Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Plight of the Acrylic

You can tell by my silence that I've been a very busy woman - I don't need to tell you that Gingerbread Ladies have to work flat-out in the Christmas season. But because we are encouraged to think of others at this time of year, I would once again like to indulge in some seasonal do-goodery and prick your moral conscience on a topic close to my gingerbread heart: The Plight of the Acrylic.

So grab your tissues and be prepared for an emotional rollercoaster. This post is especially for Susie from Useless Beauty, who is equally unafraid to tackle hard-hitting craft-related issues.

Once upon a time, there was no more common sight in Merry Olde Englande of the 1960s than the pastoral idyll of the Acryllic Shepherdess. These ladies - dressed impractically in poufy hoop skirts and big bonnets - kept a loving eye on the baby acryllics as they frolicked around the pastures and meadows of England's green countryside, occasionally sticking to trees in an excess of static electricity or burning to a small puddle of plastic when struck by lightning.

 The yarn spun from these little creatures was highly desirable: in fact, entire generations were clothed from and comforted by it. It was a desirable alternative to the scratchy wool favoured in the past: it didn't felt when washed inappropriately and, more importantly, the wearer didn't smell of wet dog when it got damp (and, frankly, if you lived in the British Isles, woolly socks and jumpers got damp a lot.)

But in the past decade or so, something has changed. Other yarns - fancier yarns with artisan titles - became more popular. In fact, slapped with adjectives like "sumptuous" or "luxurious" or "decadent", yarn became sexy:
And with it came a nasty wave of anti-acrylic sentiment, leading to some very regrettable bullying:








While I appreciate the value and craftmanship of some of our finer yarns, and have even blogged in a similarly-passionate fashion about the exploitation of mermaids, I would urge you, the crafter, to be gentle in your assessment of the role of the little acrylic. It has a place in our crafting world and we should not look down our noses at it.

In fact, if I may leave you with a final thought: if and when there should be a zombie apocalypse, my gut feeling is that the only things that will survive are cockroaches, granny square blankets and those tough little acrylics. So choose your side carefully before you disparage or condemn this yarn.

17 comments:

Liz said...

Indeed, there is a place for a little arcylic in this world. Shamefully, I once shunned it, but now, it has worked its way back into my basket of yarn. It has even been used in the....BABY BLANKET (once or twice). When I told my mother I was making a baby blanket she would say 'Must be pure wool...must be pure wool...' it was her mantra, nothing like 'how nice child, the babe will treasure your hard work in years to come and tell me, what colours are you using?' Always, always the pure wool mantra. I think I will make her a blanket next...of ACRYLIC!!

renee said...

OH, How I love this blog post! I have been wanting to write something similar for awhile now, but I don't think I could pull it off with as much style and humor as you have here. Also, I can't draw very well. Haha! But I have often thought that if I ever write a book, I will call it something like, "Making beautiful things with acrylic yarn. Yes, it's possible." I can't really wear wool. It's too scratchy for my tender skin. Plus, I live in Houston. Talk about wet dog smell, and it just rarely gets cold enough to wear wool! And don't even get me started on baby blankets made of 100% wool. Total ridiculousness in my mind. Scratchy wool on baby skin? Really? And handwash it and lay it out to dry for 44 hours every time the kid pees or spits up or smears jelly all over it? No, thanks.

Katie K said...

I'm going with wool and you can't stop me!

Underground Crafter said...

I love the illustrations!

I love my acrylic blankets (a scrappy one I made for myself and my bf when I moved in with him, and the one his aunty made him as a kid that we still use). I have no issues with the way acrylic feels and love it for washing. I do feel guilty about the eco-impact, so when I can afford to, I buy natural fibers.

I swear I'm not a yarn snob though!

Sue said...

Oh thank you gingerbread lady for championing little acrylic.
I must confess am tempted by those exotic beauties, but budget and hardwearingness have to be considered which is where lovely little acrylic comes in. I use it, I love it!

Grateful4Crochet said...

Love this post!!!
And awesome illustrations btw!!!
I like using both

Paul & Carla said...

Actually I LIKE both acrylics (well, some of them) and wools (some of them, too). But like renee, I live in Texas and while it occasionally gets cold enough for wool, those occasions are so far between that it behooves me to choose acrylics for many items. As far as practicality goes, the wild acrylan cannot be beat!

Allyson said...

Lol...I'll indiscriminately use whatever yarn is the colour and texture (and PRICE) that I want in order to make the tantalising creations running about in my head. When the creative urge strikes, it knows no bounds!

iggystar said...

I believe I need this in the form of a mini-comic of some sort. I'm laughing in my cubicle like a mad woman!

I've always been a fan of the Acryllic species since I have super sensitive, itchy skin is common in my household.

If there was an Acrylic Awareness campaign I'd tag you to be the spokesperson.

Sara said...

Acrylic is awesome!

Gracey is not my name.... said...

Great post! I love all yarns...I use whatever I feel is pretty at the moment...

Reality Jayne said...

Gingy...I feel ashamed. You made me think different about the poor little acrylics....
I too, am guilty of this un-natural fiber bullying....
However, I do secretly think that the acrylics are more skin friendly

Shelley said...

Acrylic yarn has always been my yarn of choice, and now that I know I will survive the zombies while wrapped in my afghan, I couldn't be happier!

Susie said...

I feel you've given a voice to those little acrylics and I'm very encouraged to see the one who's survived the zombie apocalypse. I wish that acrylic well, and I'm heartwarmed to realise my stash comes from such hardy stock.

ps, re, Quiz: How Inadequate Are you, I've just bought Martha Stewart Living the Christmas edition, and I wish it had been honest and had that as its title because that would have saved me £3.90 ;-).

tea and cake said...

Hi, thanks for this post! I, like many others, will use a) whatever is at hand when the pattern simply must be done, NOW and b) whatever I can buy for less e.g. I was recently pricing up some wool for a jumper for my nearly-two-year-old grandson - which would have cost me £20! So, I opted for some lovely, soft acrylic from my stash = much better!

Annie said...

Oh dear, says the person who recently admitted to being a yarn snob! I just have a thing for hairy quadrupeds, can't help myself. These acrylic creatures are too smooth by far, and they make your hair stand on end!

In the interests of full disclosure I will however admit to having four boxes of acrylic hibernating in the in-laws attic, because you never know when you might need to do some indestructible knitting ;D

Concetta Phillipps said...

Now I understand why there's acrylic and "virgin acrylic". Those young creatures make some mighty fine yarns! ;-)

In all seriousness, I think you've covered an issue with a lot of humor and class, and its appreciated. Those acrylic creatures should grow up knowing they have their place.

Pick your yarn by the project, not because people tell you to! is my own personal motto.