A Personal Debate: Mainstays Basic Yarn vs. Red Heart Super Saver Yarn

A Personal Debate: Mainstays Basic Yarn vs. Red Heart Super Saver Yarn

Recently, I was informed that Wal-Mart stores have started selling their own brand of fiber called Mainstays Basic Yarn. At the time I was notified of this new brand on the shelves, I was eager to check it out for myself. Unfortunately, I live in a somewhat rural community and the skeins had not made their way to my local Wal-Mart quite yet.

A short time later, I was able to get my hands on a skein of the Mainstays yarn and decided to do a comparison between Red Heart Super Saver and this new brand by Wal-Mart! This blog is entirely my own opinion, based on my personal observations debating two similar products.

Less money, less quality?

First observation, once I was able to find the product in the store, was the price. A skein of Red Heart Super Saver is $2.88 and the price of the Mainstays Basic Yarn is $1.97, so the obvious difference is the financial aspect. You are saving $0.91 per skein on the basic colors with the Mainstays brand. For those looking at the economic factor, this is a no-brainer. The Mainstays IS obviously less expensive. However, we all know that price is not always reflective of quality, and we all know the saying, “you get what you pay for.” Low prices can mean lower quality products. Keep that in mind when basing your comparison solely on economics – and yes, I do understand the importance of finances as a crafter on a budget, but one must consider other details as well.

Next, the volume of the skeins is equal – Each one weighing 7 oz. However, Red Heart Super Saver has 364 yards and Mainstays Basic Yarn has 397 yards. When we look at another obvious comparison, you get more for your money with Mainstays. I would like to insert a personal observation here: The Mainstays Basic Yarns are definitely a thinner fiber. Although you are getting “more” length in the skein, it actually feels “less.” You can even see when lined side by side, there is a fair amount of difference in how they compare next to one another. Having worked with Red Heart Yarns so frequently, it is hard to explain this, but their fiber has weight and thickness and feels somewhat sturdier versus the Mainstays Basic Yarn, which has a much thinner strand and feels lighter and less substantial. With Red Heart Super Saver, there is ample feel to my piece. The Mainstays yarn has a bit less volume and does not feel as abundant or as sturdy. I hope that makes sense. Both are 100% acrylic.

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(Photographed above: Red Heart Super Saver on the Left, Mainstays Yarn on the Right)


Soft but Found

The Mainstays definitely has a soft touch, but, like I mentioned earlier, it tends to lack that feeling of volume when you want something thick and warm or heavy such as a nice blanket, a winter hat, or a scarf, but it has decent softness nonetheless.

I found Mainstays Basic Yarns located ONLY in the Wal-Mart stores. Red Heart Yarns are available in, not only Wal-Mart, but several other craft stores, AND conveniently able to be ordered online. This is important for many who love the ease of online shopping or are unable to get to stores or choose not to shop at large retail shops such as Wal-Mart.

Another fact that I find important point to bring up, is that all Mainstays yarn products are made in China whereas the Red Heart Yarns are ALWAYS made in the USA. To many, this is a VERY important detail to consider when purchasing.

Shrinking options

I made two swatches out of both brands of yarn. I washed each swatch and noticed a slight bit of shrinking in the Mainstays yarn. You will need to keep that in mind when using this brand in sizing your projects. You may get more in a skein yet you may need to use more length in certain projects to adjust for shrinkage. I observed that both fibers have the same amount of stretch to them. I also noticed quite a bit of pilling with the Mainstays Basic Yarn with fuzziness as compared to the Red Heart Super Saver swatch. The Red Heart Super Saver block was also softer after one wash.

(Photo was taken after washed)

(Photo was taken after washed)

It took a while, but my local Wal-Mart recently started stocking this Mainstays yarn product on their shelves this past week; I noticed they are offering an assortment of basic solids in a rainbow of colors. The colors run similar to some of the Red Heart Super Saver yarn hues. Red Heart Yarns offers a MUCH larger selection of color, as well as a variety of other types of yarns and products, whereas the Mainstays offer this one type of yarn. Red Heart Super Saver yarn is not dye lotted which keeps color consistent with each skein of yarn you use.  So if you buy a skein of yarn, and 2 months later need the same exact color, you won’t have to worry about it being a different shade. I do not have information if Mainstays yarn does the same thing or not.

I hope this blog helps you as you explore the similarities and differences between these two products. Because of the limitation of the Mainstays yarn, I still find myself preferring the Red Heart Super Saver when choosing an economic and quality yarn product. Have you tried these two products? Leave your thoughts in the comment section!



