Adventures in Bamboo

There is good news and happiness in the land!

The Yarn
Sirdar Snuggly Baby Bamboo DK, 80% bamboo, 20% wool

Sirdar Simply Baby BambooWhy So Many People Are Disappointed in Bamboo
I’ve been reading a lot about using bamboo yarn — it’s so environmentally good, it’s naturally anti-bacterial, it’s soft…what’s not to love? A lot, based on the sad stories of a lot of knitters.

However, having read and read and read I think a lot of the sad stories stem from individuals subbing bamboo yarn for another yarn without taking into consideration the special characteristics of bamboo i.e. it is a heavy fibre that will lengthen (grow) — ironically without changing the stitch gauge by very much (see my gauge figures below).

Given the fact that:
a) many knitters don’t swatch (has to be one of the biggest ugh’s out there!)
b) many don’t realize that the gauge given in a pattern is for a washed, dried and blocked swatch
This last, I might add, seems to fall under the “little secret” that “everyone should know” but is never mentioned in the pattern directions!

No wonder there are issues with not being able to match a pattern gauge. But I digress….So how is a person to work successfully with Bamboo yarn if they are not given all of the necessary information? A sure-fire recipe for disappointment and garments that remain unworn 😦

100% Bamboo can be even more of a challenge; that is why I decided that this adventure would star a blend.

What I did:
1. Downsized Needles
The ball band suggests using 4mm [US6/UK8] needles, so I used 3mm [US2.5/UK11] following the advice that knitting to a slightly higher tension is a wise thing to do.

2. Knit a generous ~ 6″ x 6″ [15cm x 15 cm] swatch.

3. Measured Gauge:
24.5 stitches and 36 rows over 4″ [10cm]

4. Hand washed the swatch
Only because it was easier; the ball band says it’s machine washable (warm) but lay flat to dry.

5. Stretch and stretch again!
Also, following the advice of many who had worked with bamboo before.

Once I rolled the swatch in a towel to sop up most of the water, I pinned the top border and stretched the swatch downward; pinned the bottom; pinned one side; then stretched the other side starting from the middle of the side edge toward the top and bottom pinning as I went repositioning the pins of the top and bottom as I reached those ends; then I started at the top on each side again and worked the stretch down each side and repinned the bottom. Honest! Didn’t take all that long, just a lot of repinning.

6. Let it Dry.
The swatch was left to dry overnight.
I unpinned and measured the gauge.

Gauge: 24.5 sts by 31 rows

I couldn’t believe that the stitch count did not change after all that stretching. Once I unpinned it, it went right back to what it was; but, 5 rows were lost over the 4″[10cm].

7. Hang it! Literally!
(see yesterday’s post for a pic) I threaded a knitting needle back and forth through the top garter stitch border and attached 6 clothes pins to the bottom of the swatch to weigh it down. (This is supposed to mimic gravity pulling on the garment while you’re wearing it.) I then hung it across the gap between 2 cereal boxes…..and abandoned it for a day.

8. Measure Gauge Again
After hanging, the Gauge is now 25 sts by 30 rows. This will be the working gauge for any designs I make.

The knitted fabric is shiny, very soft and drapes beautifully. My 6″ [15cm] wide swatch can be stretched easily to 7.5″ [19cm] in width so a negative ease garment is a definite possibility.


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