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Clothing made from pineapple fiber

Many health conscious people love to have Pineapple as their favorite dessert. It’s because of many health benefits of the delicious fruit. It protects from a simple flu as well as fights off free radicals that cause cancer. It cleans the internal system to keep our body healthy through fibers that help in proper digestion. That’s not all, it’s not the only kind of fiber that a pineapple carries. Pineapple leaves are used to obtain Piña, a textile fiber that is used to make fabrics. As such, we are able not only to keep our internal system clean but also to achieve an outer elegant appearance. Piña is a pineapple fiber made from the leaves of a pineapple plant and is commonly used in the Philippines. It is sometimes combined with silk or polyester to create a textile fabric. Piña’s name comes from the Spanish word piña which literally means pineapple

Figure 1: Pineapple not only good for health as fruit, its leaf have been used as fiber for producing luxury cloths in the history.
Figure 1: Pineapple not only good for health as fruit, its leaf have been used as fiber for producing luxury cloths in the history.

Pineapple is mainly grown in sub-tropic countries including Philippines, Taiwan, Brazil, Hawaii, India, Indonesia and the West Indies.  Pineapple has been produced well amount in Bangladesh also. And the country has good potential in producing pineapple fiber and corresponding products. However the credit for making textile fibers from pineapple leaves go to the Philippines.  Pina weaving is an age old tradition dating back to Hispanic times.  Pina clothes were said to have reached Greece and African countries many centuries ago.  During 19th century, pina fabric was much in demand, not only in Philippines but worldwide.  However, when the much cheaper cotton fabrics became popular, its production ceased and Pina fabric almost disappeared.  Till the mid eighties of 20th century, pina fiber was nearly impossible to find with only a handful of aging, part time weavers working for its survival.  In fact, Pina has been revived in the recent past two decades only.

Great efforts were made for the revival of this age old tradition and for re-establishing the pina trade.  It started with marketing of pina barong [embroidered traditional garment of Philippines] locally which eventually got popular with the elite.  Traditional pina weaving has survived in spite of all odds and production has since begun to flourish.  Now once again, pina fiber is globally popular and Pina cloths from the Philippines are being exported to various parts of the world, particularly to North America and Europe.

Kalibo, Aklan is the main and the oldest manufacturer/weaver of Piña cloth in the Philippines which are being exported. History records suggest that Kalibo’s Piña cloth was traded during the Pre-Hispanic times and reached as far as Greece and Egypt during its heyday. Kalibo is also known for other native products such as handbags made of buri leaves which is a favorite for Caucasian females visiting the town. Pineapple silk is considered the queen of Philippine fabrics and is considered the fabric of choice of the Philippine elite. During the 1996 edition of APEC in the Philippines, world leaders donned a Pineapple silk Barong Tagalog from Kalibo during the traditional group photo.

In recent times pineapple fiber has been used to produce high value added nonwoven to be used for producing luxury lustrous products.

Production of pineapple fiber

Since piña is from a leaf, the leaf is cut first from the plant. Then the fiber is pulled or split away from the leaf. Most leaf fibers are long and somewhat stiff. Each strand of the Piña fiber is hand scraped and is knotted one by one to form a continuous filament to be hand-woven and then made into a Piña cloth. Researchers have developed some easy tools to extract fiber from pineapple leaves.

Fiber from Pineapple leaves for long has been used by Philippine handicraft artisans to produce cloth. Pineapple fibre is considered to be more delicate in texture than any other vegetal fibre. A kilo of leaves may provide up to 15-18 pieces of white, creamy and lustrous as silk fibre about 60 cm long and it easily retains dyes.

It is a painstaking process and involves up to 30 people from the beginning to the end of the process. Fibres of the leaf are scrapped by means of a broken plate or coconut shell and a fast scraper can extract fibre from over 500 leaves per day after which the fibres are washed and dried in the open air.

After which they are waxed to remove the entanglements and then the fibres are knotted and bind into yarns for the next process of weaving it in to fabric. Pineapple fabrics are mainly used for creating Barong Tagalog and other formal wear. It is also used for other products where a lightweight, but stiff and sheer fabric is needed.

It is sometimes combined with silk or polyester to create a textile fabric.

