What is Abaca? Your Questions About Abaca Fabric & Textiles, Answered

As you explore the various grasscloth material types, one stand-out option is abaca. Known as a strong but smooth fiber, abaca fibers create beautiful textile weaves that can be affixed to paper for an elevated wallcovering surface. In this article, we will break down what abaca is, how it’s used, and the benefits of abaca grasscloth wallpaper.


Abaca plant forest
Strands of Abaca plant fibers

What is abaca?

Abaca is a plant native to the Philippines that is used for many textile applications. The plant itself resembles the banana plant, and the fiber is sourced from the leaf stalk and can be stripped into fine strands that are then woven. Other names for the fibers are manila hemp, or banana hemp. However, it is not related to the hemp plant.

Typically, the fibers used in abaca textiles are found in the outer layer of the plant, which is removed through a process of stripping that layer, then cleaning it to free the fiber strands. Those strands are then sun-dried before being used in their final applications.


Fibers from the abaca plant hanging from a ceiling
A coil of abaca fibers twisted into a rope.


What is abaca fiber used for and what products are made from abaca?

Within industrial contexts, abaca fibers are used for ship ropes, cables for fishing lines, power and transmission ropes, fishing nets, and more. On the more decorative side, the fiber is used in some carpeting, paper, strong fabrics, and grasscloth wallpaper.

In the production process with grasscloth wallpaper, abaca fiber doesn’t absorb color very well, so any colorway variations are largely based on the paper backing. Unlike other grasscloth material options, with abaca, it’s the paper that will change color or be painted with a metallic layer, with the natural abaca textile weave on top–as opposed to a dyeing process applied to the fibers themselves.


A lit grey candle in a modern holder, a stack of six books, a pair of glasses, and a white beads necklace are neatly arranged on a table with an abaca textile runner atop its brushed metallic frame.

 Abaca, Blackthorn

How is abaca material made for grasscloth?

After the fibers have been stripped from the stalk of the plant and dried, they are handwoven on a loom. Like other grasscloth wallpaper options that are made on a loom, what results is an abaca fabric-like netting which can be affixed to a paper backing. The warp fibers hold the weft and produce a length that is then paper backed. There are numerous abaca fabric uses. Without the paper backing, the resulting abaca fabric is a pliable material that can be applied to furniture and other surfaces. Separate from the paper backing it also retains only its natural color. Affixed to papers of various colorways, the result is a grasscloth surface that has a captivating colorful sheen.



Three vertical rolls of blue, light blue, and black abaca grasscloth against a beige background.

What are the advantages of abaca fiber?

Abaca fiber offers numerous advantages, which is why abaca textile is a popular material for grasscloth wallpaper. If you're wondering if abaca is a quality fiber, the answer is yes.

On a visual level, the material makes for a highly elegant and upscale looking wallcovering. It is also color consistent, making installation easier and more straightforward in many cases. Our current collection has three abaca colorways:

1. Moonstone: A light blue-silvery backing with a metallic sheen.

2. Starling: A deep aqua navy backing–one of our most popular items.

3. Blackthorn: A dark black backing with a sheen that adds maximum contrast with the lighter wood-colored fibers.

Each has a natural, neutral-colored weft and a colored backing that adds dimension and subtle texture to any space. Notably, abaca grasscloth is also smooth to the touch which means it doesn’t give off splinters and can be well suited for full-wall installations. The fibers are notable for their strength and flexibility–abaca is among the strongest fibers–resulting in a damage-resistant surface quality. When choosing a grasscloth option for a particular space, it’s best to hold samples up against the wall to see the full color effect and sheen.


What are the disadvantages of abaca fiber?

Abaca’s material qualities make it highly desirable. The only drawback of abaca fabric is that it is a more expensive material than other grasscloth options. Because it is high quality with thin fibers and a tighter weave, it has a labor-intensive production process and uses more raw materials.


Abaca plant fibers hanging to dry on a line of string amongst green abaca plants


Is abaca eco friendly?

The grasscloth in our collection is manufactured sustainably at all stages of the production process. Each is hand-crafted and sun-dried to ensure a low-energy production process. So if you’re wondering whether abaca is a good material, feel free to ask our team for more details on the products in our collection, their origin, and production methods.


Start experimenting with abaca textile wallpaper

If you’re interested in exploring our abaca products and think they may be a good fit for your interior design plans, reach out to our team. We offer samples so you can experiment with colorways and flat lays, and can work with you to identify which material would best suit your project.