What is Bamboo Yarn? (with pictures)

Greer Hed
Greer Hed
Fabric made with bamboo yarn.
Fabric made with bamboo yarn.

Bamboo yarn is a type of yarn made from the fibers of bamboo, which is a type of woody grass. To make bamboo yarn, the stalks of the bamboo plant must be broken down so that cellulose fibers can be extracted from them. Yarns made from pure bamboo tend to have a soft, silky texture, a subtle shine, and a good amount of drape. They are also usually popular with fiber artists who are concerned about the sustainability of fiber sources, as bamboo is a resource that is easily renewed. Bamboo yarns are usually available at craft stores in a variety of colors and yarn weights, or strand thicknesses.

Bamboo stalks.
Bamboo stalks.

There are two common processes for making bamboo yarn from bamboo stalks, both developed in China, where large crops of bamboo are cultivated for many different uses. One of these processes involves physically crushing the bamboo stalks and then allowing natural enzymes to continue the process of breaking down the plant. Cellulose fibers are then combed out of the stalk in a process that is similar to the extraction of flax fibers from the flax plant. The second process produces a yarn that is more similar to rayon, and involves the application of chemicals such as lye and carbon disulfide, a type of chemical solvent. After the bamboo stalks have been broken down by this chemical bath, the cellulose fibers are mechanically extruded from them using spinnerets.

Cloth made with bamboo yarn.
Cloth made with bamboo yarn.

Bamboo yarn is similar to silk in shine and softness, but generally costs less, making it a cheaper alternative to yarns made from silk. It is also breathable like cotton and naturally cool to the touch, making bamboo yarn a good choice for crafting garments meant for warm weather wear. Bamboo also has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, although these properties are not present in bamboo yarns that have been treated with chemicals.

Bamboo yarn is a type of thick thread made from bamboo.
Bamboo yarn is a type of thick thread made from bamboo.

The bamboo plant is a renewable resource, making bamboo yarn a popular choice amongst fiber artists who are concerned with sustainability issues. Bamboo stalks are hardy plants that usually survive the process of harvesting. Instead of planting new bamboo crops after every harvest, cultivators merely need to wait for the bamboo to grow back. Bamboo grows relatively quickly, with stalks reaching their full height of 60 to 75 feet (18 to 23 meters) in just over a year. Another environmentally friendly property of bamboo yarn is that it is biodegradable as long as the yarn has not been blended with acrylics or other synthetic fibers.

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Discussion Comments


I just read material that compares bamboo and cotton with bamboo coming out ahead in may ways. One facet was the level of carbon emissions created in the making of fibers Polyester came out very high incidentally. Polyester is a petroleum product, as is acrylic. Both of these present serious ecological problems considering fossil fuels and resulting climate impacts. It is also important to not forget the extreme stability of this substances which means a very slow decomposition time. Like plastics they contribute to landfills that continually grow. Natural fibers decompose much more quickly. We want that in the greater scheme of things. It is so important to keep all things under consideration such as the long distances for bamboo to get here.

Most of the bamboo textiles are made in China so there is fossil fuel consumption to add to the equation. Also chemical processing is used in creating bamboo fibers in nearly all cases. This destroys its naturally occurring antibacterial feature. Interestingly the majority of the manufacturer's answer to the loss of the antibacterial feature is not to protect it through more careful production practices, but to find a way to introduce it artificially.

I do not think it is out of line to submit that it will be attempted through the use of more chemicals. If we want a product that reflects truly green practices it seems that it needs to be labeled organic cotton or organic bamboo. Even then it might be wise to look at where the cotton grown and processed. Local is better.

Oh, and what about wool? That is often easiest of all to obtain locally through small mills who use no to very little chemicals, eco friendly soaps, and dyes that use vinegar as the acid. The yarn or roving created is the closest thing to what comes directly off the sheep. That is what a high quality product is all about.


When bamboo is not bamboo.

Sax Altman high-tech high-comfort micro cool bamboo. Oh, the salesman said it is made from bamboo fibers. The clothing tag says, 'Bamboo yarn is made from a 100 percent polyester fiber, in which bamboo carbon powder has been added during the polmerisation process to enhance the performance of the yarn for its lifetime. The carbon content is limited, less than 1 percent, therefore the fabric made from it can be called 100 percent polyester.' So there! But the pants feel good, look good, non-crushing, good for travel, wash and quick drying, and at the right price.

But I think we have just been conned by the green bandwagon. --Zed


I am researching about the advantages of bamboo silk to regular silk, so I was wondering if anyone had any ideas about this please?


I think bamboo yarn is great! I do a lot of lace knitting, and wool or silk is usually the preferred fiber for that. However, I'm allergic to wool and silk is really expensive. So bamboo is a great alternative for me!

Since it does have the tendency to stretch out a bit more than either of those fibers, when I knit with bamboo weaving yarn I usually go down a few needle sizes from what the pattern calls for. This usually works out really well!


I think bamboo yarn is very trendy right now. I feel like I see swtc bamboo yarn or some other brand at almost every craft store I visit. I also feel like I hear about it a lot also!

Going green is fairly trendy right now, so this doesn't surprise me one bit. The only thing is though that while bamboo is sustainable as a crop, you're still using resources to do the extensive processing that's necessary to process the bamboo into yarn. Also, then it has to be transported long distances.

If you really wanted to be environmentally friendly with your fiber choices, I think it would be better to shop from a local farm that produces yarn.


@LisaLou - One thing to keep in mind when knitting with bamboo fiber yarn is that it tends to stretch out over time. So while a 100% bamboo yarn would be great for a scarf or a shawl, it wouldn't be very good for something that needs to hold its shape, like a sweater.

One way around this problem is to use a bamboo/wool blend. Since wool tends to hold its shape better than bamboo, a blend with wool probably wouldn't stretch as much. Also, some wool is organic and naturally dyed, so if you're concerned about the environment a wool/bamboo blend would probably still work OK.


@LisaLou - I have used bamboo yarn, but it depends on the project I am working on.

One thing to remember is most bamboo yarn needs to be hand washed. So if you are making something that you want to easily keep clean, you might want to think about using another type of yarn.

I have also found that is splits fairly easily. To help prevent this I use a pair of blunt ended bamboo knitting needles. They work better than the sharper pointed needles.

Bamboo yarn is such a great choice for those interested in using natural materials. The fact that it is renewable and biodegradable are real selling points for me.

As people continue to become more environmentally conscious, I think we will continue to see more bamboo knitting yarn choices.


I have never used bamboo yarn in any of my knitting projects. I am starting to see more of it online and even in the regular craft stores where I buy a lot of yarn.

It feels very soft and looks like it would be easy to work with. There doesn't seem to be as many color choices, but if you were wanting to use organic bamboo yarn, I can see where you would want to stay away from a lot of dyes.

Can this be used like any other type of knitting yarn? If I wanted to knit a scarf could I just use bamboo yarn in place of the yarn I usually use?

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    • Fabric made with bamboo yarn.
      Fabric made with bamboo yarn.
    • Bamboo stalks.
      Bamboo stalks.
    • Cloth made with bamboo yarn.
      Cloth made with bamboo yarn.
    • Bamboo yarn is a type of thick thread made from bamboo.
      Bamboo yarn is a type of thick thread made from bamboo.