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How do I create useful fiber from lemongrass? Answered

i have a big crop of lemongrass i planted to chase off pests. i use parts of it for tea/herbs.  i would like to process the fibery stalks to weave them for mats and/or kumihimo.  

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rickharrisBest Answer (author)2012-01-23

Soak in water - Beat until fiber separates - dry weave - This works for hemp and many other fibers such as nettle.

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steveastrouk (author)rickharris2012-01-23

Don't you have to "Rett" them for a period of weeks ?

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Kiteman (author)steveastrouk2012-01-23

Retting was usually only done on bast fibres (the ones between the outer skin and inner woody section, such as nettles or mulberry), but has mostly been replaced by cooking in a caustic solution.

The effects of three or four weeks of retting are matched by a day's soak and then a couple of hours cooking in caustic soda and a very good rinse.

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hardlec (author)Kiteman2012-01-31

I am not sure what you mean by a caustic solution. Laundry detergent? Lye?
If the cooking be be done in the same kitchen I make lunch in, then this may be a workable plan. If I have to do this out doors, I am going to have problems with the local constabulary. There are ordinances about the size of a fire I can have outdoors, and boiling caustic chemicals can be smelly.
I have enough lemon grass to fill a 16 gallon plastic storage tote. Should I be looking for a metal garbage can?

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Kiteman (author)hardlec2012-02-01

I use sodium hydroxide solution (lye).

It's OK to use in the kitchen (just leave a window open or use your cooker's vent hood), but you need to use a non-reactive vessel, that is a stainless steel or glass container.

I bought a new non-stick pot for my last batch, and the non-stick lining got eaten away in patches, and the mix started eating into the aluminium of the pot.

I guess you could use a platic garbage can, pouring on boiling water and leaving it to soak, but it will take longer, and I'm not sure the plastic could take the heat.

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hardlec (author)Kiteman2012-02-01

Finding lye may be as interesting as finding a stainless steel canning pot I can afford. It will be worth a shot.
Most galvanized steel garbage cans can handle boiling.

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Kiteman (author)hardlec2012-02-01

Boiling, yes.

Corrosive chemicals, probably not.

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Kiteman (author)2012-01-23

I would just dry the stalks as they are, then treat as rafia or similar.

Beating grass fibres will separate them far more easily than bast fibres like nettle, and the fibres themselves are far shorter than bast.

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hardlec (author)Kiteman2012-02-22

I am searching for an enameled pot of sufficient size. This may take a while I can find lye at the hardware store. What is the percentage of lye recommended?

I have been to 4 estate sales and three thrift stores. It's not canning season, so finding a pot is slowing things down.

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Kiteman (author)hardlec2012-02-22

Probably about 20% by dry weight.

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rickharris (author)2012-01-23

Indeed close to my home is a now built up area called Hemp dykes, where flooded channels were dug fr the purpose of retting hemp.

http://bhudeva.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/ages001Ee.pdf

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hardlec (author)rickharris2012-01-23

I don't think the rafia approach will work; the stalks are 5 feet long or so. They would need too much splicing. Retting, beating and spinning would seem to be better.
Caustic chemicals are out. They would violate local ordinances.
I have heard that borax might help the process and
How do I tell if the stalks/leaves are ready to be processed?

Thanks all for some good help.

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