Cotton vs Acrylic Crochet Yarn

Cotton vs Acrylic Crochet Yarn: A Comparison

When it comes to crochet projects, selecting the right yarn is crucial. There are many options available but two of the most popular yarn materials for crocheting are cotton and acrylic. Understanding the differences between them will help you make the best choice for your specific project.

Cotton yarn is made from natural fibers and has a smooth, soft texture that gives great stitch definition. Acrylic yarn is a synthetic option that is available in a wide range of colors and is known for its durability and affordability. Each has its own pros and cons for different types of projects so you should consider them carefully to make the best choice.

Key Takeaways

  • Cotton and acrylic yarns are both hugely popular choices for crochet projects
  • The natural fibers in cotton yarn make it smooth and cool with great stitch definition
  • Acrylic yarn offers durability, affordability, and a wide range of colors
  • Each yarn type is best suited for different kinds of crochet project
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Cotton Vs Acrylic Crochet Yarn: An Overview

Cotton and acrylic yarns are both popular choices for crochet projects. However, both materials have their own unique features, making them best suited for different types of projects. Whilst some properties might be an advantage for certain projects, they can be a disadvantage to others. As such, if you are trying to decide whether to use cotton or acrylic yarn, you will need to take into account your intended project as well as the properties of these yarns in order to make the best choice.

Properties of Cotton Yarn

Cotton yarn is a natural fiber that comes from the cotton plant. This means that it is biodegradable. It is also widely available and typically come in a range of beautiful colors, ranging from pastels to brights, and in a variety of weights (thicknesses).

Cotton is widely used for its soft and comfortable texture and great stitch definition. However, some cotton yarns can split more easily than others, which can make them trickier to crochet with.

Due to its natural origin, cotton yarn is highly absorbent, making it perfect for projects like dishcloths and towels. It is also strong and hard-wearing.

Cotton yarn is also a great choice for items that will be in direct contact with the skin, such as summer tops, as it is a particularly smooth yarn. However, cotton tends to be less elastic than acrylic yarn, for example, so for an item like a beanie, where some stretch may be desirable, cotton might not be such a good choice. Nevertheless, its lack of elasticity can be a big plus for other kinds of projects like amigurumi and bags.

touch the sky crochet tote bag
As it does not stretch, cotton is a perfect choice for crochet bags, like this Touch the Sky bag.

Cotton yarn is heat resistant which means it is a good choice for items like pot holders, table mats, and coasters, that will come into contact with high temperatures. However, cotton is not as insulating as many other fibers so for cozy winter garments and accessories it might not be the best option.

Another potential drawback of cotton yarn is that it is sensitive to direct sunlight, which can cause its colors to fade over time. Moreover, after washing, cotton may lose its softness over the years, potentially becoming stiff or less comfortable.

Properties of Acrylic Yarn

Acrylic yarn is a synthetic fiber made from man-made materials. As such, it will not biodegrade. However, it is possible to buy yarn made from recycled acrylic if you are looking for a more sustainable option.

Acrylic yarn is known for its affordability and wide range of colors, making it easy for crocheters to find their desired shade. It is available in a range of different weights.

Acrylic yarn is generally a soft, cozy option that does not irritate the skin, making it a great choice for projects such as garments, accessories, and blankets.

Acrylic yarn is soft and cozy, making it a great option for blankets like this Cara Blanket.

This synthetic fiber is also very resilient and durable, which helps crocheted items last longer. It is easy to care for too, as most items made from acrylic yarn can simply be popped in the washing machine. However, acrylic yarn can melt when exposed to high temperatures so it is best avoided for items like coasters and pot holders that will com into contact with high temperatures.

Acrylic yarn generally a good choice for beginners as it is easy to work with and affordable.

Cotton Acrylic Blends

It is possible to buy yarns that are made from both cotton and acrylic, allowing you to obtain the best of both fibers. For example, you can achieve the warmth of acrylic with the smoothness and great stitch definition of cotton.

Such blends can work well in projects like winter accessories and blankets.

Playroom crochet hexagon Blanket
This Playroom Blanket is made with an acrylic-cotton blend giving it softness, warmth and great stitch definition.

