Pro

– is durable

– takes on dyes well but is prone to discoloration

– is abrasion resistant

Cons

– is rough on touch

Advice

Collaborate with transparent business suppliers. Make sure your potential supplier’s fibers have been produced under good working conditions and fair wages, as also the retting process has been done responsibly.

Henequen

Henequen is a natural, cellulose leaf fiber from the Agave fourcroydes and often falsely used synonymously and mistaken for the fiber sisal, although it is also called Yucatan sisal or Cuban sisal. Henequen is native to Mexico and Guatemala. Like other agaves, this plant is easy to identify due to its rosette of long, sharp leaves of up to 5 feet in length. It is from these leaves that the fiber is extracted. The fiber is known for being very hardy and resistant. The Mayans used to use henequen to make ropes, textiles, and art.

The plant was introduced to Cuba in the 19th century and became the country’s chief fiber crop by the 1920s. Henequen fiber is made into twines and rope and may be used in agriculture and shipping. Coarse henequen-fiber fabrics, produced locally, are employed in such products as bags, hammocks, and shoe soles.

Henequen is still used today in the same way that we used it hundreds of years ago, although it no longer holds the value it used to. Today, henequen is grown in 15 different countries, and Mexico has become the second largest producer, growing 7% of the world’s henequen, far behind Brazil who produces an extraordinary 54%.

Henequen plants yield about 25 leaves annually from about the 5th through the 16th year after planting. The fiber strands are then washed, dried in the sun, and brushed. The fiber strands average about 1.2 to 1.5 metres in length. They have fairly good strength, an ability to stretch, and fair resistance to deterioration from microorganisms found in saltwater.

Like other Agave species, the plant dies after flowering. The flower stalk produces bulbils that can be planted, but commercial propagation is usually done by removing and replanting the clonal pups from the base of the plant stalk.

Its retting process, if not done responsibly, can have negative impacts on the environment since it leaves wastewater.

Untreated henequen is compostable. Things like dye, toxic chemicals, blended fibers and trims can hinder its compostability.