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In this post I’ll be talking about Bamboo and Linen—the characteristics, as well as the pros and cons associated with yarn made from these plant-based fibers.
Yarn made from bamboo is becoming increasingly popular. Items knit with bamboo and bamboo-blend yarns exhibit the following qualities:
- drapes well,
- absorbs and evaporates sweat quickly,
- the insulating quality keeps one warm in winter and cool in summer,
- individuals who are sensitive to wool and other fibers can wear bamboo clothing without problems, and
- the softness of the fabric is hard to resist.
On the downside, bamboo fabric will shrink so special handling when washing is required.
Linen (made from Flax)
One of the oldest textiles, linen was used by ancient civilizations around the Mediterranean and is said to be the strongest natural fiber.
- excellent for summer clothing
- is tough and durable
- becomes softer with laundering.
On the negative side, 100% linen wrinkles badly. It is also quite stiff and unwieldy. For that reason flax is often blended with cotton.
I’ve been concentrating on designing and knitting the wedding dress for my granddaughter. When I’ve finished decreases from hem to waist I’ll transfer the stitches to scrap yarn and block each panel so we can see how the skirt will look and how much “pull” the fabric will have on the length. I’ll post photos at that time—I’m thinking maybe 6 more weeks, what with holiday interruptions.
To provide some relief from such a huge project I’ve been designing a bolero. The fabric design is the diamond brocade pattern with a knit-on narrow lace edging. I’ve knit the prototype and am now working up the various sizes (called grading)—this is the hard part for me.
The first stumbling block in this process is math—never my favorite subject, but I’ve gradually been able to tame that dragon by meticulously labeling every step along the path. It’s so easy to get lost, kind of like thinking of something I need from another room, only to arrive in that room and not able to remember why I am there.
The next thing I’ve learned is to walk away, which goes completely against my natural instinct. I tend to just push and push until I get through anything that’s difficult. When designing knitwear, pushing does NOT work for me. When I hit a snag where a solution isn’t apparent after several tries, I’ve learned that is the time to walk away and let the subconscious work on the problem for a few hours or overnight. The subconscious is my friend and has saved me countless hours of frustration. Frustration and fatigue are the bedrock of mistakes. It has been a hard lesson to learn.
I’ve posted a photo of the prototype I’ve named my “Brooks Bay Bolero.” I still haven’t decided how to finish the armholes. Originally, I wanted to make it with long sleeves with flared cuffs, but finally decided I liked it better sleeveless.
Understanding the positive and negative qualities of cotton goes a long way to creating a serviceable garment when knitting with cotton yarn. I’m speaking from experience. The Begonia Pullover was my first introduction to knitting with cotton. I had a bit of trouble getting the right tension and had to frog a couple of times because of rowing out in the fabric. After knitting with wool and having no problem with uneven tension, this came as a surprise. To correct the problem I wrapped the yarn once around my pinky finger when purling (I knit English-style).
- Is a light-weight fiber, especially good for summer-wear
- Does not pill
- Does not attract moths
- No elasticity, can result in uneven tension when knitting
- Special care required when blocking, stretches when wet
- Usually inexpensive compare to animal-based yarns
- Some colors can bleed
- Knit with a size smaller needle than stated on the ball band.
- To eliminate bulk, always attach a new ball at the edge rather than in the middle of the knitting.
- If the yarn seems slick, try knitting with wood-type needles.
- To prevent stretching, keep garment folded rather than on a hanger.