Traditional Arts Using Plant Fibers

Traditional Arts Using Plant Fibres

These are fibres obtained from the seeds, stems, leaves and fruits of a number of plants.

There are more than 2,000 different plant fibres in the world. Although most of them have no economic importance, they are still used in order to meet regional demands and needs.

Plant fibres can be classified according to the part of the plant they come from, such as; 1- seed fibres (cotton), 2- stem fibres (linen, hemp, jute), 3- leaf fibres (sisal), 4- fruit fibres (coconut, zucchini fibre).

1- Seed Fibres

Cotton: Today, cotton fibers are used in many industries for yarn and weaving and knitting fabrics, as a material used for filling pillows, quilts and mattresses, as stuffing material in interior furnishings, in producing artificial silk, smokeless gunpowder, varnish, artificial leather and cellulose. Its seeds are used in many other industries, such as for making vegetable oil, soap, oil paints and oilcloth, and the pulp is also used as fodder for animals and fertilizer.

Cotton is produced in Türkiye in Çukurova in particular, as well as in the Mediterranean and Aegean regions. Cotton fibres, which are either harvested by hand or machine cling to the seeds. By the help of a process called “circirlama,” the fibers are separated and made ready for use.

Cotton production makes an important contribution to the Turkish economy. It is used for yarn, cloth and the ready-made clothing industry, and is exported abroad.

The natural color of cotton is not pure white, so it is made white by bleaching powder, or jawel water. Some characteristics of cotton make it preferable for use in textiles: it maintains its color easily; it is easy to place designs on and is not damaged when boiled. It is ideal for underwear, and is also used for decorative and ornamental fabrics, quilts, tablecloths and towels.

2- Stem Fibres:

Stem fibres, which are also known as bast fibres, are obtained from the stems and sometimes from the shells of the plant when it is fully matured. The separation method is generally employed. Fibres in this group are linen, hemp and jute.


This is an annual herbaceous plant that appears as oil and fiber linens. The leaves grow on the stem. The part of the stem between the soil and the first leaf is called “technical stem length.” The plant can be harvested either by hand or by machine, although the fibres lose quality and become oily when the plant is mature. Harvested linens are winnowed in groups. The fibres are separated from the winnowed plant by mechanical techniques. Linen fibres are the strongest of all stem fibres.

Natural linen fibers are yellowish grey and brown. They are soft and may be bleached white. They partially transfer heat and retain less air than cotton, which means they do not retain body heat well. Its colour is the same as that of cotton, although processing needs to be varied out more carefully and quickly than with cotton. Sulphurous dyes are preferred in linen coloring. Linen fibres are used to make many products, such as bed sheets, tablecloths, underwear and clothing, tents and bags.


Like cotton, linen is an industrial plant. The main product from hemp is fibre but, since it is very troublesome to obtain, hemp production has fallen in the world as a whole.

Hemp is produced in various regions of Türkiye, and there are differences depending on the purpose of that production (seed or fibre).

Hemp is an annual herbaceous plant with nodes on the stem. The greater the distance between those nodes, the greater the quality of the fibre. Hemp is also harvested either by hand or by machine. It is left on the ground to wither, and after all the hemp has dried out, the fibres are grouped and left for a while longer. Then, the fibers are separated from the stems using a pool technique.

Like other stem fibres, hemp fibres are also inflexible. Its chemical structure is similar to that of linen. Its fibres are used to make sails, tents, rugs and hoses for fire taps.

3. Leaf Fibres

Leaf fibers are obtained from the leaves of various monocolithedon plants. Many of these fibres are very dense, lying just under the surface of the leaf. The fibre roots are joined to the sticky, waxy materials within the leaf tissue. Fibres in the leaf are responsible for giving it its strength.

Leaf fibers are hard and rough. The most important leaf fibres in industry are agav, manila and maile. In Türkiye, such fibres are woven using corn cobs.


Today, matting is made by using rush or corn cobs (Black Sea region). Rushes and corn cobs are placed on a rectangular counter. The woof is run up and down in the warp of the same material. Previously used as ground or wall coverings, matting today is principally used for decoration.


A basket is a handled pot used to carry different objects and made of rushes, thin tree stems or plastic materials.

Rough, thin baskets are produced from different raw materials such as willow, chestnut, nuts, straw, strawberry cane, raffia or bamboo.

Basketwork still continues in the provinces of Konya, Kastamonu, Kocaeli, Trabzon, Rize, Edirne and Kirklareli in Anatolia, and various regional trees and plants are emplyed in the process. The moistened material is placed on the ground in a “+” shape reflecting the intended size of the basket. Further quantities of the same material are then added and knitted.

Grain Stalks: Today, bags, beach sheets and tourist souvenirs are made from rushes.

Amulets to Ward off the Evil Eye: Amulets are universally employed in Anatolia to ward off the evil eye, and are to be found in various different shapes. It is popularly believed that such amulets protect their owner from sicknesses, spells and other undesirable events.

Amulets can be produced from black cumin, garlic, barley, oleaster plants or from materials such as ram horn, turtle shell, snake bone and sea-shells. Blue bead, eyestone, coral, mirror, agate and alum are also used.

They may be seen on peoples’ shoulders, or worn as a necklace, in cradles, houses, shops and also on animals. In daily life, they are also used as a decorative element in various furnishings.