This post contains affiliate links, which I may be compensated for when you make a purchase. That means if you click on any link and buy from the linked websites, I will receive a small percentage of the value of your order. The amount you pay is not changed. Thank you for all your support in clicking the links in my blog!! You all are so amazing!! ~Nadia

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49 responses

  1. I am also a HUGE fan of Red Heart yarns and recently had the opportunity to try out Mainstays yarns. The price was good, however, the feel/texture of the yarns were weird. Not bad, just odd. I also noted a slight smell to the Mainstays yarn. It certainly wasn’t overwhelming and I attributed it to the dye. It worked up well for the project I was working on, but I don’t think I will purchase it again.

  2. Thank you for doing this comparison and letting us know how it went. As someone who has a husband who is often looking for the biggest bang for his buck, it will be nice to be able to tell him that this is one case where you do indeed get what you pay for. Maybe now I will be able to keep him away from the cheaper yarn.

  3. Thank you for the comparison. I also love the Red Heart and use it all the time. It is worth spending a little more to get a better outcome.

  4. Thank you for your in-depth comparison, I agree with you on all aspects of this. Mainstays is actually as warm as Red Heart when used as a hat or afghan. I’ll have to keep the shrinkage in mind because I send all I make to charities. As far as the feel, I think that is a personal preference, the mainstays feels okay to me and sometimes I think Red Heart Supersavers can be very scratchy until washed. Good review, thanks.

  5. I bought one Mainstay to try it – the brighter green. It definitely looked and felt different. I sort of doubt if I use it anymore.

  6. Thank you for the comparison. On my monitor, the Mainstay appears to be a brighter color than the Red Heart but beyond that it may not be the best choice at all. I prefer yarn that does not get fuzzy after washing. I have noticed a lot of yarns that feels less dense than they used to so that doesn’t surprise me at all.

  7. Oh My, what a great blog that you posted. It was very very informative. Thanks for taking the time to do this comparison. You always have our backs that is for sure!!!! All of us “crocheter’s” are grateful for all your patterns, etc. Feel so Blessed!

  8. I only use Red Heart yarns. I would not change because of price you are making a product for customers and they expect good quality. I would rather buy USA Yarn then China based and so would customers. I am sticking with Red Heart.

  9. Thank you for this information! I actually like Red Heart Super Saver, especially the ombre varieties I tried lately to make a mermaid blanket for a granddaughter.

  10. Thanks for the comparison. I find that yarns that get fuzzy after washing tend to pill and generally not hold up as well. If I’m using acrylic, I want it to last. Thanks again!

  11. I find I stay with the Red Heart and I try to stock up when it’s on sale. It wears like iron. I have things made with it that are 30+ years old my Grandma made that still look beautiful. If it’s not broke don’t fix it.

  12. There are two down falls to mainstay yarns…you cant order them online theu walmart.com; and you cant always get the quantity of mainstays yarn at your local walmarts.

  13. First, thank you for your article and your time for the comparison. Second I usually use Red Heart except when I’m making donations to the animal shelter. I make toys for cats so they get destroyed anyway. As for the smell, I add catnip to a lot of the pieces so I don’t think that will make a difference. If I’m making something for a gift, I will definitely use the Red Heart brand. Thanks again.

  14. This is interesting to me…years back, Walmart carried their own Mainstays yarn, but about 10 years ago or so they discontinued it, and added more Redheart to fill the gap. Now you say they’re bringing back Mainstays? I will have to keep checking the stores I go to. I think it works great for some things (more crafty type stuff).

  15. Thank you for your comparison, as I found a lot of the same things to be true about Mainstays yarn vs.Red Hearts Super Saver, before you posted this opinion. I would like to make a note that not all Red Hearts yarns are made in the USA, yes many of them are, but not all. But as you were discussing Red Heart’s Super Saver specifically in this post, Super Saver is made in the USA. I have worked with several of Red Hearts yarns, okay all of them and for the majority I love them all. It all depends on what I am making and for whom on what fibers I use. I will say I will not use Mainstays yarn past the point of my own experimentation with Mainstay as I prefer other brands, if cost becomes an issue with me I’d rather save and spend the extra 90+ cents and get what I would rather work with.

  16. Thank you for showing the comparison. I am one of HUGE fan of American Made and this just makes me an even bigger believer. I also use only on skein and not even half way through the it I had 12 of the knots through out it. Will definitely stay with Red Heart yarn.

