If you have been using yarn for knitting, crocheting, or any other crafts and hobbies, then you would have noticed that these are made from a variety of materials. These include nylon, wool, bamboo fiber, cotton, silk, banana fiber, and a lot more.
You may be having a favorite yarn that you love the feel and texture of. There are many different kinds of yarn you can imagine. Have you ever wondered what acrylic yarn is and how it differs from cotton yarn?
What is the difference between acrylic and cotton yarn? The primary difference between acrylic and cotton is that acrylic is a man-made polymer, whereas cotton is a natural, plant-based fiber. Acrylic is popular, affordable, and easy to find in any color, but cotton is softer, more durable, and a popular natural fiber option.
Keep reading to learn more about the difference between cotton and acrylic yarn, including the advantages and disadvantages of each.
What is Acrylic Yarn?
Acrylic yarn is a fiber that is man-made. It is developed from polymers that are synthesized from petroleum products. There are many benefits to using acrylic yarn. Looking into its properties and applications will help you decide whether you should go ahead with this yarn for your knitting project or not.
Acrylic yarns were first developed by DuPont during the 1940s. Within a decade, these yarns became a rage and were being produced on a massive scale. These polymers are created from several processes that produce string-like strands that resemble wool hair. These are then spun into a yarn.
Unlike many protein fibers, acrylic polymers don’t have to go through a rigorous washing and carding process, which is one of the reasons this yarn is cheaper.
Benefits of Acrylic Yarn
Acrylic yarn is quite popular amongst crochet lovers especially. It is widely available and comes in a multitude of colors and can take some really vibrant shades. It is one of the most affordable choices available for beginners.
The only problem with acrylic yarn is that some cheap variants can be challenging to crochet and may split apart. If you face any issue while crocheting, then you should try switching to another brand.
1. Available in a Range of Colors
Acrylic yarn is available in a myriad of colors. It can be easily formulated into various specifications including colors. The options are practically endless. If you are a knitting beginner, then you may want to stick to this yarn for practicing simple projects. Acrylic yarn is less sensitive to detergent in comparison to cashmere or wool.
2. Easy to Clean
Acrylic is less sensitive to detergent in comparison to cashmere or natural wool. It can withstand a standard cycle in a washing machine without shredding or shrinking. It is ideal for knitting gloves, blankets, and furnishings that require constant cleaning. If you are wearing acrylic items, however, be sure to get a soft variety.
Acrylic fibers are quite durable. They are great for making things that will get a lot of wear and use. As it is synthetic, it is not possible for moth larvae to digest it, so they will also last long without becoming as delicate.
4. Warm and Lightweight
Acrylic yarn is warm although it may not equal the warmth of sheep or alpaca wool. However, it will keep you cozy during winters. If you are looking for a yarn to knit a lightweight throw or blanket, then acrylic would be the ideal yarn for the purpose. Synthetic polymers have a lower density than natural fibers and hence have a much lighter feel.
Synthetic fibers are ideal for individuals who are allergic to lanolin or are sensitive to the scaling of wool fibers.
6. Stitch Definition
Some acrylic yarns have great stitch definition. This implies that it is easier to identify where the stitches go making it an ideal choice for beginners. This is especially true for light-colored acrylic yarn.
7. Hold Shape
Projects made with acrylic yarn will hold their shape well. While there is a little natural stretch to this yarn, it won’t fall slack like rayon. If you don’t want your project to grow and stretch, acrylic is a great choice.
Disadvantages of Acrylic Yarn
1. Lack of Breathability
Acrylic yarn will not let your body breathe the way natural yarn will. It holds on to your sweat which is not a desirable feature, unless you’re making a winter blanket.
2. Traps Water and Odors
Acrylic yarn can hold onto sweat which implies that it can retain smell. If you are caught in heavy rain, an acrylic garment can make you feel cold by staying wet longer. If you are knitting a sweater to keep yourself warm, then you should probably opt for some other yarn.
Acrylic can melt under high temperatures thereby resulting in terrible burns. You shouldn’t place acrylic apparel near the fire.
4. Can Produce Substandard Results
Several crocheters and knitters complain that some acrylic yarns do not remain perfect even after being crocheted or knitted. They have reported twisted texture and lumps in apparel knit from synthetic yarn. These fibers pill readily in comparison to natural fibers. You may be getting what you pay for.
