Skip to content

To me working with novelty yarns is like visiting a playground—these yarns are fun and sometimes a little silly. Remember that feeling when it was time for recess?

I grabbed six yarns that looked like fun (at my LYS Spun in Ann Arbor, Michigan—Sa-lute!), I took them apart to study them, and then I knit them into swatches. I had an inkling of what would happen in each case, but there were plenty of surprises. 

Come on, it’s time for recess—I’ll race you to the playground.

Look at these yarns they are so much fun—wiggly, squishy-looking, soft, and 100% peculiar in the best way.

What makes each one of these yarns unique is how they are manipulated when they are plied or constructed. You can see it when you look at individual strands—there are loops, different sized threads, squiggles, and fuzz.

I took them all apart so you can see how they are built. I never get tired of the voyage of discovery that is picking apart yarns. I know I can make these yarns on my spinning wheel, but it amazes me what big commercial spinning and twisting machines can do.

Buckle Up

Pirouette (Berroco)—Left

Fiber: 41% Baby Alpaca, 41% Merino Wool, 18% Nylon

Spin: Worsted

Ply: 6, manipulated

Recommended Gauge: 15 stitches to 4” on US 8/5mm 

Size: Bulky

Yardage: 140 yards / 50 grams (1.75 ounces)

Grist for a plain XL sweater (1,000 yards): 12.5 ounces

Flette Bulky (Woolfolk)—Right

Fiber: 100% Ovis 21 Ultimate Merino®

Spin: Worsted

Ply: 2, manipulated

Recommended Gauge: 10–12 stitches to 4” on US 10 or 11/6–8mm

Size: Bulky

Yardage: 131 yards / 120 meters / 100 grams (3.5 ounces)

Grist for a plain XL sweater (800 yards): 21 ounces

Both yarns are called bouclé, which is French for “buckle.” They have two things in common: their strands aren’t the same size, and they are plied using uneven tension. Most commercial yarns are plied with all plies under the same amount of tension; this helps to create the smoothness we love.

The one on the left is Pirouette, and is made up of three pairs of plies, six plies total. You can see that each pair is made up of a thin smooth yarn and a thicker fuzzier yarn. The thicker yarn is plied onto the thin yarn in a motion that creates tiny loops. The three pairs are then plied together to lock those loops into place. Both the looping and the pairing create a lot of space and air in the yarn.

Flette Bulky is made of two strands of very different sizes, one smooth and thread-fine and one lofty and close to worsted weight. The strands are plied at extremely different tensions, the finer thread is held taunt and the fluffy strand is spiraled around it at a looser tension. When hand spinners make a yarn similar to this it’s called a spiral ply. This type of ply structure allows the softer strand to bloom and buckle.

Break the Chainettes

Luft (Woolfolk)—Left

Fiber: 55% Ovis 21 Ultimate Merino® and 45% Organic Pima Cotton

Spin: Worsted

Ply: Chainette / fleece blown in

Recommended Gauge: 14–11 stitches to 4” on US 10 or 11 / 6–8 mm

Size: Bulky

Yardage: 109 yards / 50 gram (1.75 ounces)

Grist for a plain XL sweater (900 yards): 14 ounces

Far (Woolfolk)—Right

Fiber: 100% Ovis 21 Ultimate Merino®

Spin: Worsted

Ply: Chainette

Recommended Gauge: 16–17.5 stitches to 4” on  US 6–8 / 4–5 mm

Size: Worsted

Yardage: 142 yards / 50 grams (1.75 ounces)

Grist for a plain XL sweater (1,400 yards): 17 ounces

Luft on the left is a crazy fun construction; I’m it seeing a lot more in commercial yarn. It’s made up of a tube of fine chainette (resembling i-cord) that’s filled with fiber. The fiber is blown in, like filling a stuffie at Build-a Bear. This creates a thicker yarn that is remarkably light, and also fuzzy.

Far is chainette too, but it’s made from a thicker strand, and the tube is not filled. Knit up, it has an interesting texture and is also light.

