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Kyogen costume
MFA# 28.491


A Bast fiber obtained from the stems of plants from the nettle family, Boehmeria (formerly Urtica) nivea and Boehmeria tenacissema, native to tropical Asia. Ramie is a soft, fine fiber that has been used in China for Paper and fabric since prehistoric times. Its use spread through Europe in the Middle Ages and it has been cultivated since the 1930s in China, Japan, Europe, South America, and the United States. Ramie is a white, durable fiber that is very lustrous and dyes well. Degummed ramie is almost pure cellulose and its fibers are stronger than Cotton, Hemp, and Flax. It is used for twine, fishnets, sewing thread and fabric for clothing, summer suits, dresses, canvas, tablecloths, and upholstery. Ramie has also been used to produce strong paper for linings, banknotes, and cigarettes. The stiff, greenish-yellow fibers produced from hand-cleaning are called China grass. A Chinese fabric woven from ramie is called Grass cloth.


Synonyms and Related Terms

Boehmeria nivea; Urtica nivea; Boehmeria tenacissema; China grass; rhea; grass cloth; rami; Chinese linen; Canton linen; grass linen; ramio (Esp.)


Resistant to mildew and insects.

Physical and Chemical Properties

Resistant to alkalis; damaged by acids. Fibers length = 15-20 cm (6-8 inches); Fiber width = 12-82 microns with a uniform thickness and blunt ends; Striactions are numerous and occasionally overlap to form x or v shapes; Moisture regain 12%.

Paper fiber type: non-woody/bast. Using transmitted light microscopy, fibers appear long, wide, and flat with a wide lumen. They may appear twisted (similar to Cotton). Walls of fibers have pronounced longitudinal striations that are finer than Flax or Hemp. Appearance with Graff "C" stain: red due to high Alpha cellulose. Average dimensions of fibers: length 120mm, width 50μm. Common pulping method: mechanical separation with alkaline processing. The long fibers impart strength to papers.


Properties of Natural Fibers

Additional Images

Resources and Citations

  • G.Cook, Handbook of Textile Fibres:I. Natural Fibres, 5th edition, Merrow Publishing Co., Durham, England, 1984.
  • T.Collings, D. Miller, 'The Identification of Oriental Paper Fibers' The Paper Conservator, vol 3, 1978.
  • Hoechst Celanese Corporation, Dictionary of Fiber & Textile Technology (older version called Man-made Fiber and Textile Dictionary, 1965), Hoechst Celanese Corporation, Charlotte NC, 1990
  • The Dictionary of Paper, American Paper Institute, New York, Fourth Edition, 1980
  • E.J.LaBarre, Dictionary and Encyclopedia of Paper and Paper-making, Swets & Zeitlinger, Amsterdam, 1969
  • Identification of Textile Materials, The Textile Institute, Manchester, England, 1985
  • Matt Roberts, Don Etherington, Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books: a Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington DC, 1982
  • R. J. Gettens, G.L. Stout, Painting Materials, A Short Encyclopaedia, Dover Publications, New York, 1966
  • Rosalie Rosso King, Textile Identification, Conservation, and Preservation, Noyes Publications, Park Ridge, NJ, 1985
  • Book and Paper Group, Paper Conservation Catalog, AIC, 1984, 1989
  • Edward Reich, Carlton J. Siegler, Consumer Goods: How to Know and Use Them, American Book Company, New York City, 1937
  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971 Comment: p. 650
  • Website: www.fabrics.net
  • Marja-Sisko Ilvessalo-Pfäffli. Fiber Atlas: Identification of Papermaking Fibers (Springer Series in Wood Science). Springer, 1995.
  • Walter Rantanen. "Fiber ID Course." Integrated Paper Services. June 2013. Lecture.
  • James P. Casey "Pulp and Paper: Chemistry and Chemical Technology Vol.1" Wiley-Interscience, 1980.