Abaca is a paper making fiber that is well-loved by new and seasoned papermakers alike. It comes from the leaf sheath around the trunk of Musa textiles, a species of banana plant. It is typically sourced from the Philippines where it is known as Manila hemp. The fiber has been used throughout history for making durable paper, especially for envelopes, teabags, currency and filter papers.
Why would you want to use abaca fiber? For one, it has impressive wet strength. This means you can hold and manipulate a wet sheet with less fear that it will tear. This is a good way to make paper sculptures! It can also withstand wetting once dry (hence the tea bag use). The abaca fibers are long compared to recycled paper fibers, and add considerable strength to your paper.
What’s great about the abaca from Arnold Grummer’s is that is is already beaten and ready to use. All you have to do is soak it in water and add it to your blender! You can either make paper from 100% abaca, or add a little to your recycled pulp to increase the strength. In addition, the longer you blend the abaca fiber, the more translucent and crisp the resulting paper will become! Get your abaca fiber HERE!
Here are some examples of people creating with abaca fiber. First is Niki Hampson. She layered these seeds and leaves between two very thin sheets of abaca pulp. The finished paper was mounted in an acrylic frame so that the light could shine through and illuminate the beauty! Niki tells us that abaca is her favorite pulp to work with because it is strong, pliable, and translucent when making wafer thin sheets. Check out more of her work HERE!
Then there is this beautiful work by Shereena of Softly Studio. This paper was the result of her first time experimenting with abaca! She tells us that her favorite thing about working with abaca is the texture of the finished paper. The paper always has tiny specs from the fiber that shows through. Unbleached abaca has the most perfect off-white, cream color which she doesn’t dye but enjoys how it is. Also, Shereena finds abaca to be the easiest fiber to use in the kitchen blender. Check out more of her work HERE!
If you are interested in trying abaca, Arnold Grummer’s offers it in small amounts to experiment with and also by the pound once you fall in love and can’t stop! And as always, remember to tag us on social media so we can see and share your work!