The colour nuances of Abaca fibres cover all human hair colours:
from platinum, golden, ash and dark blond into the brownish shades with or without high or low lights to ebony with a brownish gloss

THE PLANT

Abaca (binomial name: Musa Textilis Née), known internationally as Manila Hemp, is a species of the Musaceae family of banana plants. The leaves are tapering, narrow and glossy-green with pointed end petioles. Its pseudostem can grow up to 6.5 m and is built of 10-25 sheaths that grow from a central core, so that the oldest sheaths are located at the stalk periphery.

Abaca is indigenous to the Philippines whose warm, wet climate and volcanic soils are particularly suited to its cultivation. Its commercial production has always been centred here. Abaca has been a source for natural fibre bundle extraction for centuries. It was used to fabricate cordage, ropes and cables, but also woven textiles, coiled baskets, bags, laces, hats and furniture were manufactured from Abaca.

Abaca fibres are undeniably favourable especially when it comes to quality and strength. With lignin content as high as 15%, it is prized as the strongest among natural fibres for its great mechanical strength, resistance to saltwater damage and long fibre length – up to 3 m. Abaca is considered the strongest of natural fibres being three times stronger than cotton and two times stronger than sisal fibres.

Abaca fibre is one of the sturdiest natural fibres. Its quality (tensile strength) is one major factor that gives the commodity highly competitive among other natural hard fibres in any given market. 

Rugs are made from woven Abaca fibres from the Philippines. Due to its strength, natural colour palette and high gloss, Abaca is a sought-after product and the shiniest and strongest of all the natural fibres, such as: Sisal, Coir, Henequin and Hemp.

ABACA THE BEST FIBRE NATURE HAS TO OFFER

PREPARING THE ABACA FIBRES

The manual method of extraction is adapted especially to farmers in the hinterlands.
They harvest the Abaca fields every three to eight months after an initial growth period
of 12–25 months.

It consists of the following steps:

Although it looks simple, it requires extra effort and constant practice to master these steps.

CROPS

Abaca is mostly grown in the upland areas and interior parts of the Philippines. It is traditionally planted by using suckers. Abaca grows in clay loam and sandy clay loam types of soil. It is more productive in areas where the soil is volcanic in origin, rich in organic matter, loose, friable and well drained. Soil pH level must be about 6.0 to 7.0 and an elevation of less than 1,000 meters above sea level. Over 85% of world production originates from the Philippines. A minority is grown in Ecuador under less favourable conditions.

Since Abaca is indigenous to the Philippines, it is its natural environment and grows without any artificial help or fertilizer. The soil is hardly exhausted by intensive cultivation. Other places in the world do not have this prerequisite condition; an important basis for sustainability.

HARVESTING

Abaca is harvested by hand when fully matured, which is indicated by the presence of a flag leaf and takes place between 18 and 24 months from the first shoots. At this stage the plant delivers fibre bundles with best properties. For harvesting the pseudostems were cut and the leaves were removed using sharp machete. The outer layer of the sheaths that contains the primary fibre bundles is separated from the inner layer.

There are 4 stages in the harvesting process: Cleaning, Topping, Tumbling and Tuxying.

CLEANING

The area surrounding the base of the stalk is cleared of dried leaves, grasses, and other weeds in order to ensure that the Abaca plant remains healthy and viable.

TOPPING

With the use of a sharp, curved knife fastened at the tip of a long pole, the leaves of the stalk are cut. Topping eases harvesting and minimizes the damage on other plants.

TUMBLING

Tumbling of stalks is accomplished with the use of a sharp bolo. After tumbling, all cut stalks are piled together in a convenient place where tuxying is to be done. The other parts are left to blend back into nature again.

TUXYING

Tuxying is the process of separating the outer layer from the inner layer of the stalk. It is done by inserting a tuxy knife between the layers and then flipping with a vigorous jerk to completely separate the outer layer. The outer layer is pried loose and discarded and the next leaf sheath then becomes ready for tuxying. The different groups of tuxies produce distinct grades of fibre. The outermost leaf sheaths exhibit brown portions. The middle layers carry tinges of light green or streaks of purple. The inner layers are ivory to white in colour.

EXTRACTION OF THE FIBRE

The tuxies are then put through a cleaning process, called: Stripping. The most prevalent methods of Abaca fibre extraction in the Philippines are the Hand Stripping and the Machine or Spindle Stripping.