Comparison of Cotton and Acrylic Yarn

Comparison by Usage

Cotton yarn is a natural fiber that is soft and smooth to the touch. It’s ideal for projects like:

  • Dishcloths
  • Bags and purses
  • Baby garments
  • Summer clothes
  • Pot holders and mats
  • Wall hangings
  • Mandalas
  • Light blankets
  • Baskets
  • Light, airy, summer shawls and wraps
  • Amigurumi items with a smooth texture
  • Rugs

Acrylic yarn is a synthetic fiber, lightweight, and resilient. Acrylic yarn is great for items such as:

  • Scarves, hats and mittens
  • Sweaters and cardigans
  • Cozy shawls
  • Amigurumi items with a slightly fuzzier texture
  • Blankets

Comparing Durability and Care

When it comes to durability, both types of yarn have their merits.

Yarn TypeProsCons
CottonHighly absorbent, less prone to pilling and frayingCan fade over time, may stretch when wet
AcrylicResistant to wear and tear, colorfast, retains shape wellNot as absorbent, may pill with wear

As for care, cotton yarn is machine washable but should be air-dried to avoid shrinkage. Acrylic yarn can be machine washed and dried, though care should be taken not to use high heat.

Price and Environmental Impact Comparison

When considering price and environmental impact, cotton and acrylic yarns have different factors to weigh.

Yarn TypePriceEnvironmental Impact
CottonModerate to highNatural fiber, requires more water and land to grow, but it is biodegradable
AcrylicLow to moderateSynthetic fiber, requires fewer land and water resources, but it is non-biodegradable and can release microplastics in wash

In summary, cotton yarn is a versatile choice for lightweight, breathable projects, while acrylic yarn offers durability and a wider range of projects. Both types of yarn have their pros and cons, so makers should consider their specific needs when choosing between the two for crochet projects.


Cotton and acrylic crochet yarns each have their unique characteristics, making them suitable for different projects. Cotton yarn is known for its durability, absorbency, and natural fibers. It is ideal for creating dishcloths, summer garments, and items that require frequent washing. On the other hand, acrylic yarn is lightweight, hypoallergenic, and affordable, making it a popular choice for beginners, as well as for crafting toys, blankets, and winter wear.

Ultimately, the choice between cotton and acrylic crochet yarns depends on the specific requirements of your project and personal preferences. Both materials offer a range of possibilities for creating beautiful and functional items. By understanding the distinct qualities of each yarn type, you can make informed decisions and create crochet projects that are not only visually appealing but also practical and long-lasting.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the pros and cons of using cotton and acrylic yarn for crochet projects?

Cotton yarn has several advantages, such as:

  • Natural fiber
  • Soft texture
  • Good stitch definition
  • High absorbency
  • Breathable

However, it also has some drawbacks:

  • Less elastic
  • Prone to shrinking when wet
  • Can be more expensive

On the other hand, acrylic yarn offers:

  • Affordable price
  • Wide color variety
  • Long-lasting colors
  • Lightweight
  • Hypoallergenic

But presents a few cons:

  • Less breathable
  • May feel synthetic
  • Can pill over time

How do cotton and acrylic yarns differ in texture and appearance?

Cotton yarn has a soft and smooth texture, with a natural appearance, showcasing (usually) a matte finish and defined stitches. Acrylic yarn can vary in texture, from soft and silky to slightly rougher, and often (but not always) presents a shiny or glossy finish.

Which type of yarn is more durable for wearable crochet items, cotton or acrylic?

Acrylic yarn is generally more durable than cotton yarn due to its synthetic nature, with greater resistance to wear and tear, and less likely to fade or shrink when washed. However, the quality of the yarn and proper care will also impact the durability of wearable items.

Are there any significant differences in warmth and breathability between cotton and acrylic yarn?

Cotton yarn is breathable, making it suitable for warmer climates or during summer months. In contrast, acrylic yarn retains heat, providing more warmth, making it more suitable for cold environments or winter wear.

When should you choose cotton yarn over acrylic yarn for crocheting?

Consider cotton yarn when:

  • Crafting items for warmer weather
  • Creating projects with delicate stitches or requiring good stitch definition
  • Making items requiring absorbency
  • Wanting a natural fiber

Choose acrylic yarn for:

  • Affordable and colorful projects
  • Lightweight, warm, and hypoallergenic items
  • Long-lasting color and minimal maintenance

How does the washing and care of cotton and acrylic yarn crochet items compare?

Cotton yarn items generally require gentle washing, either by hand or machine on a delicate cycle, and may need reshaping and drying flat to maintain their shape. On the other hand, acrylic yarn items can withstand machine washing and tumble drying on low settings, making them low maintenance and easy to care for. Always follow the care instructions on the yarn label to preserve the quality of your crochet projects.

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