What is Cotton Yarn?
Cotton yarn is a natural, plant-based fiber. It is soft, versatile, and breathable. Cotton fabric is one of the oldest known materials and is still a staple in the knitting industry. Cotton yarn is a great alternative for anyone allergic to wool, or who want a lighter feel to their project.
Cotton dyes beautifully and hence the yarns are available in bright and rich hues. It is breathable and hence is preferred during summers. It is a great absorbent. Cotton yarn is best for making household items such as pillows, rugs, towels, washcloths, market bags, dishcloths, and a lot more.
Cotton is an ideal choice for bay items as it is soft and easy to care for. You can crochet baby clothes, blankets, layettes, booties, and a lot more. Cotton yarn is available in a variety of textures, weights, and colors. Hence, you have endless possibilities when it comes to making things out of it.
Benefits of Cotton Yarn
Cotton yarn is ideal for making breathable, lightweight apparel. It is comfortable to wear. Cotton is made entirely from cellulose which is an organic compound that conducts heat actively from the body. Cotton pulls heat away from the skin and this is the reason why it feels comfortable during hot weather.
2. Stitch Definition
As cotton is not elastic, it is ideal for knitting items with a slight drape effect. Due to inelasticity, cotton settles in a relaxing position which provides a fantastic stitch to your apparel. With cotton yarn, every detail of your stitching stands out in a beautiful manner.
3. Great Absorbent
Cotton has excellent absorbing properties. This makes it an ideal fiber for knitting dishcloths and washcloths. This also implies that it dyes easily.
4. Machine Washable
This natural fiber can be easily cleaned in a washing machine. This is one of the reasons cotton yarn is such a great choice for making baby blankets. After all, baby items need lots of cleaning.
5. Rugged and Durable
Despite being rugged, cotton fibers are still soft and comfortable to wear. You can use mercerized cotton if you want to use cotton fiber for heavy-duty projects. This mercerized cotton yarn from Lion Brand is my favorite for a multitude of projects.
Disadvantages of Cotton Yarn
Cotton is not a suitable fiber for every knitting project. Hence, you need to be aware of what kind of yarn you need to use according to the suitability of your project.
Although cotton yarn can be dyed easily and is available in a multitude of colors, some yarns bleed during washing. This is noted with darker colors. You can test this with a swatch especially if you are mixing dark and light-colored yarns together.
2. Can Be Trickier to Knit
Cotton yarns are sometimes tricky to knit with as they can be slippery. You may want to use bamboo or wooden needles for them. Beginners sometimes find cotton yard hard to work with because of this, especially if they are used to wool yarns. As these are not elastic, some find it difficult to keep an even tension while knitting with cotton yarns. This may make your hand strain.
3. Wrinkles and Creases
Another major disadvantage of using cotton yarn is that natural fibers easily wrinkle the garment. Hence, much care is needed while knitting cotton apparel. You can go for blends if you are not comfortable with using 100% pure cotton yarns.
4. Pesticide Heavy
If you are conscious about what you are using and if your product is heavily laden with pesticides, then you should opt for yarn made from organic cotton.
Differences Between Acrylic Yarn and Cotton Yarn
|Cotton Yarn||Acrylic Yarn|
|Super smooth to touch||Texture is rough|
|Eco-friendly as it is made from natural fibers||Not an eco-friendly choice; synthetic and petroleum-based|
|Highly breathable and hence used in making baby apparel and other items||Not breathable|
|Has high absorbent properties||Holds on to water and sweat|
|Always offers great results||Produces low-quality results if the yarn is not of high quality|
|Can be laden with pesticides if you are not opting for an organic variant||Made from petrochemicals|
|Beginners may find it tricky to knit initially||Easy to knit|
Acrylic knitting yarn is soft, light, and cheap and is often mistaken to be wool. In the end, the usage is defined by the application. There are several brands and variants of acrylic yarns available. Cotton yarn is soft and breathable. It has high absorbent properties.
You can use both acrylic and cotton yarns depending on what the application is. You need to first determine the suitability of the yarn and proceed with your knitting project.
For instance, if you are making baby blankets, then it is best to choose organic cotton yarn instead of acrylic yarn. Apparel made from 100% cotton is soft to touch and your baby will be comfortable with these blankets.