Episode 43. Pineapple Fabric (Piña)

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Pineapple Fabric (Piña) The Asian Sewist Collective Podcast

We're back with another fabric deep dive! This week we're focusing on pineapple fabric, or piña, a traditional Philippine fiber. We'll talk about how this textile is woven, its uses and where to find it today. For show notes and a transcript of this episode, please see: https://asiansewistcollective.com/episode-43-pineapple-fabric If you find our podcast informative and enjoy listening, you can support us by buying our limited edition merch, joining our monthly membership or making a one-time donation via Ko-Fi: https://ko-fi.com/asiansewistcollective 

Links 

Patterns & Designers mentioned

Witt Pants by Seamwork 

ZW Coat by Birgitta Helmersson

Fabric Stores mentioned

Fabscrap, US-based, carries deadstock

Mood Fabrics: Fabric Online Store | Fabric by the Yard Online, US-based, carries a large variety of designer fabrics

Resources

Asian Sewist Collective Labels 

Episode 42 – A History of Terno, Asian Sewist Collective Podcast

Episode 8 – Silk, Asian Sewist Collective Podcast

Episode 24 – Batik, Asian Sewist Collective Podcast

The Prickly Meaning of the Pineapple, Smithsonian Library 

Raquel Eliserio, Instagram 

Pina weaving, plant to fabric, YouTube

Likhang Pina: Fiber Extraction Process, YouTube

Pina Weaving and Embroidery, Y-knot blog

History and Origin of Pina, Philippines Folk Museum

Barong Embroidery Samples, Heritage Barong
Barong Tagalog for different occasions, Barong Warehouse

Patis Tesoro, Lifestyle Inquirer
Oliver Tolentino, website 

Magazine article on Oliver Tolentino

Aloysius, Inquirer.net

Gabriel Bustos Santos, Salcedo Auctions

Article on Gabriel Bustos Santos Fashion Collection, Nolisoli
Guo Pei Fall 2019, Vogue 

Guo Pei Fall 2019 Show, YouTube

The dark history of the overthrow of Hawaii, TED Ed

PinaTeX, Wikipedia 

Ananas Anam, Website

Rotating Blade for Natural Fiber Extraction Machine, Putra Science Park 

Pineapple Leaf Fiber Extraction design in India, Textile Today

Exploration of future prospects of Indian pineapple leaf, an agro waste for textile application, Journal of Cleaner Production

Yunhai, Dried pineapple shop

Philippine Folk Museum, Website 

From Pineapple to Fiber, SFO Museum

Lacis Museum, website

Books

Baro: Philippine Fabric and Fashion

Fashionable Filipinas

Pictures 

fichu made of pina

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/108393

gown made from pina

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/84539?what=Pi%c3%b1a+cloth&ao=on&ft=*&offset=0&rpp=20&pos=2

collar made of pina with embroidery

https://philippinestudies.uk/mapping/tours/show/5

https://philippinestudies.uk/mapping/tours/show/5

https://www.tatlerasia.com/style/fashion/barong-tagalog-the-traditional-filipino-mens-attire

Show transcript

Ada:  The chances of someone really, really messing it up, that isn’t me, on the vintage machine – which is all mechanical and mostly metal parts – versus like a newfangled computerized one with the beeping and the things, like, feel a little safer.

Nicole:  Yeah, fair.

Ada: Welcome to the Asian Sewist Collective podcast. The Asian Sewist Collective is a group of Asian people from around the world brought together by our shared appreciation for fiber and textile arts, and our desire to see more Asian representation in the sewing community.

Nicole:  In this podcast, we explore the intersection of our identities, and our shared sewing practice as we create a space for Asian sewists and our allies.

Ada: I’m your co host, Ada Chen, and I’m recording from Denver, Colorado, Denver is a traditional territory of the Ute, Cheyenne and Arapaho peoples. I’m a Taiwanese American marketer turned entrepreneur and these days you’ll find me running my own natural skincare business called Chuan’s Promise. That’s C-H-U-A-N apostrophe S Promise in sharing my marketing tips on my blog. Most importantly, for this podcast, you can find my sewing @i.hope.sew on Instagram.

Nicole:  And I’m your co-host, Nicole, I’m based outside of Chicago, the original homelands of the Council of the three fires, the Ojibwe, the Potawatomi, and the Odawa people. I’m a Philippine American woman, a lawyer by day and a sewing enthusiast the rest of the time. You can find me on Instagram @NicoleAngelineSews.

Ada: Before we dive into this week’s episode, Nicole, can you tell us about your current sewing project?

Nicole: I think listeners will be proud to know that I made a toile.

Ada: Oh.

Nicole: I did. It is a wearable toile. I did use the label that from our amazing label kit that you can buy from us. It says “This is a wearable toile”. But I have really been wanting to dive into pants and I’m like, okay, entryway, joggers. And then I was just gonna make them. I’m like, Okay, I’ll just I’ll make a toile. I’ll just make a straight size. And then I’ll figure out what the adjustments are. And I got a lot of adjustments to make, I’m sure. And so it’s just stuff like, I always have to grade my waist out. But then oftentimes my hips and my chest measurements fall within the same size. So this toile is was my waist size, but a couple inches larger on the hip. And then I also have full thighs and calves. So I’m like, it’s probably right that I’m starting with this. I had tried the top down center out method before and then it just got really frustrated standing there in my underwear in front of a mirror with one pant leg. And then I was like, you know what, forget it. I think I’ll revisit it. But you know, joggers seemed like a good place to start. And they’re super comfortable. I made them from flannel. But what I’m hoping to make is a pair of quilted joggers. I don’t know what happened there. joggers. I think they’ve been in for a couple seasons, but I’ve been wanting to make a pair. So I’m like alright, I picked a pattern. I’m going to work with a seamwork Witt woven jogger pattern. And I thrifted a really pretty pink quilted bed sheet, and two pillowcases for 12 bucks. I just saw it on the shelf while I was thrifting with a friend and I was like, Oh, I’ve been wanting to make joggers for forever. It’s whole cloth, you know? So it’s it, you know, it’s really nice. And I figured thrifting the fabric is like the lowest risk way. And the label said queen size and it was in a box, you know, so I was like, Yeah, that’s fine. I don’t have to quilt things myself. And when I got home to wash it, I rolled it out and it’s actually king size. Oh my god. So lots to work with. But I’m like, let me just tried to figure out some adjustments. And so I’m starting with the flannel and we’ll go from there. I do want to make a cool looking quilted set. So it’s January it’s it’s very middle of winter for Chicago, but I’m sure by the time I get around to it, it’ll be really nice. So like cooler spring type of thing. So definitely the joggers and I was actually thinking like a blazer would be kind of cool. You know, like a set yeah. And then I could wear that quilted blazer or jacket of some kind you know, with non joggers it just seems just seems like the right thing to do. But that’s that’s where I’m where I’m at right now and working on that. So all the pats on the back for toiling everyone please because y’all know I’ll do that. How about you Ada, what are you working on?

