You might remember that several weeks ago I mentioned that I was going to do some testing of durability of acrylic value yarns. I just went through my stash and picked the yarns that I had on hand but I did also purchase some Mainstay and Red Heart since they are such popular value yarn choices. I could have added lots of others but I felt this sampling would give me a good idea of the durability of these yarns in general. I don't consider Vanna's Choice a value yarn, but I had just bought some on deep clearance and thought this test would give me a good idea of what to do with it.
Here's how the test worked:
I made swatches with 4 rows of double crochet using a 5.5mm (I) hook.
I had a control set of swatches and a set that went through washing cold and flat drying, a set that was washed cold and machine dried and a set that was washed warm and machine dried.
I went through the cycles 5 times and the initial results showed that the washing temperature doesn't seem to matter, it's the dryer that affects the yarn. If you dry flat the yarn will continue to look and feel exactly the same as it did off the skein.
After the 5 cycles I decided to focus on dryer tests and to send the swatches through washing and drying 5 more times for a total of 10 dryer cycles. My dryer is set to hot.
When I say a yarn is a favorite or least favorite you have to take that with a grain of salt. There's really not a ton of difference between most of them. That said, Big Twist is my least favorite. It's, hands down, the softest of the yarns I tested but it's also the most likely to pill. I wouldn't necessarily avoid using this yarn but I'd recommend not drying it in the dryer. You can see the pilling starting to form in the sample.
You can't tell from this photo, but I Love This Yarn (Hobby Lobby) shrank the least. The top swatch was the first that I made and I decided that I didn't want to make my swatches that big. I like this yarn a lot because it's soft off the skein and it stays soft through the wash. It didn't pill but I see evidence that it might after another 10 or so washes....maybe. It's also one of the most expensive when not bought on the regular 30% sale.
Pound of Love (Lion Brand) is almost as soft as Big Twist. You can see that the stitches are denser after washing and it will eventually pill a little bit but not as much as Big Twist. Given the choice I'd probably choose Pound of Love over Big twist. In fact, I have yarn to make a gingham blanket from this yarn. I will use a larger hook size to accommodate for the shrinkage.
I have never used Premier Basix so I bought some to try a while back and haven't used it yet. It did shrink in both length and width. This yarn is going to make very durable projects. My washed sample actually feels a little stiffer than the original but that might be because of the shrinkage. My opinion is very neutral on this one. If the price is right, I'd buy.
So now I know why people love Red Heart. This stuff is super durable. I know that in the photo it looks like there was some shrinkage, but that's not the actual result. This didn't shrink at all. It didn't soften a lot after 10 washes but it didn't pill either.
Mainstay is Walmart's house brand that comes in a very limited number of colors. It did shrink a tiny bit but I think it's a little softer than Red Heart but just as durable. It's the best value of all of them and I'd be fine using Mainstay white, black and gray mixed with yarns from other companies. They only have about about 6 or 8 colors in total.
The surprise of all surprises are the Dollar Tree yarns. They are both by Premier. I think that Just Yarn is simply a lighter weight of Premier Basix and I like it much better than Basix. It's softer and more drapey but just as durable. The Just Active has some polyester blended in. It's soft like Big Twist but it looks just as good after 10 washes as it did off the skein. The downside of these yarns is going to be cost (based on the new $1.25 price point) and the small size of the skeins. But, yes, I'd buy them. It will be interesting to see if the skeins are made a little bigger with the new $1.25 price point.
Like I said earlier, I put in some Vanna's Choice (Lion Brand) because I had some. This yarn is more expensive than the others and the swatches show that it's a higher quality. It's a thick #4 (worsted) and you could use a J or K or maybe an L hook with it to make a nice drapey blanket. It would probably make a nice winter cardigan too.
So, with all of that said and given that I make mostly donation items, I'm comfortable using any of these yarns except Red Heart. The only reason that I won't use Red Heart is because I had an allergic reaction to it once. Otherwise, it's a great yarn. I'd probably also avoid Big Twist because I think it's the least durable.
That means that price will likely be the determining factor when I buy yarn. This chart compare the cost per yard for each of these yarns based on the full retail price on the day I prepared this chart. They are sorted on cost order. Mainstay is the least expensive. I Love This Yarn is the most expensive of the value yarns and I'm not convinced that most people would categorize it as a value yarn.
But I think it's a more realistic comparison to look at what the normal sale price is. I Love This Yarn is 30% off every other week. Does anyone buy this yarn at full price? I know I never do. Big Twist and Pound of Love are on sale at Joann on a very regular basis. Looking at the sale price, Big Twist and Pound of Love are the bargains and I Love This Yarn is also a bargain.
Check out the cost of the Dollar Tree yarns. They aren't expensive but they aren't bargains either! But if I did amigurumi, I'd buy the small skeins of this yarn all day long. It's a great way to get lots of variety of colors in small skeins.
For me, I learned a couple of important things:
1. All yarns are of good quality and I can be confident using them for gifts or donations. I expect that I Love This Yarn (on sale) will become my go-to value yarn. It's great quality and soft to work with and Hobby Lobby is close to me. My Michael's is kind of a dump and Joann is a bit of a drive.
2. I now have a price point for comparing sale prices of nicer yarns. If there's a sale and the better quality yarn is in the .01 - .015/yard range, I'm stocking up! I did some of that during the sales at Lion Brand and JoAnn. For example, I absolutely love Lion Brand Anti-Pilling yarn and I bought a ton of it from Joann on Cyber Monday for .0107/yard, that was something like 65% off and in the range of Premier Basix and Pound of Love. I didn't mention Premier much. I love their yarns too but they haven't bee pushing sales as much as Lion Brand lately.
Some other yarns that I like and that I would consider mildly stockpiling if at least 40% off are:
Mandala Ombre - .0157/yard if 40% off
Vanna's Choice - .0176
Ice Cream Blend - .0082 - I picked up some of this on clearance at a deeper discount
At less than 40% off, I'm not interested unless I have a specific project in mind. This one lesson is going to save me from a lot of not-so-great sales in the coming months and years. I have put this chart on my phone so that I can have it as a reference if I'm out shopping and trying to figure out if a yarn is a bargain.
What do you think? What value yarns do you like best of you knit or crochet and what kinds of projects do you like to do with them?
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I'm Vicki Welsh and I've been making things as long as I can remember. I used to be a garment maker but transitioned to quilts about 20 years ago. Currently I'm into fabric dyeing, quilting, Zentangle, fabric postcards, fused glass and mosaic. I document my adventures here.