Acrylic yarn has its place in every crochet, knitter, and weaver’s stash. The yarn is inexpensive and if you are making articles for kids, acrylic can be tossed into the washer and dryer without worry. It is also fairly stain resistant. How you finish your project with acrylic yarn will make all the difference in the final product. The one enemy of acrylic yarn is heat. However, if applied correctly, heat can transform stiff, scratchy yarn into something fairly soft.
All knit and crochet project should be blocked. If the final project requires assembly, block the individual pieces, then assemble them. If the project is a single piece, then block the finished project to the final dimensions.
Blocking acrylic yarn is usually done by soaking the pieces in tepid water for about 15 minutes. Then you roll each piece up in a towel and press the excess water out of it. Unroll the piece from the towel and pin it to the correct dimensions on a board or piece of foam. You can add a small amount of dish soap to the water to remove any dirt or oils that may have accumulated during construction. Be sure to rinse the pieces well if you decide on this.
In order to soften up scratch acrylic yarn or to block a piece that will not stretch to the correct dimensions, heat is required. This is an easy process, but care must be taken not to get the yarn too hot and you must never apply heat that touches the surface of acrylic. The fiber will melt if you do.
There are two ways to apply heat. The first is immediately after you pin the wet piece to the blocking board. Take an iron on the lowest steam setting possible and holding the iron about ½ inch above the piece, apply steam. Continue this until the piece stretches into the desired shape. It is a time consuming process but well worth the effort.
Another method is a two-step process. First you soak and block the item. If it does not quite fit the desired dimensions, that is okay. After the piece is completely dry, apply steam from an iron on the lowest steam setting. Hold the iron no closer than ½ above the dry pieces and steam until the pieces are wet from the steaming process. Pin to the desired dimensions if you did not get the piece to stretch enough during the first part. Allow the piece to dry completely before removing the pins.
Acrylic is heat sensitive. The reason the fibers are able to stretch further when steam is applied is because you are softening the fibers. When steam is applied, the acrylic fibers relax then cool. This results in a softer fiber. If you have very scratchy acrylic yarns, steam blocking will soften them up.
Never, never, never, place an iron directly on acrylic fibers. This will result in the fibers completely melting and it creates a very stiff piece. Placing an iron directly on the yarn will ruin your stitch pattern. Even with a pressing cloth, the heat is too much. Only use steam, from an iron or a fabric steamer, set on the lowest steam setting for acrylic yarn. Steam relaxes the fibers without creating that hard shell that occurs when it completely melts.
Lynda Altman is a professional crafter and writer. She started crocheting as a young child. She crochets, quilts, sews, and creates beaded jewelry. Lynda loves vintage stitching samplers and enjoys counted cross stitch. You can find her work and patterns for sale on Etsy and Craftsy. She writes a crochet blog called The Granny Squared. You can contact her at the above link or on Twitter @fusgeyer.