Botanical name: Boehmeria Nivea
Method of manufacture: Decortication
Ramie is a flowering plant belonging to the nettle family (Urticaceae), and is native to eastern Asia. It is an herbaceous perennial, which grows 1–2.5 metres in height; it has heart-shaped leaves, which are white on the underside with dense small hairs (these hairs do not sting, unlike stinging nettles), giving them a silvery appearance. The true ramie or China grass is also called Chinese plant or white ramie.
Ramie, is one of the oldest vegetable fibre crops, having been used for at least six thousand years. It is part of a group referred to as, bast fibre crops; each plant produces a large number of unbranched stems from underground rhizomes, which can be harvested up to 6 times a year, and it’s these stems that are used to create the fibre. Harvesting takes place when the lower portion of the stem turns brown and the tips of new stems appear. The stems are usually cut by hand, and the fibres are obtained by decortication, a hand or mechanical process in which the bark and the adhering fibre are separated from the stem and soaked in water, allowing the fibre to be scraped from the bark.
The ramie fibre is pure white in colour, and so does not require bleaching; the fibres are stronger than flax, cotton, or wool. These fibres are spun into yarn, which can then be woven into fabric. Fabric made from ramie fibre is easily laundered, increasing in strength when wet, and does not shrink or lose its shape. It dries quickly and becomes smoother and more lustrous with repeated washings. Ramie is resistant to mildew and other types of microorganism attack and does not change colour with prolonged exposure to sunlight.
Advantages of Ramie:
•Resistant to bacteria, mildew, alkalis, rotting, light and insect attack.
•Natural stain resistance.
•Increases in strength when wet.
•Withstands high water temperatures during laundering.
•Smooth lustrous appearance improves with washing.
•Keeps its shape and does not shrink.
•Strong and durable (It is reported to have a tensile strength eight times that of cotton and seven times greater than silk).
At Soapy Skin Ltd we sell a number of products made from this strong, durable material, which can be found in our accessories department.