Ada:  I’m not toiling this or this could be considered one. I cut out a big four jacket pattern Vogue I will not name the pattern because the pattern itself and as pattern line not very size-inclusive. But it is like a tweed long jacket and it’s still a little too cold to wear that as my like daily jacket but it is like a nice in between layer and I find that I’ve been gravitating towards making outerwear so that I have like it’s something I always will have in layer here. So I feel like I get a lot more use out of it versus like a T shirt, which I wear and then have to wash and then I put off laundry for like a month, or as many underwear as I can get away with. So I cut out from this boucle that I got probably I think in late 2020. So I’ve been sitting on in a while, I still have probably at least one and a half yards. So maybe I shall make a matching set for inside the jacket. Ooh, right because I bought five yards and it was like 60 inches wide. So this thing’s wide, but it’s not very thick tweed so I need to cut the lining, which will be made from leftover satin I have from a dress that I made for wedding party or as a wedding guests last year. I think it might be like upholstery satin, because it’s got a little more structure to it than like regular satin one. And then I also bought some alpha tech, which is like an insulation layer, or it can be woven in, or like at the middle like made into the fabric, or it can be made as just like a lining layer. So I figured, I have a wool I think you remember I made a zero waste Birgitta Helmersson coat last year out of wool that I had from Fabscrap.

Nicole:  Yep.

Ada: And that one’s not very, it’s, it’s probably like 50 degree warm. It’s not like 40 degree warm. So yeah, currently like, my parka is for 30 degrees. And then this one will be like the 40s to 50s. And then the other one will be the 50s to 60s. And then it will be like jean jackets and whatnot. So I’m like, slowly filling in all my temperature bands that it will hit sometimes here. And yeah, so the alphatech is to kind of give it a little more in the warmth department. But I did not toile it. And we’ll see some of these pattern pieces are really large

Nicole: that’s what I’ve heard about, like Big Four, I don’t sew a ton of them anymore. But that that all they’re all out of whack which is it’s what it is, you know, I’m curious about the Alpha tech. So I know that I spoke with someone a while back about making a coat. And she was really kind she walked me through Joann fabrics. I think I had bought some fabric from her to destash. And we met up at the local one. So we spent 90 minutes chatting again. And then I saw her again at Frocktails. That was really cool.

Ada: In New York?

Nicole: Yeah.

Ada:  Oh, nice. Yeah.

Nicole:  We were at Mood. I was like, Carol? Yeah, she said that you could interline with anything. And so she said, Try. Try just like a flannel like a cheap flannel doesn’t matter what it is. And I’m curious with the Alpha tech. So how would you incorporate that? Because I’m very bad at if it’s not in the instructions. I don’t know what to do.

Ada:  So we’d cut it the same size as the lining and probably baste it onto the lining onto the lining. And then when I put in the lining, it should just be in there. But basically, yeah, it’ll it’ll be the sandwich between the lining and the outer. And she’s right, you can use anything. It’s just like for living here, when like some days it’ll be there’s like a 40 degree swing between like the high of the day and when I’m leaving the house in the morning. Oh, yeah. I mean, it’s especially like also if I’m like, if it’s a coffee meeting day, right? Like I try to sandwich all those in one day. And this will be one of those nicer looking coats. I think I can wear it alone. Yeah, it’s just like, I got to kind of have a little more layer than flannel in between. Yeah, but then I didn’t want to be like how many double layers of flannel can I do or get heavy? Yeah, it’ll get kind of bulky and I want to preserve a little bit of the shape and the line to be a little more close cut because it is like. I have mixed feelings about the house of Chanel. Now given the history and if you don’t know the history, you should definitely look into that. It’s you know, it’s one of those things that when you kind of grow up in the community that I grew up in like my mom’s friends would always be talking about like they would love a Chanel coat or suit or whatever and like yeah, they were talking about all their bags and the reasons why I know about all the designer bags and shoes was because all these aunties and so there’s even though I hate it, there’s still some of the like, like, kind of like that style and I like want that but I don’t want to pay that designer when I know I could do just as good if not better a job. Right? Yeah, totally. Not to say that I’m like couture level, but like, let’s be real. The ready to wear stuff that they’re shipping out like they’re not having the couture level sewists to sew it. So we’re so yeah, for them, it’s ready to wear and they kind of just mash it together. So yeah, I’ll let you know how it goes. I don’t know I haven’t picked up buttons. Yeah, that’s the biggest. How’s that gonna go?

Nicole: I just organized my buttons and it’s so satisfying. So satisfying.

Ada: I’m a little worried about making the buttonholes on my machine, you know, because she’s vintage. She’s nice, but it’s a boucle. There’s lots of like loops on it and

Nicole  

Alexis from Fibr Cloth Studio just had a little we had a couple of posts on hand sewing buttonholes. So Yeah, I think our producer Esther has hand sewn buttonholes as well on to a previous coat I seem to remember. So you can get some wisdom or commiserate with them.

Ada: I might Yeah, Esther, I might be picking your brain for this.

