Sunday, July 6, 2014

Fibers of the Philippines

Today let us look at two textile fibers from the Philippines: Abaca and Pina

The abaca plant (Musa textiles),  a species of banana is native to the region and grows naturally.  Strong, coarse fibers are extracted from the large oblong leaves and stems.  The leaves grow from the trunk of the plant and the base of the leaves form a sheath around the trunk.  The striping process separates the long leaf fibers (5 to 11 ½ ft in length) from the pulpy matrix.  The fibers are dried in the sun and gathered into bundles.  If the fibers are intended for textiles, they are softened by pounding in a mortar, increasing their flexibility.  The fibers cannot be spun, but are hand tied end –to-end and are carefully coiled in baskets to keep them from tangling.  Before they are woven, they are dyed in skeins of plain colors or on tying framed for ikat.

Characteristics of abaca;  elegant in appearance and similar to  linen
                                        abaca fibers are usually blended with other fibers such as silk or polyester which produces a fabric with a distinct nubby appearance
                                          the fabric is washable and easy care

Pina (pineapple) is an herbaceous perennial , 2/12 to 5 feet in height with a spread of 3-4 feet.  It is not native to the Philippines, but a native to Brazil and Paraguay.  The native Indians spread the plant throughout South and Central America where Columbus found the fruit on the island of Guadeloupe in 1493 and brought it back to Spain.  The Spanish introduced it to the Philippines in the 16thC.

The fiber is a leaf fiber ( leaves are 20-72 inches in length).

Characteristics are similar to abaca and is usually combined with other fibers.  Combined with abaca, it is called ‘justi”.

From the Rainbow's Varied Hue: Textiles of the Southern Philippines,
Roy W. Hamilton, ed., 
UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, Los Angeles, 1989

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