How is Sisal Fabric made?

Sisal fabric is made from the Sisal plant. This is thought to be native of Yucatan. In the 19th Century Sisal cultivation spread to Florida, Brazil and many other countries. Today Brazil is the most common manufacturer of Sisal fibre. Sisal is a tropical plant, requiring temperatures of above 25⁰c and sunshine to grow.

Sisal Manufacture

The Sisal plant produces around 200-250 useable leaves over its 7-10 year life span. Each of these leaves contains approximately 1000 fibres. The fibres are extracted by crushing and beating the leaves so that only the fibres remain. Water is then used to wash away any remaining parts of the leaf. The fibres are then dried. This must be done properly to keep the fibres flexible with some moisture content. Drying works better when it is done artificially and the temperature can be controlled, but because most Sisal is manufactured in countries that aren’t this technologically advanced, sun drying is usually the method used.

The dry fibres are brushed and sorted into different grades, dependant on size and quality and baled for export.

Sisal fibres are fine enough to be woven in many ways such as, Plaid, herringbone and twill. Sisal can also be treated with a natural finishing agent called Borax to make the fabric Fire Retardant.

Properties of Sisal fabric

  • Strong
  • Durable
  • Good ability to stretch
  • Affinity to dye
  • Resistant to deterioration in salt water
  • Wear resistant
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Biodegradable
  • Fine
  • Recyclable
  • Anti-Static
  • Doesn’t absorb water or moisture

End uses of Sisal

  • Rope, twine and general cordage
  • Speciality Paper
  • Dartboards
  • Buffing Cloth
  • Filters
  • Geotextiles
  • Mattresses
  • Carpets
  • Macrame
  • Environmentally friendly replacement for Fibreglass and Asbestos
  • Marine and agricultural uses

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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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