What Is Ramie Fabric? (Uses, Advantages, Helpful Guide)

It may be the oldest fabric. You never heard of it. That is if you are not an experienced sewer and rarely deal in fabrics outside of cotton, wool, silk, or synthetics. The good news is that it is a natural fiber fabric that is strong and can be used instead of cotton or linen.

What is Ramie fabric? Ramie fabric has its source in the Ramie plant and has been used for thousands of years. Some say even 6,000 years starting with ancient China, Indonesia, and India. Its primary use is to create fabrics and is seen as a substitute for cotton in dresses, pants, sweaters, and more.

To learn all about the Ramie fabric just continue to read our article. It has the information you need to know in order to use this material to its fullest potential. take a few minutes and get up to speed on this other natural fiber that has been used by people for generations around the globe.

What is Ramie Fabric?


This fabric is all-natural and it comes from a very eco-friendly and sustainable plant called the Ramie plant. This plant’s main purpose is to provide the right fibers to make fabric and that has been its purpose and use since the beginning of time.

Although it is is not flexible or elastic the fabric made from this fiber is strong, light, breathable, and durable. It is seen as a replacement for both cotton and linen as it acts as both of those fabrics.

Plus, it dries quickly and remains strong when wet. Like Bamboo, it is also anti-bacterial making it a very healthy fabric to wear. Unlike cotton though, it is an expensive fabric to purchase as it is not widely used except as a substitute for cotton when people want something different to wear.

The lack of popularity is not the only reason for its high cost. Cultivation, production, labor costs, and other expenses help keep the price of this material very high. Even if it was used more often it is doubtful that the price will come down.

Is Ramie Fabric Natural or Synthetic?

This is an all-natural plant that doesn't need a lot of chemicals to turn it into usable fabric. In fact, farmers in Asia have been using this plant and turning it into fabric through primarily all-natural methods for thousands of years.

Some people say that those farmers have been using this plant for 6,000 years making it one of the oldest fabrics used in the world. But when it comes to origins,m it is hard to say which was used first, cotton, wool, silk, or linen.

The ancient world was not as populated as it is now so the animal kingdom was able to produce enough animals to help make leather a popular material to use in clothing, buildings, and other applications.

Ramie fibers can be harvested all year round making sure that the fibers are plentiful and easy to replaced once woven into a fabric. With no chemicals added, unless for specific protections, and its anti-bacterial quality makes this a good fabric to wear no matter your age.

Its strength makes this material last a long time as well.

Ramie Plant


This material is all-natural and comes from the Ramie plant. The plant is native to eastern Asia and can grow between 3 and 8 feet tall. That makes it an excellent plant to use to get fibers for clothing materials.

You can tell the Ramie plant from similar vegetation by its heart-shaped green leaves. Another name for this plant would be China grass. There is a tropical version of this plant said to have originated in Malaysia. It is smaller and its leaves are green on the underside of the leaves.

The regular Ramie plant has a white color on the underside and is a bit hairy. To get to the fibers used to make the fabric, the production process has to go to the inner bark bypassing the outer bark.

Under normal conditions, the plant can be harvested 3 times a year and under special circumstances, up to 6 times a year. that means there should always be a good supply of Ramie fabric when you need it.

What is Ramie Fabric Made From?

It is made from the fibers of the inner bark of the Ramie plant. The outer bark is too woody to be used and while we say it is an all-natural fiber with few chemicals used in its production, some chemicals are needed to de-gum the fibers.

The right time to harvest this plant is when it begins to flower. When that stage starts, the plant has the most fibers possible and its growth is going to slow down or decline. Then when it is time to harvest the plant is cut just above the lateral roots or by bending the stems over.

The plant has to be de-barked when it is fresh. If the plant dries out then it is much more difficult to remove that bark and get to the fibers. Once that is done the bark is dried out as quickly as possible to prevent bacteria and fungi from getting to the fibers.

It is said that Ramie fabric was used by the ancient Egyptians to wrap their mummies. The reason this material was used was because of its ability to resist mildew and other bacteria. But it is not sure as it is hard to tell the difference between flax and ramie fabrics in ancient materials.

What is The Difference Between Ramie and Linen?


While the two fabrics share a lot of similarities, there are some major differences that may explain why it is not used as much as linen or even cotton in clothing. One difference is that when washed regularly, ramie becomes rougher and can cause some skin irritations.

