Raving for RAFFIA

Raffia is a quite literally sun-dried membranes from Raphia palm fronds.

What is Raffia?

If we are friends on Instagram or TikTok, I hope you have arrived to learn something new and want to check out my latest pattern releases. Continue reading along, because I am about to spill all the tea on my new favorite SPR/SUM fiber and the patterns to be. So what is this fiber that I am obsessing over? What has got me cranking out patterns like it is no big deal? The answer is RAFFIA [obviously lol]! Ladies and gentlemen I can not express enough how much I thoroughly enjoy experimenting and creating with raffia. But what IS raffia?

Raffia is a quite literally sun-dried membranes from Raphia palm fronds. These palms are native to tropical regions of Africa, as well as Central and South America. Raffia is commonly used around the world in garments, accessories, home décor, and rope. It comes to no surprise I’m finding all kinds of uses for it with my latest patterns, and new arrivals to come!

 

 

 

 

Cultural Significance

Raffia is very important to many cultures and communities around the world. Some South Nigerian communities use the palm fronds as fishing poles. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, The Pende people weave raffia into traditional Munganji dancer suits for ceremonies. Raphia palms also contain a sap used to create wine and liquors often served as offerings to guests.

Raphia palms have so many uses to the communities that cultivate these trees, but the truth of the matter is all raffia is not created equal.

 

Raffia is considered an eco-friendly sustainable natural fiber. Raffia strands naturally reach a maximum length of just under 5 ft (1.5m). So how is it that companies like Wool and the Gang and Joann have skeins of 99-270+ yds. of continuous fibers. Well the answer is right on the wrap label. These fibers are “paper yarn,” 100% viscose fibers. Although it’s considered raffia, it’s technically artificial in comparison to the original. Is this “artificial” raffia sustainable and eco-friendly? Technically yes. It is still a plant sourced alternative fiber made from wood pulp, bamboo. 

This alternative raffia it easier to produce larger quantities of continuous fiber. The alternative costs more per hank or spool, is found in wide variety of colors, and seemingly easier to acquire in most marketplaces. Now that I have shared a little insight into the significance of this wonderful fiber, I’d like to express why I’m so obsessed.

  1.  Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
  2. ^ Tucker, A.; Redford, A.; Scher, J.; Trice, M. (2010). “Raphia taedigera”. Dried Botanical ID. Fort Collins, CO: Delaware State University, Identification Technology Program, CPHST, PPQ, APHIS, USDA. Retrieved 7 October 2016.
  3. ^ Hallé, F. 1977. The longest leaf in palms? Principes 21: 18.
  4. ^ https://www.polimerica.it/blog-articolo.asp?id=17
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raffia_palm

I feel as though this is one of those fibers that connects me to my ancestry. I naturally have always gravitated towards plant-based fibers like cotton and bamboo. Raffia seemed to allude me until my birthday last year. Wool and the Gang had a sale, and I jumped at the opportunity to finally try my hands at raffia.

My first successful raffia project was a punch needle crown I made for my 30th birthday. Due to my lifestyle at home and other obligations I was not able to get back to playing with raffia until about a month ago! I feel that now is the perfect time and season for loving up raffia. Currently, you can find the Boho Basket Planter as a free project below and in my shop. The Sunnyside Bucket Hat pattern is also available in my shop! I have 2 bag patterns, fan, and wall hanging planned to finish up my SPR/SUM/21 collection of raffia designs! Fingers crossed I’ll have my first e-book available for you all this summer! 

 

 

BOHO BASKET PLANTER

Yay for FREE patterns! I’m happy to share the Boho Basket Planter with you! If you’d like to help support my work and have a copy for keeps you’ll find an ad-free printable PDF here

Before I sought to learn more about raffia I instantly wanted to play with it. Taking to Pinterest to see what kind of rabbit holes I could get lost in; I was presented with bag after basket after couture this and that! Possibilities with raffia were endless. Then it hit me. Raffia is a plant sourced fiber so I’m going to make something for my plants out of said fiber! I know I know, I’m so deep with my creativity [insert sarcasm]. This one train of thought left the station and rapidly picked up speed. 

In no time I went from just over a spool of raffia to a petite basket, perfectly sized for a small plant baby. Instead of lining the vessel and packing it with soil I could simply cover a preexisting planter to upgrade the overall look. This would be the best decision for me; time was saved and messes were avoided. As much as loved the natural look of the planter cover… something felt incomplete. Do not get me wrong I love a clean simple look, but this mini make needed something special.

I initially considered cross stitching a tessellation. I tried using raffia on raffia, did not work. I tried different weight yarns, still not satisfied. After much trial and error I could not seem to find the right combination of pattern and yarn weight to create a impactful image! Then… all of a sudden an idea popped into my head. The light bulb turned on and I could see it so clearly, POM POMS! Quickly the idea evolved in my mind to use a family of colors to make a gradient and display a diamond motif. I love diamond motifs found in various African and Indigenous designs. I could not be happier with the final result. If you are just as intrigued by raffia as I, enjoy this project on me!

* Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I, Leah Gordon, may earn a small commission from purchases made, at no additional cost to you. These are products I highly recommend and use.*

MATERIALS

SKILL LEVEL – Easy

GAUGE (4 x 4″)

  • 15 sts by 17 r Single Crochet

FINAL SIZE

  • Vessel: 5.5″ x 5.5″ cylinder

CARE

  • Spot clean and air dry

PATTERN

BASKET BASE

*STARTING FROM MAGIC RING

Round 1: SC 6, mark first st. (6st)

Round 2: 2 SC in each st around. (12 sts)

Round 3: [SC, 2 SC in next st] around. (18 sts)

Round 4: [SC 2, 2 SC in next st] around. (24 sts)

Round 5: [SC 3, 2 SC in next st] around. (30 sts)

Round 6: [SC 4, 2 SC in next st] around. (36 sts)

Round 7: [SC 5, 2 SC in next st] around. (42 sts)

Round 8: [SC 6, 2 SC in next st] around. (48 sts)

Round 9: [SC 7, 2 SC in next st] around. (54 sts)

Round 10: SC 4, 2 SC in next st, [SC 8, 2 SC in next st] 5 times, SC in last 4 sts. (60 sts)

Round 11: Sl st around.

Rounds 12-32: SC around.

Row 33: Sk first st, slst2tog, leave remaining sts unworked, break yarn.

POM POMS (OPTIONAL)

Make 15 (5 in each color) using Clover 1 3/8″ Pom Pom Maker.

FINISHING

Attach pom poms to basket starting at Round 12, place evenly around (1 every 12 sts) starting at the first st. Using 2nd color of pom poms attach to Round 22 starting at st 6. Using 3rd color of pom poms attach to Round 32 starting at the first st. Pom poms should now display a diamond motif. Blocking should not be necessary. Lightly steam block ONLY if blocking is preferred. Do NOT flatten or crease vessel while wet.

Congratulations, you now have a brand new handmade basket to style in your home and enjoy!

 

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