There seems to be a hierarchy of yarn and how its appreciated by my yarn snob friends. Luxury yarns like vicuna and cashmere are at the top with merino and silk and other natural fibers in the middle leaving synthetic yarns at the lonely and loathed bottom. Just say acrylic in my fiber arts group and watch the delicate shudder run through them - almost like the wave at football game. These are polite and lovely ladies so they never say a nasty word, but we all know the communal sentiment.
Acrylic. Say it with me, A-CRYL-IC. Words like "squeaky" and "rough" and "cheap" are all associated with the common yarn brands available at your local craft chain stores. I would argue that there are a few upsides to using acrylic yarn that can't be found in their natural fiber cousins.
Let's talk wash-ability and dry-ability. Items made from acrylic yarn can be tossed in the washer and the dryer with no more thought than your jeans or towels. Ever met a baby? They spit up all day long and the other end tends to leak a bit too.... Ever met a baby's mom? She's not too keen on hand-washing, especially those early months. "But wait", you say, "I've seen superwash wool yarns." Yes, they can be washed, but I don't recommend machine drying them and I'm sad to say, after awhile the treatment that makes your wool yarn withstand a washing machine without felting will wear off....
Like any yarn, acrylic becomes better after you wash it. Natural fibers "bloom" after a hand-washing and soften. Acrylic yarns can soften after machine washing and drying and using your usual dryer sheet or fabric softener will work blow your mind. You can wash acrylic yarn BEFORE you crochet or knit with it (check out my post "Sow's Ears & Silk Purses) to avoid the scratchy and/or squeaky feeling people complain about. And let's be honest, yarn snob friends, there are some wools out there that rival dish scrubbies.
Acrylic yarn is priced way, waaay, waaaaay, waaaaaaay differently that it's animal-fiber or plant-fiber counterparts. A popular one pound acrylic yarn is available right now for $6.99 on sale, and is regularly $9.99 at a well established chain craft store. It's a worsted weight yarn (weight category 4) and boasts 826 yards in it's solid color line. It takes about $11-$15 to get the equivalent yardage in "kitchen cotton". Bamboo blend yarn in the same yardage will cost about $35. Peruvian Highland wool is about $25 for 880 yards and merino wool yarn will run you about $40 for the same yardage. A cashmere/silk blend will be about $135 for 825 yards. Now, I'm not saying that acrylic and cashmere share the same characteristics at all, but it's obvious which yarn is more easily affordable for the everyday yarn artist. In yarn, as in everything else, items that are appreciated more are priced higher.
Availability. I love shopping online and I do it often but there's something to be said for that immediate gratification to be found in a brick and mortar store. Acrylic yarn is found just about everywhere and may in fact sometimes be the only yarn for miles around. It also comes in every range of color you can imagine. I'm so lucky to have an independently-owned, local yarn shop only 30 minutes from my home, but it has to be realized that's not the case for a lot of crafters out there.
Trust me, I lo-o-ooo-ove natural-fiber yarns! In fact, the majority of products found through the Kinked & Twisted Store are animal-fiber yarns or items made from those yarns. But we don't turn up our nose at synthetic fibers either. Yarn, like all things artsy, is subjective. Beauty and joy can come from many places. If you pick up a hook or needles and make something with any yarn, you'll get great satisfaction and end up with a lovely piece.