Wednesday, November 4, 2015


Recently we added 100% hand made labels to the callanan raffia hats. We did this in order to call attention to the artisan aspect of these fine hats. Unfortunately, nowadays people are so used to cheap, mass produced items from stores like H & M, Zara, Primark, just to mention a few, that they are oblivious to the true cost of making micro produced hats, while also trying to practice fair trade; in addition to keeping our carbon footprint small.

So lets look at all the manual labor steps that go in to making these fine CALLANAN crochet raffia hats and you may wonder why these hats do not sell for $500 instead of under $100.

The raffia fiber is obtained from the raffia (raphia) palm tree, which grows in tropical regions and in wet soil in Madagascar, Africa and the Philippines. The raffia palm (Raphia farinifera) is made of long leaves that can attain 60ft (18m), which makes it the palm tree with the largest branches. Each palm branch is made of nearly 100 leaflets, which are cut and torn off in parallel lines yielding long continuous fiber of a pale green color.

Harvesters go deep into the island to harvest the raffia palm. The fonds are harvested by hand, by men who manually climb to the tree tops to cut the fonds. This is difficult work, as there are no branches, but it is the only way to reach the tender fonds.

They strip and sun dry the freshly cut pale green fonds. The drying of the raffia is very important. If the artisans just lays the raffia out in he sun it will shrivel and cannot be used to weave. To avoid this, the artisans carefully wrap the raffia around grasses and weeds to ensure a more uniform drying process.

The fond is split in half. Each half is dried and then splits again several more times into many independent long fibers. The actual raffia is the very thin membrane of the leaf, kind of like veins on celery, which needs to be pulled off very carefully without breaking.

The dried raffia fibers then turn beige in color to yield the natural colored raffia we all know.

The raffia strands are then brought into warehouses, where they are sorted and separated into different qualities of raffia, according to their color, texture, fiber length and width.

Each quality is then transferred to another section where they will be tied into raffia hanks, balls, braids or spools. Part of this natural raffia is also dyed to obtain colored natural raffia. 

All these processes from the raffia harvesting, to the dying and packing are done manually by the local people with the utmost respect to the environment. Governmental laws also contribute to the preservation of the raffia palm trees by limiting the harvest of raffia palm from June to October each year to allow the branches of the raffia palm trees to regrow before the start of the next harvest season

It is then time for the hat artisans to hand crochet raffia hats.  A simple cloche shape can take a day and fancier/finer weaves up to 3 days. This is often done as a cottage industry by mothers or grandmothers. The finished hood (unblocked, undecorated, unshaped) being sent to the factory to be blocked into the desired shape.

hand crocheting callanan hat trim

hand crocheting a callanan raffia hat
After the crochet raffia hat is finished, it is often left outside in the sun to be naturally bleached into a more uniform color.


I am often asked why some raffia hats cost more than others. There are a number of reason for prices differences.

* The chunkier and more open the crochet, the cheaper it is to make, as it is way faster for the worker to crochet looser.
* The smaller the hat the quicker it is to crochet. Cloches and small brim fedoras are cheaper than fancy crochet large brim sun hats and western shapes.
*The more uniform the raffia color and tighter the crochet, the more expensive the hat.

So, with that in mind, next time you pick a crochet raffia hat up, be in awe at how inexpensive it is!!

100% hand made callanan crocheted raffia.

100% crocheted callanan western hats


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