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.
I have spun bamboo staple fibre before and the fibers were quite long and easy to spin in a worsted spinning style. For this particular batch of bamboo fibre, the fibers are quite short and feel much like cotton. So I decided to use a cotton spinning method. I carded some of the fibre on my drum carder and rolled it into small rolags.
I reduced the tension on my brake to slow down the takeup on the bobbin. I used the point-of-twist drafting style allowing the twist to enter the enter the tip of the rolag and then pull slowly to release the fibre from the bundle.
The resulting yarn is a bit lumpy, bumpy as I didn’t card this to a smooth roving. I wanted to have a bit of texture in this yarn. I plan to leave it as a singles and use it as weft in some handwoven.
I also thought that this bamboo staple would be lovely when blended and carded with wool. I carded a 20% bamboo, 80 % merino blend and also spun this.
Handspun Bamboo Staple 20%/ Merino 80%
Saxon Blue Indigo Dye
Saxon Blue is a natural Indigo dye extract that has been made from an 18th Century recipe using indigo, sulphuric acid and calcium carbonate. Although you could mix up your own Saxon blue, I prefer to use a ready made mix as Sulphuric Acid is highly corrosive and the fumes are toxic. On the other hand, Saxon Blue extract is quite easy to use, even for the beginner natural dyer.
Fill the dyepot with clean water and the required amount of Saxon Blue extract. Put in the wetted fiber and bring the dye mixture to boil and simmer for about 30 minutes.
To dye 100 grams of yarn, I put 10 grams of Saxon Blue extract into the dyepot. I put both skeins of yarn into the dyepot (merino/bamboo blend, and bamboo singly ply)
Dyebath pH +3
The colour after about 15 minutes in the dyebath looked hopeful, so I let this simmer for about an hour. The merino/bamboo blend soaked up all of the dye, but the bamboo singles was almost white – lighter than it had been earlier.
I removed the merino/bamboo blend yarn and added a bit more of the Saxon Blue extract. I also decided to change the pH of the bath to +9 by adding some washing soda to see if this would help the bamboo fibre to retain more colour.
After an hour, the blue colour did darken, so I turned off the dyepot and let the yarn sit in the dyebath overnight. In the morning when I pulled the skein out of the dyebath, it had turned a lovely turquoise blue. Unfortunately, when I washed it, most of the colour washed out.
Only use Saxon blue on wool, not on cellulose.
I purchased the Saxon Blue extract from DT Craft and Design.
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
Harvesting Color: How to Find Plants and Make Natural Dyes
A Heritage of Colour: Natural Dyes Past and Present by Jenny Dean (2014-06-10)
Wild Color, Revised and Updated Edition: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes
The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing: Traditional Recipes for Modern Use
Last Updated on April 9, 2021 by Paivi Suomi