How is Kenaf made?

Kenaf fibre comes from the Hibiscus Cannabinus plant. This is similar to the Hemp plant, but from a different botanical family, although the two plants do look very similar. Kenaf grows very quickly and can reach up to 3 or 4 metres in 6 months. Kenaf grows anywhere that cotton grows and is very hardy, being resistant to strong winds and drought. Like hemp, Kenaf is very versatile, but a positive aspect of Kenaf compared to hemp is it doesn’t have the stigma of being associated with Marijuana.

It is cultivated in various parts of the world including India, Pakistan, China and Africa. It is similar in nature to jute and may be used to make a coarse hessian, but is usually blended with other fibres to make it more versatile.

Kenaf Manufacture

The Kenaf plant is harvested by hand. The cut stems then have the leaves removed and are tied into bundles. These are then submerged in water ready for retting.

Kenaf fibre is produced when the core of the Kenaf plant is separated from the outer fibrous layer. If this is not done, Kenaf is very inflexible and unusable in textile manufacture. To do this the Kenaf is retted, meaning that the bast fibres are separated from the woody, gummy parts. This can be done by either chemical or bacterial methods. Mechanically separated fibres cannot be used as they are too stiff. The retting process usually takes between 5 and 30 days.

Once the fibres have been retted, they are then carded which means they are straightened out and cut to a uniform length to aid with the spinning process. These fibres are then blended with cotton and are spun into yarns which can then be woven or knitted into fabrics, depending on the end use required. In order to improve the handle of the cotton/kenaf blend, many finishes can be applied such as enzymes, bleaching and mercerisation.

Properties of Kenaf Fabric

  • Aesthetically pleasing
  • Soft Handle
  • Linen look
  • Can be either lightweight or heavyweight
  • Eco-friendly because of its ease of growing
  • Strong
  • Brittle
  • Very little elasticity
  • Degradable
  • Absorbent
  • Can be lustrous

End uses of Kenaf

  • Garments that do not require lining
  • Ropes
  • Sacking
  • Cordage
  • Hessian
  • Upholstery

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Written by Kelly Mitchell

Kelly Mitchell, extremely competent and reliable, she is currently in her third year at the University of Lincoln UK, studying Fashion. Kelly is responsible for the Fabrics, Fibers and Leathers sections of our Dictionary

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