Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Crocheting With Bouclé Yarn

I posted this picture of my crocheted "Santa Hat" on my Flickr page and I received these questions, "What kind of yarn did you use? Does it stretch (on the doll it looks like that)? Wouldn't that be hard to crochet?" So I decided that Crocheting With Bouclé Yarn would make a good topic for today.

*The term bouclé is derived from the French word boucler, which means “to curl.” This term perfectly describes some variations of bouclé yarn, which contain distinctive ringlet curls. Bouclé yarn is a specialized type of yarn that is usually made of three plies. Among the three plies used to create boucle yarn, one thread is usually looser than the others. The looser thread within the bouclé yarn causes the yarn to have a rough feeling and a bulky look.

How stretchy a yarn may be is partly determined by what it's made from. This hat is made from an acrylic which really has little stretch to it. Also, the fact that it is crocheted is a straight back and forth half double crochet stitch also limits the stretch factor. If it were knitted or crocheted using a rib stitch, it would have more stretch. I'm not say that it has no give at all, but I don't think it would be fair to define this hat as stretchy.

Is it hard to work with? Well, it's a little more challenging. I would not recommend it for a beginner. I think it helps to have a few projects under your belt before you break into using boucles or novelty yarns. The texture of bouclé makes it harder to see your stitches. If you are an experienced crocheter, you are used to going by feel and muscle memory. The hook just seems to find its own way across the row. If you are still really searching for where to insert your hook, boucle yarn may be a little frustrating.

Here are three pics to helps illustrate what I just said. For the sake of comparison, I have a basic worsted weight yarn on the bottom row. The first picture shows just a single strand of both yarns. In the second picture I have made a basic chain. Already, I'm sure you can see how much harder it is to make out the stitches in the bouclé. In the last picture I have done just one row of single crochet so you can begin to see how it works up. The stitches look much more defined in the worsted weight, however the bouclé is loaded with texture.

The other thing about bouclé yarn that can present a challenge, is that it doesn't always pull out easily. The texture can sort of get caught up and, if you're not careful, form a knot. So it can be a little harder to go back a row or two and fix a mistake.

So why use bouclé? Well, the very thing that makes it harder to work with, the texture, also makes for a really nice looking and feeling finished product. It's so wonderful next to your skin. The little lumps and curls make it lofty and soft. Also, sometimes it's nice to have a finished piece where the stitches are less defined. When you look at it, you don't immediately think that's crocheted or that's knitted, you see the piece first. How it was made becomes more of an afterthought.

So there are my thoughts for crocheting with bouclé. Oh, one last thing, it can be a little easier to start off a project with bouclé if you use a foundation stitch.

Thanks to * for their definition and origin of bouclé.

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