Acrylic material used for clothes : A comprehensive guide

Detailed information and insights about Acrylic fabric as a textile material - its properties, uses, advantages, potential drawbacks, composition, manufacturing process, and care instructions

acrylic fabric

 

What is Acrylic fabric ?

Acrylic fabric is a soft, warm lightweight, and fluffy fabric made from a type of synthetic polymer derived from petroleum. It is considered as a substitute for wool fabric.

The Acrylic fiber is a synthetic, man-made fiber made out of a synthetic polymer. To be more specific and technical, it is a polymer fiber made of acrylonitrile compounds derived from natural gas, and monomers are added to improve its properties. Acrylic fiber is spun into Acrylic yarn – this is used to make acrylic fabric. It was first manufactured in Germany in 1893 but came to be used widely to make clothes and other things only by the 1950s.

Properties of Acrylic fabric

Property Description of Acrylic fabric
Fiber Source of acrylic fabric Synthetic fabric made from petrochemicals.
Fabric texture. Soft and wool-like texture.
Drape Moderate drape, depending on the weave and thickness.
Breathability Generally not very breathable, can trap heat and moisture.
Wrinkle Resistance Resistant to wrinkles and holds its shape well.
Moisture Wicking Wicks moisture away from the body, keeping it dry.
Durability Durable and resistant to wear and tear.
Heat Resistance Melts when exposed to high heat, open flames, or hot irons.
Static Resistance Low static resistance, can generate static electricity.
UV Protection Offers some UV protection, depending on thickness and dye.
Care Easy care, can be machine-washed and tumble-dried.
Environmental Impact Production may involve chemicals, but recycling is possible.
Cost Generally more affordable than natural fibers like wool.

Acrylic & wool

Acrylic fabric made out of acrylic yarn has many similarities with wool. An acrylic sweater can look like the identical twin of a real wool sweater; I bet that you find it difficult to distinguish them from regular wool sweaters as I do. I am talking about both sight and feel.

How to identify acrylic from wool?

The best way to identify acrylic fibers is to use the fabric burn test. When acrylic fiber is burnt, it will melt and form a plastic bead. When wool fiber is burnt it will burn with the smell of hair.
Another method is to try to felt it. Wet and rub a small piece of acrylic fabric – it would not felt. Acrylic fibers do not have the ability to interlock and mat in the same way as wool fibers. If you do the same with wool, it will form a dense, felted fabric.

Today there are some very popular trademarked brands like Orion, Sayelle, Acrilan, and Zefran.

ADVANTAGES OF ACRYLIC MATERIAL CLOTHES

Soft and warm fabric

Wrinkle resistant

Affordable

Easy to care for

Durable

 

When you consider Acrylic fabric as a fabric for dressmaking or acrylic yarn for knitting, you should consider all its advantages. It has ‘most’ of the advantages of wool fabric/yarn. It has some advantages which are even better than that of wool fabric/yarn.

Advantages of Acrylic fabric

Acrylic clothes keep you warm, it is soft on the body. It is easily maintainable. It is very lightweight and soft. It is very strong and durable. The clothes made of these fibers drape very nicely on the body. 

The advantages of acrylic over wool are very clear, other than what is mentioned in the above para – acrylic is much cheaper than wool. Wool has superior softness (not all wool, but some are super soft) but acrylic can sometimes even be softer than some wool.

Acrylic provides bulk even as it is lightweight. Wool of the same look can weigh more. 

The warmth of acrylic can be counted almost the same as that of wool – It is possible because the fiber traps heat inside and wicks moisture away from the skin and keeps it warm. (The moisture absorbing quality of acrylic is not as excellent as wool, nor is it as warm as wool)

And because it is not a natural fiber, moths do not attack acrylic clothes as much as they do wool clothes. So no need to worry about those holes – for a long time. 

Acrylic fabric is very easy to care for – you can toss it into the washing machine to wash it and even dry it (depends on the care label of your product). Because of its resilient quality, it does not stretch and sag in the wash – it will go back to its original shape after it is stretched (the technical term is shape-retentive). 

The elastic quality of the acrylic fiber makes it good for making shapely clothes

Acrylic material as backing

It is a good backing material because it provides flexibility, prevents seam slippage and prevents fraying or curling. It is usually used as a backing under silk materials and such dressmaking fabrics. 

