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Ramie and hemp fiber are two major fibers among the four traditional fibers (cotton, wool, hemp, and ramie) of Korea. They have a very long history going back to as early as the first century AD Ramie fabric, as summer clothing, was enjoyed by upper class/royal families and scholars. On the other hand, hemp fabric was worn by the lower class, such as people who worked in labor intensive fields. Hemp fabrics were also used for funerary costumes and shrouds; this tradition continues to the present time.
After four years of on-site research, I presented two papers on two distinct types of Korean hemp fabrics (Andongpoh and Musam) at the TSA Biennial Symposia of 2006 and 2008.
In the summer of 2009, I conducted another on-site research study on Korean ramie in Hansan County, which has a long history of ramie cultivation (dating to the 7th century). For this research, I filmed and documented a ramie harvest and the complex steps of fabric production.
As final products, there was little difference in quality between ramie and hemp fabric. However, different characteristics of these two fibers led to the development of different processing techniques in the two industries.
The main focus of my presentation will be the morphological differences between ramie and hemp; the latter produced particularly in Andong County. I will explain how these fibers’ differences led weavers to develop the distinctive yarn-making processes as bast fibers.