We really wanted to talk to you a little about this magical fiber that is raffia. We can often read in the descriptions on the Internet or in some shops “straw bag”, nooo it is NOT straw! And in our workshop it’s our flagship product. We love it and if it is so present in our collections, it is because it is raw and natural. It also showcases one of the values that we defend: the slow process. YES, it takes time to extract the fiber, to crochet it… In short, it’s the exact opposite of mass production. 🙂
This palm is subjected to several ecological issues in Madagascar. It’s a sector that would profit from more transparency, support, and a healthy long-term culture.
Some facts: The raffia is a very very big palm tree which can be found in Madagascar and in all of Eastern Africa. Everything is good in the raffia: you can make salads with its heart, oil with its seeds, and part of the traditional roofs of the East Coast of Madagascar are made with its stems. Once the large fins are cut (which is not easy because of the fine spines along the stems), we extract each leaf from its stem, we remove what’s in it, then with a knife, we separate the thin transparent film of the leaf and let it dry: that’s the raffia.
After that, it will be sorted and the uneven fibers will be removed ( based on length, color, …) to obtain raffia of greater quality. This is the moment when you can dye the raffia in large pots with pigments. This very delicate method is an art, made for colorists. This is the reason why we can never guarantee a shade according to the Pantone.
Then, it’s finally the time to crochet. Dexterity and fiber tension, tempo, attention and suppleness are crucial for a more of less beautiful, more or less regular crocheted work. FYI, a big bag can easily take three days of work.
There are hundreds of different points: flowery, graphic, simple or complex. Raffia can also be hand woven, woven on looms or lace. Those are wonderful stories that we will write an article about… Soon enough.