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Monday, September 27, 2010
Knitting with grass
Much as I love spring, I get a bit sad about the longer days as it usually marks the end of the long evenings of knitting. This year I spotted has an amazing range of bamboo and bamboo blended yarns at our fabulous local wool shop that could keep the obsession going a bit longer.
I first fell in love with bamboo fibre when I discovered bamboo t shirts. It was soft, light weight and drapes like silk. It is highly absorbent .and hypo allergenic. Bamboo, hemp, Tencel™ and cupro are all natural plant based fibres. Bamboo in particular is of special interest.
Because bamboo is a fast growing clumping grass, it can be harvested without the need to replant every year as with cotton and hemp. It grows faster than all the other natural fibre plants and is tolerant of drought and flood, holds soils to prevent erosion from runoff and gives a huge yield per acre without the need for pesticides or fertilisers.
Unfortunately some processors use chemicals such as caustic soda and carbon disulphide to extract the cellulose from the plant material.. This is no different from the treatments given to cotton waste and other cellulose based fibres, including the treatment of organically grown cotton. This is changing with the lyocell processing used to make Tencel ™ which uses chemicals in a closed loop process where over 99% of the chemicals are recycled for reuse. It is possible to process the yarn without chemicals and the garment or yarn should be labelled as such.
The bamboo currently used for yarn is Moso bamboo, a variety from China that can grow up to a metre a day as a timber source. The Chinese have recognised that bamboo has a unique agent they call ‘kun’ that has anti bacterial and antifungal qualities that prevents odour causing bacteria to grow. That’s got to make for less washing! It is the same antimicrobial agent that makes bamboo resistant to pests and diseases (though has no effect on pandas!) Better still, the fibres are more wrinkle resistant while washing and that means less ironing too. The yarn is thermal regulating – keeps you warm in winter and cool in summer. While bamboo is touted as hypo allergenic, chemical residues may cause reactions on sensitive skin but can be avoided by always washing new garments thoroughly before wearing.
This is a product I heartily endorse. The problems in processing are being addressed and I feel these problems are outweighed by its sustainability and the fact that it can be grown, chemically free without the need for large machinery or soil tillage in a range of environments. Such are the desired qualities of bamboo that nano technology is being developed that traps particles of bamboo charcoal into other fibres for use in socks and blankets. Won’t it be great when you don’t have to look outside for the boys’ dirty socks?
Meanwhile, back at the farm...I will continue to knit with my beautiful yarn.