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What Is Novelty Yarn?

By Bronwyn Harris
Updated May 16, 2024
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Knitters know that there are as many different kinds of yarn as there are types of knitters. Some yarn is simple and durable, other yarn is meant to make a statement. Novelty yarn is a relatively new trend that has enabled a variety of new looks for knitters who prefer to depart from traditional yarn. Generally, this yarn involves a strand or two of "normal" yarn combined, often by twisting, with something else to create a more interesting color pattern or texture. The most common types of novelty yarn are bouclé yarn, eyelash yarn, ladder yarn, self-striping yarn, and ribbon yarn.

  • Bouclé yarn, also known as flammé or textured yarn, looks more fluffy than most regular yarn. A strand or two, sometimes more, of regular yarn are twisted together with another kind of yarn, often one of a different width or different appearance. This texture is then made more interesting by having the tension on one of the strands be tighter as the yarn is spun. Yarns of this type usually involve multiple strands of plainer yarn that have been twisted together with something else to make an interesting texture. Because of the differing tension on the different strands of yarn, bouclé yarn appears fluffy and bumpy, and is often used for sweaters.

  • Eyelash yarn usually appears hairy or furry. When a garment is knitted from this type of novelty yarn, it can have a faux fur kind of appearance. Eyelash yarns are usually made of polyester, with short, thin hairs that are reminiscent of eyelashes. The "eyelashes" can be curly, metallic, of one length, or of different lengths. Eyelash yarn is generally used for trim on garments, or for small items, such as scarves, as it can cause larger garments to look bulky and heavy.

  • Ladder yarn is a novelty yarn that resembles a ladder. Two thin threads support repeating stripes of material, resulting in a "ladder" or "railroad track" appearance. Ladder yarn is often metallic, and is rarely used alone to make up the bulk of the garment, but instead, used as trim or in conjunction with a plainer yarn.

  • Self-striping yarn has a sequence of colors, with the color repeats being long enough to create stripes. If the knitter follows the set pattern, with the correct number of stitches and the correct gauge, the stripes will form themselves during knitting. Self-striping yarn is popular for people knitting socks, but can also be used for sweaters and other garments knit in the round.

  • Ribbon yarn is a type of yarn that resembles ribbon, but with more give and stretch. They can be wide or narrow, flat or tubular, and can provide good stretch to a garment.

Novelty yarn is a fun tool for experienced and beginning knitters alike. Local yarn shops as well as online outlets carry a large variety of novelty yarn to make any project unique and memorable.

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Discussion Comments
By watson42 — On Feb 06, 2011

I like the the idea of novelty yarn, but it doesn't seem practical for most of the sweaters and other wardrobe pieces I want to make. Unless you are trying to make specifically made for novelty yarn patterns, it can be a hassle to make it work and take too much time.

By hyrax53 — On Feb 03, 2011

I have tried to use many kinds of novelty yarn, including mohair yarn, boucle, and other kinds. Generally trying to follow a yarn pattern with one of these types is way more frustrating than it's worth, at least in my view. These days I tend to use bulky yarn more than anything.

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