Some Jute fiber and fabric facts
Jute is known as the golden fiber in the textile industry not only because of its yellowish-brown color, but because it was a high earner of foreign exchange for its exporting countries in the not-so-distant past. Today jute fiber and the coarse brown fabric it makes, is not as popular as it was during the 1990s, but still it is used in making multiple products, especially eco-friendly products.
Other than in its original form, Jute fabric is available in bleached, dyed, and laminated forms. Jute fabric is also known as Hessian cloth in some parts of the world, when it has a rough textured weave and has lamination on the backside. Another name for jute is Burlap. There are mainly two varieties of jute – White jute and Tossa jute. Tossa jute fiber is softer, silkier, and stronger than white jute.
Jute is mainly grown in Southern Asia, South America, and Africa, specifically in these countries – India, Bangladesh, China, Myanmar, Sudan, Egypt, Nepal, and Thailand. India and Bangladesh are the largest exporters of jute fibers. In the African continent, Jute is also used as an edible crop and is used to cook delicious stews.
Reference : Article about Jute on wikipedia here
Properties of Jute & its uses
Jute is one of the most affordable natural fibers and also very useful in a lot of ways across all industries.
Jute fiber has great anti-static properties; so that any kind of static charges are not produced during Jute Product making or use. Because of this, jute is a great packaging material.
Jute fiber can be blended with other Natural and Synthetic fibers. This gives the new fiber the greater qualities of both the fibers. When blended with cotton, it enhances the softness and breathing quality of the textile.
Jute fiber is harder and stronger than other textile fibers.This makes it a very durable fabric. Infact, the most common and widely used jute products are sacks and bags. These sacks or hessian bags or gunny bags are widely used in practical life, mostly for the transportation of agricultural products like grains. Food Grade Jute Bags / sacks are also used to store food products like coffee beans, rice etc.
Jute has a peculiar rough texture. If you want a fabric with texture jute is a good choice.
Jute can be dyed and presented in many different shades other than its brown color. This makes it appealing for many other uses than the traditional ones.
Jute acts as an insulating fiber and therefore it is used to make clothes that are used in electrical works.
Like cotton, jute is also environment friendly. Since jute is biodegradable, the bags made from jute are used in planting saplings. The biodegradable quality also makes it an eco-friendly option in the place of plastic or poly bags. Since trees are highly exploited in the paper industry, jute, which is easy to cultivate in bulk, is being used as a replacement for wood in the paper industry.
Nowadays, jute is used in various manufacturing industries like floor and wall coverings, technical and gel textiles, wrappers, upholstery, and other furnishings, furniture, and bedding, making nets and ropes. In fact, Jute has a long history of its use in the home decore market – for making carpets (especially for its backing), mats, curtains etc.
The raw, coarse rough texture and look of raw jute fabric and fiber makes them very popular as craft materials. Jute is in great demand in the craft industry to make a variety of things like picture frames, gift bags, table decor etc.
Usage of Jute in the fashion industry
Though it is not as versatile as cotton or other natural fabrics as a fashion fabric, the lustrous and smooth texture of finished jute fabric makes it somewhat appealing as a material for making clothes and accessories.
Jute is used by the fashion industry to make handbags, sandals, espadrilles, and apparel. Jute handbags and sandals are trendy as they come in both sober and vibrant colors and are decorated with beads, lace, ribbon, embroidery, etc. Jute is used to make very attractive twill tote bags with a raw appeal.
Indian fashion designers like Prabha Mohanty have used jute in high fashion garments.
However, there are some disadvantages to its use in the fashion industry. Jute fabric is not as versatile as other natural fabrics like linen and cotton. It is not as drapey or as comfortable. Since chemicals like bleach adversely affect the fiber, it can never be made in pure white color. It also has a rough texture which may not be appealing to all.
How is Jute Fabric made?
Jute is a natural fiber produced from flowering plants in the genus Corchorus, family Malvaceae. It’s an annual crop taking 120 days to harvest, cultivated in plain alluvial soil and standing water. It’s a rain-fed crop, still, it can withstand all weather conditions thus making it possible to grow it also in the summer season on well-drained swamp plots. It’s low cost in maintenance needing little or no fertilizers or pesticides.
The jute plant’s fibers lie beneath the bark and surround the woody central part of the stem. The fibers are held together by gummy materials; these must be softened, dissolved, and washed away to allow extraction of the fibers from the stem. This process is known as retting and it can be either by biological or chemical processes. The stems of harvested plants are bundled and immersed in water for 10 to 30 days. Then the non-fibrous matter, the gummy material that holds the fibers together, is scraped off, leaving the fibers to be pulled out from within the stem. The fibers are then washed, dried, sorted, graded, and baled in preparation for shipment to jute mills. In the latter, the fibers are softened by the addition of oil, water, and emulsifiers, after which they are converted into yarn.
The spun yarn is then woven, knitted, twisted, corded, sewn, or braided into finished products.
Books to read – New Horizons for Jute Dr. Ranganathan and Mr. Quayyum,1993; Handbook of Fiber Chemistry Edited by Menachem Lewin – section on Jute by Roger M. Rowell and Harry P. Stout