Ada: Hey podcast listeners looking for a way to support the Asian Sewist Collective. Well, we have a great way for you to do that now and we are excited to announce our first set of merch we’ve launched a limited edition set of woven labels on our Kofi page, so K O dash F I dot com slash asian sewist collective and you can get a pack of five woven labels custom designed by our very own producer Mariko with some cute sayings from seasons one through three, like “this was a panic sew”, “forgot to pre wash”, or “made with fabric purchased while traveling”. And they all have really cute designs on them that you should definitely go check out on our Instagram and on our Kofi page, and to get your very own set of five labels. You will be supporting the podcast and helping us bring you new content and new guests week after week. So head to K O dash F I dot com slash asian sewist collective.

Nicole: Today we are expanding our fiber focus series and we’ll be discussing Pina also known as pineapple fabric. Pina is a traditional Philippine fiber made from the leaves of the pineapple plant. Pina was the quintessential item of luxury and elegance in the 19th century Philippines and the finest of all Philippine fabrics.

Ada: We talked a little bit about the history of the Philippines and our Terno episode and Pina enjoyed great popularity and Europe and during the American colonial period, which don’t think 1700s, we’re talking about American colonial period in the Philippines, so 1889 to 1945. And during that time, it became a desirable accessory or fabric for high society and so they would use it in kerchiefs or shawls, collars, sleeves cuffs, etc. We will put lots of pictures in the show notes for you to appreciate these intricately embroidered pieces. But Pina was also a sought after as the fabric of choice for Philippine traditional formal wear during the Philippine Commonwealth era. However, during World War 2, the Pina industry suffered a setback as a struggle to survive. So I’m curious, we’ve done now this is like our second deep dive on Philippine related fabrics and designs. Nicole, do you have any Pina clothing or fabric?

Nicole: I don’t. It is something that I have familiarity with as someone who’s Philippine American, know seeing and understanding that it’s this precious thing in our culture. But I’ve never, I’ve never actually owned anything with it. A lot of the berongs that I would see which we’ll talk about what a barong is later on, were made of, you know, modern with poly organza or primarily polyester. And so that’s what I’m more familiar with. It is easier to embroider. So we’ll talk about the embroidery practice a little bit later as well. But when my grandpa passed earlier, last year, we were going through his closet and I found one Pina Barong and it was super delicate, it was stained probably from sweat, because because it’s hot when you wear them. Not really sure what to do with it, but maybe something and we can revisit that later.

Ada:  Oh, I love that you found at least one. Yeah. So what is Pina? The name Pina or Pinya with a Y. So p i n y a comes from the Spanish word Pina with the N and the little accent on top, which means pineapple. This pineapple is not the same as the ones that we see in the supermarket but a cultivar called the Spanish red pineapple. I think the Latin name is ananas comosus, which was likely introduced sometime in the 16th century by Europeans. And the red pineapple still looks like the ones that we eat today but like a little less yellow and more red pinkish in color. Again, pictures in the shownotes.

Nicole:  The Spanish red pineapple thrived in the Philippines and became a native plant after its introduction. So the plant grows spiny leaves up to two meters in length, so about 2.2 yards, and when it’s cultivated for fibers, the fruit is removed early in the growing stage so that the leaves receive more nourishment and reach greater lengths. And after about a year or two from planting, a few leaves are cut from each plant to create textiles.

Ada:  Did you know that the pineapple is also a symbol of colonialism? I feel like we should play a game like how far in the episode do we get before bringing it up? So according to this article from the Smithsonian libraries and archives, the articles name is The prickly meanings of the pineapple. “For Europeans the pineapple was first a symbol of exoticism, power and wealth but it was also an emblem of colonialism”, this is a fascinating article that you should definitely read about how the pineapple which originated in South America made its way to European countries and then to where the Europeans colonized. So due to its rarity, and I guess if you’ve ever had a pineapple it’s pretty easy to spoil, like it’s not the easiest fruit to transport, it was and still is a scarce commodity.

Nicole:  When this tropical fruit was finally successfully grown in the colder climate of Europe, it needed a “controlled environment run by complex mechanisms and skilled care to thrive in Europe. Pineapples thus became a class or status symbol, a luxury available only through royalty and aristocrats. The fruit appeared as a centerpiece on lavish tables, not to be eaten, but admired and was sometimes even rented for an evening. The pineapple was also a symbol of colonialism, one of the trophies brought back from the conquered territories”. I stumbled there because I was like, You’re not eating that pineapple.

Ada: It’s just for decor.

Nicole: That is the ultimate like symbol of privilege and wealth and power. This rare thing that is delicious, that you just sit there and look at it. I’m just, I’m just floored. I’m just floored. But I’m not surprised, really.

Ada:  No. There’s definitely something to do with pineapples and like good symbols and emblems. And I don’t know, but my mom when we moved in gave me a pineapple little dish, and salt and pepper shakers. And they’ve been sitting in a drawer. Because I was like, I don’t want to, what am I going to do with these Mom. Why? Like, can you just bring a regular normal pineapple that we can eat it? There you go. At least she didn’t bring me a real one to just look at but there is a lot more to the story over the pineapple. So if you’re interested, please give the article a read. It will be, as you know, in the show notes.

Nicole:  Pina textile production is mostly found in the province of Aklan in the western Visayas region of the Philippines. This laborious and time consuming skill to produce Pina is passed on through families from generation to generation. Aklan is the main and oldest manufacturer and weaver of Pina cloth. More recently, the provinces of Negros Oriental and Palawan have begun cultivating pineapple plants for cloth production.

Ada:  And there are five steps to producing the Pina fabric. So after it’s grown, the first step is called pagkigue. After being harvested by hands the thorny sides of the mature pineapple leaves need to be removed before it’s laying on a piece of wood board and you need to scrape off the green outer layer using a piece of coconut shell or pottery shards. The first fiber that gets extracted from the leaves is called the bastos or wash-out according to one of the YouTube videos we will link in the show notes. So this is coarse and it’s used for making twine and then if you keep scraping so continuous and vigorous scraping will then reveal a second finer fiber which is called liniwan, which is used to weave the pina fabric.

