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Synthetic Fibers vs. Natural Fibers

The number of synthetic fibers being used to produce yarns and clothing has grown significantly in recent years. While the primary synthetics used in yarn are acrylic, polyester, polyamide and nylon, any of the following may be found in yarn as well; elastic, microfiber, modacrylic, modal, payette, rayon, sinflex, soysilk, spandex or tencel. If you want to stick to natural, you'll want to watch out for all these fibers, as well as yarns labelled shimmer, sparkle, glitter, metallic or shine.

The variety of natural yarns available to knitters has grown to include quite a dazzling assortment. There are yarns available to suite every need, from soft lacy cashmeres and silks, to thick roving wools. The following are the most prominent of the natural fibers available in yarns today;
alpaca, angora, bamboo, bison, camel, cashmere, cotton, guanaco, hemp, linen, llama, merino wool, mink, mohair, possum, qiviut, silk, vicuña, wool and yak.

When considering synthetic fibers, it's important to keep in mind that polyfill stuffing is made of the same synthetic fiber as polyester yarn. There are a number of natural stuffing options available including cotton, wool, buckwheat, shredded natural rubber and kapok. Consider saving your yarn clippings and scraps to use for stuff small toys.

The same applies to synthetic fabrics and embellishments, which can be easily substituted with natural alternatives.

There's been a lot of talk about synthetic yarns versus natural yarns. But what are the specific differences? Are you looking for reasons to switch to natural, or trying to stick to synthetic? Well let's take a look at some comparative facts and you can decide for yourself:

So just what do synthetic fibers have going for them? In the end, the biggest draw is price. In a day when money is tight for many, price vs. quality is not an easy choice. But the way we see it, it's better to pay a little more money than to pay the price which inevitably results from the hazards of synthetics. The more research comes out, the more we're left to wonder just how big of a price we're going to pay one day flooding the world with synthetic fibers.


For those who want to learn more about the specific natural fibers and their advantages, we recommend The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook, a priceless guide to the natural fiber industry. Plus it's chalk full of cute critter pictures!

*Due to a recent European development in superwashing techniques, there is now a Natural Superwash option available, though not yet common in the United States. Please see our superwash page for details.

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