Bouclé (boo-clay) is another one of those terms like jacquard and dobby, although in this case it refers to a yarn and the fabric made from it. Bouclé yarn features many small loops along its length, so when it’s woven into fabric, the fabric has an uneven, belooped surface. It is not a piled fabric, like terrycloth and I wouldn’t try to use bouclé fabric as a towel. As there’s a lot of room for creativity when making bouclé yarn, the resulting fabric can vary, too. I’ve seen bouclé that seems to merely have a soft and “loose” surface (somewhat of an illusion) but not very “loopy” to massively loopy and relatively dense. Even lightweight bouclé is warm to wear. Bouclé yarn can be woven or knitted into fabric. Knitted bouclé has more drape to it than its woven counterpart, but the woven type is stronger.
It has a soft hand and it’s a popular choice for ladies’ suits and jackets and for soft-sided accessories. I can’t look at it without thinking of Jacqueline Onassis in the 1960s. In the Harry Potter films, Dolores Umbridge’s wardrobe featured a lot of bouclé fabric. It’s got a groovy retro vibe to it, so that’s how I’m inclined to use it. Bouclé can be made with pure wool, wool blends, acrylic and acrylic blends. Prices vary according to fiber and purpose. I’ve encountered 100% acrylic bouclé for as little as $10/yd. Meanwhile, the seriously high-end pure-wool decorator variety can be priced at $100/yd – or even higher. Sewing it can be challenging because of all those loops. A walking foot is very useful. Some seamsters swear by a zig-zag stitch for sewing it, or else a short straight-stitch. You don’t want to use this for complicated garments with fiddly bits to them – think unstructured jackets and pencil skirts.
Cleaning it depends on the component fibers and how ‘loopy’ it is. I wouldn’t want to risk those loops getting caught up in the washer, so I’d hand wash bouclé whereever possible, and lay it flat to dry – unless it’s a fiber that can stand low heat in the dryer. Use a regular sharp needle and all-purpose thread.