Synthetic fabrics were created for the specific task of mimicking natural fabrics while lowering the cost of clothing and fabrics by the yard. While they do the latter well, these synthetic fibers are not always up to the task of copying natural fibers.
The main difference between acrylic and wool is where they come from. As you know wool comes from sheep and other animals found around the world. Acrylic is made up of harsh chemicals that are probably toxic and harmful to the environment.
To learn more differences between these two fabrics, just continue to read our article. It has the information and shows you the differences so you can make up your own mind as to which material you will use in your next sewing project.
|Origin||comes from a variety of animals||comes from a blend of chemicals|
|Construction||all natural fibers||man made fibers|
|Blending||hard to blend with other fabrics||easy to blend with other fabrics|
|Shrinking||can shrink a lot when washed||will shrink when the heat is on|
|Care||not that easy to care for||very easy to care for|
|Hypoallergenic||usually but some people do have wool allergies||possibly but some people have allergies to chemicals|
|Flammable||resists flames and sparks||highly flammable and burns easily|
|Breathability||very good||not good at all|
|Warmth||very warm depending on weave,etc||some versions are warmer than wool|
|Softness||can be soft but also itchy and not smooth||used to be rough and itchy now soft and smooth|
|Cost||can be very expensive||usually very affordable|
There is a little controversy surrounding this topic. Wool is extremely hard to blend with other fabrics including acrylic. That means that there really is not acrylic wool blend on the market today, at the time of this writing.
It would be nice if the two fibers could be blended as then you would get the best of both worlds. The controversy comes in as there are companies that advertise and claim they sell a wool acrylic blend. When investigated, those claims are found to be false.
The acrylic wool blends do not have any wool in them. Instead, the acrylic fibers are blended with another cheap synthetic fiber and marketed as wool acrylic. You are actually paying for something that does not exist.
The go-to method is the same as it is with all fabrics. You just need to snip a little off of each piece of yarn and put a match to those pieces. the burn test is the best way to tell the difference.
Acrylic will melt in this test and smell like burning plastic. Wool will smell like burnt hair and it will leave some sort of ash residue. The reason you go to the burn test first and foremost is that manufacturing techniques have improved so much that other methods make it hard to tell the difference.
The next sure-fire way to tell the difference is in their costs. Acrylic should be a lot cheaper than wool when on the store shelves. Then if you wash the yarn, you will see wool shrink quite easily while acrylic needs heat to shrink. It may not shrink a lot either, at least not as much as wool will.
Initially, when acrylic was first made, it was not as warm as wool. Even though it could not breathe as well as wool, the manufacturing quality was not perfected and some issues remained.
those issues have been resolved and the manufacturing of acrylic has vastly improved. But synthetic fibers being what they are, they still can’t breathe that well. That little fact makes acrylic warmer than wool in some circumstances.
There is a variety of acrylic that is made to be 20% warmer than wool but then you run the risk of overheating instead of being nice and comfortable. Wool may not be as warm as acrylic in some variations but at least it breathes well and has you looking natural and good.
The same explanation applies here as well. Because acrylic was designed to mimic wool its original renditions had this fabric as itchy as wool. This was one aspect of wool acrylic could do without.
As those technological advances were brought into the processing method, acrylic became a lot smoother, less itchy, and softer than wool. But those new characteristics do not overcome the negative aspects that are a part of acrylic.
The material is still made from harsh and toxic chemicals, it still is very flammable and it may trigger allergies. If you do not have any allergies or can endure the chemicals and stay away from fires or sparks then acrylic may be a good fabric for you to wear on many different occasions.
One main reason is that it is cheaper. Price is the deal-breaker for many people and while they may want to wear wool, they just cannot afford it. Another reason will be in the care department. Acrylic is easier to take care of than wool and one can save money by avoiding the dry cleaners.
Then, there is the shrink issue. Wool can shrink a lot when washed improperly and you can waste a lot of money when this takes place. Acrylic is said to resist shrinking except when heat is used in the cleaning process.
A final aspect that makes acrylic more popular than wool is that it is not supposed to wrinkle. Wrinkles are seen by many as the plague and a fabric that doesn’t wrinkle is best.
