At Raft, we’re passionate about beauty and sustainability.We explore the unique qualities of jute, and why it’s perfect for creating beautiful, ethical baskets... Also known as the ‘golden fibre’, because of its lovely golden colour and silky sheen (as well as its value), jute is a very durable and versatile material. What’s more, it’s also very eco-friendly.
Strength and versatility
In fact, jute is an amazingly versatile fibre. As well as being naturally strong, durable and hard-wearing, the finer threads can also be spun to make a lovely silk-like cloth. Jute is used all around the world to make a whole host of different products - from sacking and rope, to matting, rugs and clothing, not to mention beautiful baskets! Jute has played a key role in many different industries over the centuries, including construction, agriculture and fishing, textiles and also the arms industry. Jute trading was big business in the time of the British Empire, and it saw a real boom in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the 1830s a merchant from Dundee invented a way of spinning jute, and many ‘jute barons’ famously emigrated from Scotland to Bengal to make their fortunes in the new jute mills.
As well as its great strength and natural beauty, one of the great things about jute is it’s completely sustainable and has a very low carbon footprint. It’s also 100% biodegradable and recyclable.The jute is a tropical plant that’s native to the Ganges Delta in Bangladesh, and West Bengal in India. Jute fibre is created from the stem and the outer skin of the stem, or ribbon. As jute is a rain-fed crop, there’s little need to use fertilisers or pesticides, which can be a source of environmental pollution. Jute is also very fast-growing, being ready to harvest within 4-6 months. Jute fibre is also harvested in a very environmentally-friendly and ethical way, with much of the process being carried out by the local community using traditional techniques. After the jute has been cut, the stems are bundled together and immersed in slow running water for several days, in a process known as retting. Following this, the non-fibrous material is scraped off and the fibres are extracted - known as stripping. After this, the fibres are beaten by hand with a paddle or soft mallet, left to dry and then taken to the mills.Jute also plays a valuable role in agriculture, including helping to prevent soil erosion and providing biodegradable containers for young trees. It can also be used in place of wood pulp for making paper - and it has a culinary value, too, as an ingredient in stews and soups!