One of the eight possibilities for the alternative fabrics category of the Rug Hooking Merit Program is to hook a 100 square inch mat in yarn. So for one of my panels in my alternative fabrics rug, Got Wool?, I chose to hook acrylic yarn, since I am reserving real wool for another area of my rug. Here is my evaluation.
Cutting ease: on a scale from 1 to 5 with "1" being "Cuts like butter; easy as wool" and five being "So terrible don't bother," acrylic yarn gets a "0." Why? What could be easier! Just find the end and start hooking. If the yarn is narrow, it might require a double thread. But there is no tearing, no fabric raveling, no wool dust, nothing. It's great.
Hooking ease: on a scale from 1 to 5 with one being "Hooks like a dream; easy as wool" and five being "Why am I trying this?", acrylic yarn gets a "3". There are a couple of snags, literally. The acrylic yarn can snag so you have to be a little more careful with the hook. Really thick yarn is a dream to hook and just one strand will do. Thinner yarn is impossible to hook as a single thread. It just slips right back out. So you have to work with a double thread which is tricky until you get used to twisting the two threads on the hook and not allowing one of them to pull back out of the linen when you pull the next loop. You also have to be aware of the direction of your hooking, much more so than with wool. With thick acrylic yarn, it matters that you hook all the loops exactly the same - in the same direction and with the same twist. If you don't the hooking ends up looking messy - all over the place. I ended up pulling out the black background and rehooking in straight lines because of this.
Overall look: on a scale from 1 to 5 where one is "gorgeous like hand-dyed wool" to "bad look even for a bad hair day", acrylic yarn gets a "2". I like the look every much, but missed the ability to be able to control my colors via dyeing. It was difficult and expensive trying to find yarns in the color ranges that I wanted, even when I went to a fine yarn store. Now this would be remedied with wool yarn which I could easily control. But this is not an evaluation of wool yarns, but acrylic.
Average evaluation: 1.7 out of 5: "Pretty darn good but not quite wool"