There are only about 2 factors that make acrylic better than wool. One is the price. The lower-priced synthetic fabric is very appealing and much easier to obtain. Acrylic is everywhere while wool is usually sold in higher-end markets. At least the good quality wool is.
The second factor would be that acrylic is more durable than wool. It can handle rough treatment and weather while wool has its vulnerabilities. But that durability has a downside as well. acrylic will not degrade very fast taking up to 200 years to do it.
Wool will take a very short time to degrade and is more environmentally friendly because it does not have those harsh and toxic chemicals leaching into the ground or your skin.
If you have to choose, go with the wool beanie. There are several reasons for this selection. First, wool breathes better than acrylic so your head won’t get too hot as you go about your day. Second, wool looks better than acrylic and makes your fashion style current and top-notch.
Third, wool is not as flammable as acrylic. You can wear your wool beanie near the fire at the ski lodge or campsite without worry. Wool resists sparks and flames while acrylic seems to welcome them.
Acrylic beanies may be cheaper but wool is the better winter hat to wear.
This area of clothing may be the exception to the no acrylic wool blends. The best socks to buy for thermal and winter purposes are merino wool blended with acrylic fibers. But that may be the only exception.
If you want your feet to get really warm, then you should opt for acrylic socks as that material does not have great breathing qualities. Your body heat will stay next to your feet making sure the cold air does not get through.
If you want to be comfortable and have your feet warm but not too hot, then wool socks are the better choice. These socks breathe well and let some of your body heat escape so you do not get too hot when you are inside the house, the office, or your car.
This is not a hard choice either and there is one issue we did not mention in the previous comparisons. The harsh and toxic chemicals can trigger allergic reactions. If you are allergic to those ingredients then you should not be working with acrylic or any synthetic material.
That statement applies to yarn as well as socks, hats, and coats. Wool would be the better choice for everyone except those with wool allergies. If cost is your main concern then acrylic would be ideal for you as it is cheaper than wool.
It is also easier to launder and care for which may be the deal clincher for some people. In the end, this is up to your preference.
Some people do not find acrylic sweaters very warm. The quality or weave of that material may not be the greatest and that is what brings them to that conclusion after wearing the sweater.
Wool generally is the warmer of the two and comes in some nice tight weaves making sure your body stays nice and warm without the risk of overheating. Acrylic sweaters will bring that risk with them.
When your outdoors on a very cold day then that extra heat might be welcome. But if you are inside the office, it might become a problem for you. Again it will be up to your preferences and experience which fabric you choose to wear.
It may also be up to your pocketbook. As top-quality warm wool; sweaters are very expensive at times.
The same cost issue will be present here as in other categories so it is best to get it out of the way first. If you have money to burn then go with wool felt. You are not missing out on anything by going natural and probably gaining a safer fabric to work with.
If you are on a budget then, acrylic may be the only road you can take. Just keep your fingers crossed you are not allergic to the chemicals or to natural wool for that matter. Also, acrylic felt is often sold in small 9 by 12-inch pieces for roughly $.25 apiece.
But the cost may not be the best factor to go by as acrylic felt is not as strong as the wool counterpart. also, you may not get a smooth and clean-cut as you would with wool, and acrylic felt is not washable.
Wool felt is thicker which is why some sewers choose acrylic over this version of felt. Yet, wool can be laundered and washed and it is a lot more durable than acrylic will ever be in this situation.
For heavier weighted fabrics, like the ones used for kilts, this option is said not to exist. The reason for that is that wool is a very difficult material to blend with other materials. it is just the fat of fabric life.
However, we have written about the merino wool acrylic blend for socks. That material is not as thick as the one needed for kilts so you may find this option in many clothing items besides socks.
If you can get it, then you have an ideal warmth option when winter comes along. You get the warmth of acrylic combined with the breathability of wool. That combination keeps you both warm and comfortable. The wool should be the dominant fiber in the blend though.
In any comparison between synthetic materials and natural ones, the natural option is always the best. it is a fiber that is safer to use, healthier to wear, and comes with characteristics that cannot be matched by synthetic materials.
While synthetic fabrics have their place, it is always best to go natural whenever you can.