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What are the Different Types of Specialty Yarn?

By Mandi Rogier
Updated Feb 06, 2024
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Specialty yarns are twisted threads used for knitting or crochet that have a unique quality to them. These specialty yarns have colors or textures that are typically very different from the traditional monotone wool yarn most commonly used for craft projects. Some vendors may also refer to these as novelty yarns; the distinction between the terms novelty and specialty as they apply to yarns are not well defined.

Crafters looking for a unique texture for their projects can select a specialty yarn that will provide a fluffy, furry, silky, or bumpy finish. Eyelash yarn, so named for the plethora of short threads sticking out from the central yarn of this selection, is a popular choice for a faux fur look. Boucle offers another distinctly textured finish. This yarn is composed of a series of small loops. For a smoother finish, ribbon yarn can be used. This is a flat, thin yarn with the appearance of thick ribbon.

While these types of specialty yarn can produce beautiful results, they can be difficult to use for beginners who need to clearly see each stitch in order to follow the pattern. Thick-thin yarn may be slightly easier to use. This yarn varies in thickness throughout to produce a bumpy finish. Chenille is a particularly soft yarn that is still smooth and therefore easier to work with.

The easiest choice for beginning crafters is a specialty yarn that varies in color, but still has the standard even consistency of regular yarn. Tweed yarn contains flecks of different colors against a solid background color. Heather yarn is a muted color composed of a variety of similar shades. Variegated yarn gradually progresses from one color to another, or through various shades of the same color.

Organic, or natural, yarn is another type of specialty yarn. This product is typically made from wool that has not been treated with any chemicals either in the growing process or on the finished product. These yarns are popular for baby items or clothing for those with sensitive skin. The specific methods of growth and cultivation of organic yarn vary from one company to the next.

Specialty yarns of varying textures and colors can be found online from wholesale yarn vendors or at craft stores. Because some specialty yarns are more difficult to find than standard yarn varieties, crafters may need to special order the number of skeins needed for the project to ensure matching lot numbers.

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Discussion Comments
By Mae82 — On Nov 15, 2011

One of the best speciality yarns you can pick up is hand dyed yarn. Usually your best bet to get this cheaply is to find it at a craft show or farmer's market. I have actually seen stalls where people were weaving yarn to make fantastic creations. I was pretty amazed that people were actually still doing this, as I had thought for sure this would have gone entirely over to machines by now.

Also, if you are looking for a yarn that comes in a variety of really funky patterns I would try regia yarn. It has a simple feel to it but the dye job on this kind of yarn puts it firmly in the specialty category.

By Sara007 — On Nov 14, 2011

@manykitties2 - I would definitely stick to yarn with a uniform texture if you are a beginner. I tried making a scarf out of some fancy yarn that looked like feathers and it was a bit of a disaster without a solid structure to work from.

Some of my favorite types of specialty yarns for a beginner are aran yarn, which has a nice medium weight and angora yarn, which while soft to the touch is still solid enough to work with if you get a good weight.

I think that you should feel really confident with the more simple specialty yarns before trying to move onto anything that is really heavily textured or overrun with things like beads and threads.

By manykitties2 — On Nov 13, 2011

Can anyone tell me some good specialty yarns to use as a beginner?

I am fairly competent at making things like scarves and gloves with simple yarn, but would like to start working with new textures. I currently have some gorgeous handspun yarn, that is a bit fuzzier than what I usually work with, but any other ideas would be welcome.

I've seen some berroco yarn with a really interesting uneven knit to it and think it looks like a lot of fun to use. Though I am worried that it may end up being really hard to work with.

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