Nicole: I’m pausing here because listeners who understand or know how to speak Tagalog bastos is a word that you are familiar with that is not in the context of pina making. I’m just laughing because I was…

Ada: What does it mean?

Nicole: Shilyn in her research and help with this episode. She says that she understood it to be crude, ill-mannered, rude and okay, this isn’t just I’m just being really immature right now. But hey, you this is all part of the Asian Sewist Collective experience, right? I can hear like grandparents and aunties saying oh Bastos, which is like someone being like doing something like disgusting or like ill-mannered or behaved, so like someone I don’t know farting in church will be a bastos. So just like when I was reading this, I can’t I can’t not laugh. I say bastos in the next section, and I’m going to keep it together. Okay, so the real content back to what everyone’s here for, according to the book “Baro, Philippine fabrics and fashion”. A single leaf consists of 75% bastos and 25% liniwan which is the refined material, the generally extracted liniwan are then cleaned and combed in rivers or running water to avoid knotting and to remove the leaf pulp so that all that’s left behind are white opaque threads. After being hung dry is step two, pagpisi,  cleaning. In this step, the smaller and shorter fibers that are not useful are removed by hand.

Ada: And then once that’s done, the fine fibers can be hanged on it together to create one long seamless filament in step three, pagpanug-ot, finishing. So this filament is then spun onto spools and then we’re on to a sabongan, which is a warp wheel in step four. I’m going to do my very best to pronounce this word very clearly pagtalinuad, which it takes apparently 15 to 20 days to warp enough yarns to complete a sucod of 18 to 20 bucos or 54 to 60 meters of cloth. All of this was pulled from the Philippine Folk Life Museum.

Nicole: Finally, the last stage of Pina weaving is called paghaboe. A pedal frame loom is used to weave the Pina cloth. The loom has a foot operated treadle with an extended overhead warp beam with two harnesses and two treadles. The warp is wound into the warp beam and then is threaded into the boddle, the benting reed or sucod. The benting allows the warp to open when the treadle is stepped on with your feet. The sucod is used to press the weft to thicken the cloth. Because of the delicate nature of this fiber, the weaver needs to be careful and gentle when feeding the shuttle between the warp yarns and the inserted weft. The weaving process takes about eight hours to produce half a yard of Pina fabric in a simple weave, and a quarter of a yard in multicolor or small pattern designs. The amount of time spent on the cloth depends on the intricacy of the design.

Ada:  To make the weaving process even longer. pina yarns can also be very sensitive to whether they become brittle during the hot summer months and under the heat of the sun. And during rainy days they can get moist and become sticky so the pedals of the loom can become hard or stiff to manipulate. Listeners, if you’re interested in watching this process, because it’s one thing to hear us describe the setup but then it’s another to actually see it. We will link a couple of YouTube videos in our show notes.

Nicole: And in the olden days, the weavers decided on their own design. The designs usually took the form of flowers, fruits, coconut trees, Nipa huts, or other designs concocted by the weavers imagination. A nipa hut is a small hut that has a thatched woven roof on it. And the designs may have been copied from cloths which have already been in design or inlaid into the fabric with the aid of graphing paper. In the case of the latter the design is made on the warp one of the weaving techniques is called pili, also known as suk suk, which is an inlaid supplementary weft design technique similar to brocade by inserting pattern wefts with colored cotton or silk thread during the weaving process. This type of weave is commonly used for traditional garments without embroidery.

Ada:  Another technique is rengue, which creates a lace work pattern by skipping threads in both the weft and work. There’s also the tablero, which is a technique that produces a checkered weave. In a recent interview with Raquel Eliserio, an award winning pina weaver, she describes how she weaves both designs based on customer commission and designs of her own creations. By combining the different weaving methods and experimenting, her work can be found on Instagram, which is also again in the show notes. Nicole, I’m curious now that we’ve gone through the whole production process. It sounds very intense. Any thoughts, feelings about this process?

Nicole: Well, I had no idea how Pina was made. Again, my association as a Philippine American person, you know, I understood it to be part of our heritage precious, expensive, rare. Now and I see why given how difficult and intensive the processes so I get it, I get it.

Ada: So what does finished Pina look like? The finished pina is sheer lustrous and very lightweight, very delicate. They’re typically woven in a width between 24 to 32 inches on the narrower side for anyone sewing with it. Most pina are left undyed and it has this like light, ivory, beige, ecru kind of color, but it can also be dyed using natural dyes because it is a natural plant fiber. These hand woven fabrics are colored with vegetable dyes originating from leaves and barks of different trees and they are usually dyed when they’re used as part of the terno. So, Episode 42 our deep dive on the terno.

Nicole: Pina has a similar drape to organza remember we did a whole episode on silk so episode 8, check it out. We’re always go back to our content. It’s always it’s always good to review or listen if you haven’t yet. It’s lightweight but stiff in order to hold embroidery details. Pina fabrics are traditionally decorated by making designs during the weaving process, or delicate and detailed handwork embroidery, also known as burda in Tagalog. Calado is a type of drawn or cut work involving cutting and pulling threads from a fiber after which areas may then be embellished by embroidery to create a variety of geometric patterns. There are a myriad of designs and we’ll link a few samples in the show notes.

Ada: I like how you said burda because I totally read that word and I was like burda like burda patterns.

Nicole: I’m not sure if that was the correct pronunciation like who wore that? Yeah, I think that’s how I would pronounce it.

Ada: It’s probably closer than burda styles.

Nicole: Definitely not burda.

Ada:  Sombrado also called Shadow Work is a form of applique that was applied to Pina. Vegetal form scrolling vines, etc. Those were cut out from cotton fabric and then attached to the reverse side of the Pina fabric to create kind of like a silhouette effect. Embroidery themes over the years, you know, they change just as styles do. And so they went from church themed doves and crosses –  colonialism – into more nature inspired flowers, grass animals. So it’s really interesting to kind of see the motifs change over time.

