Acrylic Yarn Vs Cotton Yarn: Which Is Better For Knitting And Crocheting?

When it comes to yarn for knitting and crocheting projects, acrylic and cotton are two of the most popular options. Both have their own sets of pros and cons that make them suitable for different applications.

Deciding between acrylic vs cotton yarn depends largely on the characteristics of the project and personal preferences.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Cotton yarn is natural, breathable, and environmentally friendly but acrylic yarn is more affordable, durable, and consistent in quality. For most projects, acrylic works well but cotton excels for warmer weather apparel and items used close to skin.

Key Differences Between Acrylic and Cotton Yarn

Fiber Composition

One of the main differences between acrylic and cotton yarn lies in their fiber composition. Acrylic yarn is made from synthetic fibers, typically derived from petrochemicals. On the other hand, cotton yarn is made from natural fibers derived from the cotton plant.

This difference in composition gives each type of yarn its unique characteristics.

Cost and Availability

When it comes to cost and availability, acrylic yarn has the upper hand. Acrylic yarn is generally more affordable than cotton yarn, making it a popular choice for budget-conscious crafters. Additionally, acrylic yarn is widely available in a wide range of colors and textures, making it easy to find the perfect yarn for any project.


In terms of durability, cotton yarn tends to be more durable than acrylic yarn. Cotton fibers are known for their strength and resilience, making cotton yarn a great choice for projects that require long-lasting results.

Acrylic yarn, while still durable, may be more prone to pilling and fuzzing over time.

Ease of Care

When it comes to ease of care, acrylic yarn is the clear winner. Acrylic yarn is machine washable and can be dried in a dryer, making it a convenient choice for busy crafters. On the other hand, cotton yarn may require more delicate care, often needing to be hand-washed and laid flat to dry.

Feel and Drape

Acrylic yarn has a soft and smooth feel, while cotton yarn has a more natural and breathable feel. The choice between the two will depend on personal preference and the desired outcome of the project. Acrylic yarn is often chosen for its plushness and ability to hold shape, while cotton yarn is favored for its lightweight and breathable nature.

Climate Suitability

Cotton yarn is more suitable for warmer climates due to its breathability and moisture-wicking properties. It allows air to flow through the fabric, keeping the wearer cool and comfortable. Acrylic yarn, on the other hand, may be too warm for hot climates as it does not have the same breathability as cotton.

Skin Friendliness

In terms of skin friendliness, cotton yarn is often preferred. Cotton is a natural fiber that is hypoallergenic and less likely to cause irritation or allergies. Acrylic yarn, while generally safe for most people, may cause discomfort or itching in some individuals with sensitive skin.

Environmental Impact

When it comes to the environmental impact, cotton yarn is considered more eco-friendly. Cotton is a renewable resource and biodegradable, whereas acrylic yarn is derived from non-renewable resources and may take a long time to decompose.

However, it’s important to note that both types of yarn have their own environmental considerations.

Projects Best Suited to Acrylic Yarn

When it comes to knitting and crocheting, choosing the right yarn can make all the difference in the outcome of your project. Acrylic yarn is a popular choice among crafters due to its versatility and affordability. Let’s explore some of the projects that are best suited to acrylic yarn:

Cold Weather Accessories

Acrylic yarn is an excellent choice for making cold weather accessories such as hats, scarves, and gloves. Its synthetic fibers provide warmth and insulation, making it perfect for keeping you cozy during the chilly winter months.

Additionally, acrylic yarn is known for its durability, which means your creations will withstand regular use and retain their shape over time.

Home Decor Items

If you’re looking to add a touch of handmade charm to your home, acrylic yarn is a great option for creating various home decor items. From blankets and throw pillows to table runners and wall hangings, acrylic yarn offers a wide range of colors and textures to suit any style or theme.

Plus, its machine washable nature makes it practical for items that may need frequent cleaning.

Toys and Stuffed Animals

Acrylic yarn is particularly well-suited for making toys and stuffed animals. Its softness and pliability allow for intricate detailing and shaping, making your creations both visually appealing and huggable.

Additionally, acrylic yarn is hypoallergenic, making it safe for children with sensitivities or allergies to other materials.

Outdoor/Travel Projects

When it comes to outdoor or travel projects, acrylic yarn has a lot to offer. Its synthetic fibers are resistant to moisture, which means your creations won’t easily get damaged or ruined when exposed to rain or snow.

This makes acrylic yarn ideal for making items like beach bags, picnic blankets, and camping accessories.

Items That Need Frequent Washing

If you’re making items that require frequent washing, such as baby blankets or dishcloths, acrylic yarn is a fantastic choice. Unlike natural fibers like cotton, acrylic yarn is resistant to shrinking and stretching, making it easier to care for.

This means you’ll spend less time worrying about special washing instructions and more time enjoying your handmade creations.

Projects Best Suited to Cotton Yarn

Cotton yarn is a versatile and popular choice for knitting and crocheting projects. Its unique properties make it ideal for certain types of projects. Here are some projects that are best suited to cotton yarn:

Lightweight Summer Wear

When it comes to creating lightweight and breathable garments for the summer season, cotton yarn is the go-to choice. Cotton is known for its ability to absorb moisture, making it perfect for keeping you cool and comfortable on hot days.

Whether you’re making a stylish tank top or a trendy beach cover-up, cotton yarn will provide the lightness and breathability you need.

Baby Items

Cotton yarn is a popular choice for knitting or crocheting baby items due to its softness and hypoallergenic properties. It is gentle on a baby’s delicate skin and less likely to cause irritation or allergies.

