Besides organic cotton, bamboo fabric seems to be getting more popular every year, either as a blend or by itself. There are many positives about this new “renewable” fiber, but also at least one big negative (the chemicals it takes to break the plant material down). Best bet is to try it for yourself, and see whether the great characteristics of this fabric will outweigh the negative, in your mind.
So what makes this natural fiber so groundbreaking in the sewing fabric world? First, bamboo grows rapidly, thus absorbing more CO2. It does not attract pests, so it can be grown organically because it doesn’t need pesticides to thrive (unlike the cotton plant, which accounts for 25% of all pesticides used in the world). Farmers can easily harvest bamboo on an ongoing basis, using less acreage than cotton, and less water. It is considered a renewable fiber.
Besides that, it's Antibacterial!
Bamboo fibers have naturally occurring anti-bacterial properties that are retained even after washing. So, it helps reduce odor retention in the garment and even on your skin. Bamboo sewing fabric is breathable, like linen, and absorbs moisture, leaving your skin dry. The fabric feels cool in summer and warm in winter. (Try it, you’ll see!)
The garments you make will have a silky feel, because the fiber is smooth and round after processing. It takes dyes very well, and comes in many different weaves and weights – it is sometimes blended with other fibers, or made into knits. Of course, there are bamboo carpets and window shades, knitting needles and fencing. But bamboo sewing fabric for dressmaking and home accessories is drapeable, durable and soft.
And as for recycling? Here’s one fiber that is easily degradable (in as little as 8 days!) and recycled to form new products.
And one negative
Bamboo fabric is great, but processing the fiber takes a lot of chemical processing. If you’ve ever seen the plant stalk, you’ll notice it looks tall, strong and skinny. The long fibers must be chemically processed very heavily to break down into a form for thread making.
Comparing this negative to the number of advantages of growing and producing the fiber (especially when looking at the other plant fibers like
and hemp) you begin to understand why we might be seeing a lot more bamboo fabric and products in the stores. Nothing is perfect, and all production will have some impact on the environment. I prefer to see the good parts of fabric production, and anytime there is a better product, I’ll be using it and asking for it.
This fabric is hard to find in smaller fabric stores, but designers are using it, it's available at the big sewing expo's, and you can find it online in different weights and colors.
Return from bamboo fabric to Sewing Fabric 101