How is Ramie fabric made?

Ramie fabric is very similar to linen. It is obtained from the Ramie plant which is a member of the Nettle family and is grown mainly in China although it is now cultivated in other parts of Eastern Asia and the world. It has been used in fabric manufacture since ancient times.

Ramie manufacture

The Ramie plant is also known as China grass and is covered in short, white hairs, like nettle plants are. These plants however do not sting.

Ramie can be harvested anywhere between 2-3 times per year up to 6 times per year. It is the bast of the stem that produces the Ramie fibres. Unlike other bast fibres, such as linen, Ramie requires chemicals to de-gum the fibres. Firstly the bark outer layer of the stem must be removed, and then the bast is scraped to make sure all of the bark is removed and some other gum and pectins begin to be removed. Lastly, the residual inner material is washed, dried and de-gummed to extract the spinnable fibres.

The fibres are then spun into yarns. This is a difficult process because of the brittleness and inflexibility of the fibres. Ramie is notoriously difficult to work with. When weaving, the hairs on the yarns make it not complicated and lack cohesiveness between that yarns.

Properties of Ramie

  • Strong – 8 times stronger than cotton and even stronger when wet
  • Long and Lustrous
  • One of the strongest natural fibres
  • Low elasticity
  • Creases easily
  • Comfortable to wear
  • Highly Absorbent
  • Expensive to manufacture
  • Anti-fungal
  • Anti-Microbial
  • Holds shape well
  • Stiff and Brittle
  • Often blended with other fibres such as cotton to produce different characteristics

End uses of Ramie fabric

  • Garments
  • Hats
  • Shirts and Suits
  • Industrial sewing threads
  • Packing materials
  • Fishing nets and lines
  • Filtration
  • Fire Hoses
  • Canvas
  • Parachutes
  • Handkerchiefs
  • Tables Cloths
  • Upholstery
  • Curtains
  • Was used to wrap mummies in Ancient Egypt
  • Ramie Ribbon is used in bookbinding

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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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