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The Tropical Equivalent of Silk: Banana Fibers

Native to the tropical regions of Southeast Asia, the banana was first grown in the regions we know as Papua New Guinea. Over time, some parts of the banana plant, which has become an important part of the life of various cultures and whose fruit we consume as food, decorate your home and find use as clothing. Banana fibers are turned into various commercial products using traditional techniques in countries such as Japan, Nepal and the Philippines.


Banana is an important crop in the Philippines and Ecuador, where planting, harvesting and processing are major sources of employment. Various workshops where banana fibers are produced have been established in Antalya, Turkey, in recent years. However, the fabrics produced in these workshops are in coarse weaving style.


In Japan, it is made of banana fibers, kimono, etc. thin fabrics can be made. Banana fibers allow to produce fabrics that are stronger than silk and compete with silk in brightness. Since the Japanese have been processing banana fibers for about 800 years, they have advanced considerably in the production of banana fiber fabric. The thinnest and inner beautiful fibers of the banana; reserved for formal wear worn by kimonos and samurai. Beautiful and luxurious carpets are made from banana fibers due to its moisture-absorbing and dry-feeling structure. Because their desiccant properties make them ideal floor coverings for tropical climates.


The banana plant has a unique growth characteristic, due to the fact that it consists of a false root (pseudostem) that makes up a whole plant. The entire plant may grow 2 to 6 feet above the ground, depending on the variety. At maturity, the rootless causes an inflorescence that is carried along the true seed stalk (smooth, unbranched root) passing through the center of the pseudostem. The flower eventually emerges between clusters of leaves. The inflorescence often forms a large vine. This branch contains 3 to 20 bundles (fruit layers). Each branch bears at least 5-10 fruits. The production process of banana fibers includes the process steps of cutting the pseudo-roots (pseudostem) of the banana tree, dividing it into strips, resting in open pools with various chemicals for weakening and digestion of the bonds between the fibers, washing and drying.



Properties of Banana Fiber

  • The appearance of banana fiber is similar to bamboo fiber and ramie fiber, but its elegance and bendability are better than the other two.

  • The chemical composition of banana fiber is cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin.

  • It is an extremely strong lift.

  • It has smaller elongation.

  • According to the sticker and bending method, it has some glossy appearance.

  • It has a light structure.

  • It has high moisture absorption properties. It both releases and absorbs moisture very quickly.

  • It is biodegradable and has no adverse effects on the environment; so it can be classified as environmentally friendly fiber.

  • Its average thickness is 2,400 nanometers.

  • It can be spun by almost all spinning methods, including ring spinning, open-end spinning, bast fiber spinning and semi-worsted spinning.


How is Banana Fabric Produced?

Japanese Method

The use of bananas for clothing and other household goods in Japan dates back to the 13th century. In the Japanese banana fiber production method, care is taken from the cultivation stage of the plant. The leaves and shoots of the banana plant are pruned at regular intervals to ensure their softness. The harvested shoots are first boiled in Caustic Potash or Caustic Soda solution to prepare the fibers for yarn production. These banana shoots reveal fibers of varying degrees of softness. In addition, yarns and weavings of different qualities that can be used for special purposes also appear. The outermost fibers of the shoots are the coarsest. Therefore, they are more suitable for the construction of home furnishings, such as tablecloths. It is the innermost part that yields the soft fibers commonly used in making traditional Japanese clothing, kimono and kamishimo. The method of making banana cloth is an extremely lengthy one and all the steps are done by hand.


Nepali Method

In Nepal, the (false) stem of the banana plant is harvested instead of its shoots. Small pieces of these pseudobodies undergo a softening process in which the fibers are mechanically removed, and are then bleached and dried. The fiber obtained in this way has a silk-like appearance, which is known as banana silk. This fiber is refined, processed and skeined mostly by Nepali women. Only the aged bark or rotting outer layers of the banana plant are harvested and soaked in water to accelerate the natural process. When all the chlorophyll is dissolved, only cellulose fibers remain. They are compressed into dough so that they become suitable for spinning into threads. The yarn is then dyed by hand. These fibers have high textural qualities similar to silk and are therefore used in the manufacture of top quality carpets. These traditional carpets are also hand woven by Nepali women.



How to use banana fabric?

In the recent past, banana fiber had very limited application and was mainly used to make ropes, mats and some other composite materials. Thanks to the increasing environmental awareness and importance of eco-friendly fabrics, banana fiber has been recognized for all its good qualities and its application is now increasing in other fields such as tops, home furnishings. However, in Japan it has been used to make traditional dresses such as kimono and kamishimo since the Edo period (1600-1868). It is still preferred by the people there as a summer outfit due to its light weight and comfortable wearing. Banana fiber is also used in the production of pillowcases, ties, bags, tablecloths and curtains. Carpets made of banana silk are also popular.



How does banana fabric affect the environment?

Banana fiber production has a negligible impact on the environment. Even among natural fibers, banana fabric is in a special category in terms of sustainability. This is because this fabric is derived from waste; Banana skins become waste when peeled, so why not turn them into clothing?


However, there is no guarantee that banana production is always sustainable and environmentally friendly. You will do anything to make money while you struggle to survive, and unsustainable methods are likely to be resorted to. Of course, if done properly, banana fabric can be produced in perfect harmony with the environment.


The designer who combines the banana fibers she produces with handmade shoes and accessories: Beste Cercis


Combining the banana fibers she produces from banana trees with handmade shoes and accessories, the designer draws attention to the importance of environmentally friendly, sustainable and recyclable products with her brand Beste Cercis.


Her areas of interest were on natural materials, handicrafts, design and recycling, apart from the Economics department he graduated from. While she was constantly working on hobbies such as home decoration, pebble design, and clothing design with the materials she collected from nature, in the region where she spends an average of half of the year, the trunks of the banana trees are cut to leave their place to new seedlings after they bear fruit, and what a transformation this will bring to our lives. While she was thinking about how she could contribute with the product, she designed the first sandal made of banana wood.



When she realized that she had been using it for a whole summer without any problems and attracted attention, she made room for her story and dreams by producing natural fibers from banana trees and starting to make designs that were both healthy and recyclable from the fibers she produced. Of course, for production, the supply of banana fiber was necessary. Not being able to find a study on this subject in our country, and realizing that he could not supply fiber in the dimensions and standards she wanted from abroad, she decided to start this business with the manufacture of fibers that she would use in her own designs. She established a banana fiber workshop, turned her interest in design into a profession with the raw materials she produced, and started the production of banana fiber sole sandals and shoes with her own brand. From the raw material (banana fiber) production of the products to the final shape of the shoes, she is at the beginning of every step, carefully selects every material used and takes part in the production process.


I congratulate her for being a part of sustainable production with her successful initiative and wish her continued success. Here you can get more information about the production of banana fiber and examine the products designed by Beste Cercis.


 

References

  • TekstilBilgi. "Muz Lifi Özellikleri". Access: 06.01.2022. https://tekstilbilgi.net/ban-muz-lifi.html

  • Tekstil Sayfası. "Muz Lifleri ve Üretimi". Access: 06.01.2022. https://tekstilsayfasi.blogspot.com /2017/07/muz-elyaflari-ve-uretimi.html

  • Beste Cercis. "Beste Cercis Hakkında". Acces: 06.01.2022. https://www.bestecercis.com/hakkimizda

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