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What are the Different Types of Novelty Yarns?

By Greer Hed
Updated May 16, 2024
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The term novelty yarn is usually used to describe a kind of yarn that has an unusual texture or other unique features. Most are made of synthetic fibers, like nylon or polyester, but there are other types that are composed of all natural fibers like wool or cotton. Eyelash yarn, bouclé yarn, ribbon yarn, and ladder yarn are all novelty yarns that have unique textures. Self-striping yarn is a type that is dyed so it creates stripes of color when knit, crocheted, or woven.

Eyelash yarns, also called fun fur, are made of polyester fiber with a furry texture resembling eyelashes. These yarns are made of a thin central ply surrounded by short "hairs." They come in a wide range of colors, with the "hairs" sometimes being made of multicolored or metallic fibers. Garments made from this type of yarn have a soft, furry texture that obscures individual knit or crochet stitches, making it a good choice for a beginning fiber artist who wishes to hide dropped stitches or other mistakes. Eyelash yarn lends itself well to simple stitch patterns, so one of the most common projects to craft from it is a simple scarf that resembles a feather boa.

Bouclé yarns feature a nubby, bumpy texture. They can be made of any type of fiber and are usually composed of three plies, or strands, wrapped around each other. The bumpy texture is created by spinning one of the three plies more loosely than the other two. This single loose ply can often start to unravel while knitting or crocheting, causing the whole strand to split and snag on the knitting needles or crochet hook. Fiber artists who choose to create projects in bouclé must therefore use extra care to ensure the high quality of the finished product.

A ribbon yarn resembles ribbon. It is often made from synthetic fibers and tends to have great elasticity. Some varieties are flat, while others are tubular. Both types can be used to create garments with lots of stretch and give.

Ladder yarn resembles a ladder, with two flat threads representing the two sides of the ladder held together by a strip of material between them that represents the rungs. The material at the center can be metallic, beaded, or otherwise adorned. This type of yarn is more often used to create trim or embellishments than to knit or crochet entire garments.

Self-striping yarn is strategically dyed with long repeats of color that naturally create stripes. It may be made of any fiber or blend of fibers, and is most often used for making handknit socks.

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Discussion Comments
By Mykol — On Nov 13, 2012

I love working with just about any kind of novelty yarn. You can make so many fun and interesting things with these yarns. I get bored with the same old scarves, hats and socks and like things that have more pizazz to them.

I taught a group of girls how to crochet and we used the fun fur to make boa scarves. This yarn comes in so many bright colors that they had a blast making these scarves.

I also love using bulky yarns to make sweaters and afghans. I can get a project done so much faster when I use a bulky yarn like this and I also love the feel of the yarn.

By golf07 — On Nov 13, 2012

I found the fun fur yarn very hard to work with. Even though it might hide mistakes, I think it is too hard to actually see what you are doing. I would not recommend working with this yarn if someone is just beginning to learn how to knit or crochet.

I have been knitting for several years and found myself getting frustrated using this yarn, so can only imagine how someone just learning would feel. The yarn also seems to unravel very easily and I had a hard time working with it. I ended up giving the yarn to my nieces to use for craft projects.

By bagley79 — On Nov 12, 2012

I have a tried a few of the different fancy yarns, but find myself always going back to the traditional yarns. It is fun to try something new and different every once in awhile but I have a whole closet full of yarn that I need to use up. I have a bad habit of buying some every time I see a sale, and I have more yarn than I will probably ever use. I like to crochet lap afghans for people in nursing homes and find that the plain old yarn is what works best for everyone.

By Monika — On Aug 29, 2012

@strawCake - I know a lot of people who would feel that way. I find that in the knitting community, there's been a real backlash against novelty yarns over the last few years!

A lot of people turn their noses up at eyelash and ladder yarns, and go for only natural fibers instead. These people proudly call themselves "yarn snobs" and sometimes turn their noses up at knitters who use other kinds of yarn.

I think the whole thing is a bit ridiculous! You should knit with whatever yarn makes you happy.

By strawCake — On Aug 28, 2012

I never would have thought to consider self-striping yarn a novelty yarn! I've used self-striping bulky yarn to make a few sweaters, and I didn't think there was anything very novel about it. Maybe because it's so popular now?

By KaBoom — On Aug 27, 2012

@SZapper - I see what you're saying, but I know a ton of people who started out knitting those scarves out of fun fur discount yarn. Those scarves were really popular at one point, and they got a lot of people knitting!

I personally never saw the lure of fun fur yarn. I don't think I could ever bring myself to knit a whole garment out of it! However, I did use it as edging for a Christmas stocking I made for my nephew. I doubled it with a strand of regular non-novelty yarn, and it's held up pretty well over the years.

By SZapper — On Aug 27, 2012

I've been knitting for quite awhile, and I've worked with eyelash acrylic yarn once or twice. I have to say, I don't think it's a very good choice for a beginning knitter. It's really hard to see your stitches, so how can you learn? I would save eyelash yarn for after you at least know the basics of the craft.

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