Natural Fiber Yarn or Synthetic Fiber Yarn, Which to Use?
Imagine this scenario: you’ve been gifted a bag of mixed fibers; some are natural fibers and some are synthetic fibers. Oh, you know you are in yarn heaven! For us crocheters and yarn enthusiasts, that’s one fantastic gift you can receive. But, now your faced with a conundrum, which yarn is best for what project. Hmmm… Here are 7 different ways to help you decide which yarn fiber type to use.
1. A great way to tell what yarn fiber type you will need is by looking at the yarn listed for the pattern you’re interested in. Most patterns will list what type of yarn is used which usually indicates the fiber content. That reduces any guessing on your part and is relatively painless.
But, but… what if that pattern doesn’t list the fiber content (which will be rare but you never know), or what if you don’t have that type of fiber available but you do have the same weight category? Yet another slight problem. That’s okay. Take a look at what your crocheting. Is it a hat, a scarf, a sweater, a tunic top, a shawl, any other garment, or even a home accessory? You get the picture there. Depending on what the pattern is will help to determine what fiber to use.
2. If the pattern calls for a hat you can easily make your hat in synthetic fiber such as acrylic and have a beautiful hat. You can easily make that same hat pattern is a natural fiber such as wool and have an equally beautiful hat. As long as the weight is the same and you match gauge, the end result of your hat will be gorgeous in a natural fiber or synthetic fiber.
3. Now, let’s take a look at a top such as a shirt, vest, or tunic. Either of these can also be made in any fiber content. However, you’ll have to also take into account the season you’ll be wearing these. Synthetic fiber such as acrylic retains heat very well but doesn’t wick any moisture build up away from your body. They are great for colder weather months as they’ll keep you warm but may not be as great for warmer weather months. So keep in mind that the beautiful tank will look great in that bright blue acrylic yarn you have but it won’t be so comfortable to wear out to the park on a sunny day. On the other hand, a natural fiber such as cotton or linen will work great for warmer weather as they help to wick moisture away from the body thus keeping you cool.
4. Oh, but what about the afghan or blanket? What fiber type should you use for that? Typically, afghans or blankets are made with acrylic yarn. Using acrylic yarn is wonderful for blankets because they can hold up to the amount of use the blanket will take. Acrylic is sturdy enough that it will also hold up really well in washes and won’t require blocking afterwards, and you won’t have to worry about the yarn felting eventually if it’s wool. Cotton yarn is also great for blankets because they can easily wash, too, and normally don’t require blocking.
5. What about home accessories or toys? Again, it depends on what you are making. Doilies are done in crochet thread which is 100% mercerized cotton and requires block to show off its incredible design. Toys and amigurumis can be done in both cotton and acrylic because they can be easily tossed in the washed. Dishcloths for the most part should be done in cotton because it can retain and absorb water a lot easier than acrylic, plus they can be tossed to wash easily, too.
6. Okay, so you’ve got your yarn fiber type and project, but, what about blocking. Will your project require blocking afterwards? Normally all natural fiber yarns require blocking once you have finished crocheting the project. Blocking helps to teach the yarn how to behave and set its shape. You can learn more about blocking from Petals to Picot here or from Underground Crafter here (which includes knitters, too).
7. Still not sure which fiber type to use or how to use the yarn you have? You can search on Ravelry’s yarn section here by the fiber type you have and you can get a listing of projects to make. You can also go to the brand’s website to learn more if your yarn is from a major yarn company such as Red Heart. If you bought your at your local yarn store (LYS), chances are it’s a natural fiber and someone who works in the store should be able to point you in the right direction for what sort of project to make.
All in all, keep in mind what type of project you are crocheting, the season you will be wearing your project if it’s a garment, and whether or not the finished project requires blocking. Learning which fiber type to use for your project is a great adventure in crocheting. However, before you crochet a dishcloth with that $40 hank of silk and bamboo blend of yarn, do a little bit of research on your yarn so that you can get the most out of its beauty.
**Disclaimer – these are just some tips and not an all inclusive article of fiber content. There are many resources available to you to help you learn some more about yarn fiber content and when/how to use them with your crochet project.
Questions? Let me know!
As always, much love and happy hooking!