As a bit of history for us all, banana trees were widely used for making fabrics before cotton was affordable and readily available. Now “jusi” banana fabric is made in only a handful of places in Southeast Asia. The tree stalks and leaves are removed and processed into a pliable fiber that is technically a rayon. Different layers of the stem yield fibers for specific uses: the outer layer's fibers are generally used for tablecloths. The middle layer's fibers are used for obi and other ties. The third layer makes the finest, silkiest fabric, which is primarily used for kimonos and saris.
Like our recycled silk and vegan recycled sari yarns, this banana yarn comes from remnants of the sari-making industry and is handspun by women in Nepal. Silk and rayon thrums (the threads that hold the woven piece on the loom, and are generally thrown away when the fabric is finished) are imported from India. The handspun, vibrant, textured skeins of yarn made by Nepalese cottage industries and women's cooperatives thus use the waste products from the textile industry while providing valuable jobs as well. The yarn dyes beautifully, and these handpainted yarns are dyed with low-impact dyes.
Expect a gauge of 3.5-4 sts/inch, using US 8-10 needles. There aren't dye lots, so you'll want to alternate skeins for the most uniform color. When knit or crocheted with smaller needles,
you'll get a sturdy fabric perfect for purses and belts. Working with size 10 needles or a J hook (or larger), creates a soft fabric
that drapes like a well-washed linen. The yarns are suitable for knitting, weaving, decorative tassels, embellishment, and other surface decorations.
Ordering a swatch will get you pieces of each of the three yarns in this group; there's no need to specify which one you want.
One of the delightful aspects of this yarn is the fact that its purchase supports so many people. Indeed, frequently three women work on each skein -- one to prepare the fiber, one to spin it, and one to make the yarn ready for sale. Once the fiber has been sorted and teased, it is handspun on either a drop spindle or traditional charka spinning wheel. When that's finished, the yarn is turned in for payment and another group of women put the yarn into skeins and prepare it for sale. The yarn is, of course, fairly traded -- the women receive a fair price for their efforts, and are using their traditional skills to support their families (and, frequently, to educate their children).
Hand spinning creates yarns that are as individual as the women who create them. The colors, twist, texture, and yardage can vary from yard to yard and skein to skein. Be prepared for a few knots, wild texture, maybe even a bit of Nepalese newspaper or piece of vegetation if you're lucky. As each yard goes through your hands, think of all the hands that it has gone through already and enjoy your connection to women all over the world.