Of Crepes and Corsets

Nest (Shibui)—Left

Fiber: 75% Fine Highland Wool, 25% Alpaca

Spin: Worsted, manipulated

Ply: 3

Recommended Gauge: 20–22 stitches = 4″ on 6 US / 4mm

Size: DK

Yardage: 175 yds / 160 m, 1.76 oz / 50g

Grist for a plain XL sweater (1,500 yards): 15 ounces

Caracol (Malabrigo)—Right

Fiber: 100% superwash Merino

Spin: worsted, manipulated

Ply: 3

Recommended Gauge: 9 stitches to 4 inches on US 13–19 or 9–15mm

super bulky

Yardage: 90 yards / 150 grams (5.3 ounces)

Grist for a plain XL sweater (650 yards): 38 ounces

Surprise! These two yarns are made exactly the same way. I wanted to show the difference size makes—Nest is a DK and Caracol is a super bulky.

In the spinning world, this yarn is a called a bubble crepe, and some folks call it a corset yarn (because of how a larger ply is squeezed with the criss-crosses—spinners are fun!). A bubble crepe is made of three plies—two fine threads and one bigger, looser spun yarn. In the case of Caracol the bigger yarn is thick and thin, giving more texture.

The bigger yarn and one thread are plied tightly in one direction, and then that tightly plied 2-ply yarn is plied again with the second thread in the opposite direction from the original ply. The change in direction loosens the first tighter ply, allowing the bigger yarn to fluff while the fine threads burrow into the fluff giving it a captured (corseted) texture.

I know, I know, you want to see what they look like knit!

In the MDK Shop
An elegantly engineered and expertly stitched tote handmade for us by Ellen Schiller. 100% Cotton and machine washable. A wonder to behold and to hold your WIP.

Jillian’s Swatch Funhouse

How many times have you picked up one of these funky yarns in the store and put it back because you had no idea what it would look like knitted? I am here for you; I knit all six in my usual array of stockinette, lace, and texture stitches.

From Left to Right: Luft (Black), Far (Gold), and Nest (Olive)

I knit these all at their suggested gauge, but all of these yarns can absolutely shift gauge. You might be inclined to knit these tighter than the label calls for, but I caution against that. Every single one of these six yarns uses air as an important component—if you knit tighter (and that’s easy to do), you’ll be squeezing the air out, losing the integral puffy and airy texture.

However, because of that air and how the yarns are structured to hold themselves open to maximize the air, these yarns can be delightful knit at a looser-than-suggested gauge.

From Left to Right: Flette bulky (Gray), Pirouette (Ecru), and Caracol (Green Multi)

Because these yarns are soft, looser spun, and knit at a relaxed gauge they are not super-durable yarns, and may be quick to pill if subjected to abrasion. Some yarns are so fuzzy and textured you may not notice the pilling.

The looser gauge these yarns call for could also make them prone to snag. While I would absolutely make an everyday wear sweater out of most of these yarns, I wouldn’t wear the sweater to work in my fall garden.

How about those stitch patterns? These yarns have so much character, some patterns are hard to recognize.

The personality of each of the yarns shines through the best in plain stockinette. Each has a distinct texture.  I wet blocked and pinned, and they still want to do their own thing.

I was surprised that Nest and Far weren’t smoother, but not surprised that the Caracol didn’t want to lie perfectly flat. With the three fuzzier yarns, Luft, Flette Bulky and Pirouette, I can see how their looser gauge gets filled with the fuzz and texture of the yarn, adding to the overall structure of the fabric.

Halo fuzz makes the most basic eyelet impossible to see. Those free-fluffing threads just fill up the holes. The Caracol’s varied colorway, and additional thick and thin texture eat up the lace pattern. The stitch pattern swatch of Nest, however, is visible if not clear—Nest has the same construction as Caracol, but less variation in color and texture. In fact, I really like the extra texture and movement Nest gives the eyelet pattern, it looks similar to tufted upholstery. Far, too, gives the stitch pattern a little extra textural oomph that I like.

