A lot of people have a serious problem with acrylics. Once I was in a yarn shop and talking to the proprietor about making a baby blanket for my nephew, maybe a sweater or something. He was only a couple months old at this point and I knew that this garment was not going to be hand washed or treated in a gentle manner. I was definitely going to make it out of acrylic yarn. However, the store owner I was talking to, lost their mind. They asked what the point of going through all that work would be just for something that was, essentially, knit from a garbage bag!
I am all about working with the best yarn you can afford, but I am a real believer in function. A new knitter who has never participated in a fiber art before is not going to knit with the expensive lovely stuff; I know that I didn’t. I started knitting at the age of 20 and I used the cheapest yarn I could find. I would go to the big-box stores and buy really cheap yarn; that is what worked for me. I went into an LYS at one point and say yarn that was $20 a ball and thought people were crazy for paying that price.
At that point in my life, I was a poor student who had just graduated. I had not found a job yet and I was working for minimum wage. I didn’t have the spare expenses for expensive yarn anyway. I think it was a really great to get experience with yarn that was not going to break my budget, because I messed things up a lot. As someone who is self-taught, I ripped things out, I cut the yarn and knotted it; there were many MANY knitting faux pas committed in the early days of my experience.
The very first expensive yarn I bought was to make Paul a sweater from Rowan Drift. I just wanted something think that would knit up quickly, I had not yet developed the patience that I have now. The problem with this thick quick knit, was that it is too warm and Paul can’t stand to wear it. I think that would have been a problem with anything I had knit him though. If it wasn’t lace he would have been too warm.
From then on, I learned more about different fibers and what they were used for, but acrylic still has it’s place in my life. I would never knit something big out of acrylic, but a baby blanket? Yes. A sweater for a small child that will see a lot of washing? Yes. Anything like slippers, that will see a lot of wear and need to be thrown in the wash, I will absolutely use acrylic. Several of my friends have had children recently and anything I made was from acrylic.
Those are things that are not going to be heirlooms though. If I were going for the heirloom side of the fence, I would knit a christening outfit, or something extremely intricate with a beautiful fiber. I would also make sure the recipient would appreciate it first. There is no point in knitting a lovely article of clothing or a blanket if it is not going to be cherished and appreciated. I find most non-knitters, don’t realize how much work goes into a sweater, an afghan, mittens or socks. They just assume because you are knitting that you will do it for anyone. This was an episode on the Knitmore Girls podcast, the link to that particular episode is here. I think I will write a post about this topic next week and give you my own views on the subject. I am going off on a tangent here though.
What I am trying to say is, acrylic is not scratchy, or horrible in any way shape or form. I have heard that it used to be a lot worse than it is now. You can get it in a huge variety of textures and colours to make garments that are hard wearing and easy maintenance. If I get suckered into knitting something for someone and they’re not paying me, I usually make it out of acrylic, because it is more likely to survive. The more you wash it, the softer it gets. While there are definite advantages to working with nice yarn, I would not turn my nose up at acrylic because there is a place for everything in your stash. Unless you have SABLE –ed out (Stash Amassed Beyond Life Expectancy), then it might be time to get rid of a couple skeins.