Weaving yarn is usually smooth, strong, and easily threaded through the heddles of your floor loom or rigid heddle loom. These types of yarns can make a great choice for your warp (depending on what you are creating).
Weft yarns, on the other hand, can be pretty much anything – even a material that is not considered yarn!
So what if you have an untraditional yarn that you want to use (especially for warp)?
You know, the fluffy, funky, and/or mixed yarns that you find that have so much personality?
Those are novelty yarns.
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What are novelty yarns?
Novelty yarns are really any yarn that uses inconsistent textures, and thickness, or those that use “unconventional” materials.
While slub yarn can be a conventional yarn (think of the gist Mallo yarn – one of my favorites!) it can also be considered a novelty yarn – especially when its slubs are very exaggerated. Think very thick and very thin sections.
They are often considered knitting or crochet yarn since their irregularities would generally make them unsuitable for warp. (Not all the time though! We will talk about that soon)
These yarns are often found either on skeins or in balls/ cakes and work very well for weft since your weft yarn does not have to be under any tension or go through your reeds and heddles.
A lot of novelty yarns will contain multiple types of yarns spun together to make a chunky multi-textured finished yarn. Due to this, a lot of times these novelty yarns are made with synthetic materials like acrylic and natural synthetics like rayon.
This is not necessarily an issue, but it should be a consideration!
Where to buy them
Novelty yarns can be bought pretty much anywhere – including your local craft store. Since they are most often knitting or crochet yarns these are usually the majority of what is sold at stores like Michaels and Joann.
Since Etsy is basically an international marketplace you have so many different options when you look through what they are offering.
When looking for a novelty yarn on Etsy you might want to consider searching for:
While not necessarily novelty yarns, handspun yarns tend to have more texture and personality than other yarns since they are not commercially made. This can be a great option if you want a novelty yarn made from more natural materials.
Again, all of these may not be a “novelty” yarn, but you will find some yarns here that have intentional inconsistencies that you may find work really well for the project that you are planning.
This is a great option because the idea here is that this yarn is “artsy” or out of the ordinary. This search option usually brings up some really fun options.
If you are looking on another site you might need to look under the knitting or crochet yarn categories in order to find what you are looking for. More than likely these sites will not have a category for novelty yarns on their own. In this case, you will just need to search through the knitting and crochet yarns for fun finds.
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An important thing to keep in mind when you are purchasing these novelty art yarns (or really any yarn) is to pay attention to the amount of yarn you are purchasing.
This may seem obvious, but skein sizes are not regulated. You may think you are getting a really good deal with that $12 dollar skein, but it turns out it is only 1 yard of yarn! Maybe that is ok, but if you need more than that, you may be sorely disappointed.
Especially with any handspun yarn, there is a chance that the amount you receive will be different than you may expect. So always make sure to look at the description when you are purchasing.
What you can do with novelty yarns
The simplest way to use novelty yarns is as your weft. They are great as accents in your weavings with more conventional yarns being the main foundation. This allows you to have an easily weavable piece with extra interest in certain areas (or as the entire weft if you want!)
These yarns are great for use in wearable weavings like scarves and shawls because they are decorative in nature. They are not recommended for more functional weavings like towels because they may not function the same way as the other materials. If you are interested in doing a project like that then ALWAYS SAMPLE FIRST.
Whenever you are trying out a new yarn that you are not sure of, it is always best to do a sample! This will allow you to experience how it weaves, how it washes, and how it behaves once finished.
Especially with something like a novelty yarn that you will (most likely) be combining with a more conventional yarn it will allow you to observe how they interact with each other once woven. This can either confirm you are on the right track or help you find a new direction to go.
Some other options are to use your novelty yarns as your fringe on a scarf or other weaving or for texture and emphasis in a tapestry! For fringe, you can always add it outside of your normal warp fringe by using rya knots at the start of your weaving.
How to use novelty yarns for warp on a rigid heddle
Outside of using a simple frame loom, it can be difficult to use novelty yarns for your warp. This is because they are usually chunky and therefore do not fit into your reed or heddle.
On a simple frame loom, as long as the yarn is strong enough – you can use it as warp! You get to space your warps manually since they do not have to fit into any notches or slots.
Simple frame looms are great, but what if you want to weave with a novelty yarn on a rigid heddle loom?
The best way to do this would be to either have a heddle that will fit your chunky yarn (this may be difficult – but not impossible) or to use a variable dent heddle.
The variable dent heddle is a really great option because you can use both chunky yarns and thinner yarns mixed together. If you want to use your novelty yarn as an accent yarn then this type of heddle is a great option for this.
Many of the big manufacturers make a variable dent heddle (called the weaver’s choice heddle by Kromski) so regardless of the loom you have, this could be an option for you!
In case you do not know what a variable dent heddle is:
A variable dent heddle is a rigid heddle that allows you to open it up and insert sections of differently spaced dents. Since you are using sections of heddle instead of one long heddle, you can add an extra space between these sections for your novelty yarn!
This novelty yarn will work in this way because you will basically be using that space as a slot in the heddle and it will behave this way!
Keep in mind that you probably will not be able to use the novelty yarn in the eye of the heddle as well. This means you will have 1 warp of novelty yarn at a time and not a pair.
In order to keep the space between the sections open for the yarn, I wrapped some rubber bands around the top bar of the heddle. This will be easy to remove when I am finished, but also keep everything in place while weaving! You can also purchase extra retainer rings that will do the same thing and look a little nicer.
Most importantly, if you decide to play with novelty yarns then have fun! They are such a great way to add something extra to your weavings and to play around with color and texture.