Properties of pineapple fiber         

The piña fiber is softer, and has a high luster, and is usually white or ivory in color. The end fabric is lightweight, easy to care for and has an elegant appearance similar to linen.    Pineapple fibers are an ivory-white color and naturally glossy. This delicate and dreamy cloth is translucent, soft and fine with a high luster.  Pineapple silk is considered the queen of Philippine fabrics and is considered the fabric of choice of the Philippine elite.

Pine cloth in Philippine’s islands is soft, durable and resistant to moisture. This is also used in making coarse grass cloth and for mats, bags and clothing. The leaves need retting, which is controlled rolling by soaking in water and allowing bacteria to attack the leaves. The fibres are then separated  mechanically  by scotching ( beating ).The fibers are bundles of many overlapping cellulosic cells and are much , stiffer and longer than cotton. The cells adhere by means of lignin cements.

As the pineapple leaf fiber fabric or the pina fabric is lightweight but stiff, this sheer fabric can be used in any creative design. These fabrics, apart from environmental friendly, have many other qualities.

  • They have beautiful elegant appearance with natural shine, similar to that of linen.
  • They are lightweight.
  • They blend very efficiently with other fibers.
  • They are very soft, even softer than hemp.
  • They have better texture than silk.
  • They can be washed and don’t need to be dry cleaned.

As the making process of piña fabric is tedious, time consuming and labor intensive, it becomes quiet expensive. However, when worn, one can feel the luxury of this exotic fabric and then its price becomes immaterial. In fact, a garment of piña fabric is categorized as an heirloom garment.

In a project, pineapple, being a leaf fiber and due to its long length it was used in worsted spinning.  Pineapple fiber was brought from South India. It was blended with polyester tops in the ratio of polyester/pineapple  80/20. Then fabric was made for suiting purposes. The feel and look was very good. Pina fiber is often blended with cotton, abaca, and silk to create wonderful light, breezy fabrics. When woven with silk, it’s called piña seda or piña-silk. Piña jusi is blended with jusi (abaca or silk) for strength and sheerness and is less expensive than 100% piña .

Pineapple leaf fiber (PALF) which is rich in cellulose has the potential for polymer reinforcement.

Bleaching of pineapple fiber is done by Hydrogen peroxide at boil. As per requirement pineapple fiber is dyed using ME dyes at 60 degree Celsius or HE dyes at 80 degree Celsius.  Where high fastness is required in that case vat dyes are used.

The spinning  of pineapple fibers on worsted system. It was carried out as follows.

  1. Blender
  2. Carding.
  3. Combing.
  4. Mixing with polyester tops/wool tops./viscose tops.
  5. Recombing.
  6. Gilling
  7. Roving.
  8. Ring frame

With this idea the synthetic polyester/viscose spinning mills R&D department should start working on using pineapple fibers in synthetic/cotton spinning system. It will become a value added item. It will have good export potential.

Uses of pineapple fibers

Pineapple fibers, primarily used in hand weaving are divided into two groups- the linuan or fine fibers and bastos or coarse fibers. Red Spanish or native variety of piña is mainly used for hand weaving to make valuable items such as traditional Barong Tagalog, wedding attire for men, and blouses for women , kimonos, panuelos, handkerchiefs, table linen, mats, fans, gowns, and other clothing. The smooth Cayenne or Formosa varieties are primarily used in development of Philippine Tropical Fabrics.

A major use for piña fabric is in the creation of the Barong Tagalog and other formal wear that is common in the Philippines. It is also used for other table linens, bags, mats and other clothing items, or anytime that a lightweight, but stiff and sheer fabric is needed.

The pina fabric is decorated by a traditional style of hand embroidery called calado. An embroidered piña garment is known as piña calado. These handwoven fabrics are dyed with vegetable dyes obtained from leaves and bark of various trees. Pina fiber is often blended with cotton, abaca, and silk to make amazing light and breezy fabrics. When woven with silk, it is known as pina seda or pina-silk. Pina jusi is a blend of abaca or silk for strength and sheerness and is less expensive than 100% pina.

Note: The author is the first person to bleach and dye pineapple fibres using vat dyes in three shades like black, coffee, and navy. Then it was blended with polyester fibre in 80/20 ratio .Safari suit fabric was made at Jayashree Textiles ,Rishra ,Hooghly.

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