The other day during my perusing I came across a suit jacket in a blend of fabrics. The first two--wool and silk--I am rather familiar with. The third fabric--Ramie (pronounced Ray-me) I wasn't so familiar with and neither was the salesman trying to explain it to me. (I'll save my rants about incompetent salesman for another time) So I decided to take it upon myself to research this fabric and highlight it for my readers so they can be aware of its origin and uses should they ever come across it in the shopping excursions. Ramie is fiber of Chinese origion. It is commonly referred to as "China grass" since it is vegetable fiber. The fiber itself is produced similarly to linen from the flax plant, resembles silk and is naturally white so it needs no bleaching. At one point in time it was used for burial shrouds in Egypt and although it was a predecessor to cotton it is used often blended with cotton in sports jackets, sweaters, and handkerchiefs.
The fiber itself is strong and durable, extremely absorbent, resistant to mold and bacteria, has a natural stain resistance, and can withstand high temperatures if you are the type to dry clean your clothes. Ramie also has a low elasticity, low resiliency, can be stiff and brittle so it wrinkles easily, and production comes at a high cost since the labour involved in extracting it is intensive.
On the whole Ramie is a fairly uncommon fabric and it will only be seen in blends with other more commonly known and worn fabrics. However, it should not be dismissed as a lesser fabric just because it is used less often. For those thirsty for knowledge, now you know of Ramie and can tell the next man what to look for.