Achoo! Or maybe “Itch you” is more correct. For those dying to spin yarn, but who are allergic to wool, here’s good news: you can spin acrylic, silk, synthetic, and other eco-friendly fibers. OR you can blend fibers for stunning yarn results.
I have little respect for people who sneer at acrylic yarn as though it and anyone who uses it is a sub-citizen. (Evidently they also have little respect for me…) While I love the idea of 100% natural, I don’t balk at the beautiful results we can achieve with synthetic stuffs.
The first time I used acrylic fiber on my blending board I was a little nervous. What if the fibers just sat there, stuck in the board? What a mess to have to clean up. So I started with a thin layer of wool, added some Tussah silk, bamboo, acrylic and more wool. It came off just as easily as other blends. Spun it on my wheel. Worked great.
Next I tried straight synthetics, but I only used about 1/3 of the board—just in case. (Technically silk is not a synthetic, but I frequently lump it into that category in this post because it’s too annoying to type out synthetic and silk every time.) This blend also came off like a dream.
I decided to spin it on a spindle because there was such a small amount. The drafted fiber broke a few times at the outset, but once I got going it was fine. (I think the breakage was due to nervousness because I haven’t had any problems spinning acrylic on a spindle since then.)
I didn’t take a picture of the acrylic yarn by itself, so here it is in a crowd with wool yarn (the yellow and red wool cakes were also mixed on the blending board).
Something I noticed from the experiment was that the acrylic yarn has a bright translucence the wool blend lacks. It’s difficult to capture in a photo. That might explain why I usually prefer to spin wool blended with silk. I definitely prefer the color variations I can create in my own blend.
After that initial experiment, I’ve used my blending board for acrylic many times and never had any synthetic-specific problems. (The only “problem” I ever have is that sometimes not all the fibers lift out of the board together. Just have to watch for that and use a long, blunt weaving needle to help them join the group.)
Google results: How to Use a Blending Board
JoAnn, Michaels, and Hobby Lobby carry several yarns you can use in acrylic blends. Look for thick, loosely plied, or not at all plied, yarns. Be careful to buy yarn that will unply and draft easily.
Lion Brand Landscapes—this yarn is shiny, a bit difficult to use because of the set twist, but there are gobs of colors and you get several on each skein. It’s really useful yarn; I use it mainly for accent color rather than main color.
Lion Brand Hometown USA and Lion Brand Heartland Thick and Quick—another great yarn for accent color, but the plies are very thin. You need to unply the yarn to use it. (You can also find bulky yarn in other brands such as Bernat.)
Loops & Threads Chunky Luxe Big!™ Yarn—this yarn is shiny and slippery, super thick; great for main color.
Hobby Lobby’s Yarn Bee line has several thick yarns you can unply and use for main color. I’ve mentioned some of them in the Part 1 post. Here’s a link to all the bulky yarns they sell. Look for Twirl-tastic, Sweet Shades, Watercolor Hues, and Colorplay.
You can find many interesting types of fiber on Etsy and eBay—search for spinning fiber: acrylic, silk, tencel, rayon, bamboo, viscose, nylon, faux angora, faux cashmere…