Nicole: Definitely the crosses are a nod to colonialism. And for those of you who are getting Phillip, Philippine part of the Philippine diaspora or live in the Philippines, like you know, very Catholic. But pure Pina, as we said, is expensive and it’s delicate. Nowadays, it’s often mixed with silk, cotton or polyester to, one, increase strength, two, increase opaqueness and, three, of course to reduce the cost. Our Asian Sewist Collective’s very own Shilyn, who has real life experience with Pina describes the hand of these Pina blended fabrics. She says that Pina combined with silk and cotton tend to have a more delicate drape, with cotton being added to increase opaqueness of the material. Pina combined with abaca, which is the banana plant and we discussed it in our turnover episode, makes the opinia become stiffer due to the thickness of abaca fibers.

Ada: So how did pina get popular and what kinds of garments do you make with it? Who wears it nowadays? We’re gonna get all into a little bit more of the history of the use of pina fabric.

Nicole:  Pina is one of the few luxuries a sheer lace like textiles from the Philippines known as nipis, next to jusi, which is raw silk, and sinamay, which is woven from the banana plant abaca for milinery purposes. Pina was considered a luxury export item from the Philippines during the Spanish colonial period and gained favour among European aristocracy in the 18th and 19th centuries. Popularity in the West rose as many European Royals receive gifts of Pina cloth originating from the Philippines from loyal subjects to commemorate momentous occasions. For example, a christening gown was gifted to Alfonso XIII by Pope Pius X and the Pina handkerchief as a wedding present to Princess Alexandra of Denmark in 1862. In the Philippines, Pina is traditionally used to create barong tagalog, baro or alampay, amongst many other garments.

Ada:  The Filipino men’s formal garment called the Barong Tagalog, also known as a barang is the national dress or is a national dress of the Philippines. It’s a collar-less semi formal man’s dress shirt with long sleeves often embroidered and worn untucked. Example, photos again in the shownotes they are traditionally made with Pina or jusi, it also stands as a status symbol of the wearer because only the affluent can afford to own a pure Pina barong. The shirt’s popularity waned during the American occupation aka colonialization of the Philippines. However, in 1953, President Ramon Magsaysay wore a Barong at his inauguration and throughout his presidency. Tther leaders followed in his example and in 1975, President Ferdinand Marcos issued a decree designating the Barong Tagalog and the baro’t saya, the Indigenous women’s attire, as the official national attire, public and private employees began wearing the shirt to work. The first female president of the Philippines, Corazon Aquino also often wore a barong. And modern day versions have shifted the fabric choice into organza, silk cotton, polyester, like Nicole mentioned. So if you’re interested in learning more about Filipino garments in general, we do a deeper dive in our history of the terno episode. Right before this one, episode 42.

Nicole:  Colonialism again, my friend. Spanish colonialism also brought nuns to teach girls needle arts with applique, sombrado, and open work, calado, being the main techniques used to embellish Pina fabric. The popularity of the Maria Clara ensemble and sustained style over the decades has grown the need for Pina. Europeans and Americans exoticizing the textile also increased its popularity. When America took over the Philippines, the American cultural influence drastically changed Philippine fashion. By the early 1900s. less costly substitutes like the Swiss betille, Swiss muslin. And cotton were imported to compete with handmade textiles for the Maria Clara ensemble. In 1939, economic protectionism encouraged the preservation and use of Made in Philippine items including pina. During World War Two the Japanese occupied the Philippines from 1942 to 1945. Scarcity during the war meant recycling old garments and lack of importing from the west means Pina and other locally hand woven fabric productions were encouraged. After the war, demand for Pina products once again diminished with many other fibers such as silk, satin, etc, available as options and fashion trending toward more Western styles. Pina also became increasingly expensive over time and making its use for formal wear and then during the Marcos regime from the 60s to the 80s, Pina garments were only worn by the elite. In the 1980s, Maria Beatriz “Patis” Pamintuan Tesoro also known as Patis Tesoro, a designer successfully campaign for the Philippine Government to revive and pass on the cultural heritage skills including the production of pina. The government also funded training programs for new artisans to preserve the traditional and specialized skills. Tesoro’s research work with Dr. Lourdes Reyes-Montinola, an author who wrote the seminal book on Pina, help revive this moribund industry, which again, is flourishing on the island of Panay.

Ada: Non-governmental organizations like HABI, The Philippine textile Council, are also preserving knowledge and skills for pina and other Philippine textiles at the same time, while also modernizing the local textile industry. Textile weaving competitions also continue to encourage younger and newer generations of artisans to participate and preserve the craft while innovating designs. And according to Wikipedia, pina weaving has been nominated for the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Award.

Nicole: Contemporary Pina is often combined with other fibers like we said primarily silk, so, Pina Seda. And in addition to embroidery, fabric may instead have painted or printed designs. Pina or Pina-blend fibers are commonly used by Filipino designers on the world stage and on the runways. Of note, here are a few designers of Philippine descent to keep an eye out for. So Oliver Tolentino, a Filipino American designer based in Beverly Hills, specializes in eco friendly fabrics. His pina gowns have been featured around the world and brought the fashion spotlight to pina fabrics. His gowns are also quite colorful. He said in an interview “the colors reflect his heritage and make the garment a perfect balance of silhouette, fabric and hue”. Next up is Joseph Aloysius Montelibano, a finalist in Project Runway Philippines who started his fashion brand Aloysius that features Philippine indigenous textiles. His 2016 New York Fashion exhibit features hand stitch Calado embroidered Pina in gowns and dresses. And Gabriel Bustos Santos is an avant garde designer based in Manila in the Philippines. His first fashion collection incorporates Pina to a dark romanticism theme as a way to question the romanticization of Pina as a fabric, which is pretty cool.

Ada:  I agree. It also seems rare for non Filipino people to use Pina aside from Guo Pei, who is a Chinese fashion designer for their fall 2019 Couture collection, which was inspired by the idea of like an alternate universe. In her collection, she decorated the Pina fabric with elaborate beading and embroidery. So I don’t know like, I wonder, I see that. And then I’m like, How much did you take from like the history of this fiber and textile? And how much do you just kind of go, that’s a cool fiber and use it on my collection and put it on the runway. So we will have photos for you to look at all of these designers in our show notes.

