Acrylic vs. Wool Hats

By Mercedes Valladares

Textile yarns manufactured into knitted or woven material have different fabric properties. Although care and fit generally rise to the forefront for most consumers, other factors become evident during natural wear and tear. Knitted hats made with either acrylic or wool appear similar in design and construction but have significant differences in the yarn quality. Key factors, such as sufficient stretch and fabric recovery, ensure fit and comfort for the wearer. Researching the differences between these two yarn types informs you of what to expect when making your purchase.

Woman in hat and scarf
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Whether you prefer acrylic or wool hats both have favorable qualities.

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Acrylic Yarn Properties

Acrylic yarns are made from synthetic fibers. This man-made filament yarn goes through a series of manufacturing steps including mixing chemicals, heating and melting. This yarn type has both favorable and unfavorable qualities. For instance, acrylic is abrasion resistant, soaks up water for repeated laundering and is wrinkle and shrinkage resistant. Unfavorable qualities include moderate tolerance to pilling and a propensity to retain body odors.

Acrylic Hats

One of the most favorable attributes when purchasing acrylic hats or yarn for hat knitting projects is the cost. These yarns vary in price, ranging from inexpensive, basic two-plied yarns to costly novelty acrylics, brushed and blends. Although acrylic hats vary in fiber content, certain blends offer a softer hand, which refers to the smoothness of the knitted material. The yarn also has less stretch and does not crimp like wool, which can irritate knitters' hands. Depending on the acrylic yarn quality and gauge, the knitted hat may also have a stiff-like appearance when finished.

Wool Yarn Properties

Natural fibers, such as cotton, linen, silk and wool, generally cost higher than man made yarns due to the extra steps taken at the mill for processing. Wool fibers require cleaning to remove dirt and debris through a process referred to as carding. The wool is placed into large revolving cylinders with wire teeth that run at different speeds, spinning the fibers into a filmy sheet. The process continues by funneling through a large round or soft mass, referred to as a sliver. Other beneficial properties of wool include moisture absorption, stain and mildew resistance, water repellency, colorfastness and its long lasting quality.

Wool Hats

For outdoor winter activities, hats made from merino wool have natural attributes such as insulation and regulating temperature. Lightweight, fine gauge wool beanies, caps or hats are also machine washable. As a reminder, always read care labels before washing. Wool hats also stretch and retain fabric recovery, which is a technical term used to describe the material's ability to go back to its original state after repeated stretching.

Acrylic vs. Wool Hats

Though both acrylic and wool have properties that do not irritate certain skin types, those consumers allergic to natural fibers such as wool can find comfort in acrylic alternatives. Merino wool, which is made from soft and fine crimped fibers, produces lightweight wool. This soft texture and lightweight material is better tolerated against the skin according to your skin type. Whether you choose acrylic or wool hats, two key elements apply for the wearer, sufficient stretch and fabric recovery, ensuring proper fit around the head and comfort, regardless of your choice.