The Hat Bible
Straw Types


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There are many straws for the modern hat manufacturer to choose from, both the Chinese and the Filipino straw weavers produce many different types of straw, woven in a myriad of ways. It is interesting to note that although many types of straw exists, the contemporary hat manufacture often uses only a few of the classic straws.

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PARASISAL:
A fine, high quality natural straw made from sisal, bleached or dyed to colour, comes in grades from one through to five. Normally reserved for expensive hats. Delicate in texture but resilient in wear, takes dye well. Parasisal is made using two over two weave.

SISAL:
The same as above but using a one over one weave, less popular than parasisal and just a little coarser.

VISCA:
Visca originates from Japan, it is one of the few man made straw materials to be used for the weaving of  hoods. It is often used for mass production hats as it is easily dyed and blocked, similar in appearance to parasisal but it is coarser. This straw softens easily and does not like to be mistreated, normally considered as a one season hat.

PANAMA:
Very cool to wear, resilient to crushing and often used for men's hats, Panama straw comes from Ecuador, however in recent years Chinese bleached palm fibre is increasingly used to emulate the original. Normally a bleached finish, however it can be dyed to pastel colors. 

RUSH:
A stiff thick straw with a green coloring, normally left in its natural form, again cool to look at and wear. Smells of cut grass.

DOUBLE WHEAT:
This straw is thick and coarse and although can be dyed to colour, is usually seen in its natural colour, golden brown. It is often used to make cheaper hats, it is hard wearing and if stiffened, hard to the touch, it has the smell of corn. This straw is easy to shape and difficult to sew.

SINGLE WHEAT:
Very similar to double wheat, made from the same basic straw but the strands are flatter, also used for cheaper hats and dyed to colour. Both single and double wheat straws are natural.

XIAN:
This is a very popular straw and comes in a number of forms including, natural, skin of xian, twisted xian (or seagrass) and bleached. Often associated with beach or holiday hats this useful straw can also be stiffened and be used in the production of mid quality hats. In its natural condition it is soft and has an irregular light brown colour with a smell of paper, a natural straw.

JUTE:
This hood is woven with a natural material similar to thick string. It is loosely woven and naturally soft, it has to be varnished heavily in order to keep its shape after blocking. When made into a hat it is light and cool to wear and allows air to pass easily through the weave. It can be dyed but colors are pastel in shade.

PAPER PANAMA:
This straw is woven from Japanese Toyo paper. Normally seen in cream or white although sometimes dyed. Sold as a simple blocked shape this straw can be rolled and packed without damage, ideal for use as a sun or holiday hat.

SINAMAY:
Comes in two forms, flat sheet and loosely woven hoods, made from Abaca fibre. (Musa textilis)  Both types need stiffening before it can be blocked. Sheet sinamay hats are made from a number of layers and are blocked using the same method as fabric covered hats, woven hoods are blocked using traditional metal pans.

RAFFIA:
This straw from Madagascar is widely use for the production of budget hats. Heavy to look at it is a casual straw and much used for beach hats.

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