Not just a lovely fruit, but also an increasingly important vegetal fibre for eco-friendly and community aware textile markets. Along with bamboo, hemp, ramie, agave and kenaf, banana fibre’s potential is being discovered or re-discovered and should really come into its own in the next decade.
Banana plants (Musa genus) are completely biodegradable, reliable, sustainable ,quick growing and abundant in tropical climates all over the world. They constitute especially important crops in southern Asia, where some of the poorest communities in the world could be helped out of poverty as the potential for banana fibre in textiles is realised.
Banana fibres have been used for weaving for as long as hemp and linen – i.e for at least 5000 years. The fibres are extracted from the plant stems, in a similar process to hemp: soaked (retted) to release the cellulose, then dried, carded and spun into yarn for knitting or weaving.
However, it is more difficult to process than either hemp or linen and the work to make yarn from the fibre more complex.
The Indian Government in particular is currently assisting the National Research Centre for Banana to find an environmentally and commercially viable solution to increase banana fibre production whilst remaining environmentally sound.
In many ways, the establishment of the much more efficient cotton industry usurped the previous production and use of alternative, traditional vegetal fibres; in light of the environmental damage connected with the cotton industry, the banana fibre might well make a come back. The Japanese historically used banana fabric for kimonos, scrolls and shoji screens.
We’ve used banana textiles woven with varying degrees of openness for sheer screens and blinds, especially in open contemporary rooms, and often a stiffly woven banana fibre for flat sheers that sit neatly against windows. Neutral, light brown in colour, they are almost invisible from the outside looking in and from the inside looking out; perfect for urban formal rooms.
“This feels like wearing nature “ C. Shekhar
In Tamil Nadu, C Sekhar is hand weaving with banana fibre, making fine, finely woven sari lengths, which are light and easy to wear and breathe well. Banana fibre saris may also include silk woven into the border or with the weft, to catch the light. He is also experimenting with aloe vera, jute, hemp, pineapple flax, reed grass as well as many other natural fibres, up to 28 in total.