Tips, Yarn

Know your yarn: Bamboo

Bamboo

Continuing with our occasional look at the different yarns and fibres we can use in our knitting and crochet, we are thinking about bamboo sourced viscose which is now turning up in more “winter yarns” as well a lightweight summer ones.

Where does the yarn come from?

Bamboo is a fast growing plant and the fibre is promoted as being more environmentally friendly that other forms of viscose because the plant can be grown in marginal areas unsuitable for some other plants and doesn’t necessarily involve deforestation.

The fibre is extracted in one of two ways. Leaves and the inner pith of woody stems are extracted during a steaming process and then crushed. The second method involves the bamboo being crushed and then broken down by bacteria or natural enzymes in a retting and washing process similar to how linen is produced from flax.

Once the fibres have been extracted they are spun into a viscose thread or yarn.

Note that when you see viscose in the yarn composition information on a label it may mean bamboo or another plant fibre so it is important to check elsewhere on the label to see if bamboo is mentioned.

Properties

  • Fabric knitted from bamboo yarn has a shiny appearance and drapes well.
  • Softer than cotton
  • Durable, strong fibre
  • Breathable and cool, with some UV protection.
  • Absorbs dye well
  • Is biodegradable
  • Bamboo has some anti-bacterial properties making it popular for inclusion if sock yarn and baby garments
Sirdar Snuggle Baby Bamboo DK 80% Bamboo sourced viscose, 20% Wool soft with sheen http://www.sirdar.co.uk/yarns/babyYarns/dkBaby/Snuggly_Baby_Bamboo_DK_F071 ; King Cole Bamboozle 48% Bamboo, 44% Wool, 8% Acrylic – chunky thick and thin http://www.kingcole.com/knitting-wool/bamboozle/ ; Louisa Harding Pitturissimo 75% Fine Merino Wool and 25% Bamboo viscose http://www.designeryarns.uk.com/yarn/pitturissimo/ ; Rico Superba Bamboo 4 Ply 50% Merino Wool, 25% Bamboo, 25% Nylon variegated sock http://www.rico-design.de/en/hand-knitting/rico-socks/rico-socks
Clockwise from top left: Sirdar Snuggle Baby Bamboo DK (80% bamboo sourced viscose, 20% wool) is soft with a sheen; King Cole Bamboozle (48% bamboo, 44% wool, 8% acrylic) is a thick and thin chunky yarn; Louisa Harding Pitturissimo (75% fine merino wool, 25% bamboo viscose) has a soft drape; Bamboo is popular in sock yarns such as  Rico Superba Bamboo 4 Ply (50% merino wool, 25% bamboo, 25% nylon)

Tips for working with bamboo yarn

Bamboo yarn can split do you may find wooden or bamboo needles a better choice than very pointed metal ones. The fact it is a slippery yarn may be another reason to avoid metal needles.

Garments knitted with bamboo fibre may drop (this will depend on whether it is blended with other fibres and which these are) so you may want to hang your swatch up with a couple of clothes pegs on the bottom edge to see if it stretches. You can then bear that in mind when looking at the length of your garment.

Choose patterns with drape to benefit from bamboo’s qualities or use yarns where bamboo is blended with other fibres for a firmer fabric.

What is your favourite pattern for bamboo yarn – please tell us in the comments below.

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