Bamboo: from the Garden to the Wheel

phyllostachy bamboo

Being a gardner I am always looking for the unusual and different. This is the third summer Bamboo has been growing in my yard. I have both the clumping and running varieties.  I have been asked  about the process, of getting what is in my garden, onto my spinning wheel. When I was giving a tour of my garden a friend queried, “Paula is this where bamboo yarn comes from?” When I offered up a yes, she quickly came back with…”how do you spin it?”  “I say, it is like the process of getting paper from a tree.” bamboofiber

In the garden, bamboo is a grass. The size of the cane (culm) that emerges from the ground is the diameter it will always be. Each year new growth will have larger canes until it reaches that species maximum diameter. The height the cane gets to when it emerges and stops growing in the first season, is the height it will remain for its lifetime. The lifespan is around 10 years per cane.  Bamboo is evergreen. In the New England area where I live, if the winter is harsh the leaves will brown. New leaves form in the spring and the brown leaves fall off.  Rarely is it bothered by pests or diseases and requires little care once acclimated to its site.  CAUTION: Running bamboo, depending on the variety, can overtake your yard and possibly the neighborhood, if not mowed back or a barrier put in place.

Clumping bambooclumping bamboo is just that…clumping,

forming a “shrub”. I have several kinds and they vary in height, cane size and cane color. The color of the canes can range from yellow, pink, blue, black and in between, striped and solid, again depending on the variety. They are fast growing, provide nice screen coverage and are exotic and interesting to learn about.

As a fiber to spin or knit with, it has the following qualities: It is considered an eco-friendly fiber and is biodegradable. Bamboo is anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and has excellent wicking properties. It is soft with a wonderful shine similar to silk. It is lightweight and strong. It behaves more like cotton then wool when knit.

Try it…in your garden, on your wheel and/or on your needles. I am off to dye and spin some bamboo.

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2 Responses

  1. This is very interesting to me. I would like to grow some bamboo myself and I’m wondering what variety would be easy to start with? I have a very limey soil.

    Presently, my favorite yarns are 50% bamboo.

    • You will definitely want to start with clumping bamboo. Depending on your growing zone, there is a lot to choose from. We started with 4 varieties and bought 2 plants ea. Only one plant didn’t make it and that was our fault. We bought them over the internet. This is their third summer and they are beautiful. Fun to grow. If you have a lot, and I do mean a lot of property you might try a running bamboo. We got 2 running canes from a neighbor last year. The end of the summer we had 12 and this year we have over 50. They formed a forest, that we need to keep in check. The clumping don’t require any real maintenance. We bought the clumping from a place in Oregon, USA. Hope that helps.

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