|18th century Japanese katabira
made from a blend of ramie, silk,
Ramie, a member of the nettle family, has been grown, harvested, and turned into cloth for thousands of years. (In fact, it was even sometimes used as mummy cloths in ancient Egypt.) The plant is native to Eastern Asia and that’s primarily still where it’s grown in large amounts.
In Korea, a very fine ramie fabric known as mosi has been woven in the Hansan region using for centuries. To create the mosi, the ramie is harvested, processed into fiber, spun, and woven using traditional methods and equipment that probably haven’t changed much over the years. The resulting cloth is beautiful, lightweight, and cool in the hot Korean summers.
In 2011 the traditional process of creating Hansan mosi was add to UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and is celebrated at the Hansan Ramie Fabric Cultural Festival, held (of course) at the Hansan Mosi Museum in Seocheon-gun. While it’s too late to attend this year’s festivities, it’s the perfect time to start making plans for next year.
If a trip to Korea isn’t possible, this video by UNESCO shows how ramie is turned into mosi from the harvest to the weaving of the fabric. It's incrible to watch the amount of work that goes into even a small amount of fabric. If you want to try weaving with some ramie, there are suppliers that sell ramie yarn and, for more information, you can read the Yarn Lab in the May/April 2012 issue of Handwoven which features ramie yarn.