  17. Thank you for this info. The most important part to me was the fact that Mainstay is made in China and Red Heart is made in the USA. I prefer made in America.

  18. Thanks for doing the work of comparing the two. It’s good to have all the information. But I will try to always buy American made when I can.

  19. shows that the walmart brand is more of a dk weight. sadly you get what you pay for and you will not get the correct sizing if using the thinner yarn which we all know is a no brainer. i do use some red heart but i am biased i mostly use the I Love This Yarn from Hobby Lobby. it doesn’t pill. goes on sale or i use my 40% off. yes it does cost more then red heart but the quality is better.

  20. I am 68 years old and learned to knit at 15 and am self-taught in crochet at age 17. This was in the 1960’s and Wal-Mart sold Mainstay yarn back then and discontinued the original of that yarn in the 70’s when tgey started going to mostly supercenters. At that time it was much the same type of yarn as now and I used mostly Redheart and still prefer mostly Redheart yarns for price and durability

  21. Thank you for comparisons. In regards to Mainstays being thinner & lighter how do you think it is to Caron Simply Soft as I feel it is thinner & lighter to RH. The Made in China with so many jobs outsourced and so many Americans jobless was a big eye opener I may not have thought about…Shame on you WalMart.
    Thank you again Nadia.

  22. Thank you for your in depth report on the Mainstays product vs. Red Heart Supersaver. My name is Jeff, and I have been selling fiber into the Hand Knitting Yarn Industry for nearly 30 years. I do not work for any of the major spinners, but currently sell to them all. My comments are my own. But I want to say I think a couple of your points cannot be stressed enough. The Red Heart Yarn is and has been made in America for years. I’ve been to their plants, know their employees, and understand the heritage behind the product. These imported Chinese yarns are threatening these American workers and American companies. Over the years I’ve seen hundreds of textile mills shut down as a result of cheap Chinese Imports. Other retailers like Hobby Lobby have completely done away with all American made yarns and replaced them with imported Turkish yarns. Odd that faith based company like Hobby Lobby would abandon American made products in favor of yarns made in a county like Turkey. I urge everyone reading this and following your blog to continue to support American made products and the American Hand Knitting Yarn Industry. And when you consider the imported products, please keep in mind the following:

    1) Chinese and Turkish yarn colors are not consistent lot to lot. Red Heart has always promoted “No Dye Lots” and work hard to maintain color consistency. Buy a skein of Chinese or Turkish yarns today and go back for that same color in a month or two. You’ll see the difference.

    2)American made yarns are certified by the fiber suppliers not to contain any hazardous or restricted chemicals. Each year, as their fiber supplier, I have to certify to all the American yarn companies that our fibers meet federally regulated mandates and conforms to EPA and FDA regulations. There is no similar control over yarns and fibers produced in China.

    3)American made yarns have more bulk (thats why the fill fuller) therefore have a higher value in providing more warmth and comfort in blankets and sweaters

    When you buy American made yarns, you send a message to these retailers that its time to stand up for American workers and stop outsourcing to China and Turkey just to save a few cents. Ask yourself, is one American job worth $.91 cents? Thanks again and

    • Thank you so much for your informative comment. I appreciate it so much! I definitely learned quite a bit and I’m sure others will too when they read this. Your input is very valuable. I’m glad you found your way to my blog to share your insight. ~Nadia

      • Nadia, I would be happy to share more. I currently supply a large portion of the fibers used in the Hand Knitting Yarn produced in the US and Canada and have done so for nearly 30 years. I am passionate about the product and the domestic textile industry. There is really a lot more to buying American than just patriotism. There is a real difference in these yarns. The retailers are betting their consumers don’t realize the difference between the imported and domestic yarns because they can make a larger profit selling an imported yarn. And to do this, they need to keep their consumers uneducated. If I can help your followers learn more about the differences between imported yarns and those made by American or Canadian companies, please feel free to ask. Keep up the good work!

      • Definitely, thanks for letting me know. I will keep that in mind. I appreciate all your information. I will contact you if I have further questions. ~Nadia

  23. Thank you for the review. I have used the mainstay and the red heart yarn in the same project and noticed a definite difference in the feel and weight of the yarn. I live in a warmer climate and make quite a few baby projects for charity, so the mainstay yarn is an option for me. But like most people, I prefer the red heart.