Nicole:  Yeah, I think we’re gonna touch on cultural appropriation later. And I’m not saying that Guo Pei has done that. Just that, you know, I have this such a strong association of Pina with my culture, and I think, you know, the use of an item of someone the cultural significance for someone else’s culture isn’t automatically a cultural appropriation, but it makes me curious and there is I think we’ve mentioned a few times in the podcast, a lot of migration in around all different parts of Asia. So I’ve said before the you know, the oldest Chinatown in the world is in Manila, Philippines. So you know, I think it’s just something worth looking at and I haven’t looked at their designs. So I’m just I’m just curious and as always getting inspired by our conversations here on the podcast. Another contemporary type of Pina fabric is called Pina Tex like with an X at the end. Pina Tex was inspired by the Pina cloth and the Barong and was developed as a quote sustainable vegan alternative to leather. It’s worth noting that Pina Tex is different from traditional Pina cloth and that the leaf fibers are from a different type of pineapple. That and also additional processing is required to manufacture Pina Tex. Dr. Carmen Hijosa at the Royal College of Art in London developed Pina Tex and founded Ananas Anam, the company that manufactures PinaTeX with joint collaborations with Bangor University in Wales, Northampton Leather Technology Center, Leitat Technological Centre in Spain, alongside NonWoven Philippines Inc. in Manila, and Bonditex S.A., a textile finishing company.  

Ada: Ananas Anam teamed up with Dole, the pineapple company, to create Pina Tex by using pineapple leftovers and leaves after a harvest. So, it does use materials that would not otherwise be used, so repurposing them and the pineapple leaves are processed to extract fluffy fibers, which are made into a felt-like non woven material. This “pina-felt” is then coated in resin or plastic to actually make the Pina Tex. The Dole company and their family could be like a whole other episode of a different podcast about colonialism and how they functionally overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy in the late 1800s. And how that has had ramifications even through today. But we’re not going to go too deep into it. So we highly encourage you to read about this history. And we will have plenty of links in the show notes. I personally definitely encourage you to read this if you enjoy visiting Hawaii or plan on visiting there anytime soon, just to be a responsible person and understanding the history and the relationship of the Hawaiian people and the rest of the world, especially in America.

Nicole: You can’t romanticize Dole with Hawaii, which a lot of people do, knowing the history of that. So definitely check it out. Just as a short aside, I do feel like we’ve been saying colonialism a lot this episode. And it’s not incorrect or a bad thing. I think, in my mind, I’m just thinking, you know, some folks are like, you always talking about you know, white supremacy and I’m like, but this is our history, you know, and I think some people shy away from pointing out that things are a direct result of colonialism, but I think it’s important that we continue to normalize it because how else are we going to understand our history and of course, hopefully avoid it in the future. Right?

Ada: Agreed.

Nicole:  So back to Pina Tex which is… tex, not text, Pina Tex, which is different from Pina but something to not confuse with Pina. Because of the additional processing the fibers undergo for the Pina Tex process. The end product isn’t actually fully biodegradable. And the main claims to sustainability is that the use of plant waste is the base substrate. So Pina Tex has been used in place of items that traditionally leather would be used, such as bags, shoes, wallets, watchbands, seat covers, clothing, jackets, all that. So the use case of Pina Tex is definitely very different from Pina cloth, you know, heavier opaque versus light and airy, and I think this is here so that we know the difference, really, we’re focusing on on Pina fabric today. Any thoughts on Pina Tex, Ada?

Ada:  I was like all on board until you got to the line about like it’s coated in plastic. And then I’m like, well, that’s not really like better quote-unquote, than right now what’s out there for vegan leather, which, like, if you see vegan leather, just it’s plastic, plastic, it’s just plastic rebranded. And so there are different I know lots of people have different thoughts and feelings about the consumption of animal leather. And there’s so much work going on right now on trying to make this type of plant based quote unquote, leather, replacement, whatever. And I’m just like, we’re at an interesting time. Where, yes, this innovation like needs to happen. But do I want it to still be covered in plastic? No. And do I think it’s going to be at all similar to pina fabric? Absolutely not.

Nicole:  Right. And also, I guess, I am left so I’m very curious about it. I think that we’ve talked about orange silk and orange leather. But when you say the final product is coated in plastic, I’m like, well then why don’t you just the plant waste let the plant waste biodegrade on its own. Right. I just you turned it from something that could biodegrade and return to the earth into something that can’t, which seems a little strange, but then there you are balancing like animal rights interests versus climate interests. So or environmental interests I should say so anyway, it’s interesting. As always, I’m curious but I don’t know if I’ll ever personally pursue it. But again, it’s good to note that when you see Pina Tex, definitely not the same thing as Pina and then you know, there’s a question which our producer put in the chat. You know, how durable is Pina Tex fabric without the resin so like, what’s the point of it at the end of the day, but back to Pina itself. Today, Pina is still produced in the Philippines. The delicate nature of the liniwan fiber continues to be hand produced by small enterprises. Artisans continue to combine various weaving techniques to hand make beautiful yardage of Pina cloth. Of course, technology today means production could rely on machines over the end to end handmade process. The Philippine Textile Research Institute has explored ways to mechanize pina with machine assisted fiber extractions since the 1970s.

Ada:  At the Institute a number of industrial machines are also used to replace the Pina hand making process including an industrial decorticating machine – new word – which is a machine that has a motor with multiple blades that scrape to reveal the fibers. So instead of using those shards or a coconut that you would use, and then a fiber softening machine that uses water and chemical baths to soften the fiber instead of you know, washing it in a body of water. There’s also a cutting machine that will cut the pina fiber into one to two inches so they can be combined with other materials to become yarn, which is ready for weaving.

Nicole:  Did you see my face when you said chemical bath?

Ada:  Yeah, I mean, it kind of reminds me of like when you’re doing the mordanting process of dying.

