Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Is bamboo really green?

Not being one to take any claims at face value, I wanted to investigate if the bamboo rovings now readily available to spinners can be classified as a green fiber. Technically, the fiber is viscose, made with the same industrial process that gave us Rayon, except that rather than wood pulp being processed into fiber, bamboo pulp is used. I will be giving a bamboo workshhop on Saturday, April 24 starting at 10 a.m. in the Winfield Library.

The green part comes into play in growing bamboo—from what I’ve read, it grows like a weed. The variety (and there are many) used to make the fiber grows about three feet a year without needing fertilizer or insecticide. A field of this type of bamboo, grown generally in Southeast Asia, can be harvested every three to five years. Though this sounds sustainable, I suppose I’d have to consult a few agricultural journals to see if this is true.

The greener among us might blanche at the industrial process. Viscose is a chemical process and uses sodium hydroxide, aka caustic soda, aka lye in the process. Since this is a fairly common chemical and can be used responsibly, lenient greenies could let that go. At least bamboo viscose is greener than say wood viscose based on the source of the pulp. I’ve recently seen yarn spun from sugar cane viscose.

One claim I was able to verify is the dye-ability of bamboo. I was able to dye my bamboo using a rich color with relatively less dyestuff than called for. Above is some in my golden glow colorway.

Some make bacteriostatic claims for bamboo, inferring it would be great for socks by keeping down bacteria derived odors. I will find out once I’ve worn a bamboo socks around on a hot summer day. It makes sense that if bamboo doesn’t need insecticide, it has evolved some pretty strong plant defenses, but doesn’t follow necessarily that these properties would survive processing or inhibit the bacteria that cause body odor. Also, one article referred to this as “bamboo kun” which doesn’t sound to me like the name of an anti-bacterial compound that’s been isolated from bamboo viscose .

However, it is a lovely silky fiber and is known to produce filmy cloth that feels cool and light. The only drawback to pure bamboo is the slippery texture can make bamboo spinning tedious--but more on that later.  The green yarn is a three-ply finbgering weight bamboo-merino blend I finished recently.

Thank you for visiting my blog! You can also visit my website at where I am compiling tips and other help in an organized fashion.

No comments:

Post a Comment