Banana silk is obtained from wood pulp, so it is considered a recovered fiber. It may come as a surprise to many that banana plants bear not only delicious fruit but also a practical yarn, which has been known to human kind for centuries and served as a basis of high-quality textiles. Methods of producing this plant-derived silk vary in different parts of the world. Nowadays, there are emerging modern ways of machine production, although the most notable traditional ones are those from Japan and Nepal.
The Japanese have been growing banana for fabric since as early as the 13th century. Typically to this Eastern culture known for precision and thoroughness, the process of making banana silk begins already on the field. The plants are taken good care of, being pruned regularly to ensure their softness. In this method, the yarn is produced of shoots which are first boiled in lye to prepare fibers for the later yarn-making procedure. The specifics of the textile is dependent on the part of shoot which is employed in the production – the outermost layer is the coarsest and strongest one, therefore used for home furnishings, tablecloths or carpets. The inner part gives the most delicate and soft fibers, applied in the creation of kimonos and kamishimos – the most traditional Japanese attires.
In Nepal, instead of shoots, the trunk of banana plant is harvested. The fibers are mechanically extracted from small pieces of trunks and put to the softening process. Later, they are bleached and dried – it results in a yarn extremely similar to silk, hence the name for banana silk. Refining, skeining and dyeing is conducted mostly by Nepalese women. Thanks to the considerable textural quality, the fabric is used in the production of high end Nepalese rugs and carpets – again through handcraft and traditional methods of the women of Nepal.
This very special material has numerous advantages. Its fibers are extremely strong and exhibit low elongation. Banana silk rugs are characterized by sheeny, luminous pile, which is additionally quite light. The yarn is known for profound moisture absorption quality – it takes up and releases humidity rapidly. Moreover, it is considered eco-friendly, since the fiber is bio-degradable and does not affect the natural environment. Last but not least, it can be spun using almost all existing spinning methods, including open-end spinning, ring spinning, semi-worsted or bast fiber spinning, among others. Due to its many qualities, banana silk is gaining ever wider recognition all over the world.