It’s the very first one of my yarn reviews and I’m starting with the most bonkers of them all … Banana yarn!
This review is not sponsored, I bought the yarns myself because I wanted to work with them, and this is my honest, unbiased opinion.
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Ye\,s it really is bananas! It’s made from the bark of banana trees. Despite being made from such tough fibres, banana yarn is often called vegan silk, because it’s actually very soft and silky. The bark fibres are soaked in water over a period of time until they become soft cellulose fibers. Then they are suitable for spinning into yarn.
In one word… outstanding!
It’s recycling at it’s very best. Its production provides a waste removal and reuse service for waste from the banana food industry. The bark has to be removed from old trees so reusing the bark prevents it going to landfill and the associated greenhouse gases it would produce.
It’s fully biodegradable.
The fibre is spun by women living in rural communities in India and Nepal working with Women’s Co-operatives, who then sell (fairly traded) the spun and often dyed yarn to wholesalers, providing a vital income for these small communities.
It really has the most incredible eco and ethical credentials, it doesn’t get more planet friendly and ‘feel good’ than this.
It usually comes knotted in a hank of yarn, which you then need to wind into a ball. I’d never actually done this before but it was much easier than I expected.
The yarn is very slubby with amazing texture and I honestly didn’t like that at first but I absolutely love it now!
It’s totally unique. I’ve never seen any yarn like it. I thought what on earth can I make with it? But after getting to know it, I’ve now designed crochet patterns that are perfect for it! You can adapt other patterns for it too, those for chunky yarn are best suited and easily adapted if you need to with a bit of patience, creativity and change in tension.
It’s a heavy yarn, that’s silky, soft (usually) and feels cool to touch and is very much like silk as it’s cool in summer and warm in winter. Because of its heaviness working with bigger hooks and larger stitches suits it well, creating an airier lighter fabric with a strong drape and the stitches will definitely stretch through wear. I’ve made a few different scarves and they’ve all increased a couple of inches in length from being draped on my dummy or worn by me! I think using smaller hooks and denser stitches would result in much less drape and would create a thick warm material. I’ll be experimenting with that idea very soon.
It’s usually quite chunky and slubby, with thick and thin parts all the way through it. No two hanks are the same! You can get finer spun banana yarns from some suppliers and from Western artisan hand-spinners and dyers, although it is often very expensive and may not have all the Ethical credentials but it’s still a wonderful plant based yarn.
It occasionally has a musty smell, but it should air or wash out. I’ve read it may be due to the humid conditions they spin it in, but I think the dyes used could also be a factor. I have undyed yarn with absolutely no smell at all. I’ve also had yarn that arrived smelling of laundry soap!
Regardless if there’s a smell or not, I recommend you hand wash it BEFORE you ball it up! Dyes have run on every hank I’ve used (10 from 3 different suppliers). Several cold rinses/dips in a bowl may be needed to remove excess surface dye and then cold wash with mild detergent.
What to make with it?
It’s beautiful to wear because of its softness and gives an incredible texture, guaranteed to attract attention.
- simple clothing (with little or no shaping)
- wall hangings
Check out my Easy Eco Cowl, a Free pattern designed for banana yarn and I have some more coming in 2021.
You can’t compare this type of yarn to any factory produced yarn, it’s unique. But the closest in appearance is recycled spun sari silk. Banana yarn is smoother, shinier and less fluffy. They are usually both produced by the same spinners and sold by the same suppliers.
Quality is highly variable. It is hand spun using drop spindles and the skill of the spinner will inevitably differ. No two hanks will be the same.
In my experience, expect a few breakages in any hank, some knots, some bits that you’ll need to spin tighter or loosen off. If it’s poor quality, there will be a lot of unspun tufts and excessive breakages, so I would definitely contact the supplier and get a replacement if you can’t work with it because of this.
Price seems to vary quite a lot, depending on supplier, but price isn’t an indication of quality. Obviously it’s a lot more expensive than acrylic and cotton. It’s generally more akin to indie dyed yarns. It’s worth checking out a few suppliers for different colours etc and value. I’ve listed suppliers at the end to help you.
What it’s like to work with
Fun, challenging, creative and emotional! I felt beautifully connected with their ethical roots, humbled by their production yet immensely satisfied that my money was very well spent in directly helping the women who spun it.
- Ethically produced.
- Fairly Traded.
- Made from waste, 100% recycled.
- Plant based, Vegan
- Does no harm to planet earth in its production, use or disposal (biodegradable).
- Unique. no skeins are identical.
- Amazing texture, like nothing you’ve ever seen!.
- Fun to work with and look at.
- Feels lovely, both to work with and to wear. It’s usually soft and silky.
- Creates strikingly beautiful finished products, you can make ordinary things look incredible in this yarn.
- Talking point, anything you make in this yarn will attract attention. People are fascinated and amazed by it.
- Dye is highly likely to run.
- Spin quality – huge variation.
- Breakages and knots. You will have to reattach as you work or ball up.
- Inconsistent weight and yardage, even within the same brand. You are best to buy more than you need to ensure you have enough.
- Tricky to work with and takes a bit of practice to get even stitches. Working with a loose tension is essential. You may not see stitches on the fuzzier parts. It doesn’t pull down well, so practice unfamiliar stitches on another yarn first.
- It can be expensive with big variations in price (compared with factory made yarns).
Where to get it?
You won’t find it in your local yarn store, or the big online yarn stores. There are a few bigger specialist suppliers of Ethical yarns and lots of smaller sellers on Etsy. There are also Indian wholesaler sellers with worldwide postage. Here’s a list of everything I can find, with those recommended by me and my pattern testers first marked with **:
**US – Inspiritchange Yarn (CA based)** Tester recommended
**UK – Ebay seller, the multi coloured yarn shown in my photos. It’s really soft, absolutely beautiful yarn**
US – Darn Good Yarn (FL based)
US – Eco-Friendly Crafts (GA based)
US – Hawaiiandogyarn (Maryland based)
US – Victorian Gypsy Girl (Rhode Island)
Canada – SilkDivine on Etsy has a large range with lots of gorgeous colours. Often runs sales. Worldwide postage.
UK – Oliver Twists Fibres (undyed only)
UK – Yarn Yarn – lovely range of colour choices. Regularly runs sales which offer good value.
India – Silkroute India – bulk buy packs with free Worldwide Delivery
What do you think? Have you ever used banana yarn? Fancy giving it a go? Be sure to subscribe to catch my coming pattern releases, one is coming tomorrow with an exclusive subscriber offer!
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