Understanding all the Different Yarns!

by Laura Eccleston

09 Aug 2022

197 Views

Understanding all the Different Yarns!
One of the hardest things to understand as a beginner when starting out on your new crochet journey is all the different types of yarns you can buy and knowing which yarn is best for a certain type of crochet project. So today I am listing some of the most commonly found yarn fibres you can buy, their positives and their negatives and of course what crochet projects are best to use them with. By the end of the article, hopefully you will understand different yarns a little better to help you choose the right one for you and your project.

If you would like to learn about the different yarn weights and what they mean, you can read my article here on that.

Another good article on yarn and the projects they're good for can be found here.

Acrylic Yarn
Acrylic yarns are one of the cheapest options, but make sure it’s a good quality acrylic yarn because sometimes the really cheap acrylic yarns can be harder to crochet with. Often beginners don't want to spend too much money when starting out and they opt for a really cheap acrylic yarn, but this can cause problems and make it seem like crochet is harder than it is. They may feel plasticky or stringy and can end up feeling horrible in your hands so look for words like premium acrylic or anti-pilling acrylic, which are much softer and gentler to work with. Even better, try and head to a yarn store so you can touch the yarns in person as there are some really soft and squishy acrylics out there. Acrylics also often come in an array of colours so you can really have some fun with colour without spending too much money.

One of the benefits of crocheting with acrylic yarn is that they are a great choice for children and baby items and clothes because not only are they soft on baby skin, but they are also super easy to shove in the washing machine for a good old wash. Much needed with a new baby.

Positives
    • A good budget yarn choice
    • Easy to wash at 40 degrees
    • Great choice of colours
    • Can be super soft and squishy
    • Lots of chunky options for fast projects
    • Vegan

Negatives
    • Acrylic is not the best for the environment as it is technically plastic
    • Can be of poor quality so choose carefully

Recommended Projects
    • Children and baby clothes
    • Hats and scarves

Cotton & Bamboo Yarn
Cotton and bamboo yarns are some of my favourite fibres to work with because like acrylic they are easy to wash and often come in an array of gorgeous colours and the texture is a lot less fluffier to crochet with so this makes cotton and bamboo yarns great for amigurumi projects and toys. It is also the best fibre choice for beginners because the smooth fibre makes your stitches much easier to see. There are also a few chunkier options in case you struggle with thinner yarns.

One of the most important benefits of cotton and bamboo yarn is that it is also biodegradable, but it is worth noting that cotton is very demanding on the environment as crops require pesticides and vast amounts of water to grow so look out for recycled or organic cottons as a less harmful alternative. Bamboo on the other hand is a much better choice for the environment because it requires no pesticides to grow, uses much less water and more can be grown per square metre compared to cotton. Bamboo is actually softer as well and more breathable so definitely look out for bamboo alternatives if you can source them.

Positives
    • Biodegradable
    • Great choice of colours
    • A smooth texture that does not become fluffy over time
    • Bamboo is environmentally friendly 
    • Easy to wash
    • Vegan

Negatives
    • Cotton is not environmentally friendly
    • Can become stiffer when washed

Recommended Projects
    • Toys
    • Wash cloths
    • Bags
    • Summer hats

Wool
Wool is the most environmentally friendly fibre because it is not only biodegradable, but it is also sustainable and will include fibres like sheep Merino wool, alpaca, Angora rabbit, Mohair or Cashmere goat fibre, even camel fibre. It also has extra benefits like being fire resistant, breathable with antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.

Wool also has great temperature control so it will keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer so it is great for jumpers, socks and scarves as well as summer shawls and dresses. It even naturally protects your skin against harmful sun rays!

That said, the one big downside of wool is that it can be expensive and it will felt in the wash if not handled carefully. It can also be tricky for beginners to use as it is usually quite fluffy in texture, making stitches harder to see although there are smoother blends you can find. It is also a known irritant to those who have sensitive skin, but there are alternatives that do not irritate skin such as alpaca yarn and if you can invest in wool for your next project, you will definitely have a final product that should last you many years.

Positives
    • Environmentally friendly 
    • Warm in winter and cool in summer
    • Keeps you dry and protects from the sun
    • Breathable with antibacterial and antimicrobial properties
    • Durable and will last many years
    • Alpaca is hypoallergenic and itch-free
    • Fire resistant

Negatives
    • Some wools can irritate the skin
    • Expensive
    • Can felt when washed
    • Not vegan

Recommended Projects
    • Clothes such as sweaters and socks

Other Fibres, Blends and Fashion Yarns
There are also many other fibres you can play with such as linen and hemp and fashion yarns such as Bouclé with its bumps and loops and Chenille with its velvety soft texture as well as sparkly metallic yarns with Lurex or t-shirt yarns made from fabric remnants from textile companies. Fashion yarns can often be tricky to crochet with and difficult to unpick so I recommend coming back to these yarns when you are a more confident crocheter. 

There are also many blended mixes of all the above fibres. You can find wool and acrylic blends, which can help you enjoy wool without the higher price tag and fluffy texture. There are cotton and bamboo blends, which help soften the tough structure of cotton (especially after a wash) and there are nylon and wool blends that are great for socks that are worn frequently.

So I hope you have found this quick help guide useful in planning your next, or even first, crochet project. As you can see there are lots of different yarns to choose from and some may be available to you more easily in your country and some less so, but I hope this article has reduced any confusion you may have had when it comes to different yarns. The most important thing to remember though is that there are no rules in crochet, just guidelines and this is something I always stress when starting out in crochet so if you find a fun yarn you just want to play with or have been given some yarns as a gift then go for it, see how you get on and just enjoy experimenting because that is what crochet is all about. These first yarns may become some of your favourites that you always come back to, but if you do find that crocheting as a beginner seems extra hard than it should be then do return to this article, check the fibre you're using and see if there is a better option for your project because even though we should never blame our tools, sometimes it really is our tools not helping us!!

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