As hand spinners, we are very fortunate to have a wide selection of fibers available to us. One that has a great deal of potential as both a blended fiber, or used exclusively is bamboo. Like most natural hand-spinning fibers, bamboo is a renewable resource. It seems that only the trendy fibers are being labeled as “green” , but come on spinners, we were green before green was cool! If you think about it, most fibers are harvested at least annually, which depending on how many fleeces I get in a year, is far faster than I can use them. I have also found that fiber farmers are far more environmentally conscious than most.
I would have to compare bamboo, like many other spinners do, to silk. It adds luster to wools when blended. However, it does not add elasticity, or memory to camelid fiber, so I would still add wool to the camelid fiber in addition to the bamboo. An advantage to using bamboo instead of silk is that it is less likely to form kemps in the carder as the staple length is usually about two and a half inches. I recently blended 73 percent alpaca with 14 percent Shetland wool, and 13 percent bamboo. Thank goodness I spun my thousand yards of lace weight right away, because the rest of the roving sold like hotcakes at the Maine Fiber Frolic. I’ll be sure to put up a picture of the finished shawl when I finally get that far, but be sure to check out the roving picture below.
When spinning bamboo alone, it is a very slippery fiber, which I found to be a benefit as a primarily long draft spinner. The fibers draft almost effortlessly, and create very fine yarn that is consistent. I added a bit more twist than I would with protein fibers, just to be sure of good fiber contact. I am thinking of using the straight bamboo yarn as a weft in my table loom, but I’m sure it would also be more than suitable as a warp yarn. Now, I just need to decide to which weaving project am I going to add it.
Another interesting result that I was able to dye the blended roving mentioned above using an acid dye, so the protein fibers, alpaca and wool, took up the dye. The bamboo, being a plant fiber did not take the dye, instead it sparkles white among the dyed fiber adding a spectacular result.