Help me sew a bamboo martial arts gi.
July 31, 2012 4:44 PM   Subscribe

I want to use bamboo fabric to sew a custom martial arts gi. Help me find fabric and plan this out.

I love bamboo fabric. It's light, breathable, soft, and environmentally friendly. I also love Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and it's how I spend a lot of my free time. Initially, I wanted to buy a bamboo gi -- but only Lucky Gis are made of bamboo, and they're expensive and not quite my style.

Besides, I thought it would be nice to have one custom-tailored to me, and I'm always up for a new project.

There are bamboo fabric retailers and wholesalers, but they seem to be aimed at sheets and shirts (which are cool, but I already have some of those).

Where can I find bamboo fabric that would be thick enough for a gi? Any tips on acquiring the fabric, and/or on sewing it?

If you know of any tailors that would do this kind of work, by all means suggest them, but I'm planning on doing it myself unless a better alternative presents itself.
posted by jeffmshaw to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total)
You can find bamboo rayon fabric at the Dharma Trading Company. I don't know if it's stout enough to be a gi. I did find a few places that mention bamboo canvas, but they're all in wholesale quantities.

One thing I will caution you on: bamboo rayon fabric (like all rayon fabric) is much, MUCH weaker when it's wet. Unless you're planning on air-drying your gi every time you wash it, I'd give some serious thought to that aspect of this project.
posted by KathrynT at 4:56 PM on July 31, 2012

Response by poster: If it helps, common types of cotton fabric used in BJJ gis include:

Pearl weave: single-weave 450 grams, double weave 550 grams , 650 grams and 750 grams.
Gold weave: 400 grams single weave to 750 grams double weave.

If someone could help me understand a bamboo equivalency for these, I'd be grateful.
posted by jeffmshaw at 4:57 PM on July 31, 2012

OK. Probably those gram weights are grams per square meter, they're a way of showing how heavy the fabric is. The (rough) ounce equivalents in ounces per square yard are:

400g --> 12 oz
450g --> 13 oz
550g --> 16 oz
750g --> 22 oz

I'm not familiar with those weave types, though my knowledge is hardly encyclopedic. Do you have a close-up photo of those fabric weaves that I could look at?
posted by KathrynT at 5:04 PM on July 31, 2012

Response by poster: I believe you're right about the grams per square meter thing. The one bamboo gi on the market says it "is made of 420 Light weight True Platinum Weave fabric." I assume that means 420 GSM bamboo. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find any comparably-weighted bamboo on the web.

You can see some close-ups of the cotton and hemp used in BJJ gis in these reviews. I would consider using hemp but would prefer bamboo.

Thanks much!
posted by jeffmshaw at 5:14 PM on July 31, 2012

Bamboo fabric isn't very environment friendly as it requires lots of chemicals to produce.

Have you considered organic cotton? Or a blend (silk/cotton? Hemp/cotton?) check our for sustainable fabrics.
posted by vespabelle at 5:54 PM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here are a few sites that may have Bamboo fabric or blends or maybe other organic materials like hemp or cotton.

equilter-I have trouble searching this site, but there is a large variety here so maybe you can find some bamboo fabric.

near sea naturals- no Bamboo but they do have natural cotton and they seem like they are trying to be environmentally friendly.

Pick naturals - They have a bamboo blend fabric, but not much choice. Not sure if it fits what you are looking for.

I assume getting fabric from China somehow would be where to find fabrics, but I am not sure where to buy from there. Maybe you can check your local fabric store to see if they can put in any special orders?

A consumer alert from FTC about bamboo.- This article talks about bamboo. There are two ways to process Bamboo. most commonly through chemical process to make it into Rayon. The other is a mechanical separation which is very labor intensive so it is hard to come by and more expensive but environmentally friendly...if you can find it!
posted by Jaelma24 at 7:33 PM on July 31, 2012

Are jiu jitsu gis significantly lighter than judo gis? I don't see how you could sew your own judo gi without a very serious professional sewing machine. The pants you could do with a good home sewing machine, but you'll need a no-foolin blackbelt machine for the quilted collar/continous front edge on the jacket.

Also, consider that your homemade gi might disqualify you in a competition -- I have been at tournaments where tape measures were whipped out to check sleeve length, etc. Judo gis have all sorts of crazy rules governing things like the direction of bias in the fabric. It is not hard to imagine that BJJ has the same sorts of arcane requirements.

Still, this sounds like an interesting project -- good luck!
posted by apparently at 8:25 PM on July 31, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great info, folks. Just checking in to answer a few of the queries:

* I appreciate the info about making sure it's the right kind of bamboo production. I would totally consider making a gi out of hemp, too, if I can't find sustainable bamboo that fits my needs.

* I have access to a righteous sewing machine.

* BJJ gis for competition have just as many crazy arcane requirements for competition as judo gis, but I have a competition gi, so this would be primarily for training (and for fun!).
posted by jeffmshaw at 12:33 AM on August 1, 2012

not sure if this is the case with everybody (I seem to have a very acute sense of smell), but I find that any rayon stinks terribly when it gets wet. just another data point against bamboo fabric.

why don't you try a heavy weight linen? it'll get softer over time, and absorbs liquid better than cotton. this site has a 14oz weight, 60" wide linen. They also have hemp fabrics if you want to go that route.
posted by par court at 1:08 AM on August 1, 2012

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