  24. Thank you for doing this! Now I am armed with knowledge that I will use when choosing! I’d love to see more blogs like this. 🙂

  25. Thank you for this… I think the fuzz factor of the Mainstays yarn definitely makes me want to shy away from it (unless that is a specific look that I’m going for)…

  26. Main Stays is almost always sold out at my local Wal-Mart. RHSS has been increased in price from $2.88 to $2.94. The Main Stays is $1.97. I also live in a very rural area. The fibers are joined together in a strange way in the Main Stays so that techniques like the Russion Join would be difficult to utilize. I think that creatively, RHSS offers more variety because of the way the fibers are twisted compared to Main Stays. And of course, there is the colors and all that. I prefer RHSS by a mile.

  27. Being one who likes a good bargain (I’m a senior living on a very limited budget), I very much appreciate the care you took in comparing these two yarns! I will stick to the RHSS because I saw how much more the Mainstays shrunk after washing. It also looks flimsier and I can tell that I wouldn’t like the feel of it as much. You have saved me from spending time and extra money to find this out for myself! Thank you so much!!

    • Janice, just a note about that. The original Mainstays yarn you were referring to was made years ago it’s true. I was in fact very involved in developing the fibers that were used in the original Mainstays yarn and worked with the domestic spinner as they developed the original Mainstays for Wal Mart. However, there are a lot of differences between the original Mainstays and the new version. The original Mainstays Yarn was not made in China. It was made in the same mill as one of the more popular and well known yarn brands. Unfortunately I am not at liberty to say who the company was. It was made with the same fibers, using the same quality standards, and same no dye lot colors as the major brands. Basically it was the same as the major brand with a private label developed for Wall Mart. That original Mainstay yarn was discontinued because the spinner was forced to sell the yarn at a lower price even though the yarn basically cost the same to manufacture. So they could not continue to supply it at the price Wal Mart demanded and the product eventually failed. Jump forward to today. In order to avoid the cost issue of the earlier Mainstays, the product today is made by a Chinese yarn spinner specifically for the retailer. The yarn is no longer made by a domestic yarn spinner. The yarn is now made from Chinese fibers, in Chinese mills paying much lower wages to Chinese workers. The yarn is not made from “producer dyed fibers”, but is rather “yarn dyed”. These are technical terms but the net result is the new Mainstays yarn cannot have a “no dye lot” guarantee because the color of the yarn can vary from lot to lot. So be careful when using yarns from different lots to make the same project. Anyway, I just didn’t want anyone to think the Mainstays product today is anywhere near as good as the original Mainstays yarn. Keep in mind I’m not making a statement about todays Mainstay. Just pointing out there are very important differences between the original Mainstays and the Mainstays being sold today.

  28. Mainstays yarn is not new yarn. I bought Mainstays craft yarn many years ago. I still have the band, and the lovely pattern inside the band called Light and Lacy Afghan. They must have discontinued the yarn and now its making a come back for 2017.

  29. Not all red heart yarn is made in the USA. As for the mainstay it reminds me of caron simply soft as far as wright is concerned. Just a tad thinner. I’ve made an afghan and had no issues with fuzziness, shrinkage or pilling.

  30. Ok, your review states that Mainstays is a thinner yarn than Super Saver. Super Saver recommended needle size is size 8 (5mm) and Mainstays is size 9 (5.5mm) So why is Mainstays considered by you to be a thinner yarn if the manufacturer is recommended a bigger needle size? Is that to make it drape better or what? Just curious on this.

  31. I like your comparisons.
    I would also test Mainstays to see how t flame retardant they are. USA has a lot of requirements on how products are made. The smell might be from the fact that the boxes they are shipped in have to be sprayed for bugs before being Customs cleared in USA. I know, I used to work for the big W. Bug spray can cause skin irritation. The thinness is probably due to either stretching or blowing air during the spinning process. If we can purchase it for a $1.97…that tells you it had to be extremely cheap to make in order for Wal-Mart to pay for shipping & still make a profit. They are studying the the internet, to find what is selling;including the projects that are popular like the mermaids tail blankets.They steal designs & knockoffs made;which hurts our economy.
    I Will stick with RedHeart,made in the USA supports American jobs,better quality, don’t like the fact Mainstays fuzzies up so much.
    Regardless of my projects & who they go to,I want a better quality yarn to last a long time in exchange for the time & money I invested in making them. Thanks for the review. You saved a lot of time,money, & frustration on my part.😊

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