Nicole:  True. I just was thinking throughout while we’ve been recording, I was thinking about my grandpa because he wasn’t involved in pina production, but things like you know, a handmade, like wooden horse that you can sit on and he would have a detachment at the end to shave coconut like just the process of like remembering seeing that and imagining artisans doing this and going into a river and to remove fibers. And then you said chemical bath I was like Blah. But that’s that’s how things have evolved, it seems. But I’m glad to hear that there are still an end to end production of pina in the Philippines. But outside of the Philippines, Pina production uses leftover plant leaves from pineapple plantations after fruit harvest. India in recent years has begun production of pina to use up plant leaves, the pineapple leaves after the fruit is harvested in an effort to reduce agricultural waste according to journal article. Simple machines were also developed in India and Malaysia to extract plant leaf fiber again, as always see our show notes. Similar initiatives to repurpose pineapple leaves from farmers postharvest continue to be made in the textile industry in Taiwan as well.

Ada:   I’ve been waiting for pineapples in Taiwan. Just kidding. Geopolitics aside, if you know anything about the current geopolitical climate, I think China is actually the biggest place where Taiwan exports its pineapples, and then it became like a whole tiff is the polite way of putting it, where they started actually saying they wouldn’t take the pineapple. So then these pineapple farmers had to figure out where to send all of their ripe fruit. Because it was kind of like a, not a bait and switch. But like, we’ll take them, just kidding, we’re not taking them anymore. What are you going to do with all this fruit? And there’s a really cool, Asian American Taiwanese American owned shop called Yun Hai that is in the US actually started importing dried pineapple after that whole thing went down. But I forgot to put that in. And the story I put into share was actually that my dad would tell me about hiking through pineapple fields when he did his military service, because it’s compulsory military service for X number of months, years, depending on when you did it and whatever. It’s just it’s a big part of culture. And not saying it at all, but he’s actually telling me about like marching through the pineapple fields, and then they were like, I think they were like 18, 19, 20 like hacking off pineapples.

Nicole:  Why not?

Ada:  And then the other thing that pineapples, I guess, get produced too, instead of just fruit. And then their leaves being reused is pineapple cake. So you can find those in most Asian supermarkets I think. Yeah, but I’m glad to know that like the fibers from all that pineapple harvesting is also used, perhaps not for pina, but for other textiles of some sort. And I might just go do some more research about that. So now that we know all about pineapples and pina and Pina TeX and where we are in the land of all these textiles, Nicole, are you interested at all and sewing Pina now that we’ve talked about it?

Nicole:  So right now, I’m interested in eating some pineapple.

Ada:  And yeah. I’m hungry.

Nicole:  Yeah, that sounds really good. Right now. My My best friend is allergic to pineapple. She listens to the podcast, shout out Barb, sorry you can’t eat pineapple. But yeah, let’s talk about pineapple. Mm, That sounds so good right now. But pina, right? I can’t actually see myself sewing with it anytime soon. And usually, listeners are hearing me say, Oh, I’m gonna do that now. Oh, let’s do this. I think you know, partially because it’s seen as so precious. I’ve used that word a few times during the recording and I don’t really know what to do with it anyway. So I don’t want to acquire it and then like sit on it. And I don’t know why necessarily because y’all know I acquire fabric and so on. We all do it, we’re like, Oh, I like that. I don’t know what to do with it, but I’m gonna buy it. I don’t know, I just feel differently about maybe going through the effort of finding, you know, uniquely sourced Pina fabric. So, maybe next time I’m in the Philippines, I’ll I’ll track it down and then think of something to do with it, you know, just have a piece of my heritage. In the last few years, you know, I’ve started to investigate other, you know, pieces of my cultural heritage that are things like, you know, like gold jewelry, shell, that type of thing, and, and slowly incorporating and learning more about symbols, and all that. So I’d like for it to be a part of it. Pina to be a part of that. And if anything, you know, I mentioned that there was one, Pina Barong in my grandpa’s closet. And I’d probably start there, you know? I did text my mom right before we started recording, because I was thinking about it. And I’m like, do you still have it? Is it still there, I should have taken it. But I just again, it was precious. It was also a tough time, like a more tough time immediately after his death. And it’s like, I don’t know what to do with this. And it’s like, holy, and like stains, and I’m like, I’m not just gonna hand wash this. I don’t know what to do with it. You know, it’s precious, because it’s the fabric, it’s precious because of him. But I do think that I’d like to do something with it. Instead of it just sitting in a closet. So maybe a while hanging, you know, I don’t necessarily know if I could get enough out of it to make something to wear, but just something to have him around and to also, you know, honor my culture in that way. But I don’t know when the next time I’m going to be in the Philippines is going to be but I have lots of textile related things I want to do so. It will certainly be on the list. What are your thoughts after learning about pina this episode, Ada?

Ada:  First of all, I think it’s really cool that you have that in your family like you have one Pina barong from your grandpa. And I think it’s really cool that it’s so… the fabric itself is so intertwined with the Barong right? Like it’s, it’s not that it’s only used for the wrong but it is predominantly known for and use for that. So I think that’s really cool. Just having the understanding of it. And I’m sure you’ll figure out what to do with your grandpa’s barong, stains and all. Like wouldn’t even be like as sentimental I think if it didn’t have signs of wear? Yeah, I don’t know. Yeah. Do I ever want to sew with this fabric now that I know how delicate it is? No. Kind of in this. I’m not of the heritage. I think it’s beautiful. I can definitely appreciate it. And I think I would. So the Philippines is on my list of like places to go to I definitely want to like nerd out on a museum and sit there and I’m, you know, that weirdo and the fabric and textile making notes about textiles under glass. And so that I think would be really cool to just kind of see more examples in person. I think it is cool that you know it is, if you think about we talked a little bit about sustainability with Pina Tex. It is a sustainable fiber and that it is plant based, before kind of modern times it was completely made in a sustainable way. Like there was no, you know, it’s not like leather, where we can be like, oh, there were these chemicals. And then it was bad. Like, you can say that it was washed in the river. And now we’re using chemicals to kind of, you know, shortcut that process. And so I think that’s really cool. I would love to see it continue to be preserved as it looks like there’s some work around that. I just, yeah, I kind of want to see where the the artisans who are working with pina now kind of go. And I would definitely say if listeners you’re considering trying this fabric out, or seeing if you have any in a family members closet, like consider what the fabric and the garment mean to you and your family. And then think about what we talked about in our mindful fabric episodes, right? Like if you want to consume fabric in a more sustainable way, but also if you want to perhaps take one thing and turn it into something else that you might have a use of in a different way.