From adorable baby blankets to cute hats and booties, cotton yarn is a great option for creating cozy and safe items for little ones.


If you enjoy making stuffed animals and toys, cotton yarn is an excellent choice. Its smooth texture and durability make it perfect for creating amigurumi projects. Cotton yarn allows you to achieve tight stitching, resulting in well-defined shapes and details.

Plus, cotton is machine washable, which is essential for keeping your amigurumi creations clean and fresh.

Market Bags

If you’re looking to make reusable bags for grocery shopping or trips to the farmer’s market, cotton yarn is a fantastic option. Cotton’s strength and durability make it ideal for carrying heavy items without stretching or tearing.

Additionally, cotton is an eco-friendly choice as it is biodegradable and can be easily washed and reused.

Washcloths and Dishcloths

Cotton yarn is highly absorbent, making it perfect for creating washcloths and dishcloths. These items need to be able to absorb water effectively and dry quickly to prevent bacteria growth. Cotton yarn meets these requirements, ensuring that your washcloths and dishcloths remain hygienic and functional.

How to Choose Between Acrylic and Cotton Yarn

Consider the Project Use

When deciding between acrylic and cotton yarn, it’s important to consider the project you have in mind. Acrylic yarn is known for its versatility and durability, making it a great choice for items that will be frequently washed, such as blankets or baby clothes.

On the other hand, cotton yarn is breathable and hypoallergenic, making it ideal for summer garments or items that come into contact with sensitive skin.

Evaluate Your Budget

Another factor to consider when choosing between acrylic and cotton yarn is your budget. Acrylic yarn is generally less expensive than cotton yarn, making it a more budget-friendly option for larger projects or those on a tight budget.

However, if you’re willing to invest a bit more, cotton yarn offers a higher quality and natural fiber option.

Think About Care Requirements

Care requirements should also be taken into consideration. Acrylic yarn is typically machine washable and easy to care for, making it a convenient choice for those who want low-maintenance projects. On the other hand, cotton yarn may require more delicate care, such as hand washing or air drying, to maintain its quality and shape.

Assess Drape and Feel Preferences

The drape and feel of the finished project can also influence your choice between acrylic and cotton yarn. Acrylic yarn often has a more structured and stiff feel, which can be great for items that require shape and structure, such as bags or hats.

Cotton yarn, on the other hand, has a softer and more breathable feel, making it an excellent choice for garments that require good drape and flow.

Factor in Allergies and Sensitivities

If you or the recipient of your project have allergies or sensitivities, this should also be considered. Acrylic yarn is synthetic and may cause discomfort or irritation for some individuals with sensitive skin.

Cotton yarn, being a natural fiber, is less likely to cause allergic reactions, making it a safer choice for those with sensitivities.

Weigh Environmental Impact

The environmental impact of the yarn you choose is also worth considering. Acrylic yarn is made from petrochemicals and is not biodegradable, which can have a negative impact on the environment. Cotton yarn, on the other hand, is a natural and renewable resource, making it a more environmentally friendly option.

Ultimately, the choice between acrylic and cotton yarn depends on your specific needs and preferences. Consider factors such as project use, budget, care requirements, drape and feel preferences, allergies and sensitivities, and environmental impact to make an informed decision.

Caring for Acrylic and Cotton Yarns


When it comes to washing acrylic and cotton yarns, there are a few key differences to keep in mind. Acrylic yarn is typically machine washable, making it a convenient option for those who prefer easy care.

However, it is important to use a gentle cycle and avoid high heat when washing acrylic yarn to prevent stretching or damage.

Cotton yarn, on the other hand, is best washed by hand to preserve its shape and prevent shrinkage. Use lukewarm water and a mild detergent, gently agitating the yarn without scrubbing. Rinse thoroughly and squeeze out excess water without wringing.


When it comes to drying acrylic and cotton yarns, it is best to follow different methods for each. Acrylic yarn can be tumble dried on low heat, but it is important to remove it promptly to prevent wrinkling or stretching. If you prefer air drying, lay the yarn flat on a clean towel or drying rack.

Cotton yarn should be air dried to maintain its shape and prevent shrinkage. Lay it flat on a towel or drying rack, gently reshaping it if necessary. Avoid hanging cotton yarn to dry, as this can cause it to stretch out of shape.

Blocking and Pressing

Blocking is a technique used to shape and set the final dimensions of a knitted or crocheted project. Acrylic yarn does not typically require blocking, as it tends to hold its shape well. However, if desired, you can lightly steam block acrylic yarn using a steamer or iron on a low setting.

Cotton yarn benefits from blocking to even out stitches and improve the drape of the fabric. Wet blocking is recommended for cotton yarn, where the project is soaked in water, gently squeezed out, and then laid flat to dry in the desired shape.


Proper storage is essential to keep your yarn in good condition. Both acrylic and cotton yarns should be stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and moisture. It is also helpful to store yarn in airtight containers or ziplock bags to prevent dust and pests from getting in.

When storing acrylic yarn, it is important to keep it away from any items that may snag or pull at the yarn, as acrylic is more prone to pilling. For cotton yarn, ensure it is completely dry before storing to prevent mildew or odors.

Remember, caring for your yarn properly will help prolong its lifespan and keep your knitting and crocheting projects looking their best.


When choosing between acrylic and cotton yarn, consider the unique properties of each fiber in relation to your project needs. Acrylic works well for more durable items that need easy care, while cotton excels for warmer weather wear and items used close to skin.

Combining the two fibers can provide the best of both worlds. With a grasp of each yarn’s strengths, you can select the ideal material for any knitting or crocheting project.

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