Year of Cotton Bouclé

This past year, I joined a cotton fiber club from HipStrings.com. Jill Duarte does some amazing color work in her custom dyeing, and she’s always had a passion for cotton. Because I LOVE to spin cotton, this was a great fit for me. But, one thing that I am always surprised about is that when you spin a singles yarn and then ply it to itself to make a 2-ply yarn, that beautiful color work never stays as clear and vibrant.

So I decided to learn to make cotton bouclé yarn. I’ve seen it commercially used for weaving, so why not try to make it by hand. I watched several interweave Press videos by teachers like Judith MacKenzie and Sarah Anderson, just to mention a couple of the big ones, and got the basic idea.

What happened was truly a wonder. 1) I made a lot of cotton bouclé yarn (well over 2,000 yards); 2) I wove with my handspun cotton bouclé yarn; 3) I learned that when finishing a handspun cotton bouclé, if your threads are spaced too far apart, your lovely bubbles may turn into little “twisties” rather than loops; and 4) I learned that it is a VERY time-consuming process to make this kind of yarn, although the results are gorgeous.

Here’s some of what I spun and wove:

First attempt, not dense enough for my taste

That’s more like it

Two different methods. Left side is pushing more loops as you make the first ply. I think Sarah Anderson uses this method. On the right is less dense, with less loops, so that when you do the 2nd plying, you don’t get as many bubbles. That’s what Judith MacKenzie seemed to suggest.

Now I’m getting the hang of it. Time to weave.

The second half of the year’s colors were amazing, too.

“I’m ready for my close-up”

Quite a journey. But I’ll say, having done this, that it’s what I call “gymnastic spinning” because, other than the first step, you have to hold a thread tightly with one hand, and hold the colorful yarn at an almost perpendicular angle with the other hand, while pushing loops up with the…first hand (I was going to say, the 3rd hand, but that would be silly). The same kind of gymnastics happens when you ply again for the final step. The first yarn with all the loops is held at that same angle to another thread that is held tightly. This final step is what is pictured above and it is what locks those loops in place so they don’t slide around. Whew!

I’m ready for some boring, basic spinning in 2019. I’m still going to participate in the cotton club, but I’ll try a different technique, thank you. Excellent learning experience.

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