Summer fibres: Bamboo

Bamboo is another alternative fibre that I can’t wait to work with. Other than Soy yarn though I have at least handled some bamboo blend as a friend had it in her stash. From what I remember it felt lovely, very soft and for some reason cool. Not sure what exactly I mean by that but that is he first word I associate with it.

Traditionally bamboo wasn’t turned in to yarn as the technology was not developed. But bamboo was still used in textile production predominantly fo structural support. For example, stripes of bamboo were used in hats and corsets.

How bamboo yarn is made

Bamboo is actualy a member of the grass family and can be as tall as 35 m depending in the variety. The variety used for yarn is called Moso bamboo. Bamboo is a very fast growing plant and after planting the shoots reach their full height in just 8-10 weeks. Maturity is reached in about 5 years but as mentioned bamboo is a grass and actually benefits from cutting. As bamboo belongs to the grass family no replanting is required after harvesting. Also, like grass bamboo can grow very densely which allows for a good use of land.

Generally bamboo is an easy to grow plant. As harvesting does not require the destruction of the whole plant it is a more efficient use of land and bamboo also helps with preventing soil errosion as the plants remain in the soil after harvest to continue growing unlike cotton for example. The use water for growing bamboo is also much lower than that for cotton, which is usually described as a thirsty crop.

I will talk about the most commonly used process of turning bamboo into fibres next however I would like to mention that there are other methods to do it and that there seems to be an effort in making these new process less harmful.

After harvesting bamboo is processed by crushing and then submersing the crushed pieces into a solution of sodium hydroxide which dissolves the bamboo cellulose. By adding carbon disulfide it creates a mix from which fibres can be drawn off. It is worth mentioning at this point that there is research linking both sodium hydroxide and carbon disulfide to serious health issues making this a potentially dangerous process for workers and environment in the surrounding areas it is not an ideal process.

As mentioned after the chemical process you have a mixture that is pressed through nozzles into a container of diluted sulfuric acid solution which hardens the cellulose mixture into bamboo fibre threats which are than spun into yarn.

Pros and cons

Bamboo has much more environmental friendly growing process as it uses less land, doesn’t contribute to soil erosion and uses a lower amount of water than growing cotton. Bamboo yarn is durable and has a nice silk like sheen and drape. It is an easy to wash fibre and can even go into the dryer making this an ideal option of baby and kids hand knits. Additionally, it is a hypoallergenic fibre and thus great for people with any kind of allergy looking to work with a natural, non synthetic fibre. Bamboo is also a breathable fibre which makes it a nice yarn for summer garments.

The process of turning bamboo plants into fibre involves the use of a number of harmful chemicals that have been linked to health issues if exposed too them long enough making this a process harmful to workers and the surrounding environment which makes this a not very environmentally friendly process that is also everything put sustainable.

Bamboo and Bamboo blends

As I mentioned at the start I have not knitted with bamboo yarn myself which is why this selection of yarns is a mixture of yarn that sounded like interesting and useful blends or from companies I have heard good things from.

Habu XS-24 (bamboo)

Three Irish Girls Bamboo Cotton Worsted (bamboo and cotton)

Old Maiden Aunt Merino/Bamboo 4ply

Anzula Haiku (merino, bamboo and nylon)

Bamboo Pattern ideas

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My cup of Tea Socks by Robin Lynn (merino, bamboo and nylon)

 

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Artesian by Rosemary (Romi) Hill (merino, bamboo and nylon)

 

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Askews Me Hat by Stephen West (alpaca, merino and bamboo)

 

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Meredith by Ruth Maddock (bamboo and cotton)

 

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Robin by Josee Paquin (silk, merino and bamboo)

 

Other fibres in this series include Linen, Cotton, Silk and Soy.

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