PINA

Pineapple fabric – Origin, Extinction and Revival of Piña (pronounced pinya)

The pineapple is mainly grown in subtropical countries like the Philippines, Hawaii, Indonesia and the West Indies. However, the credit for making textile fibers from pineapple leaves go to the Philippines.Piña weaving in the Philippines is an age-old tradition dating back to Hispanic times (1521-1898).

Piña clothes were said to have reached Greece and African countries many centuries ago. During 19th century, pina fabric was much in demand, not only in Philippines but worldwide. However, when the much cheaper cotton fabrics became popular, its production ceased and Piña fabric almost disappeared. Till the mid eighties of 20th century, piña fiber was nearly impossible to find, with only a handful of aging, part-time weavers working for its survival. In fact, Piña has been revived in the recent past two decades only.

Great efforts were made for the revival of this age old tradition and for re-establishing the Piña trade. It started with marketing of piña barong (embroidered traditional garment of Philippines) locally which eventually got popular with the elite. Traditional piña weaving has survived in spite of all odds and production has since begun to flourish.

The piña fibers are extracted from the pineapple leaves by hand scraping, decortications or retting. While hand scraping, leaves are stripped by pulling or scraping the fiber away with tools such as porcelain plate, coconut shell, plastic comb and seashells. It is a tedious, time consuming and labor intensive process. The more refined processes include decortications that use a motorized machine with blades to scrape off the pulp in order to separate the fiber. In retting, the pineapple leaves are immersed in water for some time to soften the plant gums.

After extraction and subsequent drying in the open air, the fibers are waxed to remove any entanglements and then they are knotted and bind into yarns for weaving into fabric. The fibers are hand spun into ivory-white colored and naturally glossy fabric. As the fiber is fine and breaks easily, working with piña is really slow and tedious.

One can see the workers constantly knotting the broken threads. However, all these efforts go to produce lightweight, soft, shining, transparent and somewhat stiff fabric that can be termed as a royal exotic fabric. Sometimes, Piña is used to make blended fabrics by combining it with silk fiber or polyester fiber. The resultant fabric is lightweight, easy to care for and has an elegant appearance similar to linen fabrics.
Pineapple silk is, in fact, considered the queen of Philippine fabrics.

Classification and Application of Pineapple Fibers and FabricsPineapple fibers, primarily used in hand weaving are divided into two groups- the linuan or fine fibers and bastos or coarse fibers. Red Spanish or native variety of piña is mainly used for hand weaving to make valuable items such as traditional Barong Tagalog, wedding attire for men, and blouses for women , kimonos, panuelos, handkerchiefs, table linen, mats, fans, gowns and other clothing. The smooth Cayenne or Formosa varieties are primarily used in development of Philippine Tropical Fabrics.
The piña fabric is decorated by a traditional style of hand embroidery called calado. An embroidered piña garment is known as piña calado.
These hand-woven fabrics are dyed with vegetable dyes obtained from leaves and bark of various trees.

Piña fiber is often blended with cotton, abaca, and silk to make amazing light and breezy fabrics. When woven with silk, it is known as piña seda or piña-silk. Piña jusi is a blend of abaca or silk for strength and sheerness and is less expensive than 100% piña.
As the pineapple leaf fiber fabric or the piña fabric is lightweight but stiff, this sheer fabric can be used in any creative design. These fabrics, apart from environmental friendly, have many other qualities.

  • They have beautiful elegant appearance with natural shine, similar to that of linen.
  • They are lightweight.
  • They blend very efficiently with other fibers.
  • They are very soft, even softer than hemp.
  • They have better texture than silk.
  • They can be washed and don’t need to be dry clean.

As the making process of piña fabric is tedious, time consuming and labor intensive, it becomes quite expensive.
However, when worn, one can feel the luxury of this exotic fabric and then its price becomes immaterial. In fact, a garment of piña fabric is categorized as an heirloom garment.

eossar is a distributor of Piña® label in USA.
For inquiries on Piña products within the USA, please e-mail to: info@ecossar.com

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