The majority of us consider raffia as a ribbon to use in crafts — but this versatile fiber was used in interiors for centuries. Made out of fibers from dried palm, durable and flexible raffia may be used for much more than wrapping gifts. This substance’s soft but pliable texture has made it a favorite textile for upholstery, wallpaper fabric and accessories.
Discover raffia’s pros and cons and see how you may use this natural material around the house.
The basics. Raffia is a natural fiber harvested from a certain type of palm tree found in Africa, South America and parts of the Philippines. The membrane on the back of each leaf is torn off to create a long and lean fiber. The fibers that are light are dried and then used for craft products or dyed and woven into textiles.
Tip: Handwoven raffia from Africa or the Philippines that was yarn dyed prior to weaving gets the most consistent color.
Lucy Interior Design
Ancient uses. As early as the 14th century, textiles (including raffia fabric) were used as money throughout Africa. The size, quality and color of the textile determined its value. Large pieces were used as payment and were given at weddings and funerals.
Hint: For only some raffia interest in a lower price than fabric, dress up your ottomans or furniture using raffia fringe.
Kuba clothis a traditional patterned textile made from the raffia tree by the Kuba people in Congo. They dye the raffia leaves using mud or liquid from the camwood tree, then rub on the cloths by hand so that they’re soft and easier to weave.
The Kuba embroider the fabric by pulling raffia fibers through it — an extremely time-consuming and delicate craft. The patterns symbolize special communities, and each design may have numerous meanings.
Durability. Quality raffia upholstery fabric must score at least 40,000 on the Martindale Rub Test, which predicts wearability; fabric samples are rubbed using worsted wool fabric in a figure-8 movement. The rating indicates the amount of rubs that the fabric can take before it wears and changes in look from holes, pilling etc..
Hint: Raffia background that’s been bonded to a fabric backing and treated with a stain repellent is a lot easier to install and care for.
Michael Fullen Design Group
Authentic raffia fabric isn’t the best bet in moist areas. If water sits on it for lengthy periods of time, it will mold. If you’d like to use raffia on your bathroom or kitchen, then install it into a place that sees little water — like on cabinet fronts or upper chimney.
Alida Coury Interiors
Modern uses. Dyed raffia is frequently used in contemporary home accessories. Woven placemats, baskets and trays all benefit in the material’s durability and transitional style.
Hint: If having the accurate, natural product is important to you, check your raffia tags to make sure it is not made from other substances. Faux raffia is often created from cellulose pulp.
If you want to shade your windows but do not want to eliminate all of your normal lighting, attempt raffia dividers; they add immediate warmth and character to any room, creating a gentle, weatherproof lighting impact.
Hint: In a more traditional setting, frame your raffia blinds with drapes in a contrasting color to soften the appearance.