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Fabric from Bananas

With the advancement of technology, we are now able to turn the extremely long, fine fibres extracted from soft inner layers of the banana stem plant into gorgeous, natural silk-grade textiles used for fashion and interior products.

Currently only 10% of this “waste” fibre is being used, farmers must pay costly fees to have it regularly removed, and often burnt thus adding additional negative impact to air pollution.

“Fabric from bananas, from the stalk of a banana plant to be more precise, has been utilized by cultures in Japan and Southeast Asia since the 13th century. The fibre from the stalk of banana plants is incredibly durable and is actually a waste product of the bananas grown for the food industry.
Spun into silk yarns, woven into fabrics for interior decoration and even used as paper and packaging materials, the fibrous stalks of this large, fruit-bearing plant offer numerous possibilities as a natural and sustainable textile and fiber material.”

Different layers of the stem yield fibres for specific uses

The outer layer’s fibres are generally used for table cloths while the third layer makes the finest, silkiest fabric, suitable for kimonos and saris.  Many Nepalese rugs are made from dried fibres of the banana plant that are hand-knotted into silk-like rugs.  * Ethical Fashion Forum

The stalk of a banana plant contains fibrous strands that can be processed into anything from paper to kimono-grade silk.

The outermost fibers of the shoots are the coarsest, and are suitable for tablecloths, while the softest innermost fibers are desirable for kimono and kamishimo.  This traditional Japanese cloth-making process requires many steps, all performed by hand.
In a Nepalese system the trunk is harvested instead, and small pieces are subjected to a softening process, mechanical fiber extraction, natural bleaching and drying. After that, the fibers are sent to the Kathmandu Valley for use in rugs with a silk-like texture.
These banana fiber rugs are woven by traditional Nepalese hand-knotting methods, and are sold RugMark certified.  

Banana fabric
Since the Japanese have been processing banana fibers for nearly 800 years, they have perfected the art of creating banana cloth. The finest fibers of the banana stalk are reserved for kimono dresses and kamishimo, a formal garment worn by the samurai. Nepalese artisans have also been creating beautiful and lavish rugs out of banana fibers, as their moisture-wicking properties make them the ideal floor coverings for tropical climates. Alongside these traditional uses, banana fibers are also used for interior purposes such as cushion covers, curtains, tablecloths, bags and even paper and journals. The International Institute for Environment and Development has even launched a program to educate women in Rwanda in making low cost and environmentally friendly sanitary pads out of banana fiber.

The time and skill required to efficiently make strong and evenly spun yarns can take a lifetime to learn, however, the process of banana fiber production is nonetheless a sustainable one. Banana plants do not require pesticides or fertilizers when grown in the tropics and are often cultivated by small farmers who own their land. The fibers are spun, dyed and woven by small artisan communities that continue to pass down their trades to younger generations, keeping age-old traditions alive. These communities often thrive as a whole on the work they accomplish, sharing the benefits equally among one another.

Banana silk

Products made from banana fabric are difficult to find unless visiting a country where the material is currently produced, such as the Philippines, Japan, Nepal, India or Kenya. Some items such as bags, coasters, pillows and clutches can be found online at Fair Trade marketplaces like Handcrafting Justice, Harkiss Designs and Nkuku Fairtrade. For the craftier type, beautifully dyed banana silk yarns can be found from Frabjous Fibers. These skeins are handspun by women in Nepal, and kettle dyed or hand painted into an array of brilliant colors. THIS Co., a fabric distributor that has worked with the likes of Comme des Garcons, offers woven, semi-sheer banana fabric at $47 per yard.


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