I don’t know how to make an accented “e” on my computer. That’s the sort of thing I knew how to do in college, when I was majoring in Spanish, and diacritics were a regular part of life. That was twelve years and three computers ago, so I ask you kindly to imagine an accent over the last letter of the word “Boucle” throughout this post.
I tried boucle once, ten years ago, when I was just starting to spin. It was a fit of curiosity, I guess. Apparently I did just about everything wrong: I used a merino for a wrapping thread, and chose a red core that made the whole thing look awful, and my wheel at the time was not suited to making it.
To quote myself: “The end result looks kind of like a sheep got into a fight with a sewing machine, and the sheep lost.” I never used it, but I had a lot of fun making it. This time, I wanted to do it right.
First correction: direction. If you’re a patreon of Rachel’s (at any level), you can see her beautiful boucle, and the truly obvious and brilliant method she used to make it. Watching the video, I had one of those aha moments that had me practically jumping up and down, yelling “I just have to do that?!!?!” I had used a different technique before, and the “wrap and push up” method was so simple and effective.
Second correction: The right wheel for the job! For this and for the next several yarns, I was so happy that I made the decision to invest in a bulky flyer for my Ashford Traditional.
Third correction: The right fiber. I had a couple ounces of mohair roving kicking around that turned out to be perfect for this job. Mohair or a longwool was what I wanted. It made such lovely loops.
It was super cool to spin all the parts of the boucle myself as well. I thought that was going to be really difficult, but this was not at all the case. Let me break down the process of what I did, both for my own records and for clarity, because it’s ruddy confusing.
Step 1: Spin 3/5 of fiber in the Z direction. This will be the wrapping ply, the one that makes the loops.
Step 2: Spin 2/5 of the fiber in the S direction. This will be both the core AND the binder, but there’s no need to spin them to separate bobbins since they’ll be used at different times.
(NB: I spun more like 2/3 wrapping ply and 1/3 core/binder, but ran out of binder pretty quick and had to use something else for much of it. So if I had to do it again I’d do 3/5 and 2/5.)
(NB2: Spinning the singles above resulted in a final yarn plied in the Z direction. If you want the opposite, you have to reverse the directions in all of these notes. I don’t have issues with yarn unplying when I knit so I didn’t care.)
Step 3: Going in the S direction, Spiral ply the first single around the 2nd single, pushing the wraps up as you go to create loops. Some experimentation is necessary to get the loops to look good most of the time.
Step 4: Take your bobbin that looks like a sheep, and the rest of your S-spun singles, and ply them together in the Z direction in a balanced fashion.
A couple photos ago, I showed you a particularly adorable length of perfectly spaced loops, but most of my boucle did not look like that. There were a lot of loops that were too big and pigtailed back on themselves. You can see some of that in the third picture in this post.
Oh dear me that was fun to make.
In the 51 Yarns book, Jacey Boggs Faulkner mentioned a boucle jacket worn by the likes of Princess Diana and Beyonce. Even the mention of such a thing captivated my imagination. The images that came up when I googled did not fit my fantasy, so I won’t bother you with them, but I had to see this fabric woven up. This is how I discovered that in a pinch, you can borrow your daughters’ loop loom and pretend it’s a pin loom.
I didn’t do a wonderful job weaving, but I rather love this. The open weave behind the loops adds a sense of order to the chaos. It would be overmuch for a jacket, I guess, but it’s tempting.
Of course I had to knit it as well, which was kind of intense.
I was introduced to boucle by my mother, who hates it. Understandably: it snags on absolutely everything, making it extremely finicky to knit or pin-loom weave with (it’d be fine as weft on a standard loom though). But I think there’s just nothing like boucle. I have an affection for it that makes perfect sense to me, right up until I try to explain it. It’s just so pretty! It makes a fabric that I’d put on if I wanted to dress up as a really glamorous Wensleydale for Halloween. Which I would totally do. Wouldn’t you?