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All That Yarn - I like using acrylic yarns.

Updated on July 26, 2017

Scrap Afghan - using ombres and black yarn.

Stripes of ombre yarn separated by stripes of black yarn. It makes the colors pop.
Stripes of ombre yarn separated by stripes of black yarn. It makes the colors pop.

Acrylic Yarn is better but colors change over time.

I have always liked using acrylic yarns. I think it is because they are readily available and inexpensive (for the most part), as well as coming in a large variety of colors. They are also more wash-and-wear so are easy to care for, for example babies who may carry their “blankie” around for many years, and have it stay in fairly decent shape.

Some colors even coordinate with the variegated or “ombre” yarns. I know I found a Multi-Color Coordinates chart on the old Red Heart yarns website and downloaded the PDF version. It was nice to have a list of all the yarns, even some that were discontinued colors, and their color numbers. It also told me some of the ones that were no longer available. So I made sure to shop and get those colors before they were all gone from the shelves and the stores online.

The search engines will show websites that say they offer certain versions or colors but the links are often out of date. I have particularly done a search for Red Heart’s “Moon and Stars” yarn, which I found by accident, long after it was discontinued by the company. There have been web-stores listings that pop up saying they have it only to click on them and find it is out of stock there as well.

The yarn is an extra soft almost terry-cloth textured fiber in a lighter than worsted weight. The only colors I managed to get were light blue and light green. I tried to find white and yellow, but the ones on eBay were extra high in price due to their discontinued status.

I have a scrap afghan that has several colors of Red Heart ombres that were once available. Some of them were lovely, some not-so-much, but as they say “they don’t make them like they used to” anymore.

One particularly nice ombre color my Grandmother had started using to knit mittens and ran out halfway up the fingers section of the last one. The finished mitten and the half-finished mitten sat in her basement project drawer for years. I attempted to find more of the yarn color but I had no luck (and this was before eBay and online searches). [see Scrap Afghan photo, it is the one stripe under the aqua ombre one. I didn't have this when Grandma was making her mittens or I would have given it to her.]

It was a beautiful blend of purples and black that worked up very classy. I had suggested that she finish it with just black so that it would not linger as a “UFO” (unfinished object) in the drawer. I don’t know if she ever finished it as she had to go into nursing home care in the next town and was no longer able to knit or crochet anything due to poor eyesight.

Lion Brand WoolSpun

Red and Blue skeins of WoolSpun yarn.
Red and Blue skeins of WoolSpun yarn.

Can't find this any more, not even a pattern for it.

I purchased some yarn lots from eBay that contained a lot of “old” discontinued yarns. I still have to figure out what to do with some of them as there is not enough for a big project except maybe a yard long scarf. Others were styles of yarn that changed over the years. For example, I have four colors of Lion Brand WoolSpun. It is wool with thick puffs and thin strand variations along the yards of yarn. They still make a type of WoolSpun under “Lion’s Pride” but it is uniform in the strands, similar to regular yarn but much bulky in size. The old version looks more fun when made up, but since I don’t have a lot it won’t make a project of any size. Might be enough for a shawl or a couple of scarves, or a hat. Maybe it will go in my “donation” pile so someone else can figure out what to do with it. It’s too pretty to not do something nice with it.

Clearance Bins - my weakness.

I also purchased a lot of clearance bin yarns that were the last one or ones at the store. The color may have been discontinued, or the dye lot was the last of that color and the new color didn’t match close enough, or they were not getting that brand in and had replaced it with a store brand. Sometimes it was the last batch of a particular yarn and was not going to be replaced with more of that texture. I got a lovely lavender terry-type boucle that I made into one of the knit bears I like to make. It wasn’t particularly practical, but it was soft and cottony feeling.

Purchases like this make me think and plan a bit more for my project as I know I will not have any more of that color available should I run out mid-project or almost to the end and need just “one more” skein of that color. And sometimes I can get more of that color, but so many years have passed that the dye lot is so totally different that only the color name is the same. For example, the soft pale green of Honeydew (circa 2005) has been replaced by a harsh pale green of the same name (in 2015) that does not match or even come close to blending.

White does not always mean "white" yarn.

