A Brief Look at the Uses of Bast Fiber

bast fiber linen cloth
Linen cloth from ancient Egypt

Bast fibers have long been used for their high tensile strength in applications through the centuries. Historically, the fiber has been leveraged for use in ropes, twine, cloth, sails, and yarn but modern day manufacturing processes takes bast fiber’s potential to a whole new level. Lets take a quick look at some early uses of bast fiber, and some of the new capabilities that can be found  on the market today.

The Land of Linen and The Ancient Roman Empire

Once known as the “Land of Linen”, evidence shows the wide use of bast fibers in ancient Egypt; mainly in the form of linen based textiles. Here, the material was used commercially and could be found in almost every aspect of the Egyptian economy. Clothes were almost exclusively made from the material and the sails propelling the ancient Egyptians up and down the Nile River were made from linen cloth. They even used linen wrapping in one of their most sacred practices, mummification.

Through the trade of processing information, textiles, and other goods, the Roman Empire also utilized bast fiber throughout their civilization. While wool was the traditional fabric used in the Rome, linen clothing and other textiles were incorporated into the roman society through trade and the later acquisition of Egypt. Once the Roman Empire began to fall, the widespread production of linen and flax based goods started to decline. While multiple attempts were made by legislators to revive the use of Flax crops, none brought the bast fiber material back to its former glory.

The New World

It wasn’t until the colonization of North America that bast fiber products gained the demand that they once garnered. Becoming a part of nearly every piece of the early colonial era society, plants like hemp and flax began to flourish throughout early America. A high need for basics textile goods such as rope, bags, twine, clothing, and sail cloth propelled bast fiber to the forefront of the new American economy. Slowly but surely the full potential for these fibers became unlocked through new insights and extraction technologies.

Modern Day Uses

bast fiber car door
Interior view of a car door reinforced with bast fiber material.

Today, these fibers are being adopted by an extremely diverse group of industries, from building materials to plastic composites. Beginning in 2002, car manufacturers have used a bioplastic composite containing fiberglass and multiple bast fibers to manufacture door panels for cars. This combination increase the sustainability of the parts and improves their acoustic qualities, while also being a cost-effective option.

By blending hemp, kenaf, and flax fibers; there have been developments in batted natural fiber insulation, that provides a competitive alternative to traditional fiberglass insulation as well as blown in insulation. Increasing the sustainability of buildings and also decreasing the amount of toxic chemicals used during the construction process that harm workers and cause sick building syndrome.

There has also been a relatively wide adoption of these fibers in the clothing industry that still continues to grow as the availability of bast fiber increases.

As we continue to further our understanding of the versatile properties of bast fiber, it’s clear that they can provide incredible performance advantages while also being cost effective; a key component in the search for our future, long-term sustainability as a society.

Want to know more?

If you would like to learn more about bast fiber or to see if bast fiber would work in your material, Sunstrand is here to help! Contact our team at 502.415.8505 or fill out the contact form linked below.


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