Knitting with bamboo-cotton yarn

When I first heard about bamboo yarn a few years ago, I was really curious what it would be like. I grew up in Colombia and there were groves of bamboo trees on campuses of the schools I attended. We would play among the stalks and try not to touch the sheaths that protected the new shoots or the bottoms of the trunks because they had tiny little thorn-like hairs that easily got under your skin and burned. I also had flutes made from thinner bamboo shoots and my father and I would make fishing poles from them as well. The bamboo wood is fibrous, but hard, so I had a hard time picturing what it would be like to knit with bamboo yarn. I imaged it would be coarse, like twine.

Bamboo Pop yarn

But I was so wrong! And thankfully so! There are 2 kinds of bamboo fibers that are spun into yarn. The first is often called bamboo linen. This yarn is produced the same way that flax stalks are turned into fiber. The bamboo leaves and inner pith of the wood are soaked in water and fermented, then it’s crushed and pounded until the fibers come apart and can be combed and spun. I haven’t knit with bamboo linen yet.

The second process involves making bamboo rayon or viscose. Again the leaves and pith are soaked and ground, but they also take a chemical bath which creates long super thin and super soft fibers. It’s the same chemical cocktail used to make cellophane wrap. I never understood why early recycling programs didn’t want cellophane, but it’s not oil-based…it’s made from wood…cellulose to be exact. And just like cellophane, bamboo viscose is shiny!

Close-up of Bamboo Pop yarn

Here’s a close-up of the Bamboo Pop yarn. It’s a 50-50 bamboo-cotton blend, and when I took it apart, it was clear how exactly the yarn is constructed. If you look at the picture below, of the yarn ball, you can see some shiny glints in the yarn. This is the bamboo viscose reflecting the light.

The yarn is made up of 6 plies of fiber. And as you can see above, each of the 6 plies is made up of 2 plies. The camera didn’t catch it, but one of these plies is cotton and the other is bamboo viscose. So the 12 strands are spun 2 at a time with an S-twist (clockwise) and then the 6 plies are spun all together quite tightly, also with an S-twist. This tight twist gives the not-so-flexible cotton a bit of springiness. The viscose doesn’t really have much bounce either, but it’s slightly more elastic than the cotton.

The yarn is VERY soft and it has a very beautiful drape.

Bamboo Pop sport-weight yarn

Bamboo Pop is another yarn by Universal Yarns. I was given a few balls by H.A. Kidd Company Ltd. to swatch with and to see what I thought of it.

I really LOVE this yarn. It has very good yardage. In a future post I’ll share a 1-ball project (well, okay, there were a few meters of complimentary colors in it, too) of a baby’s jacket (size 9 mo).

The yarn comes in 21 solid colors and 18 variegated colorways. It’s labelled a #3 CYC weight yarn which encompasses the range from DK to light worsted, but when I knit it, it really behaved much more like a sport weight. Each ball has 292 yards and comes in a 100g put-up. It has very good center-pull ends that are easy to find. The outer strands fall off the ball very quickly as it’s slippery, so I found I had to wind a few yards tightly around the ball and tuck in the outer end. If I had those little nets that come on some delicate fruits at the grocery store, I think I would put one around the yarn ball to keep the outer yarn strands from getting tangled.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about my experiences swatching and knitting with Bamboo Pop yarn.

This is part 1 of 5 in this series.
Go to part 2:  3 ways washing your knitting affects your gauge

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