Banana Silk Rugs
When most people think of rugs, they are familiar with a composition of either natural or synthetic materials. Banana silk is a material that can be taken from the shoots or trunk of the banana plant, so it’s unlike polyester, nylon, wool, or cotton.
The yarn itself is recovered from parts of the banana plant, and it goes through different methods of preparation to be ready for use in a variety of high-quality textiles. Japan and Nepal are a couple of locations around the world that have a tradition of producing banana silk rugs. It’s incredibly versatile so banana silk is suitable for ring spinning, semi-worsted, open-end spinning, or bast fiber spinning methods.
Japanese Banana Silk Rugs
In Japan, the process of making banana silk begins on the field where the plants are grown. Their method of caring for the plants ensures that the yarn is incredibly soft, with traditions that date back all the way to the 13th century. Yarn is made of the shoots that are prepared by being boiled in lye. The shoot itself has multiple parts that are used in the applications that are most appropriate for their texture.
Rugs and other home furnishings are often created using the outer layer of the shoot because it has durable and coarse fibers. The delicate inner fibers are more appropriate for use in crafting soft kamishimos and kimonos.
Nepalese Banana Silk Rugs
Rather than harvest yarn from the shoots of the plant, it’s more common in Nepal to harvest it from the trunk of the plant. This process is done mechanically so that pieces can be removed and softened before going through a process of bleaching and drying. The result of these steps is a silky yarn that is suitable for dyeing, skeining, and refining to prepare for rug making. Although the harvesting process itself begins mechanically, the Nepalese women traditionally use the banana silk to create rugs by hand so that the final product is high-end artistry.
Benefits of Banana Silk
Banana silk is quickly gaining worldwide recognition for being incredibly versatile. The fibers are naturally luminous with a radiant outer sheen. Not only does this create an attractive product, but the fibers themselves are incredibly strong. The bio-degradable and eco-friendly material is light and does an exceptional job of absorbing moisture. It’s simple to choose a rug based on look alone, but a truly remarkable product can be achieved when using quality material like banana silk.
Harvesting Banana Silk Fibers
Contrary to what many people claim today, the production of banana silk is not a new trade, as evidence exists which suggests that people in Japan were harvesting and processing banana fibers as early as the 13th century. However, the popularity of the fiber declined as demand for China’s and India’s silk and cotton increased. The fiber thus fell out of general awareness.
In recent years, demand for the versatile fiber and fabric has been rising, largely due to its reputation for being an environmentally friendly textile—one which needs little mechanical energy, and no chemicals, to process. In what follows, we will give a brief account of the process the fiber undergoes to become fabric.
The fiber is derived from the stems (or psuedostems) and stalks of a species of banana plant, called “abaca” and named “Musa Textilis,” which bears inedible fruit. It takes the plant between 18 to 24 months to mature, at which point it may have 12-30 stalks, each 12-20 ft tall. After this point, the stalks may be harvested every few months, making it a high potential crop in terms of profit.
There are several ways to harvest the fiber of the abaca plant. One way is to soak the trunk of the stalks in water, a process known as retting, in order to soften the fiber, making it easier to separate the individual fibers from each other. Another method is simply stripping the individual fibers with a knife. The fibers are then dried organically and braided into a yarn.
One could also produce the fabric through a process known as combing. Moreover, one could use chemical extraction as a method, but this would undermine its very economic value, as it would diminish the Green quality which is the source of the demand for it.
After the fiber has been harvested, it is ready to be woven into clothes, ropes, mats, handbags, paper, and more. Without a doubt, banana fiber is a rising commodity with the potential to do both economic and environmental wonders.