfort-ultra-soft blend of Super Fine Acrylic and Super Fine Nylon. This seems to be a magical combo, great colors, feels great and good wear. Close to my holy grail. Soft, yet does not bag, after a period of time.

-Caron Simply Soft Eco-this yarn is made with recycled plastic bottles, and somehow gives us the best of all worlds, soft, good color range, and body. Super easy care and pleasant to work with.

-Patons Canadiana Yarn- This yarn has been out there for years, soft feel, holds up, great color choice. Good price.

-Lion Brand Wool-Ease, acrylic/wool (generally 80/20) blend, easy care, soft, feels good knitting it, good color range.  (I have noticed that this can pill after numerous washings.  Machine washing and drying over and over. Maybe not suited to a baby blanket, but great for a scarf) I give this yarn high marks.

So get out there and start feeling some yarn, pick some up and squosh it. I think you will be surprised.

In memory of those afghans, here are some of those patterns that some of us remember…there may even be one in your basement, attic or grandma’s house.

Big Granny Square Afghan

Granny Square Traditional  this link is from Bev’s Country Cottage and has just about any granny square answer you need (usually made out of scrap yarn, all colors)

Navajo Afghan

Popcorn Ripple

Ripple stripe

Granny’s Flowers

Star Shell

Jacob’s Ladder

15 comments:

  1. Great article. About half of what I knit with is acrylic. I love its stamina and with all our grandkids, that's a necessity. Cotton's my choice for crochet, although I do make pillow tops & afghans in acrylic.

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  2. I agree, every yarn has it's benefits and downfalls. I like how you've pointed them out here. I do understand the wool thing, but that's because my skin is slightly sensitive to it. Every winter my skin has to take a week or so to get use to the wool of my hat and I line my wool scarf with an acrylic one on the inside. I love wool, but my skin doesn't always, even nice wool.

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  3. I'm a natural fiberholic myself. Just never liked the feel of acrylic especially the way it feels in my hand when knitting with it.
    Love your afghan. It brough back lovely memories. My Memaw crocheted one just like it.
    I reealllllly looooove your log cabin blanket in the header. Looks like you are further along on your's than I am on mine.

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  4. Great article! I use the acrylic(s) for any baby article since it will probably be washed A LOT.

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  5. As most "newborn" knitters I dread acrylic and avoid it best i can. Merely when thinking of it my hands get kind'a warm and swetty, yik. Fruthermore I tend to get like really elektric in winter when in contact with the material, painful experience when greating a dog or cat (poor fellows).
    I still think your article is great, for even acrylic has its benefits, as long as properly tended to when disposed.

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  6. I mostly knit with acrylics. I often feel like I'm living in a real life version of "The Princess and the Pea". My family and friends start itching and scratching (and whining) if there's even as little as 5% animal fiber content.

    I gift only machine washable and dryable handknits (i.e., acrylics) because I don't want to burden the recipient with the time or expense of special care for the gift.

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  7. Good info! Enjoyed reading that and hearing your thoughts on the subject. I do use some acrylics (the soft ones) but, truthfully, prefer natural yarns.

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  8. Thanks for breaking down the acrylic yarn differences. I really enjoy working with acrylics from time to time. I love supporting my local yarn shop but I still get a thrill when I look at rows and rows of yarn in my local craft store.
    A guilty pleasure!

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  9. I really like Red heart Super Saver, I use it for afghans, it can be scratchy in some spots but it's really not that bad. I think if you buy the Caron One Pounders they are really soft. Seriously I love them the most however Red Heart has more color choices so I mix the two.

    I friend gave me scrap yarn, some is Wool-Ease I'm in trouble I really really like it and I'm not a wool person. Ugh but Lion Brand costs a pretty penny.

    Also a lot of people claim Red heart doesn't hold up however my mom has a sweater from when she was a teenager it's 30-40 years old and it's fine. So I don't understand what they're saying.

    I like bamboo yarn but once again, affordability issue along with not being warm enough.

    If you have a stash you need to get rid of let me know I'm about to start making lap afghans for wounded soldiers in deployment.

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  10. Oh gosh that is great! Thanks for the input on Caron pound packs. I've never really used those. I am becoming more in love with acrylic mixes as time goes on. But I agree the more $$$ are better. I have found Wool-Ease (some products) pill badly as time goes on. Maybe it is the way I'm caring for it.
    Send me your email for info on sending stash to you for lap afghans for wounded soldiers!!
    Thanks
    Vicki

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  11. I love crocheting with acrylics, especially Caron simply soft. I know too many people who have wool allergies to use it, just a headache to even try. I use crochet thread in cotton for jewelry projects. I want to try bamboo but have been waiting for a sale day with free shipping at Joanns, like today. :-)
    But acrylic or cotton, or a blend is best when gifting or selling since it leaves out any allergy concerns. Thanks for the article.

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  12. I love crocheting with acrylics, especially Caron simply soft. I know too many people who have wool allergies to use it, just a headache to even try. I use crochet thread in cotton for jewelry projects. I want to try bamboo but have been waiting for a sale day with free shipping at Joanns, like today. :-)
    But acrylic or cotton, or a blend is best when gifting or selling since it leaves out any allergy concerns. Thanks for the article.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I love crocheting with acrylics, especially Caron simply soft. I know too many people who have wool allergies to use it, just a headache to even try. I use crochet thread in cotton for jewelry projects. I want to try bamboo but have been waiting for a sale day with free shipping at Joanns, like today. :-)
    But acrylic or cotton, or a blend is best when gifting or selling since it leaves out any allergy concerns. Thanks for the article.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I like Caron Simply Soft as a dry run yarn. It is soft and comfortable and easy to crochet with... cotton is also good, but I find that it dries my hands out, so I only use it in the summer. I like wool, for socks. And there are so many more -

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  15. I agree, I wrote this post in 2010, I should write a follow up as I find myself using more and more acrylic, or acrylic blend,
    Thanks for your suggestions!
    Vicki

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