Abaca & Raffia fabrics
- story by MaterialDistrict
Abaca, also called Manila Hemp, is the sheerer of these two fibers. A close relative of the banana, abaca is drawn from the inner part of the abaca tree. It is renowned for its high tensile strength and durability. Prior to weaving, abaca fiber is beaten rhythmically by hand using traditional paddles for softening and to release the natural cellulose, resulting in a high silky lustre and smooth, cool texture.
Individual Windochine designs incorporate other useful parts of the abaca tree, such as bacbac, its bark-like dried outer leaf sheath.
Raffia is a denser fiber which, when harvested very young, can be woven into fabric with a polished, satin-like hand. More mature raffia fibers are denser, and are used to create a textural complement to the smoother abaca. Raffia fiber is extracted by hand from the unopened leaf of the African Raffia (or Buri) Palm, a slow-growing, wild palm specie with very large, fan shaped leaves. Growing several feet long, raffia fibers are split into strands of differing dimensions depending on the end use, and hand-knotted prior to weaving.