Well, this seemed to be the million dollar question when it came to explaining my scarves to friends and family while we were visiting our hometown for Christmas: How is this fabulously soft yarn made from the bamboo that is food for pandas and durable flooring for houses? [note that question is paraphrased by me with added adjectives and comparisons.] So I promised my inquirers that I would look it up and figure it out. This is probably something that I should have looked up a long time ago when I ordered my first batch of bamboo yarn to weave with. So, after googling “How bamboo is made into yarn,” I came up with several different sites that all gave relatively the same answer, which seemed pretty promising!
So at the risk of just confusing y’all to no end, I will attempt to summarize hydrolysis alkalization, which is the process through which bamboo “grass,” as it is classified, is transformed into fiber or yarn.
The leaves of the bamboo and the inner pith area from the hard stem are crushed up and soaked in a solution until they become soft. The soft pulp is then pressed and filtered to release the chemicals that were used to break it down, then dried. After it has been crushed and broken down, sodium hydroxide is added to the the pulp to produce cellulose. That cellulose solution is then pushed through a sieve into an acid bath that hardens the bamboo into fiber threads and neutralizes any chemicals that are still present. Finally, that fiber can be spun into yarn! Dyed bamboo is put through a bleaching process while it’s still in pulp form. After is has turned completely white, colored dye is added, then the fiber continues through the rest of the process and made into yarn.
The end result is a soft, lightweight, strong fiber. Bamboo is a sustainable product, as it does not use any pesticides or herbicides while it’s growing, it can easily be replenished, and it grows quickly. Also, the chemicals that are used while it is being made are not harmful. Bamboo fiber is naturally antibacterial and has amazing insulation properties, as it can keep a person cool in warmer weather or warm in cooler weather!
So those are the interesting facts I learned about bamboo this evening! I knew about a couple of its sustainable and healthy properties when I first started using it, but to know the process of how it is made into yarn is good knowledge for me to have as a weaver of bamboo.
*Obviously I didn’t come up with all of this information on my own. Here are the sites that helped me in my research – Bamboo Fashion, eHow, wiseGEEK, and Organic Clothing. The links to these sites will all lead you to the pages on bamboo yarn, if you are interesting in doing some of your own reading. They go into much better detail than I did, but I didn’t want to lose any of you! I can’t give you a testimony to these site’s credibility, but being as they all explained the same process, I figured they knew what they were talking about. If you find any information that contradicts what I have posted I sincerely apologize for my misinformation and would love to know what you found!