Crochet for the Outdoors
This past early spring, a fan posted a question about crocheting something for her outside. She wondered if Acrylic Yarn aka everyday yarn would last if she did a project that is intended to stay outdoors. She was inquiring about people who yarn bomb and abandon their projects. What will happen in the long term? Though I had some assumptions, I decided to do a test without telling you all.
- Test for 3 months on how long and what will happen if I yarn bomb an outdoor project that is exposed to summer weather conditions using a mix of acrylic yarns.
- I think the yarn will fade and potentially the yarn to break apart. Potentially attract birds sit on it and potentially pick it apart.
- Yarn bomb a cover for my front yarn lamp post.
- Sew the components together to form the cover.
- Sew the cover directly to the lamp post.
- Let the cover sit for 3 months from June 1st – August 31st with no touching.
- Over the summer, the cover was exposed to temperatures that were over 100 degrees and was exposed to light and torrential rain conditions.
- The cover, when wet, had to dry out on it’s own. Due to the positioning of this being a lamp post, the water would naturally run off so the cover wasn’t exposed to pools of water.
- The cover started out vibrant and faded slowly.
- As a month had gone by, the cover top appeared to be wet most of the time. While the yarn vibrant colours were fading, the acrylic to have developed a luster shine. So while it appears soaked and wet, it’s the yarn that has changed.
- From observations, the new luster look appears to make the cover waxy and hard. However, if you touch it, it’s still is soft.
- When looking at it, it appears that some of the project has actually melted. It has a dripped candle appearance.
- The fibers looked aged but they still look just as strong; however, I haven’t tugged on the cover to determine if the yarn has been weakened. I would assume it has been.
- The south side of the cover is more faded than the north side as the sun travels from the east, across the southern sky and sets in the west.
- It definitely looks weathered.
- The yarn definitely fades.
- The yarn develops a weathered look and adopts a luster and waxy look.
- To answer the fans questions about being concerned about yarn bombers who abandon their projects because they think it will last forever. I wouldn’t make that assumption. Acrylic yarn is not meant to be outdoors in this capacity and will quickly react to being outdoors. If the yarn bombing is not done with care, such as loose ends and more hanging from it, it will definitely become an eye sore really quickly. Out of respect of everyone else on the planet, if a yarn bomber is bombing a public space, be mindful that it has a limited shelf life and be sure to remove it after the exhibit is completed.
- For me, I don’t mind the weathered look for my own living space. Makes it feel rustic to some degree. I have a feeling though, after a full year of being on the lamp post, it will have taken a beating from our winter blasting it exposing it to being wet, frozen, weight of snow and thawing back out in spring.
I have always wanted to perform this test, I just decided to because the kid in me was curious.
While it’s nice to make sculptures and yarn bomb outdoor things, it’s definitely not considerate to leave items out and unattended for this particular circumstances. The idea of yarn bombing something and leaving it up for an extended period has it’s consequences of the initial beauty is quickly taken away by the sun and outdoor conditions.
Acrylic yarns are not designed to be outdoors for extended periods of time such as this. A throw pillow or a favourite afghan shouldn’t be left outdoors.
While I suspected this would happen, I wasn’t sure and glad I have run the experience to test how long this would last. I would suspect in the next year or so the fibers will begin to break and this sculpture will go from a nice idea to something that looks weathered and dumpy.
Comments on “What Happens to Acrylic Yarn Outdoors Experiment”
Thank you so much for performing this test as I had been wondering about how yarns hold up to the outdoors. While I personally do not mind the weathered look, I am VERY concerned about the environmental impact of leaving yarn bomb projects out. If one intends to abandon their project, a 100% cotton which composts and does not cause dangers to the planet is probably better. As for my outdoor hammock, I am planning to make, I am still undecided whether 100% cotton or a synthetic fiber to use… sigh…
as long as you factor in strength and eventual stretch, it sounds like a fun project though!
Mikey Thank you for experimenting. I have been making mandala and wondering if they could be left outside. Thought about spraying with clear spray paint, but figured that would just harden and the yarn would break.
I wouldn’t leave it outside. The yarn isn’t designed to be outside. Even with spraying it. Think of it like a cheap outdoor table u umbrella. Looks good for a few weeks and by the end of the summer, the bright red is faded to pink. Only specially treated fabrics can withstand the colour bleaching of the sun and durability. It’s why a good umbrella is several hundred dollars verses a $40 one. It’s all in the materials.
my most pressing question is ” how long does the yarn stay STRONG. most yarn i remember is really difficult to break with the bare hands but i am wanting to know how it’s strength holds up being outside for 6-10 months
If you’re looking to longer-lasting yarn for outdoors the Bernat Maker yarn is more what you would be looking for longevity, although the acrylic would last depending on what you are making eventually if its something that spends a lot of time in direct sunlight it will bleach its colour then eventually breakdown. If it’s for cushions you can make them last longer by bringing them in out of the elements when not in use, that being said this is the same case for most material items, not just acrylic yarn.
Made many mandalas for my fence last summer, left them out all winter, some fading but no breakage. Still look good this year. Ontario, Canada
You have a wonderful writing style. This was a pleasure to read.
Excellent experiment! I look forward to the next installment post winter!
I loved the science experiment approach you did. There are other materials to consider for outdoor yarn bombing, nylon cord, paracord, hemp, jute, plarn just to name a few. But I agree none of these will last forever. Thst needs to be considered as well.
Good morning all I did a almost this I made China yarn ball lamps with clear coat covering I’d give pictures but the people whom bought my house has takin them down I know last month they still hung out on patio I did ask new owners if I could keep them they answered no it made the patio so cute and part of the sale in their mind . Hum trying again by using clear coat they seemed to hold for seasons . You might try it with a clear coat heavy to preserve the yarn. But if you leave take them with you before ppl see them , hint at the bottom of the ball I placed tin foil to hold tea lights I made sure from bottom I could replace tea lights and made the balls large enough to glow without catching fire. Loves all of you so much .
I think it is great and like you the weathered look does not bother me. On one of the other sites I am on a young lady is crochet bombing her car, not like the outside of it but the inside. Well she did this beautiful throw she is going to be putting on the back dash and everyone is like oh no it is going to fade, so what if it does she can always make another one, and like I said I like it faded it gives it more of a vintage look.
Plarn deteriorates very quickly in the sun. It breaks down into small pieces. Using UV stabilised garden bags will last longer but over time will still deteriorate. UV stabilised plastic has similar properties to putting sunscreen on your skin. It only protects from the sun for a certain period of time and then degrades. Acrylic seems to be the most resilient plastic for an outdoor project but will deteriorate over a longer time. The dyes used will fade, red especially. Cheers, tRace
Has anyone tried to plarn (plastic bags)for outside projects?
if it were to be a decoration for personal use, I would opt for para cord, which comes in a multitude of colors, or for a more rustic look (and much cheaper) a thin marine type cord from the rope section in the hardware store… both of those would have a much longer shelf life. Even more so in the shade… direct sunlight will deteriorate just about anything over a short period of time 🙂
Thanks for the experiment. Now to see how is stands up to a Canadian winter, eh?
Right on eh! 😀
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