All About Abaca

close up of Abaca sheet pulp in and out of packaging

Take a look and learn about this fun and versatile paper making fiber!

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.

Abaca fiber drying

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!

By Niki Hampson

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!

By Shereena of Softly Studio

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!

4 thoughts on “All About Abaca

    1. Hi Marsha,

      I don’t believe there’s a formula other than experimenting for the result you’re seeking, but we’re not experts on using a Hollander beater. There’s a dedicated Hollander beater group online. I’m sure you could pose your question there, papermakers are a helpful bunch. They may have archives to share ratios members use.

      Let me know if you have trouble finding them, and I’ll look into it.

      Happy papermaking!

    1. Abaca is a different fiber than cotton linter. Both of them are ‘new’ fibers – they aren’t made from post-manufactured goods, like cotton rag.
      Cotton Linter is made from the cotton boll on cotton plants. The linter – or cotton filament – is cut from the boll twice. The first and longest cutting is used by the textile industry for cloth, thread, and woven materials. The second, shorter cutting is generally used by the paper industry.
      For papermakers, choosing between cotton linter and abaca is a matter of preference and goals. Both are ‘partially processed’ sheet pulps, allowing hand papermakers to hydrate and beat them in a simple kitchen blender to studio beater.
      Cotton linter is the favored fiber for general papermaking and paper casting specifically.
      Abaca is favored for strength and shrinkage properties when ‘overbeaten’ in a studio beater.
      Both pulps can be used in a kitchen blender and interesting for beginners to work with.
      Additional information on both pulps is covered in most general books on hand papermaking like Helen Hiebert’s ‘A Papermakers Companion‘.

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