Have you ever caught yourself referring to all of your fibres as wool? Well, not all yarns are made equal! The most common types of yarn available are made from acrylics and wool (or blends of the two). Both have their advantages and disadvantages, depending on your preferences and the type of project you’re working on.
Wool is, as you would expect from the name, spun from natural fibres from sheep. Acrylic, on the other end, is manufactured from synthetic polymers - it’s essentially plastic.
Some of the advantages that make acrylic so popular include its wide availability and low cost. You can find acrylics and acrylic blends at any craft store and it comes in a very wide array of colours and textures for a low price. It’s a good choice for beginners who want to learn at a lower investment; plus, it can offer a better stitch definition and make it easier for new crafters to see each of their stitches and do some frogging if they make an error. It can also offer a lot of durability and is almost always washable.
However, not all acrylics are made the same and while some would argue that it is smoother than wool, it typically doesn’t breathe or insulate in the way that wool naturally does, which means it is often colder in the winter and warmer in the summer - not what you want in a garment! Depending on the texture of the yarn, it can also feel rough. Since it is made of synthetic materials, it is not suitable for projects that would be exposed to heat or flame - your potholders would melt or catch on fire.
While wool can come at a higher price point, if you shop around you can find some incredibly reasonable prices on wool yarns. Plus, especially when you gain more experience, if you’re going to spend time lovingly creating a project, wouldn’t you rather it be made in a high-quality wool that, with proper care, will last for decades to come?
It’s true that wool can require a bit more care and thought at laundry time. Thanks to today’s superwash wools though, some yarns can be gently laundered - and those that can’t, respond beautifully to a handwash with a gentle soap. It might take a bit more time but isn’t it worth it after each loving stitch you put into that sweater?
There definitely is a time and place for acrylic but I believe it’s worth it to invest in wool yarns or other natural fibres. Natural fibres have a longer lifespan when cared for, are available in a broad selection of colourways, textures, and weights, and they offer far better breathability and wearability. Plus, if you do have a wool allergy, there are many other options, including yak, alpaca, cotton, linen and more!