Nicole:  Right. And even if you’re interested in buying Pina fabric and you’re not in the Philippines, it’s really hard to find Pina online. Most sites recommend buying it, of course in the Philippines or having someone visiting or who lives in the Philippines purchase it for you because it’s difficult to figure out, you know, the purity and the quality of it. I mean, that’s the same with all fabric, but in particular, given the pricing of pure pineapple fiber cloth, you know, it’s important to really assess that. And they go for anywhere between 80 to 100 US dollars per yard. So it is really pricey. And remember that they are narrow width, so you would need a lot of it. And our colleague Shilyn mentioned that “since Pina is very expensive, I’ve personally upcycled a Barong in order to use the material once. My original vision was to make a feminine fitting barong for work but ended up hanging on to it for almost three years before using on another project. Since barongs are our traditional formal wear, I use it as a piece to a client’s filipiniana outfit as a baro.

Ada:  You know what’s coming next, Nicole? Should we be worried about appropriating this fabric?

Nicole:  So remember the three P’s: people, power. and profit. And as for culturally appropriating the fiber itself, I have thoughts that are in line with our producer’s thoughts, which are that just the fabric itself, it’s a plant fiber, it’s a textile, it’s, you know, use it for how you use it. Ideally, pay artisans, their the value for their labor on it, instead of you know, buying from maybe a third party seller, if you can find it anywhere. But I do think that wearing a traditional dress made from pina like Barong Tagalog, or you know, terno, or any baro, that that’s something that you would want to assess before putting that on, given both the cultural significance and ties to the Philippine culture of the fabric itself, as well as the garment. And if you are a person who is not of Philippine descent, again, I’m not here to tell you this is not a yes or no, this is not a you have permission to do this, you do not have permission to do this. But if you come across a pina Barong, and you are not a Philippine descent, I think I would just pause and reflect on taking that and, you know, turning it into something that is, you know, not, that doesn’t honor that in any way. I think that cutting up someone’s traditional garment, if it’s a friend, if it’s a family member, if it’s you know, like something like me, if a family member who you’d want to honor and, and preserve and keep or turn it into something new, I think that’s okay. But you know, I think I would just be mindful of the history of it, given that it is so culturally entwined with the Philippines. And again, I’m not, we are not giving anyone permission, or prohibiting anyone from doing things, please consider the three P’s before you take any action and be open to hearing from people who might be affected by your actions as always. But our colleague Shilyn again, also agrees, you know, she had upcycle that bra that we mentioned earlier for someone’s modern filipiniana outfit, you know, and that’s, that was a collaboration between her and the wearer, and it you know, turned it from one cultural garment to something that enhances another cultural garment. So I think just be just be mindful and again, open to discourse and don’t get defensive if someone’s as a let’s talk about you know, your use for this.

Ada:  So instead of pina fabric, other similar or substitution fabrics that you know, you can take a look at that might be a little more easy to find pina sedo, which is the silk one obviously still very expensive. If you look at those prices, if you’re going kind of in that silk section of fabrics, which again, we have a whole episode on it. There’s organza if you want a desired lightweight, structured and kind of do like save cost to be honest. Tt is the top fabric choice for modern traditional filipiniana when Pina is too expensive or difficult to source. Then there’s so there’s polyorganza and silk organza and those two also have very different price points. You could probably also look at a voile, honestly, which is usually like a silk cotton blend. If you’re going for like a opaque one though that’s not going to be close to pina. Like take a look at the photos that we have in the show notes and you’ll see why I say some more shear. So cotton voile might get you a similar look and effect but not exactly quite the same. And listeners if you’ve had experience sewing with or wearing Pina we would love to hear it. So send us an email leave us a voicemail we would love to kind of round up your experience with with the textile as well.

Nicole:  And apart from our show notes, there are a few other places that you can you know see Pina Fabric and other garments made with Pina, so check out the Philippine Folk Life Museum in San Francisco if you are visiting in person. The online San Francisco Airport Museum has a gallery because the whole idea for this episode was our producer Esther traveling through San Francisco and seeing this really cool display of pina. So check that out. There’s also the Lacis museum L A C I S Museum, Google that. And there are YouTube videos about pina. Don’t forget to as always, check out our show notes for more pictures and resources. And if you enjoy these fiber focus series, revisit or listen for the first time our silk episodes and our batik episodes as well.

Ada: Thank you so much for joining us on this week’s episode of the Asian Sewist Collective podcast. If you like our show, please consider supporting us on Kofi by becoming a one time or monthly supporter, or by buying our stickers and selling labels. That’s right, we have merch by the labels, they are hilarious. Your financial support helps us with overhead expenses and will allow us to give back to our all volunteer team and work so hard to provide you with new content each week. The link to our Kori page is K O dash F I  dot com slash asian sewist collective and you can find the link in our show notes on our website and on our Instagram account. Check us out on Instagram at Asian Sewist Collective – That’s one word Asian Sewist collective, and you can also help us out by spreading the word and telling your friends. We would appreciate it if you could rate review and subscribe to this podcast on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts. Pocket Casts or wherever you get your podcasts.

Nicole:  All of the links and resources mentioned in today’s episode will be in the show notes on our website. That’s Asian Sewist collective.com And we’d love to hear from you. Email us with your questions, comments or even voice messages if you want to be featured on future episodes at Asian Sewist collective@gmail.com This episode was brought to you by your co hosts Ada Chen and Nicole Angeline. This episode was researched by Cindy Chan, produced by Esther Lee and Shilyn Joy and edited by Clarissa Villondo, and Henry Wong. Thank you so much to the other members of our collective who made this week’s episode a reality. This is the Asian Sewist Collective podcast and we’ll see you next week.

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