Handmade Fashion from Bamboo Yarn

A pixie hat I created with bamboo yarn.

One of my first experiences with bamboo fiber came in the form of yarn. As an avid fiber artist, my yarn addiction compels me to peruse the shelves and bins of every yarn shop in a three county radius. These shopping expeditions consist of me poking, prodding, and petting countless skeins of yarn until I find one specimen that I simply cannot put down. The day I fell in love with a nubby, sage green bamboo yarn is a day I will never forget. Having knitted with wool and cotton for years, bamboo seemed like an exotic treat. I was completely fascinated that the same material that was durable enough to create human dwellings could create a fiber that rivaled silk in luster and texture. Three skins of that yarn came home with me and were soon transformed into a charming pixie cap.
Since that time, I have created a wide variety of projects with bamboo and bamboo blend yarns. Due to its amazing beauty bamboo is always a treat to work with, but like all fibers it is not ideal for every project. For starters, 100% bamboo and bamboo silk and/or cotton blends tend to split easily making them less than ideal for beginning artists. They can even be a challenging stitch for intermediate artist and are best worked using wood or bamboo needles/hooks. Additionally, most bamboo yarns are hand wash only and do not lend themselves well to the creation of children’s clothing.

Great Adirondack Lolita Yarn: superwash merino/bamboo
photo property of yarn.com

Unlike bamboo fabric, bamboo yarn is readily available on the retail market. Chain craft stores and yarn shops usually have at least a small selection, while there are online stores that carry vast selections. Two of the best online selections I have found are Yarn and Bamboo Fabric Store. Buying on line will never replace to joy of wandering through a yarn shop, but it is a viable option when looking for specialty items. Whenever possible, choose to have your purchases delivered by the USPS. They have an impressive green initiative and their carriers will be stopping by your house six days a week anyway, so your delivery does not require the use of additional resources.

To read more about the properties of bamboo as a fiber read my archived post ’bout Bamboo.

’bout Bamboo

Any way you look at it, bamboo is an amazing plant. Although it can grow to the size of a tree, bamboo is a grass. Giant bamboo is the largest member of the grass family and can grow up to 50ft in height. There are varieties of this grass that grow well in nearly every climate and growing “well” can be an understatement for bamboo. This plant is known to grow up to 60 cm (nearly 2 feet) a day in an ideal environment!

In addition to it’s amazing feats of growth, bamboo also some other fascinating attributes.  Bamboo is a hardy plant that thrives with out the use of pesticides and fertilizers.  It also has  the ability to reach its full size in one growing season and is ready for harvest in as little as 3 years.  In the hands of a responsable farmer, bamboo has the potential to be a 100% sustainable crop.

Some of you are starting to wonder.  Bamboo on a fashion blog…what’s up with that?  There is a method to my madness.  Readers who follow fiber content labels on clothing will affirm that bamboo is becoming more and more popular in the clothing we wear everyday.  From infant to adult, work to leisure, bamboo fabrics are showing up everywhere.  And why shouldn’t they?  Bamboo fabric feels amazing against the skin, has natural moisture wicking and antibacterial properties, and is temperature regulating. 

The most commonly used bamboo fabric is rayon. Bamboo rayon is produced by chemically breaking down bamboo fibers to create a lightweight, breathable fabric with an incredibly soft hand. While the chemicals generally used aren’t the most eco-friendly, the over all production of bamboo rayon is less caustic than the production of conventional cotton.

As with anything relatively new, there are skeptics and nay-sayers.  I won’t say that bamboo is going to save the earth or that it is the new wonder fiber.  What I will say is that it is a smart and viable option in a world full of uncertainty.