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.

A free pattern is available on my web site and here’s the Margaret River Wool Company.

Knit on!


  1. I'm a big knitter from when I was around 12 years old when my Grandma taught me during school holidays. Now, I buy cheaply made wools (in rather garish colours) and knit lovely scarves and blankets; to prove lovely things can be made on the cheap.
    But the bamboo yarn looks so lovely. I might keep my eye out for some to add to my blanket I'm knitting for next Winter. It's made up of large squares: using size UK8 needles cast on 61 stitches and garter stitch for 39 rows. Then do another square in the same colour in Moss Stitch... the texture is just lovely. Once I'm finished, I'll be stitching them all together; making sure the squares are all sitting next to different coloured and different stitched squares. It's only 8ply, but it'll keep me warm; and I use 100g balls.

  2. Hi Mozette,
    I am a bit of a blanket addict myself. The first ones I made for the grandies are now coming home for repairs. They are all much loved. My mother, who taught me to knit, although legally blind, continues to knit blankets for charities. We both love the randomness of the colours too.


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