Fab Fabrics: Coconut Fiber

We are obsessed with food-based fibers around here! From banana yarn to pineapple cloth, I’m starting to wonder if we’re feeling more hungry than crafty.

Of course, when Kelly hipped me to coir, a natural fiber made from coconut, I couldn’t pass it up!

Coir fiber is extremely durable and water-resistant. It’s commonly used in things like rope and rugs. To extract the fiber, workers grind up the coconut husk. There are two types of coir: white and brown.

White fiber is made by “retting,” a process where the immature husks are soaked in water for 8-10 months The micro-organisms in the water naturally loosen the fiber from the rest of the coconut hull. Once it’s loosened, it’s beaten by hand of in a defibering machine to extract the long fibers which are spun into a durable yarn on a spinning wheel (like the woman in the photo to the right). White fiber is commonly used in things like ropes and door mats.

You would see brown fiber used in items like hair brushes. It is also made by soaking the coconut, but only for a few days before the fibers are beaten or they head to the defibering machine. They separate the bristly, elastic fibers through wet milling.

According to Commodity Online:

Coir Fibre is biodegradable, eco-friendly and has got excellent chemical and physical properties which makes it suitable for multifarious applications. Coir fibre is the hardest natural fibre and also the only fibre which is resistant to salt water. Coir geotextile is the natural solution to soil erosion and soil degradation and Coir Pith is used as soil conditioner and an effective medium for plant growth. Coir composite is well accepted as a wood substitute which in turn can reduce the pace deforestation to a great extent.

I think its applications as a soil conditioner and a natural ground cover to help stop erosion are particularly fab! You can find coir fiber for the garden at online shops like Planet Natural.

My only concern about coir fiber is how and where farmers are growing the coconut palms. Farming palms for oil has resulted in mass deforestation in places like Malaysia. Are folks clearing out rain forest to grow these palms for their fibers, or are they harvesting trees that were naturally growing? That would make all the difference.

So what do you think? Is coir fiber as sustainably delicious as it sounds?

Image Credits:
Coconut. Creative Commons photo by bzyla
Spinning Coir Rope. Creative Commons photo by urbangarden

6 thoughts on “Fab Fabrics: Coconut Fiber”

  1. What’s wonderful about the coconut is that nothing goes to waste. From the milk to the pulp to the gord itself, a very useful natural resource indeed. I don’t know to much more about the manufacturing process other than what your article mentions, so unless the coconuts are harvested from naturally growing trees, I would agree that the benefits of not mass producing, far outway the pros of making coir the next best organic eco-friendly fiber of the year.

  2. Hello, We have a small business in the Philippines, producing numerous products for household cleaning. We use the husk fibre( for washing lines, to replace the nylon ropes people use),the pith for our cleaning sponges and the shell for our Drip Tree Catcher.
    At least in our part of the world the coconut groves are 50-60 years old. The trees are planted 10m apart, at around 60 years the groves are replanted. New trees placed half way between the older trees. This way no new land is required for replanting. The main thrust for palm oil, which comes from a different tree, and is a newer “industry” destroys huge amounts of tropical rain forest.

  3. Hello,We Shen Zhen HWT Trade Developement CTd,main importer and manufacture of coir fiber in China.Currently we have great demand,if you can offer to us ,we will place regular orders.Please send specifications and price of CNF Shang Hai,Wu Han to us.Your kind quotation will be highly appreciated.
    MSN ID: cherryzhg@hotmail.com

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