Acrylic yarn

The acrylic knitting yarn is very popular among hand knitters. It is used to knit sweaters, socks rugs etc. It is dyeable to the color of your choice, though not as easy as wool to dye. 

You use acrylic yarn to make things you know will take a lot of use – like rugs, stool covers, cushion covers, blankets. And of course socks. It does not damage easily and will last a long long time.

Because of its softness and the hypoallergenic quality acrylic yarn is used by knitters to make baby items – it will not cause allergies. When buying Acrylic yarn for making baby things you can check whether it is free of harmful chemicals – there is a certification for that.

Disadvantages of Acrylic fabric

First and foremost it is not a natural fiber – and this offsets all its advantages for some people.

The wool is derived from a sheep, and the acrylic is derived in a factory – this makes different people feel different things. Some like the fact that it is not made from anything related to causing casualties (injuries, hurt, emotional stress) to animals but some dislike the fact that it is a chemical-based fiber.

If you are not too careful it may stretch out of shape; some acrylic clothes also shrink, especially if washed in hot water. Because it is synthetic, you have to be careful with these clothes around heat. It can distort, change color etc. 

Pilling is another problem, but then you may have to wear the pilling like battle wounds or try to prevent them or remove them.

pilling in acrylic clothes is a disavantages

Here are some ways to check pilling in clothes.

The most lasting and persistent concern in using acrylic for an environmentally-conscious consumer is its polluting nature which includes emissions from oil processing.

But if everything was as it should be (no ecological concerns, no pilling etc) acrylic is a very superior dressmaking fabric. No need to look out for sheep or do it any harm to keep yourself warm – that too, in style.

More Faq on acrylic fabric

Will acrylic fabric keep me warm in cold weather?

Yes, it will. The fabric is insulating to a degree, which is why a lot of sweaters in the market today are made of acrylic fabric. All acrylic fabrics may not be as insulating as wool, but it will surely keep you warm in cold weather. It traps heat and keep you warm in cold weather.

Will acrylic fabric stretch out of shape ?

Yes, it can. Generally acrylic clothes are said to have the ability to retain their shape. Acrylic fabrics stretch out of shape if pressure is applied on it, when it is wet and when there is heat. This is why you are adviced not to hang wet acrylic sweaters on a line, or put acrylic clothes inside a full dryer. Acrylic fibers have ok elasticity and recovery but it is better not to test it under these circumstances – heat, pressure and water.

Can I iron acrylic fabric?

You can iron but only in low heat. As the material is synthetic the fiber can melt in high heat. If there are wrinkles, and you want to raise the heat, use a pressing cloth to protect the fabric from the heat.

Is the fabric eco-friendly?

Acrylic fiber is derived from petroleum. Petroleum is a non-renewable resource. And the production of the fabric involves the use of many different types of chemicals. The manufacturing process of acrylic is very energy intensive. And in addition to all these abominations, acrylic fiber is not biodegradable. The material will remain as such in the soil once it is dumped there for years and years. Environmental and social consequences of acrylic fabric are far-reaching as the fast fashion industry uses this affordable fabric a great deal.

What can be made with acrylic?

You can make Sweaters, Hats, Gloves, Scarves, Socks, Underwear, Dresses, Skirts, Pants, Jackets, Coats, Blankets and Upholstery.

What can destroy acrylic fibers and fabric?

Acrylic is a very durable fabric but it can be damaged if exposed to too much sunlight, exposed to too much heat and chemicals like Bleach, Strong acids, Acetone & Benzene. Fabric softeners are also not good for acrylic fabric.

What are the problems of clothes made of acrylic fabric?

100% acrylic clothes can be scratchy and uncomfortable. It can be static clingy. It can also get small, round balls of fibers, called pills on the surface, which can look ugly.

What are the common acrylic blends?

Common acrylic blends are cotton-acrylic, wool-acrylic, nylon-acrylic, spandex-acrylic, mohair-acrylic.

Related post :Wool vs Acrylic- comparisonDifferent types of fibers ; Textiles.; Types of synthetic fabrics; Different types of wool

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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.
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