Monday, June 1, 2009

Nifty Raffia

Just about every crafter has a messy hank of raffia kicking around. Most commonly used for wrapping gifts or bunches of flowers, it has been popular for ages. But what is it, exactly, and where does raffia come from?

Originally from the island of Madagascar, raffia is derived from the Raphia Australis palm, which has the largest leaves in the world. They are shredded and used as a myriad of products, many of which you probably weren't aware could be made with raffia!

Take this chair, for instance, recently offered in the Horchow catalog. Beautiful in it's woven simplicity, it could easily be mistaken for wicker. But because raffia does not absorb water, it is an excellent choice for outdoor products.

The fashion industry is keen on raffia, too. Relatively inexpensive and easy to work with, designers have fashioned it into shoes (such as these by Stella McCartney) and handbags (this one from Anya Hindmarch). Of course, the prices for these pieces go beyond the usual $5 raffia hat found in most any flea market!

Easily dyed and woven, raffia can also be used as a fabric. Here it's used as a soft fringe on this pretty Hawaiian-fabric pillow.

Who knew that all this could be done with just a palm tree?

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