How to Knit with Acrylic Yarn and Benefit Needy People

Got acrylic yarn? Here are 6 ways to use that yarn for charity knitting

I first learned to knit thanks to a “learn-to-knit” kit that my good friend Steph put together for me.

The kit included a Klutz knitting book.** (I still recommend it to anyone who wants to learn to knit). This book included a set of knitting needles and a decent amount of variegated blue acrylic yarn.

(**This is an affiliate link – if you make a purchase after clicking, I may make a small commission. Thank you for supporting Knitting for Charity.)

I used that yarn for my first knitting project, a small coin purse with a button sewed to the front. I found it fun, easy, and addictive. It was the beginning of my decade-long love affair with knitting!

Fast-forward a few years, and I learned that acrylic has something of a bad rap among knitters.

And, to be sure, acrylic has its issues.

Acrylic yarns are synthetic; that is, they are not natural fibers, like wool or silk or cotton. They are man-made. And, apparently, man has yet to create certain qualities in yarn like absorbency or heat retention while still wicking away moisture. Acrylic yarn lacks these two qualities.

Meanwhile cotton is tremendously absorbent. And wool holds in heat like no one’s business yet releases moisture, which means wool doesn’t hold in sweat. (Those natural fibers sure are show-offs!)

But acrylic yarns have great advantages, too! For one thing, they are non-allergenic. I’ve yet to hear of anyone being allergic to acrylic yarn! That is most definitely not the case with wool yarn.

They are also fully machine washable and dryable. Not like wool, which felts and shrinks if you place it in the washer and dryer.

Cotton doesn’t take kindly to machine laundering either. Not unless you don’t care about the shape it takes afterward. (So go ahead and throw those washcloths in the washer and dryer, but beware of doing the same for a cotton sweater…)

Acrylic doesn’t have the memory of wool. But it also doesn’t have the complete lack of memory of cotton. Translation: you’re not likely to shrink or stretch an item made out of acrylic yarn, at least not through machine washing and drying.

And I haven’t even mentioned the costs! Wool is almost always more expensive than acrylic. Dishcloth-quality cotton is about the same, but if you want soft, luxurious cotton, you won’t get it cheap.

Many knitters switch from acrylic yarns to natural fibers after they’ve gained some experience. But many others continue knitting with acrylic yarn. They appreciate the many benefits of acrylic.

This is fortunate because many charity knitting projects are best knitted with acrylic yarn!

Knitting with Acrylic Yarn for Charity

These 6 charity projects are all fantastic uses for your acrylic yarn.

1. Warm Up America – This charity is most well-known for accepting 7 x 9-inch squares that are joined to form blankets. However, it also accepts many other items to keep people warm. These include hats, scarves, mittens, gloves, and so on.

2. Preemie Hats – tiny babies need to wear tiny hats, since their internal thermostats aren’t working very well yet. And most heat loss happens through the top of the head. You can donate preemie hats to your nearest NICU unit.

3. Hats for both children and adults – You can donate these to your local Red Cross, Salvation Army, for distribution locally or in other countries around the world. You can also donate them to your local homeless shelter.

4. Slippers – lots of slippers knit with acrylic yarns are needed by various community-based organizations. Check with your local women’s shelters, detox houses and mental health programs for the need in your area. Or send a few pairs to the Pink Slipper Project.

5. Chemo caps of all sizes (from infancy to senior citizens) are needed in the U.S. and all over the world. These are used for the aching heads of cancer patients who lose their hair following chemotherapy. These can often be donated to your nearest cancer treatment center. (Learn how to knit the perfect chemo cap here.)

6. The Snuggles Project asks knitters to create blankets out of acrylic yarns for animal shelters across the country.

Acrylic yarns are some of the best supplies to knit for charity. So if you enjoy the benefits of knitting with acrylic yarn, no need to give it up for charity knitting. You can keep saving money on machine-washable yarn and support people in need!

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  1. Another plus for acrylic yarn is that it is often made from recycled bottles and other plastics, and it doesn’t deteriorate like natural fibers do. I seldom buy wool, and only recently discovered yarn made from bamboo. I prefer acrylic.

  2. I knit for our military, hats, scarves and fingerless mitts. Currently knitting a balaclava…and neck gathers with shoulders. I send my things to Operation Gratitude out of California….Marion

  3. I saw the comment on not finding someone to knit for. I didn’t depend solely on established charities to find homes for my output. But I did I look as close to home as possible. A local scout troop was was looking for handmade items for a “bazaar” to raise money to fund activities. I knit for them for years for fund raisers (until the group disbanded). I frequently saw kids without hats outside the local school in terrible weather. I knew the school nurse, asked her if there was a need. She said yes so I knit hats every year for her to distribute. When I had a bad experience with an established charity, I offered hats to my daughter in law who works with her church to match those in need with needed items. I put all knitting on hold last year and made masks (when they were hard to come by) for friends and family and then for the local food bank. If I could find the time to knit them a local assisted living facility will accept twiddlemuffs. I have nothing against established large charities, but prefer to see who is doing good in my own community and see if I can help them. And there are the added benefits of no shipping and little bureaucracy not to mention personal relationships with those involved in the programs.

    1. All of these are, indeed, excellent reasons for seeking out local organizations to knit for. Thank you so much for your comment!

  4. Good points about acrylic yarn–I have used it for 98% of my projects during many years of knitting. I “learned” the very hard way about sending an adult, hand knit sweater with cables to the dry cleaners! Yep, thought it would look nice–however, when I picked up my beautiful project –it had SHRUNK from an adult to a child size!! Of course, I was horrified–as it was a Christmas gift for a dear friend. Fortunately, I had a couple of weeks before the holiday–and, knit a 2nd sweater for her. Never again have I sent ANYTHING to a dry cleaner.
    I’ve always had good luck with acrylic.

    1. Ugh. That is one of the saddest stories I’ve ever heard!! But my goodness, I am amazed that you were able to knit a whole new sweater with mere weeks to go until Christmas. You are officially my hero!

      Acrylic may have its flaws, but at least it won’t be dry-cleaned from existence (or into a smaller existence, at any rate).

      Thanks for sharing!