I complained about working with acrylic with both items, and Lynn even called me on it with the reproduction jacket, point out that “it is not worth wasting good sewing skill and time on fabric that is less than the best one can afford.”
And she’s absolutely right! And this is something I know, and have known since my earliest sewing days.
I am the product of fabric snobs (in the nicest possible way). My mother is a fabric snob who managed to live through the 1970s without every wearing synthetic clothes. My first sewing teacher taught me to work with lovely quality quilting cottons, and then I went away to university where I worked for a professional costume shop that only used the best materials.
As a historic seamstress, my stash is full of natural fibres: I sew in silks and linens, cottons and wools. I barely tolerate rayon and the other processed naturals.
So why have I been sewing in acrylic?
Because I am a fabric snob. I’ve never worked in synthetics. I was told not to waste my time on them, and I was a good little student, and didn’t. So other than knowing that they feel nasty to the touch, are nasty to wear, and don’t breath well, I don’t know what it’s like to work with synthetics.
And now I’m teaching regular sewing. And I don’t think it’s fair of me to just say “Don’t work with polyester. Don’t work with nylon. Don’t work with acrylic.” if I don’t know why.
So I decided to do penance in pursuit of knowledge. I sewed with acrylic.
I’ve given it two fair trials. I’ve made two garments, tried a variety of techniques on them, and finished the garments properly. I’m pleased with both garments. But I’m not pleased with acrylic. I will never, ever be working with it again. It is evil. And I know this for real reasons, because I’ve trialled it, not just because I was told. I can tell students (and other people) why they shouldn’t work with acrylic with a totally clear conscience, and with real knowledge of what it is like to work with.
So why shouldn’t you work with acrylic?
- Acrylic doesn’t iron well. When you try to press seams and details into it the acrylic just goes limp, and won’t sculpt. At the same time, it stays weirdly crisp when it it’s warm: it won’t shape into lovely curved and sleeve heads.
- Despite its drape, acrylic doesn’t actually hang well.
- Acrylic has poor coverage for its bulk. Unless it is thick, tightly woven, and in a dark colour, your lining and undergarments are going to show through.
- It wears poorly. The cuffs of the Win in Black and White jacket are already pilling – and it’s only been a week.
- Like most synthetics, it doesn’t breath, so you tend to overheat in it
So yeah, it’s hard to work with, doesn’t feel nice when you work with it, doesn’t feel nice when you wear it, and doesn’t wear well. Don’t sew with it. Any money you save in fabric will cost you in work.