Linen when washed, is generally softer and keeps getting softer making it perfect for those with sensitive skin. While ramie is an expensive fabric, linen still costs more than it. There may also be a waxy feel to ramie but that may depend on how it was processed and not the overall feel of the fabric.

Like linen, ramie can break if left folded for too long. There are a lot of characteristics that the two fabrics share like breathability, dries quickly, resists mold and bacteria, and so on. There is also a high luster to the fabric which linen also has.

Both fabrics have good strength to them. You could probably replace linen with ramie until you wash it once too often. then people will begin to know the difference. ramie’s best applications will be in the non-clothing industries because of this nature to get rougher when cleaned.

Is Ramie Better Than Linen?

Not really, while it is the cheaper of the two materials, ramie is about even to linen when it is turned into clothing and other high use items. They both have many similar qualities like high luster, strength, anti-bacterial properties as well as being quick drying.

But if anything, linen is probably the better of the two fabrics because it gets softer after every wash while ramie does not. Both will last a long time as they are both very durable fabrics.

Then both fabrics are generally used in locations outside of the US with flax being used more in Europe and Northern Africa and ramie used in India, China and other Asian countries. But that is generally only, you should find both materials in most countries of the world.

Ramie Advantages and Disadvantages

All fabrics have their good and bad points. Ramie, while being natural and has great qualities, also has some negatives that make it hard to use to replace other materials.


  • An all-natural product
  • Is a cellulose-based fiber
  • Is very strong
  • Is very durable
  • Strong when wet
  • Holds its shape well
  • Has a nice luster that makes its fabric look good​
  • Has short growing periods
  • Blends well with other fibers
  • Can be dyed easily
  • Can be bleached easily
  • Should be able to wash in hot water
  • Very eco friendly & sustainable


  • Is not very flexible
  • Does not have any stretch to it
  • Can be rough after multiple washing
  • Doesn’t resist scratching very well
  • Can be very brittle
  • Can break when folded for a long time
  • May wrinkle very easily
  • May not be readily available in different countries

Is Ramie Fabric Eco Friendly and Sustainable?


An eco-friendly product simply means that the plant or other natural source doesn't need pesticides and other chemicals to help it grow and mature. ramie is one of those eco-friendly plants as it can grow naturally without that aid.

Then it is a very sustainable product because it can be harvested up to 3 times a year and sometimes as many as 6 times when the year is really good. Part of its nature is that it resists bacteria, mold, UV rays, rot, and insect attacks.

Those natural defenses make it possible to avoid using harsh chemicals to help it grow healthy. This process also helps the ramie fibers be 8 times stronger than cotton.

Then because it can be harvested frequently, that makes this plant very sustainable.

The fact that you can get multiple harvests out of the ramie plant makes it a very sustainable plant that does not require a lot of space to grow. The plant is a better source for fabrics as it does not allow for harsh chemicals to be used and pollute the ground.

Is Ramie Fabric Expensive?

It is more expensive than most versions of cotton but it is not more expensive than linen or silk. That would put it in about the mid-range when it comes to costs. One would think that the multiple harvests you can get each year would drive the costs down but the labor-intensive production process keeps the cost of ramie inflated.

You may be able to find some good deals on this fabric as one person found it costing about $3 per yard approx. That makes the material affordable. Your costs will depend on your region of the country, how much demand there is for this fabric, and the quality of the material.

Larger cities have higher costs so expect the material to be higher in price than in smaller locations. Online stores may have cheaper prices as they have found a way to limit their expenses and pass the savings on to you.

Do some research to see where the fabric is on sale or where you can get the best bargains. Saving money these days is very important.

Does Ramie Fabric Shrink?


One of its best positive qualities is the fact that ramie fabric is not supposed to shrink. Unlike other natural fibers, ramie holds its shape very well even when washed in hot water.

This characteristic makes this fiber ideal to blend with other natural fibers. Cotton and other shrinking materials benefit from being blended with ramie. You are the winner because you get all-natural fibers instead of a blend of natural and synthetics.

When you own ramie made clothing, you can have confidence that those items will retain their original shape. But that does not mean that there may not be lower qualities of this fabric. When made in lower qualities it may be possible to see some shrinkage take place.

Ramie materials are supposed to be strong when wet. That helps prevent shrinking and keeps your clothing lasting along time. That kind of durability makes sure you do not spend a lot of money on clothing.

