Handwoven January/February 2024: Exploring Bast Fibers

One of the fun things about fiber-specific issues is finding out about fibers you’ve never heard of.

Susan E. Horton Dec 11, 2023 - 3 min read

Handwoven January/February 2024: Exploring Bast Fibers Primary Image

The Bespoke Wedding Towels by Susan E. Horton combine a linen warp with a cotton weft. All photos by Matt Graves

When I envisioned an issue about bast fibers, fibers derived from plants, I envisioned lots of hemp and linen and some raffia and bamboo. I was in for a surprise. Not that those bast fibers weren’t represented, but there were also a couple of yarns that I didn’t expect, yarns made from pineapple and banana. (If they come out with a yarn made from mango or papaya, we should have a “fruit salad” issue.)

In all cases, I felt the designers honored the fiber they were working with. The projects aren’t over-designed with complex color orders and weave structures; they are designed to show off the fibers. I like simple cloth and can imagine many of the projects for the home in my own house. Here are a few examples from the January/February 2024 issue that I’m coveting. I’ll start with the two projects in banana and pineapple.

Jacquie Crema’s Rustic Pineapple Placemats

Jacquie worked Danish medallions in a contrasting very springy fique (pineapple) yarn at the end of her hemp plain-weave placemats. The medallions look different depending on which side of the placemat you pick as the right side.

Sue Anne Sullivan’s Top Banana Table Topper

Sue Anne used two sizes of banana yarns in the weft to create texture and interest. Rather than hiding her thick weft in the weave, she used it to create small elipses running up the sides.

Kate Lange McKibben’s Rosepath and Raffia Runner

Kate had experimented with raffia on the rigid-heddle loom and had also used it as weft on a multi-shaft loom. For this 4-shaft runner, she used some raffia in the warp to see whether that worked. I think we can agree that it did!

Karen Leach’s Linen Towel for Margaret

Karen has been studying color-and-weave, so it was her first choice for linen towels. Rather than using a more typical size of linen such as 16/2, she opted for very thin 30/2 linen.

I urge you to check out this beautiful issue of Handwoven with these and many other bast projects and interesting articles. For lack of a better pun, it’s the bast of best worlds.

Weave well,