The bamboo forests in China have largely been cultivated there for many hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of years.
Every year, in spring and summer, new poles (called culms), grow from a shoot underground. One shoot of the larger timber varieties of bamboo weighs between 2-4 kg when it is less than 30cm high.
At this stage it is quite soft and can easily be cut with a knife. It is also eminently edible, when prepared properly. If left to grow, this shoot reaches its full height of say 20 metres in an incredible 3 months, (height depending on variety).
When mature, the timber is extraordinarily resilient and strong. It has a tensile strength quite similar to mild steel.
Bamboo textile fibre is made from bamboo timber which has matured in the forest for at least 4 years. Even in remote areas of China bamboo forests are highly valued and carefully tended and managed. In summer, when new shoots reach their full height, they are marked with a year code which makes sure they are harvested at the right maturity.
When harvested they are taken to mills where they are crushed and submersed in a strong solution of sodium hydroxide which dissolves the bamboo cellulose. With the addition of carbon disulfide it renders the mix ready to regenerate fibres which are then drawn off, washed and bleached to a bright white colour and dried.
The resultant fluff is very long in staple and visibly finer than other fibres. Then they are spun into yarn, like any other textile fibre. The longer staple and higher tensile strength is what makes a tough, soft yarn – which is not as susceptible to wearing and fraying as many other yarns. This is what gives bamboo fabrics excellent durability.
The hollowness of the fibre contributes to its very high level of absorbency. But it also takes longer to dry on a clothesline. The hollowness of the fibre also enables it to hold dyes and pigments more readily and permanently, thus making it much more colourfast.
- Softer than cotton, with a texture similar to a blend of cashmere and silk.
- Because the cross-section of the fibre is filled with various micro-gaps and micro-holes, it has much better moisture absorption and ventilation. Moisture absorbency is twice than that of cotton with extraordinary soil release.
- Natural antibacterial elements in bamboo fibre keep bacteria away from bamboo fabrics.
- Garment of bamboo fibre can absorb and evaporate human sweat in a split of second just like breathing. Such a garment makes people feel extremely cool, comfortable and never sticking to skin even in hot summer.
- 100% bamboo yarns show a great elasticity i.e. nearly 20%.
- Bamboo fabrics need less dyestuff than cotton, modal or viscose. It seems that the absorption of dyestuffs is remarkably better. Bamboo absorbs the dyestuffs faster and shows the colour better.
- Anti-ultraviolet nature of bamboo fibre has made it suitable for summer clothing, especially for the protection of pregnant ladies and children from the effect of ultraviolet radiation.
- Product of bamboo fibre is eco-friendly and bio-degradable.