Banana pulp

Remember my baby banana trees from way back in October 2016?

The left-hand one, living in direct sunlight, grew enormous, had a baby, and was chopped down a month ago.  The baby, now a late teenager (!!), has a baby of its own just popping through the earth.

Back to the original tree.  As instructed by my very experienced paper-making friends, I separated the tree into 3 sections; the leaves and leaf stems, the inner trunk and the outer trunk.  Each part was cut into small pieces and put into a black garbage bag, tightly tied, and left in the sun to rot for 3-4 weeks.  This is to soften the fibres before boiling with caustic soda in preparation for later pulping.

From left: inner trunk, outer trunk and leaves.

Having space for two pots I started with the trunk sections.

From left: my fabulous (and extremely useful) camping stove, inner trunk in muslin bag, outer trunk in pillowcase.

My reason for putting the plant material in bags when cooking is to make removal and washing easier, as can be seen below.  The fibres ‘collapse’ and turn to mush when ready to be rinsed.

From left: rinsing the outer trunk in the tied pillowcase.  Yes, I’ve got the sink plug in as wasting water feels like a crime to me.  On the right you can see the final quantity of remaining fibre.  The left-hand bag shows the amount of inner trunk and the larger bag has the outer trunk. 

Wow, what a shock!  I’ve hardly any fibre from a full-grown 2 1/2 metre high banana tree.  Granted I still have the leaves to work with yet but I expected more than that.  I’m told that the inner trunk makes finer and smoother paper than the outer, hence my decision to separate the two, but I’m not going to get more than a few sheets.  Below you can see the difference in texture between them at this stage.

From left: inner trunk, outer trunk.

As it’s currently still very cold to be working for hours outside making paper (even though it’s officially Spring now.  The studio is being refurbished) I’ve put these bags into the freezer to store until I’m ready to blend it to pulp and make my new paper.

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About Claire B

I'm a passionate printmaker, paper-maker and a poor sketcher (which I'm working to improve). I've stitched from early childhood and am a perpetual student, loving learning and participating in everything creative.
This entry was posted in My Creative Pieces, My paper and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Banana pulp

  1. nolaarcher says:

    Wow, I can’t believe how little pulp came from a whole tree!
    Interesting to see such a huge difference in the fibres, though it doesn’t surprise me. The inner part is very wet and heavy, so it obviously carries a lot more water to the leaves (makes sense in a tropical plant), while the outer part is the stiffer structure making it stand up, usually including lignin.
    I have some tablemats from the Philippines made from banana fibre, I’m guessing from the inner fibres, as it’s quite soft and silk-like. Can’t wait to see your paper!

    • Claire B says:

      Hey Nola, thanks for the comment. I’ve still the leaves and stems to boil so I should get more bulk from those but I really want to try sheets from each individual part first to see how they look before being forced to combine them to use up the remainder. I’m sure each part will be very different from the others.
      Roll on Spring and some warmth!

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