…Psst! Did you know that we carry two different types of un-dyed bamboo fiber?
(plus they’re on sale for the rest of April!)
I recently set out to learn the difference between Bamboo Fiber and Bamboo Top Fiber, because it’s hard to tell just by looking at their photos! When you see them in person, it’s clear that Bamboo Top Fiber is the more processed of the two; its shine and silky smoothness are quite the contrast to the more matte, slubby Bamboo Fiber. What does that mean for blending and spinning these two? I did some experimenting with an Ashford Blending Board and my Shotzee Medium Weight Cherry Wood Drop Spindle to find out!
After choosing two colors of Merino Top Wool Fiber, I grabbed a handful of each of the bamboos. I opted to use the slubby Bamboo Fiber with the martini olive colored Merino, and the Bamboo Top with the cinnamon colored Merino. I didn’t want the bright white color to dilute the lovely green, so I added it sparingly to the blending board. I did go a little heavier with the Bamboo Top in the other blend, though, because it blends much more easily than its more rustic counterpart.
I love the part where you get to roll the fiber off the blending board- it’s so satisfying!
Fiber on a stick, anyone? Ok, so when all was said and done I ended up with two giant rolags:
Already, you can see the difference in how these fibers blended. The rolag on the left (with Merino Top Wool Fiber and Bamboo Fiber) is much less integrated, with tufts and clumps of bamboo popping up here and there. Of course, some of that has to do with my blending process, more carding ahead of time, or more extensive blending, perhaps on a drum carder, would have teased apart the clumps more thoroughly. Look at the rolag on the right – the Bamboo Top Fiber mixed in so smoothly with the Merino. It just depends what effect you prefer!
After spinning these rolags into singles, here’s what I ended up with:
I must admit, I’m not a fan of the green singles prior to plying. I like how the bamboo fiber kind of winds around the surface of the Merino, and sits in little slubs randomly throughout the yarn. However, the effect might be more graceful if the colors of the two fibers weren’t so starkly contrasted. Not a problem if you’re a dyer! That same stark contrast worked beautifully for the cinnamon blend, though. It reminds me the tiniest bit of Juniper Moon Farm Moonshine Yarn.
Of course, both yarns are super soft, and even the less refined Bamboo Top is wonderfully touchable. My verdict? If you’re looking for a thick and thin, slubby, tweedy texture, you should definitely go with the Bamboo Fiber. For a soft, smooth blend that could almost be mistaken for silk, the Bamboo Top Fiber is the fiber for you. These fibers will also behave very similarly to Tencel Fiber, and are more slippery and strong than their close cousin White Soysilk® Fiber. I suggest doing your own experiments too, as the yarns above are only a small example of what can be done with these fascinating fibers!
Try the loose bamboo fiber in your felting projects as well. It won’t felt to itself the way wool does, but as a small accent it can be worked into wool to provide a contrasting texture and extra shine in needle felt, wet felt or nuno felted pieces.
If you do happen to be a dyer, keep in mind that bamboo is a cellulose based fiber so if you are dyeing it on it’s own, or with another cellulose plant fiber, like cotton, you’ll want to use Procion Fiber Reactive Dyes. These are lower temperature dyes that also work well on silk, but are not intended for protein based (animal) fibers like wool or alpaca. (For protein fibers we recommend the Country Classic, or Wash Fast Acid Dyes.)
Almost any dye will still effect the other fiber in the blend, but not uniformly or with the same degree of saturation. So if you’re dyeing a protein/cellulose fiber blend like the ones shown here you can use the differences in dye take-up to your advantage and create amazing color and tonal differences between the blended fibers. It’s always a bit of an experiment – but well worth it as you see one-of-a-kind colorways emerge!
Remember – all our loose fibers are sold by the ounce or the pound, so you can try just a little, or save when you buy a lot!