We recently stumbled across a series of DVDs* about local bushfoods and “survival skills”, which include, among other things, how to make string out of local plant fibres. One of the fibres mentioned was banana plant fibre, so off we went to raid our spent banana stems for fibres to make string.
Since string doesn’t cost a lot of money to buy, until the DVDs we hadn’t really thought about making our own yet. We hadn’t really valued string. We’d measured it in money. But without string, we’d be a bit stuffed. We stake up tomatoes and other plants with it, use it to hang paper bags with drying seeds in, make stringlines so our fences are straight, and so on. And we use rope, which is really just thick string, for a million other things.
It turns out it’s not difficult at all to make 2-ply string, just a bit time-consuming. Since we spend a fair bit of time sitting around philosophising, it’s been quite fun to sit around and twiddle banana fibre at the same time. These are some of our first efforts:
When I lived in Sydney, I’d read about making string with plant fibres, and even made some (dodgy) rope with old scraps of material, but I got stuck on finding enough plant fibre to make any decent length of string. So banana fibre is a revelation – it’s in the leaves, the “stem” (or whatever the “trunk” of the banana tree is called), it’s easy to strip into long thin bits and it doesn’t take that long to dry.
With any luck, I’ll get around to taking some photos of making the fibre, and of twisting the string, and writing a bit of a “how-to”. There are also some other plants around here, like a native hibiscus and a sandpaper fig (inner bark) and a kind of palm lily (leaves) that apparently have good fibres for string. It’s not quite so obvious how to prepare the fibres from them though. Working on it…
*The DVDs are called “Walking Softly with Koa” and are available from Rainbow Wholefoods in Lismore (ph +61 2 6621 8007 if you’re outside Australia, or (02) 6621 8007 if you’re in). They’re made by a couple of locals.
Here’s a snippet to whet your appetite. If you like the video please support them by purchasing the DVD.