Hand Stripping is a fully manual process of extracting fibre which uses a device made up of a movable knife, a knife rest or base, and a weight to keep the movable portion firmly in position as stripping is performed. In this method, the tuxies are inserted between a block and the stripping knife which can be either serrated or non-serrated. The foot pedal is then released to clamp the tuxy firmly into place. The stripper then pulls the tuxy away from the knife with full force, both hands clasping the tuxy wound around a wooden pulling aid.

Machine Stripping, on the other hand, is a semi-mechanized improvement on the Hand Stripping process. The tuxy is wound around a tapered-shaped spindle which is kept in motion by an electric motor. The speed at which the spindle draws the fibre over the knife depends on its position.

DRYING

After extraction the fibre bundles must be dried immediately. The Abaca fibres are then left out to dry naturally in the sun. Normally the drying will take some 2-4 hours. In the rainy season increased drying period up to 3 days. This prolongation influences the fibre quality negatively. Fibres recovered vary from 1.5% to 2% by weight of the freshly cut leaf sheaths.

GRADING AND BALING

Once the Abaca fibres have dried out sufficiently, they are transported to a warehouse where they are classified in accordance with government and international standards. After classification, the Abaca fibres are then baled by means of pressing machines. The standard bale of Abaca fibre is equivalent to 125 kilograms and measures around 100 cm x 55 cm x 60 cm.

While fibre bundles from the outer 5-7 sheaths are darker in colour, the ones extracted from the middle and inner sheaths are ivory white and offer an excellent high tensile strength. The best grades of Abaca are fine, lustrous and very strong. Quality is determined by colour, texture, fibre length, strength and cleaning.

THE ART OF ABACA RUG CRAFTING

After selecting the right colour palette for the rug, bundles are made and knotted. This very important step insures both the equal thickness and colour patterns of the rug. In the meantime, the loom is prepared by spanning the warps on it. Warp and weft are the two basic components used in weaving. The lengthwise warp yarns are held stationary in tension on a loom while the transverse weft is drawn through and inserted over-and-under the warp.

Musett Design Abaca rugs are dedicated to high-end residential, yacht or hotel flooring projects. We offer you our wide choice of patterns on our quality Abaca rugs. We focus on creating unique rugs, crafted on order for each client, each room and each home.

Due to this focus, the custom-made design process requires the proper attention combining the customer wishes and the crafting capabilities in order to create the exclusive hand-made one-off Musett Design Abaca rug fit for its new location.

With a variety of different pattern, fibre and colour swatches the capabilities and ideas can be shown and communicated in order to define your desired size, design and colour palette.

Woven rugs can be crafted up till a maximum width of 6 metres; length has no restrictions. Hand-coiled rugs are generally crafted by sewing square feet tiles together.

The word rug is often used for a partial floor covering as distinguished from carpet, which often is tacked down to the floor and usually covers it wall-to-wall. In reference to handmade carpets, however, the names rug and carpet are used interchangeably. At Musett Design we prefer to use rug.

HISTORY OF ABACA RUG MAKING

After WW II Abaca was slowly replaced by synthetic fibres in many applications and a major part of the Abaca market vanished. In the early 1980-ties Abaca rugmaking came up building on ropemaking techniques. Instead of creating a one-dimensional rope based on a line, they started to make a two-dimensional rug based on a net structure.

MATERIAL SUSTAINABILITY INDEX

Since Abaca originates from the Philippines, it is its natural environment and grows without any artificial help or fertilizer. The soil is hardly to be exhausted by intensive cultivation. Other places in the world do not have this prerequisite condition; an important basis for sustainability.

For one, it’s environmentally friendly. Intercropping Abaca in former monoculture plantations and rainforest areas, particularly with coconut palms, can assist erosion control and biodiversity rehabilitation. Planting Abaca can also minimize erosion and sedimentation problems in coastal areas, which are important breeding places for sea fishes. The water holding capacity of the soil will be improved and floods and landslides will also be prevented. Abaca waste materials are used as organic fertilizer.

Therefor Abaca will have the best score compared with all other fibres on all seven Higg Materials Sustainability Index [MSI] areas. The Higg Index is a cradle-to-gate material scoring tool using a life cycle assessment approach to engage product design teams and our global value chain in environmental sustainability.