Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Knits shoots and leaves

Until recently, I figured bamboo was good for feeding Panda Bears and making patio furniture. When the owners of Webs announced on a podcast last month that the hottest yarn trend for spring was bamboo - I became intrigued. Thus began the tale of two yarns: RYC Bamboo soft and Berroco Bonsai (bamboo tape). Interweave Knits Spring 2007 includes an article about bamboo which unfortunately reads more like an advertorial for all of the yarn companies than it is informative. From what I've found on line, bamboo has antibacterial properties, is soft as silk and more absorbent than cotton. It's being called the "cashmere from plants". According to bambooclothes.com, the manufacturing process for bamboo yarn is similar to that for rayon. The bamboo stems and leaves are pummeled into a starchy pulp in hydrolysis alkalization. A finishing treatment transforms the pulp into soft fibers. The bamboo yarn is then bleached and dyed.

Since most yarn journeys for me have to involve an "object of affection" - I settled on a couple of designs to test drive with these two yarns. First up is this amazing little shrug from Lalana Wools called the Truly Tender Shrug. The pattern calls for Phat Silk Fine by Lalana which knits to sport weight. The RYC Bamboo soft is sport weight and I picked up a ball to play with from Julie at the Needle Emporium in an icy blue (#103 Moonstone). This stuff feels better than silk and does split if you rub it on the ball but I didn't have problems knitting it. Here's my swatch and the gauge seems to be spot on for stitches but a little tight for rows. I can adjust when knitting since the directions say to knit to a certain height. The RYC bamboo more closely mimics traditional yarn in that it's tube shaped. The RYC bamboo comes in lovely subtle colours.

The second design I grew to adore as I looked at it more and more is the Bonsai Tunic by Norah Gaughan from the Spring IK. I've been further inspired by the amazing job this blogger at One by One has done on her version. This design calls for Berroco Bonsai which presents as a matte and shiny ribbon tape. I struggle with ribbon yarns. I do tend to rip back when I don't like how something looks and I don't "tink" I pull out the needles and rip a few rows then thread the stitches back on. Now good old wool or cotton stays nice and perky during this type of exercise. Slippery ribbon goes everywhere. I swatched last night for the Bonsai tunic (again with one trial ball purchased to see if I like it). I struggled to get this pattern down pat. The first yarn over goes from a knit to a purl stitch and until I figured out how to do them so the yarn over was shorter - the holes were huge in this location. I ripped this swatch back so much the shine came off. Normally, I'd throw in the towel at this point and move on to another project. Something just wouldn't let me give up. I knew if I could nail the pattern, I'd fall in love with this yarn. Somewhere around the second repeat - I did. Here's my swatch and after much deliberation, I think I'll make it in the same colour (the Satsuki Green). This yarn is also so soft, you want to disappear into it. I think that's what made me stick with the swatching process.

If you're thinking about giving a "green fiber" a try - I'd certainly recommend bamboo. This trend does make me wonder though...are the sheep worried about their jobs being outsourced off shore?


Romi said...

I *love* the shrug. It would look great on you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the compliments on my tunic! I really do love it. Can't wait to see the progress on yours!

Great review of the RYC bamboo yarn. I've been so happy with the Berroco Bonsai I was wondering how other bamboo yarns would be.

Anonymous said...

I am so convinced about the berrocco bamboo tape. I'm going to get some for my own tunic. Thanks for the information! And your swatch looks great! Can't wait to see it done!

Anonymous said...

Knitting? Wine? Intelligent writing? A shrug that I covet? Oh, dear... Just found another blog to stalk!

Dr. Steph said...

So is the yarn "green" or does it deplete Bamboo stocks and hurt Panda bears? (I'm only partly kidding with the question).

The shrug is very pretty. Thanks for the great review!