Search This Blog

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Vegetable Silk (also known as Sabra, Cactus or Agave Silk)

If you search on the web for cactus silk or vegetable silk it is likely you get presented with a lot of silk plants!
 
Having purchased some cushions and a pouffe in Vegetable Silk from my Moroccan supplier, I was curious to find out more. It took me some time.
Cactus silk is also known as Agave silk, or vegetable silk or vegan silk and also as Sabra silk, the Moroccan name.
Some of the products made with this fiber are certainly different. Wherever you are going in Morocco, you are coming across little shops packed with tons of thread in myriad of colours,  shiny, bright colours with which buttons and trims finish off the traditional ‘djellaba’.
 
Man wearing traditional djellaba

 


 
However there are also items made in this vegetable-vegan silk in much more subtle colours and the end result is of understated and classic yet modern items of soft furnishing seen above.
 
I am running ahead of myself.  Let’s start at the beginning.
 

“Sabra” Cactus-Silk

Cactus silk or Sabra silk is a luxurious fabric made from the Agave Cactus in the capital of Morocco, Fes.
Jardin Majorelle, Marrakech - Cactus and agave plants
 
      Jardin Majorelle, Marrakech - Cactus and agave
 
Also known as Cactus silk, Sabra silk is a natural fiber harvested from sustainable sources of Saharan Aloe Vera Cactus (the Aloe Vera plant being part of the Agave family).
The fabric is a 100% vegetable silk blend of extracted filaments from the aloe cactus grown in Morocco. It is sought for its quality, strength and beauty since millennia. The process to produce sabra silk has not changed for centuries. Once the Cactus plant is collected from the long agave plants, the long spiky leaves are crushed and the fibres washed and hammered, then the leaves are soaked in water to separate the fibres & filaments and then these are spun and woven to make "silk thread" which are then dyed in different colours. The textile produced has a high elasticity and this makes Sabra-Silk free of wrinkles.
You might have come across - when walking through the narrow lanes of the Medina in Marrakech –men threading fine, almost invisible, fibers on spools. These are then twisted into thread by small battery powered twisters and tacked along the walls of the medina while they were being created. The colourful threads of the cactus silk are then sold in spools.
 
Cactus silk threads
 
Sabra Silk is hand-loomed in Morocco [See a picture of a weaver at work] and some of the products are created with strips of the silks alternate with camel's wool. Some have Chenille, and cotton yarn in contrasting colours which enhances the amazingly vibrant, almost metallic shine of the cloths. This long and time consuming process makes some of its products (cushions, rugs, textile) very expensive and at the same time pretty unique.
 
Silk Napkin Ties covered with Vegetable silk threads
.
Items made of cactus/sabra silk can be washed at 30 degrees or dry-cleaned. It is safe to iron them with a low steam iron programme, although as they are almost wrinkle-free, this is hardly necessary...

If interested in the items shown in this Blog, please visit our shop on www.craftsoftheworldonline.com .