The Sisal plant

Sisal comes from the plant 'Agave sisalana'.  The plant is a large "rosette-type" shrub with many thick, stiff, spirally arranged leaves.  The leaves are a dark, bluish-green and are covered with a waxy substance to prevent water loss, and have a spine at the end of each leaf.  As the leaves get older, they begin to bend outward and downward.  They can grow up to six feet long.  Within the leaves are long fibrovascular bundles that help support the leaf so that they remain upright.  These are the fibres that are eventually used commercially as sisal fibre.  The plant will produce around 200-250 commercially usable leaves in it's life-time.

After harvesting the leaves are taken to the factory within 48 hours.  In the past, fibres were stripped by hand, but now this is performed by machines.  Firstly, the leaves are crushed to remove most of the water, then the fibres are placed into a machine that removes the pulpy portion and finally the fibres are washed.  After washing, the fibres are dried naturally by the sun or in drying machines.  After this process the fibre can then be spun into yarn, which then can be made into twine and rope.