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.


Z and S plyed yarn in Weaving Shaker rag rugs

Paula's Weave Class

I was in weaving class on Friday morning. Doreen brought in some old weaving magazines to inspire us. It worked, I WAS inspired. Let me give you a little background on Z and S twist, the part of the article I found fascinating.


The reason for spinning in a Z or S twist is to give strength to the fiber being spun.

Z and S applies to the twist that is set into the spin. The Z twist is in the clockwise direction. The S twist is in the counter clockwise direction. Even if you turn the yarn upside down the Z twist is still a Z twist. The S twist is still an S twist. Singles (single stranded yarn) are usually twisted with a Z twist. Two Z twist yarns are plied together with an S twist. This makes for a more balanced yarn.

If you want more info on “Why ply ?[and how!],  Michele Lock puts it in an easy and informative way.

Shaker Rag Rugs-The  simplest weaving techniques produce interesting looking carpets by Cheryl Anderson. Threads magazine Aug/Sept. 1988 This was the article in the magazine I saw that sparked my interest as a spinner. Cheryl Anderson writes of the Shaker Rag rugs and the use of S variegated spun  yarn and Z variegated spun yarn. With the simple change of using variegated yarns and these two twists the rugs look more intricate though less complicated and made me want to try it.

S and Z Shaker Rug

This is an example of the Z and S twist in the Shaker rag rug design.

It was subtle but inventive, and a sense of unity, order and balance was inherent in it.”

That’s how Beverly Gorden author of  Shaker Textile Art talks about Shaker rugs that were appearing during the Civil War era.

I think I will start small and make the Shaker rag carpetbag. Pattern shown at the end of Cheryl Anderson’s article. The color yarn I dye and spin will be in the colorway of the rag I use. I will need to ask my weaving teacher if, according to the directions I need so little yardage of spun yarn. If true….I should be able to get this project in gear, shortly…to be continued.