How to Knit with Bamboo Yarn

Wool and Knitting Needles
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Bamboo yarn is made with bamboo grass that is harvested and distilled into cellulose that's then spun into yarn. It's a natural, non-animal sourced fiber that's considered an eco-friendly fabric.

Bamboo knitting yarn is a relatively new entry in the knitting world, but it has become quite popular very quickly and with good reason. Bamboo is a beautiful natural fiber that wears well, brings a little bit of luxury to a project, and is often considered naturally antibacterial.

Environmentally Friendly

Bamboo yarn, when not mixed with unnatural fibers, is biodegradable. Many of the choices on the market are dyed with natural dyes that are safer for the environment. Bamboo is a renewable resource that can be harvested without killing the plant, and it only takes a few months before the plant is ready to be harvested again. While it grows, the bamboo plants help prevent soil erosion and conserve water. That makes it an environmentally friendly choice.

When you are seeking an environmentally conscious material, be discriminating. Not all companies use environmentally safe methods when producing bamboo yarn. Like with any other manufactured item, research the company’s methods before you make a purchase to make sure the processing technology is environmentally safe.

Antibacterial and Hypoallergenic 

Bamboo fabric is naturally antibacterial. Bamboo materials inhibit bacteria growth, while other fabrics, like wool, may encourage bacterial growth. Bacteria mixed with sweat is what causes bodily odor on clothing. Also, if you have allergies to wool and other types of yarn, you should not have problems if you are working with bamboo. Bamboo is a plant-based fiber that has no risk of allergies. If you're not using 100 percent bamboo yarn, check what the bamboo yarn is blended with, since you may have an allergy to one of the other fibers.

Other Pluses

Bamboo yarn has a few other positives that make it a good choice for many knitting projects.

  • UV protection: Bamboo has ultraviolet protective properties that may protect wearers from harmful sun rays.
  • Breathable and drapey: Fabric knitted with bamboo is breathable and has great drape.
  • Nice shine: Bamboo has a good luster similar to mercerized cotton.
  • Soft and strong: Bamboo is strong, flexible, and can be softer than silk when spun into yarn.

Pitfalls

Bamboo yarn sounds ideal, but it does have a few negatives, too. Bamboo yarn can lose some of its strength when it's wet as it swells considerably in water. In most cases, the bamboo fabric may need to be hand-washed (check the yarn label). For this reason, bamboo yarn may not be the best choice for things that need to be washed frequently. Finally, it seems that bamboo yarn does not have the best fiber cohesion. Some brands of bamboo yarn appear to split much more than others.

Tips

  • For its antibacterial properties, stick with a 100 percent (or at least 70 percent) bamboo yarn for best results. 
  • Knit slowly at first and use blunt-ended needles to avoid splitting.
  • Consider using bamboo needles, which are similar to wood needles, but actually stronger, less expensive, and split yarn less than other types of needles.
  • If you're looking for strength in the fabric but are using a fine bamboo yarn, try knitting with two strands held together.