Is Ramie Fabric Itchy?

While this fiber is similar to linen it is not known to be itchy like linen or even itchy like wool can be. It is a fabric that may get rougher over time but it does not create an itchy feeling when you wear it.

With that said, it is not a fabric you may want to have 100% of the material made from this fiber. It is better to get it in a blend, for example, cotton, which will help keep your clothes feeling softer and avoid any itchy encounters.

As we have said, this fabric tends to get rougher as it is washed more so you need to be careful when you buy this material. It may not need pre-washing to get any shrink out and that will keep the fabric softer longer.

Your experience may be different or your sensitive skin may react differently to this fabric. When it comes to fabrics very few things are absolute. If you do not get positive results, from wearing ramie fabrics, look for a better grade of material to use.

Is Ramie Fabric Stretchy?


No, it is not. This material is a lot like linen and it has little to no stretch to it. The lack of stretch capability makes ramie look and feel more like synthetic fabrics than natural ones.

Also, the material is very inflexible which means you have to be careful how you treat it when you are not wearing it. Folding for a long time will cause the fabric to break. That fact may keep you from placing the ramie clothing items in a dresser drawer.

Then the material may become rougher and more brittle over time. That is not a good character quality to have as it means that the clothing will be harder to wear and use. Ramie is not close to being like nylon or elastane or other stretchy materials.

It may move a little when you move but that does not mean it is a stretchy fabric. Ramie should have some give to it. But what Ramie lacks in stretch and flexibility it makes up for that lack in other ways.

The ability to resist mold and bacteria does make it a very healthy fabric to wear all the time.

Is Ramie Fabric Soft?

Since ramie comes with lightweight and silky fibers you will find that it originally has a lot of softness to it, But washing the material can harm those fibers, and fabric softener may be needed to maintain its original texture and feel.

The presence of softness does not take away any of its other characteristics. That means that this fabric while feeling nice and soft, will stay strong and very durable. Nor does that softness take away any bacteria or mildew resistance.

Ramie will be soft as well as strong against germs so that you can feel good when you leave your home. As we said, the more you wash this material the rougher it will become. That is why it is best to buy it in a blend. The softness remains longer when the material is blended with other fibers.

Is Ramie Fabric Breathable?


Yes, ramie is breathable and it is a lot like cotton and linen in this regard. It makes for a perfect warm-weather fabric that helps keep you cool when the temperatures start to get too high. Ramie’s breathability ability should rival both linen and cotton which makes it an ideal cotton fabric replacement in some sewing projects.

The material is also highly absorbent and it dries quickly so you should not have to worry about sweat stains appearing at the wrong moment. But the fact that it becomes very brittle means it may not always be the best fabric to use when you want to create a summer wardrobe.

100% ramie is not the ideal fabric for everyone and you really should look for it in a nice blend with cotton, linen, silk, and other fibers. With that said, when you are traveling through very humid areas, like the ones found in South East Asia, then ramie might be the best option for you.

You may have to play this by ear as this fabric is not always as good as some retailers make it seem.

Ramie Fabric Uses

One of the reasons you do not see a lot of ramie based clothing is that the processing of the fibers is too costly. You will find some good 100% fabrics or blends made with this fiber but those might not be found in large supplies.

Other uses for the material include canvas, rope, twine, wallpaper nets, parachutes, banknotes, and cigarette paper. Fishing nets are another good application because of their quick-drying nature.

However, the negative aspect of becoming brittle and stiff means it may not last as long as you would want it to in this application. When you find it in clothing, it may make a good travel garment.

Those humid areas of the country or the world can be quite uncomfortable and ramie does a good job in balancing that weather condition out. You can remain more comfortable wearing ramie clothing in those areas because it does dry fast and keeps your body cool through its ability to breathe well.

While the material is strong and durable, those negative aspects tend to cut ramie’s contribution and lifespan down a little. It will depend on the quality of the material how long it will last. Under normal use, it should still last a long time.

Some Final Words

Ramie is a product you may not have heard about yet it has been used for fabrics of thousands of years. It is an all-natural fiber that does not need a lot of chemicals or pesticides to grow or process.

Then its anti-bacterial and anti-germ-fighting powers make it a very healthy fabric to wear especially when you suffer from different ailments. Check out this fabric to see if it will work for you.

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