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Bamboo? Now There’s A Yarn.

About a zillion years ago, a man, we’ll call him Ted, was out hunting for his lunch. In his hand, he carried a bit of wood with a sharp pointy bit at one end. This, Ted had discovered, was good for killing his lunch with minimum fuss. But Ted was a clever chap, and he did his sums and worked out that if he strapped a sharper, harder end onto his sharp bit of wood, it would work better and for longer. So he duly did this, and he was probably rather chuffed with his new invention. “But”, thought Ted, “I wonder if I could make this any better than it already is? May be if I replace this bit of wood with a bit of nice straight, lightweight bamboo it would fly straighter, weigh less, be more flexible and generally be even better”. And thus man started using bamboo to make his life a little bit better. Probably.

From this day forth, Ted and his mates decided that bamboo was a very, very good thing and they found more and more uses for it. They used it to build shelter, they used it for arrows and arrow tips, for funnelling, for ox cart beds, for rafts and sails, for eating and drinking, in fact it seemed that the list of uses for bamboo was almost unending.

And so it is today. Over the years, Bamboo has proven to be immensely versatile, not to mention prolific. Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants on the planet with some species growing at a rate of 3 feet per day. Watching that would be infinitely more exciting than watching paint dry. It requires no chemicals or assistance to grow; indeed, it is a weed, as you might well know if you have ever found it uninvited into your garden. You can chop it down and it will grow back again. You can quite literally harvest a whole bamboo plantation, and if you were to come back a year later, it would be there again, good as new.

So, getting back to the point, sometime around the turn of the millennium, some clever people in China sat down together and decided to try turning bamboo into a fibre. Cotton, they rightly presumed, had had its day. Cotton requires vast amounts of pesticide, fertiliser, water and labour, even the organic stuff is water intensive. It uses somewhere in the region of 25% of the world’s insecticides and 10% of the pesticides. It takes roughly one-third of a pound of chemicals (pesticides and fertilizers) to grow enough cotton for just one T-shirt. Not so with bamboo. It simply made sense. And lucky for us, in 2002 they succeeded in making a viable yarn out of bamboo fibre.

This is almost as much of an evolutionary and ecological leap forward as harnessing solar power, or wind power or, in Ted’s case, making a spear that worked. Without wanting to sound like too much of a sandal wearing, yoghurt-weaving tree hugger, cotton really is hugely damaging to our planet and yet we take it for granted that there isn’t really an alternative. Cotton is lightweight, breathable, cheap, takes well to dyes, is durable, dries quickly – you name it, how could anything else be better than cotton? Well, bamboo is better than cotton. You see, in a game of Yarn Top Trumps, bamboo would beat cotton on every count. Bamboo is more breathable than cotton, it’s more absorbent than cotton but it dries quicker, it’s naturally antibacterial, it’s softer to the touch yet it is more durable than cotton, and it’s more ecologically sound than cotton. It’s brilliant and we love it.

Shea Butter
My company, Babaloo, became involved with bamboo products about a year ago. We were, at the time, making a range of shea butters (natural, wonder-moisturiser from Africa) for mum and baby and we needed to add to the range with something different, interesting and ecologically sound.

And so it was that bamboo appeared in a corner of the Babaloo radar. First we sourced towels made from bamboo and decided they were brilliant. Then a nice lady started hand-making hooded bamboo baby towels for us. And they too were amaaaazing. And then we came to the nappies. We always planned to make cloth nappies, but we assumed that we would have to make them from organic cotton. When we saw how soft, absorbent and generally brilliant bamboo was in the towels, we realised pretty quickly that it would be daft to make our nappies from anything else. So our 100% bamboo nappy was born.

Bamboo Nappy

Sadly it is not yet possible to obtain organic certification for bamboo, but The International Network for Bamboo and Rattan together with WWF-China and the Ford Foundation is doing a feasibility study on bamboo certification now. Babaloo’s bamboo is not planted or grown with chemicals and is harvested sustainably, and our bamboo suppliers are now applying for the Organic Crop Improvement Association/National Organic Program certificate that will reflect their organic practices. I sincerely hope this will be the way other bamboo manufacturing companies will go.

Cashmere and Bamboo Blanket
In bamboo yarn we can see that ecological evolution continues apace. Bamboo is not just more environmentally friendly than cotton, it is better than cotton in almost every respect. When Ted, our friendly cave man, realised that improving his spear would improve his life he seized the opportunity with both hands. And so we must do with bamboo. Word must be spread that cotton is no longer the only option. Bamboo yarn is a new technology that is both better for the environment and a leap forward in terms of its functionality. Seize it with both hands!

Click here to view the Babaloo Collection >>

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