We have been working with banana fibre for our PEMA scarves and some knitted neck scarves for the last few years. The raw material is a by-product of the banana fruit trade and would otherwise go to waste. It is completely recycled and sustainably sourced from farmers in the Terai region in southern Nepal near the border with India where banana crops flourish. The banana yarn has a natural texture, strong like cotton and with a soft silky sheen, which is completely natural. It is a great material for us at AURA QUE as it is processed from raw material within Nepal and employs people throughout the process.
The banana plant doesn’t have a woody stem but has layers of leaf sheaths. The stalks are cut back each season after the banana fruit crop and the yarn is made from this wastage, which creates an extra income for the farmers. The stalks and outer sheaths are crushed and pulped in a process similar to the production of hemp.
Banana production is farmed the world over, with estimates that over one billion tons of banana plant stalks are discarded per year, which causes a huge agricultural waste problem. However it is a labour intensive process to pulp the raw material and another challenge is that each batch takes the azo-free dyes differently so it can be hard to match colours with each batch of product. The yarn is spun ready to be handwoven into our PEMA scarves.
Though not commonly used, the banana fibre is traditionally a substitute for silk in Japan and traditionally woven into ceremonial garments such as the Kimono. It is also what the Japanese Yen currency is made from!
We hope to work more with this material in the future, watch this space!