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Yarn Yammer: Wool vs. Acrylic


Ever since the rivalry of the Sharks vs. the Jets in West Side Story there has not been a more fierce rivalry than wool vs. acrylic yarn! There are those who are loyal to a fault to one or the other. After being at the Craft & Hobby Association show teaching people about loom knitting I got in a teacher-like mood. I thought for this month’s column I would discuss the pro’s and cons of each fiber choice.

First let’s start with a definition of the two fibers:

Acrylic is petroleum based. It comes from oil. It was first developed in the mid-1940s but not widely used until the 1950’s. The fiber is produced by dissolving the polymer in a solvent and then it is extruded through the holes of a spinneret, similar to a spider spinning it’s silk.


Wool is of course a natural fiber. It is obtained from sheep and certain other animals, including cashmere from goats, mohair from goats, qiviut from muskoxen, and angora from rabbits among others. It has been around since.. well forever and is sheared or trimmed from the animal in question.


The pros and cons of each fiber.

Wool Pros:

  • Warm even when wet; wool naturally wicks away moisture keeping you warm and dry.
  • Fire retardant; it’s great for blankets and baby clothes, because it is naturally fire resistant
  • Versital; very light weight wool is cool in summer because of its wicking properties, and warm in winter.
  • Takes dye well and resists fading.
  • It’s a natural, renewable resource.
  • It has anti bacterial properties.
  • Holds stitch definition better, can be blocked.

Wool Cons:

  • Most wools need to be hand washed, unless you get a superwash version; dry cleaning might be your only other option.
  • Moths and insects like to chew on it; on a related note, although moths and other insects can be such a pain, it is important to remember that if your wardrobes are overrun with pests, it might be time to contact Pest Control Experts or a pest control service in your area to get to the bottom of the issue.
  • Some find it itchy and uncomfortable.
  • It can felt if accidentally washed, ruining the item.
  • Generally can cost more.

Acrylic Pros:

  • Easy to care for, can usually be machine washed and dried.
  • Costs less than natural fiber yarns.
  • Easy to find in stores.
  • Generally soft and nice to wear against the skin.

Acrylic Cons:

  • Cannot be dyed easily.
  • Does not breath well.
  • Will not resist water, or keep you warm when wet.
  • Is not fire resistant, will melt when it comes into contact with a heat source.
  • Can be squeaky when you are knitting with it.
  • Will not wick away moisture.
  • Cannot be blocked, must be ‘killed’ with an iron in order to help shape the piece.

These are just a few of the main pros and cons I have found. What fiber do you generally use, and why? Next month I will be review a new yarn I found! It looks like the fashion designers are getting into the yarn game! Tune in next month to find out more!


  1. Cathi Blake


    Just want to say that I have enjoyed reading every one of your articles! Keep them coming.

    Cathi Blake

  2. I honestly don’t understand this ‘conflict’. I use both, and other fibers, too, depending on the item, recipient, and use.
    Dishcloths, potholders, ect. are made with cotton yarn. I don’t use wool very often because most people around here don’t want to bother caring for it properly. And, ANY item made for one of my daughter’s is made of acrylic yarn because they tend to just throw everything into the wash together.

  3. I am always concerned about “pilling”: you know when after wear it gets those ugly little ball like fuzz. What yarns do/or donot do that?

  4. Until just now, I was very wary of wool. I am one of those types that would accidentally throw my beautiful garment in the dryer. And, yes, that has happened in the past (sweater) and I was heartbroken.
    However, reading your article has me interested in wool once again. I never thought of making anything out of wool for the Summer!. I didn’t know about “wicking”. This is awesome. I usually hang to dry my summer shirts of rayon so surely I won’t toss in my new summer wool garment…. right?! Anyway, if I were to make a tank top what would be the light weight wool you mentioned that I should use. Does it have a certain name or weight vs yardage that I should be looking for. This wool stuff is all new to me. Thanks for any help!

  5. Sherrilyn Jones

    I have been knitting, crocheting and now loom knitting for the past 45 years since my grandmother sat me down and taught me. I was blessed to have someone care enough to teach and guide me. I now try to teach what I can to those who desire to learn. So far it’s just been my circle of friends, Albeit very rewarding to see that light in that person’s eyes knowing that they ‘got it’; and can not only ‘take it from there’… but possibly exceed anything I have ever been able to accomplish. I am not by far an expert in any of the above. With that being said, it surely gives me a greater sense of purpose. Thank you!

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