I have made afghans with squares of similar colors that sort of match, but since they are squares with different patterns (smooth circle, granny square, bobble square) the yarn dye lots and close-but-not-quite colors work. I tried to match purples in the granny strips I purchased on eBay, and some of the very old skeins (yes, the ancient Red Heart wrappers from the 1970s) matched better than newer ones. But then I ran out of the colors I was using and had to go to the back up choices that “sort of” coordinated with the rest of the purples and lavenders.

The same can be said for whites. The Red Heart whites come in White, Off-White, Soft White, Cream and Ecru. My sister says the “white” whites look better and the newer ones over the past five years have become more “gray” white. You can certainly see a difference when putting two skeins from different eras together, but they photograph as almost the same color.

The labels can say “white” and they are not even close to that color. Same brand, different decades, and the colors that say they don’t need a dye lot can still change over time. I don’t know if it is the machinery, the factory or plant where it is made, or the change in the dye and coloring methods. But a white is not always a white, especially when trying to put several together in an afghan.

Now what do I do with all this yarn?

There are still a lot of fun colors out there, don’t get me wrong, but it seems the “trendy” yarns replaced the fluffy/fuzzy ones (like Dazzelaire was big in the late 1970s / early 1980s, and made a brief come back in 2000s). Then the “eyelash” yarns came and went out in a couple of years. They were replaced by the “ruffle” ones that make scarves from a mesh instead of a strand. Now the mesh kind are going out of style and bulky ones are coming back in style.

I have found pattern books from 10 years ago that talk about the “new” fur and ribbon yarns just coming out, but are now impossible to find as they are no longer manufactured and sold.

Maybe that’s why my stash is so large, because I want to have access to colors and fibers that I can’t get anymore. Then it becomes “what do I do with this?” when I come across a fun color and have to rack my brain for a pattern that will use only what I have on hand. Since it is discontinued, I can't run out and buy more to finish a project.

When I first got some of the "new" yarns, I started out using one strand of worsted weight acrylic in a color coordinating with the fuzzy/fur yarn. I made a few scarves using the two different strands. The acrylic strand plumped up and stabilized the lighter specialty yarn, sometimes making it seem fluffier than it really was. Since I gave these away or donated them to fundraisers, so I don’t know how well they washed, if they were even washed at all. I tried to include the label from the fuzzy yarn so that the person who bought the scarf would have an idea of how to wash it when it needed to be cleaned. Most have to be hand washed, carefully, and rolled in a towel to get the excess water out, then laid flat to dry. I would not recommend using the washer even on the most gentle setting.

Donated afghans / throws

Bulky acrylic yarns in various colors.
Bulky acrylic yarns in various colors.

Why I use just acrylic, and crochet my donation afghans.

The afghans that I donate are 100% acrylic yarn, and totally machine washable. I also crochet them since that seems to hold up better for hard use with less snagging and less chance of coming apart if the yarn gets cut.

I had to fix a couple of afghans that I knitted for other people, when they had a cut or torn piece of yarn. It was time consuming and did not look the same as I could not match the original pattern stitch. So I decided not to knit any afghans to donate as I would not be able to be “on call” to repair any holes or snags that might occur with use.

I don't want to start a fight...

There are just so many colors available in acrylic yarns that anyone can find something they like and can use. I know the natural fiber people like the natural dye colors, and I don’t argue with them. Everyone has their preferred type of yarn that they like to use. I can no more change someone’s mind about their fiber preference than I can teach a cat to crochet. I just wanted to share why I like what I like when I use acrylic yarn for my projects.


Submit a Comment
  • brsmom68 profile image

    Diane Ziomek 

    3 years ago from Alberta, Canada

    I like acrylics when I am designing a pattern, because they withstand frogging much more than handspun yarns. Plus, as you say, they are great for afghans because they can withstand a lot of wear. I prefer to work with alpaca yarn, but I cannot spin it as fast as I use it.

    Acrylics are also more economical than handspun yarns, which makes them popular with anyone on a budget. It is personal preference, and hopefully there are no arguments in the comments over which is better. :) It would be funny to see a cat crocheting - love your analogy. :)


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