Bamboo fibre for handspinning is now available in 2 forms – one is a smoothly combed viscose top and the other is a rougher staple fibre. These require different methods of spinning.
Bamboo Viscose Top
Bamboo Viscose top is produced from Bamboo pulp (like other viscose pulp fibres). The bamboo is crushed and made into a pulp. Natural enzymes, hydrogen peroxide and chemicals are added to further soften the fibrous pulp. The resulting pulp is wet spun and forced through a spinneret to produce fine bamboo filaments in the same way as other pulp based fibres. The bamboo fibre is white and silky in appearance and is a cool as a result of its high absorbency, due to the fibre being full of cavities.
As this bamboo top is very smooth and silky, similar in handle to the previous Rose viscose tops that I spun, I used a similar spinning method for this yarn.
I spun this yarn with a tight twist, using the smallest whorl on my Kromski Sonata spinning wheel, 14:1. This top is quite slippery so I loosened the tension on the brake in order to slow down the takeup speed as much as possible, so that I could spin finely without having the roving fly away on me. I also turned the bobbin around, so that the brake was around the smaller whorl of the bobbin.
I used a worsted drafting method, taking care not to let the twist enter the drafting zone and go into the unspun roving.
I plied this as a 2 ply yarn, changing the wheel ratio to 9:1 in order to create a soft yarn.
A more detailed explanation on how to spin fine yarns can be found in my previous article on how to spin rose fibre.
Ivy Natural Dye Recipe
I have seen several references to dyeing yarns with Ivy vines, but none of them seem to have any detailed instructions. Since Ivy is very plentiful in the neighbouring fields and paths near me, I thought I would give it a try.
I picked a small shopping bag full of Ivy leaves (about 150 grams) and chopped these up and put them into my dye kettle. I added enough water to cover the Ivy and put it on to simmer for a few hours. A murky greenish colour did emerge from the Ivy leaves so I was hopeful they would yield some colour. I turned off the heat and left the Ivy stew to sit overnight.
The following day, I strained the dyebath liquid into one of my slow cookers that I use for dyeing only. I put the leaves into an organza mesh bag. Many plants react to different pH levels, so for this bath I thought I would try a high pH. I added about a tablespoon of Soda Ash to the liquid, to change the pH to 9. The liquid immediately turned to a dark olive shade.
I had premordanted the handspun Bamboo overnight in an Aluminum Acetate mordant. I put the Bamboo handspun into the dyebath along with the Ivy mesh bag. I turned the heat on the dyebath and allowed it to warm up. I put the lid on the slow cooker and let it simmer on High heat for a few hours. When I checked the yarn, I was happy to see there was some colour coming through onto the yarn – not a true green, but perhaps a very light avocado shade?
I turned the heat off the dyepot and let it sit overnight, hopeful that the yarn would absorb a bit more colour. The next day the colour was a bit greener but still very pale, so I let it sit for another day. The natural dye process is a slow one and is not to be rushed.
Yes, I think this is a green tone – a creamy shade of avocado perhaps?
There is still a lot of colour left in the Ivy dyebath, so I think I will sit it outside and let it ferment – and try dyeing something else in a week or two.
Handspun Bamboo Top dyed with Ivy Leaves
320 M/100 Gr
Aluminum Acetate Mordant
Aluminum Acetate 5% Solution
Dissolve Aluminum Acetate (5 grams) in hot water and add to dyepot. Add 100 gr yarn into the mordant pot and simmer on warm for an hour. Do not bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and allow the yarn to sit in the mordant overnight.
I re-use my Aluminum Acetate mordant solutions rather than discarding them each time. After you have mordanted a skein of yarn, there is always some mordant residue left in the water. It is difficult to tell how much, but I estimate that perhaps half has been absorbed into the previous yarn. So I dissolved another half (2 grams) in hot water and added this to the existing mordant bath and then topped up the mordant solution with more warm water.
Look for bamboo spinning fibre in my Etsy Shop.
Bamboo staple fibre is produced mechanically via a retting process, similar to flax production. The woody bamboo stems are crushed and natural enzymes break down the stems so the fibres can be combed out and spun. This is a very labour intensive process.
Spin Flora Fibres can now also be purchased in my Paivatar Yarns Web Shop.
The Practical Spinner’s Guide – Cotton, Flax, Hemp (Practical Spinner’s Guides)
Spin Flax & Cotton: Traditional Techniques with Norman Kennedy
The Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning: Being A Compendium of Information, Advice, and Opinions On the Noble Art & Craft
Natural Dye Books
Wild Color, Revised and Updated Edition: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes
Botanical Colour at your Fingertips
The Modern Natural Dyer: A Comprehensive Guide to Dyeing Silk, Wool, Linen and Cotton at Home
A Weaver’s Garden: Growing Plants for Natural Dyes and Fibers