The Making of Ramie

We are exploring how ramie is traditionally made in Japan!
Ramie is made from Karamushi plants. These Karamushi crops are harvested when new stalk tips appear and the lower portion stalk turns brown. These stalks are usually cut by hand. The ramie fibers are then obtained via decortication which is a process done by hand or mechanically to separate the adhering fiber from the stalk by soaking it in water. The fibers obtained are white, lustrous, absorbent to moisture and readily dyed. And can be spun into yarn to be woven into textiles.
The fiber properties are even stronger than cotton, flax or wool. Any fabric made from them is easy to launder, as it becomes stronger when wet and does not easily lose shape. Repeated washing only makes it smoother and more lustrous. The best part is, these textiles are resistant to microorganism attack, mildew and does not change color despite prolonged exposure to light.
Despite decline in the usage of ramie after the mid Meiji period, ramie is still used today in making clothes, heavy duty sewing threads, fishing nets and packing materials, upholstery and paper making. In fact, garments are nowadays still made out of ramie or made with a blend of cotton to increase absorbency and achieve a softer texture on skin. The slubs in ramie yarn gives the weave a characteristic cross-hatch texture that elevates the look of the garment and makes it more crease proof as compared to another plantbased material such as linen.
For those of you out there looking for sustainable natural fabrics, try ramie for a start. Join us next week on Sunday as we have a sneak peak inside the Showa Village where Ramie is.
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