Introduction:


Innovation sees no limit and Indian consumers can expect something big coming up in the textile industry like fabrics and textiles woven from fine quality Ramie fiber. Ramie (pronounced Ray-me) is one of the oldest vegetable fibers and has been used for thousands of years. It was used in mummy cloths in Egypt during the period 5000 - 3000 BC, and has been grown in China for many centuries.


Ramie (Boehmeria nivea), commonly known as China grass, white ramie, green ramie and rhea, is one of the group referred to as the bast fiber crops. The ramie plant is a hardy perennial belonging to the Urticaceae or Nettle family, which can be harvested up to 6 times a year. It produces a large number of unbranched stems from underground rhizomes and has a crop life from 6 to 20 years. The fibers need chemical treatment to remove the gums and pectins found in the bark.


The process of transforming the ramie fibers into fabric is similar to the process used for manufacturing linen from flax. The true ramie or 'China Grass' is also known as 'white ramie' and is the Chinese cultivated plant. It has large heart shaped, crenate leaves covered on the underside with white hairs that give it a silvery appearance. Boehmeria nivea var. tenacissima is believed to have originated in the Malay Peninusula and is known as 'green ramie' or 'rhea'. Green ramie has smaller leaves than true ramie and is better suited to tropical climates.


The fiber is very fine like silk, and being naturally white in colour does not need.Chemically ramie is classified as a cellulose fiber, just as cotton, linen, and rayon. The leading global producers of ramie are China, Taiwan, Korea, the Philippines and Brazil. Ramie is often blended with cotton to make woven and knit fabrics that resemble fine linen to coarse canvas. Ramie is commonly used in clothing, tablecloths, napkins and handkerchiefs. It is often blended with cotton in knit sweaters. Outside the clothing industry, ramie is used in fish nets, canvas, upholstery fabrics, straw hats and fire hoses.


In this Article we investigate the characteristics of Ramie Fiber.


Characteristics:


Ramie is one of the strongest natural fibres. It exhibits even greater strength when wet. Ramie fibre is known especially for its ability to hold shape, reduce wrinkling, and introduce a silky luster to the fabric appearance. It is not as durable as other fibres, and so is usually used as a blend with other fibres such as cotton or wool. It is similar to flax in absorbency, density and microscopic appearance. However it will not dye as well as cotton. Because of its high molecular crystallinity, ramie is stiff and brittle and will break if folded repeatedly in the same place; it lacks resiliency and is low in elasticity and elongation potential.[4]

 

Advantages of Ramie


  • Resistant to bacteria, mildew, alkalis, rotting, light and insect attack.
  • Extremely absorbent (this makes it comfortable to wear)
  • Dyes fairly easy.
  • Natural stain resistance.
  • Increases in strength when wet.
  • Withstands high water temperatures during laundering.
  • Smooth lustrous appearance improves with washing.
  • Keeps its shape and does not shrink.
  • Strong and durable (It is reported to have a tensile strength eight times that of cotton and seven times greater than silk).
  • Can be bleached.


Disadvantages of Ramie


  • Low in elasticity.
  • Lacks resiliency.
  • Low abrasion resistance.
  • Wrinkles easily.
  • Stiff and brittle.
  • Necessary de-gumming process.
  • High cost (due to high labour requirement in production, harvesting and decortication.)


The main producers of ramie today are China, Brazil, Philippines, India, South Korea and Thailand. Only a small percentage of the ramie produced is available on the international market. Japan, Germany, France and the UK are the main importers; the remaining supply is used domestically (in the country in which it is produced).


Uses


Despite its strength, ramie has had limited acceptance for textile use. The fibers extraction and cleaning are expensive, chiefly because of the several stepsinvolving scraping, pounding, heating, washing, or exposure to chemicals. Some or all are needed to separate the raw fiber from the adhesive gums or resins in which it is ensheathed. Spinning the fiber is made difficult by its brittle quality and low elasticity; and weaving is complicated by the hairy surface of the yarn, resulting from lack of cohesion between the fibres. The greater utilization of ramie depends upon the development of improved processing methods.


Ramie is used to make such products as industrial sewing thread, packing materials, fishing nets, and filter cloths. It is also made into fabrics for household furnishings (upholstery, canvas) and clothing, frequently in blends with other textile fibres (for instance when used in admixture with wool, shrinkage is reported to be greatly reduced when compared with pure wool.) Shorter fibres and waste are used in paper manufacture.


Acknowledgement:


The author would like to express profound gratitude to the management of the SGS India Private LTD., Gurgaon for giving encouragement and guidance to work on this Article.

The Author is associated with SGS INDIA Pvt. Ltd, Gurgaon, Haryana