My biggest surprise with cables is how well they stand up with Luft. I have a huge crush on this yarn knit into cables. Pirouette and Flette Bulky don’t stand up to cables, they make flat cables from a stitch definition point of view, and the busy-ness  of the yarn construction overpowers the cables. The rest of the yarns make visible and unique cables. I’m sure the color contributes to it, but the Far in cables looks like it should be part of Viking armor.

These yarns can’t be subbed in for many regular knitting yarns. They do best in simple garments and with plainer stitch patterns, since they are quick to obscure fancier stitches. The time it takes to find the perfect pattern-yarn match is worth every minute—and a lot of fun.

This Could Come in Handy

Here’s how to save this article in your MDK account with one click.

About The Author

Jillian Moreno spins, knits and weaves just so she can touch all of the fibers. She wrote the book Yarnitecture: A Knitter’s Guide to Spinning: Building Exactly the Yarn You Want so she could use all of the fiber words. Keep up with her exploits at


  • Hi – loved this article, just needed to point out that the primary meaning of ‘bouclé’ isn’t ‘buckle’ (in fact, in this form it doesn’t mean ‘buckle’ at all, as it’s in the past tense, so it is ‘buckled’ in the sense of ‘distorted’).
    As an adjective – which is it’s form when applied to yarns – it is better understood by its primary meaning of ‘looped’, ‘loopy’, or ‘curly’ as in curly hair. This is a better way to understand the use of it in the context of bouclé yarns…they are full of loops of strands, that give them (and the resulting fabric) a curly, tousled effect.

    • Thank you! I never liked the translation as buckled, I like this much, much more.

  • I wanna play with Jillian at recess everyday ! Btw, what is Ovis 21 Ultimate Merino?

  • Great article! By the way, I was at Spun yesterday. Really nice LYS.

    • What time? I was there around 2 buying dpns.

  • I kind of like the way the cables look subtle in the boucle yarns, especially the pirouette. I’ll be on the lookout for Luft- I knit a similarly constructed yarn, but without the primo fibers, into a sweater and I was blown away by how light it was and how warm. Thank you for taking us to the playground- it’s wonderful to see it through your eyes!

  • In my very beginning days I knit a couple of awful things with novelty yarn and I know where they are now, probably Goodwill. But I was totally new to knitting I think that I would give it a try again

  • Thanks Jillian! I was fascinated by this de-construction, analysis, explanation, and especially your good photos. I learned so much. I love seeing your good detail. AND it was fun!

  • Great article, Jillian! I tend to stay away from novelty yarns for the reason you mentioned – what to make with them? (Also, too many faux fur scarf projects in the 90s.) Another really nice chainette with the floof blown in is Katia Wool Merino. I made a long cardigan with it that I loved, but was too small for me. My mother in law is now enjoying it!

    • Katia also has a cotton-merino that is fab. A sweater is some serious m-i-l points!

  • This is a great comparison of these interesting yarns. What were they like to actually knit with though? I steer clear of novelty yarns usually, because I find them awful to knit with, particularly eyelash and buckle. In my experience they’ve been awkward to knit with, difficult to read the knitted fabric when looking for a mistake, and with a tendency to come apart if you have to rip rows out. Is that just because the ones I’ve tried have been cheap acrylic?

    • None of these were hard to rip out, and none were sticky on the needles. The boucle loops aren’t big enough to get snagged on the needles either. Reading the knitting is still a challenge because of all of the texture – I use a bright light and patience.

      • That’s good to know. I’ll steer clear of the cheap stuff in future. Thanks.

    • Autocorrect stitched me up there on the word boucle. Naughty because I did go back and change it once!

  • WONderful article as always. I’m a big fan of Luft and just want to say that I have a great cardigan that a) has not pilled with much wearing; and b) shows it’s yarn overs to good effect.

  • Great info as always!

  • I have been trying to figure out what the name of the type of yarn Malabrigo Caracol and Shibui Nest were and your blog post helped me immensely! Thank you <3

My Cart0
There are no products in the cart!
Continue shopping