Yesterday while on a site visit, I watched our upholsters build a custom platform bed with an upholstered box spring and headboard. The headboard was built off site but the bed, because of it's size and weight, was built entirely in the bedroom. Not only now do I understand the construction of the bed, I also understand why some fabrics are easier to work with than others. I believe we were working with one of the hardest fabrics possible.
This hair pulling out non stretching fabric is completely woven from a natural fiber called Abaca. The fabric is a custom woven fabric from the village of (input word soon). While in progress of weaving this beautiful fabric, the village in which the fabric is made had an unfortunate natural disaster. Obviously this was a huge upset not only for the village, the company in which we purchased the fabric through and our company but we had some explaining to do to our client. However in the end the fabric is now upholstered on a custom headboard and boxspring base that looks absolutely amazing.
The fabric comes in rolls which are only 21" wide. Obviously this makes it a very hard to upholster certain pieces. It is also a natural fiber which is not the softest of quality. Therefore, you would not want to upholster a sofa, which would only be possible with may seams.
Another issue which makes the fabric difficult to upholster is the striation throughout the fabric. Because it is a hand woven fabric, every piece and every stitch is different. Therefore, when you're trying to match it up it becomes completely impossible. Well, this is what we were trying to do. Especially when the fabric doesn't stretch, which this doesn't at all. If you pull too hard you could rip it. Seaming the fabric was even a challenge at first. Each seam is specially reinforced to make sure it will last.
But miraculously they managed and it looks terrific. You can see in the above image where the fabric is seamed on the headboard. Typically the fact that each line doesn't match up with bother me but, I think with the fact that this is a natural handwoven fabric, it doesn't bother me at all. In fact I think it looks wonderful.
Well during this process, one of the upholsters asked me "What is abaca?" Well, being the trusty computer nerd that I am turned to my trusty iPhone and did what any other twenty some year old would do. I googled abaca. I found the wiki site and read aloud what it said...
Abacá (English pronunciation: /ɑːbəˈkɑː/ ah-bə-KAH, from Spanish "abacá" for Musa textilis) is a species of banana native to the Philippines, grown widely as well in Borneo and Sumatra. It is sometimes referred to as "BacBac". The plant is of great economic importance, being harvested for its fibre, once generally called Manila hemp, extracted from the leaf sheath around the trunk. On average, the plant grows about 20 feet (6 metres) tall. The fibre was originally used for making twines and ropes as well as the Manila envelope; now most abacá is pulped and used in a variety of paper-like products including filter paper and banknotes. It is classified as a hard fibre, along with coir, henequin and sisal. The plant's name is sometimes spelled Abaká.
Abacá was first cultivated on a large scale in Sumatra in 1925 under the Dutch, who had observed its cultivation in the Philippines for cordagesince the 1800s, followed up by plantings in Central America sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Commercial planting began in 1930 in British North Borneo; with the commencement of WWII, the supply from the Philippines was eliminated by the Japanese.
Other common names for abacá or Manila hemp include "Cebu hemp" and "Davao hemp".
So basically, abaca, being harvested for its fibre, was once generall called Manila hemp in which they made envelopes out of. Hints the name Manila Envelope.
I just thought I would share that fun little fact I learned while watching a bed being upholstered in abaca.