Celebrating mass-produced, frugal, aesthetic design from india

Weaved in : the Natural fibres of India

Natural Fibres 

-Nidhi Kamath, IICD Jaipur 

What images occur to your mind when you think of Natural Fibres ? Do  images of a woven bamboo mat or a tokri , or pattal or basketry pass by fleetingly ? 

The earliest evidence for humans using fibres is the discovery of wool and dyed flax fibres found in a prehistoric cave in the Republic of Georgia that date back to 36,000 BC.

India has been blessed with abundant natural fibres due to its geographical placement. As India falls in the tropical region it is one of the biodiversity hotspots. Though the world is being hit with issues like global warming in recent times, India has been known for using natural fibres since time immemorial .

The United Nations General Assembly declared 2009 as the International Year of Natural Fibres.

What are Natural Fibres?

Fibre or fibres are a class of hair-like materials that are continuous filaments or are indiscrete elongated pieces, similar to pieces of thread. They can be spun into filaments, thread, or rope.

Types of fibre

Fibres are classified according to their origin, their chemical structure, or both.Natural fibers can be classified according to their origin.  Natural fibers are made from plant, animal and mineral sources.Natural fibers are further classified into animal , vegetable and mineral . Here are few examples for Natural fibers
Animal fibers- Angora , pashmina ,silk
Vegetable fibers -coir ,  cotton ,Linen, jute, Hemp
Mineral fibers – asbestos
The synthetic fibers are further classied into Celloluse , mineral and polymer.
Cellulose fibres- Art silk , Rayon 
Mineral fibres- glass , basalt , metallic
Polymer fibres  -acrylic ,nylon, polyester

Why has its use declined ?

In the later 19th century,the Natural fibre Industry suffered a setback due to the invention of synthetic fibres with superior physical properties,cost and bulk industrial production. But in recent times the situation has changed especially due to the environmental concerns in favour of natural fibres as they are eco- friendly (biodegradable) and a sustainable material .

Types of Products from fibres 

The product range of natural fibres are endless and they are  used widely in the following areas:

            a .  As crafts products like furniture, mats , basketry etc.

b.  In architecture – potential for using it as a building material are being thought and experimented too.

c. In  automobile companies – like Mercedes uses fibres of Abaca banana plant to replace glass fibres in the under body protection.The fibres are being used in the cover for the spare wheel compartment of 3 door version of Mercedes – Benz A class model. This reduces the 60% of the energy  compared to producing glass fibres.

So, where are fibres found ?

Most of the  India States have different types of Natural fibres.For a better understanding ,we can focus at one of the southern states using natural fibres prominently i.e  Kerala.  The bamboo mats woven from reeds is very popular in the state and so is bamboo ply; the resin bonded bamboo mats, which are a good substitute for wood/plywood based applications.Since the plant propagates rapidly and the collection method is by select felling,the ecological balance is not disturbed even if reeds are cut in large numbers.

For centuries man has been using bamboo for various purposes. As a natural renewable resource, bamboo is regaining its popularity in the modern world. 

Few state wise distribution of natural fibres in India
1. Arunachal pradesh , Assam – Cane and Bamboo
2. Chattisgarh, Gujarat, Manipur , Mizoram, Punjab , Tripura  – Bamboo
3. Goa – Coconut , Bamboo
4. Haryana – Palm , Moonj
5. Himachal – Baboom basketry
6. Jammu and Kashmir – Wicker work , Chipkiang basketry
7. Karnataka – Areca , Bamboo , Rice straws
8.  Kerela – Bamboo , Cane, Palmyria basketry , Screwpine, Ramachan roots , Kora mat weaving 
9.  Madhya Pradesh – Jute , Bamboo
10. Maharastra – Bamboo , Sisal craft
11. Nagaland – Cane
12. Orissa – Sikki , Bamboo , coconut , paddy
13. Tamil Nadu- Palm leaf craft, Banana leaf, Sisal , Kora mat weaving 
14. Uttar Pradesh – Bamboo , Chik making , Moonj Basketry , Dates Palm Craft

People working with Natural Fibres

Many NGO’s ,artisans , design studios , and automobile companies are engaged in work related to natural fibres.

This is a golden resource as its
– frugal
– biodegradable
– gives employment to many people in rural areas
– makes the environment greener

Support and use products made out of natural fibre and GO GREEN !




3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_fiber

4.Indian Institute of Crafts and Design  www.iicd.ac.in student design project – lesser known natural fibres of south India, for K.I.D.S ( Kottapuram Integrated Development society) 

Nidhi Kamath is baroda based and a recent graduate from Indian Institute of Crafts and Design , (IICD) Jaipur .She has great interest to bring in the fair trade practices and provision of sustainable livelihoods to all people in craft sector through medium of short films. Her recent works include a a short film  “Threads of Banaras” . She can be contacted for further discussions on nidhikmth@gmail.com

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