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From Sleeping Mats (Banigs) to Place Mats

Many people in the rural areas, or provinces in the Philippines sleep not only on beds, but also on woven leaf mats.

In the Philippines, sleeping mats are called Banig. And for some folks, it is sometimes preferred over beds, even in these modern times.  In the hot, tropical climate and without air-conditioning, one feels cooler and can get a better night’s sleep atop a Banig.

Banigs in the region where my family is from are usually made from Tikog, a type of grass that grows wild near rice fields.

Grass "Tikog" Strips for making Banig Sleeping mats

Tikog - Sedge (Fimbristylis utilis) grows from 3 to 5 feet tall. Photo from Philippine Craftman Reprint Series, originally printed 1913

or made from Romblon (pandanus), a type of screw pine that grows by the beach.

Romblon (Pandanus) Strips Drying

Romblon plants growing near mouth of river to ocean

Traditional banig patterns vary from repeating geometric designs derived from weaving in, individual, dyed strips that creates the mat, or by creating pictures and patterns on top of an existing plain (solid or one color) mat.

Here are some examples of banig patterns sold in the marketplace (these mats are made from Tikog grass):

Philippine Sleeping Mat "Banig" Pattern

Philippine Banig (Tikog) Pattern

Philippine Banig (Tikog) Pattern

Philippine Banig (Tikog) Pattern

After finding wholesale customers for our romblon wine & gift bags, and looking to keep our weavers busy, the idea to create placemats followed.

We focused on romblon as it was the material that our partner weavers were familiar with.  The weaving style employed for our mats is a simple, over and under pattern.

Weaving of Romblon Placemats, over and under method

It was not such a stretch — at least I thought — as they were used to making larger pieces.  Some weavers previously made placemats for export to another country, but with extra stitches sewn on the edges.  These styles were too bumpy and busy.

I wanted a simple and clean look —just like a banig. So the idea was…why not just make little ones…a sort of “mini banig” and add this to our product line?  Easy right?   Well, not so much.

Imagine weaving a large piece — 6 feet by 4 feet or 5 feet.  One would not have an issue with the edges, plus you are sleeping on it, not looking at it — on a table setting right in front of you.

If you looked at a  smaller piece — like a placemat –  it becomes obvious that the edges have to be nice and even — especially for the export market.

I wish I kept our original samples, compared to the mats we now make.  The placemat edges then was, well…wavy (and not in a good way wavy).

I asked if the edges can be made more straight.  Some weavers said…no way, it is not possible.  But a few (like weaver Betty, Janice and her relatives) took on the challenge and figured out a way to make the edges straight.

Yes! Our placemats now have the quality that Native Leaf products are known for.  And, not that our placemats are perfect– they are after all, handmade and there will be some variations in the size and edges…but now the edges are straight, and the variations are very slight.

Today, most of our placemats are woven by Janice and her group of relatives.  It is really wonderful to work with weavers like Janice, who had the patience and perseverance to come up with a technique for these place mats.

We started out making rectangle and square mats, but quickly found that the square place mats were preferred.

Perhaps because square mats have a more modern look.  Or, that you can place more square mats on a table setting in case you needed to squeeze in an extra guest — or two or three…

Dozen Sets our Romblon Leaf Placemats (from top in the color Mango, Orchid, Lime, Cacao Brown, Natural, Indigo Blue, Moss Green)

So…from Sleeping Mats to Placemats, now you know the story behind our particular kind of place mats.

As the economy improves, we have plans to make table runners, and incorporate some of the traditional and new designs for our runners (in this case, a long very skinny banig).  This could be helpful to keep the design and patterns from disappearing altogether, and to have fun coming up with new ones!

Please visit our blog posts on “The People Behind Our Products”  in a few days when we post pictures of our weavers.

And thank you for your interest in our placemats.  Oh, and if you are reading this and have purchased some of our mats, I would appreciate comments on how you like the mats.

mj

Handwoven Romblon Leaf Square Placemat in Mango Color



15 Comments »

  1. Pingback by The Native Leaf Market | Set of 4 Romblon Placemat – Aqua — July 2, 2011 @ 11:41 am

    [...] in the story behind our placemats?  Click on this link From Sleeping Mats to Place Mats. Share this:EmailPrintFacebookStumbleUponReddit Additional Details: Set of 4 Placemats, Style [...]

  2. Pingback by The Native Leaf Market | Set of 4 Square Romblon Boxes — July 8, 2011 @ 10:45 am

    [...] in the story behind our products?  Click on this link to From Sleeping Mats to Place Mats. Share this:EmailPrintFacebookStumbleUponReddit Additional Details: Set of 4 [...]

  3. Pingback by Native Leaf’s On-Line Retail Site | Lola Jane's World — August 23, 2011 @ 11:19 am

    [...] On the story of Philippine sleeping mats called “banig” and the origins of our romblon leaf natural placemats (From Sleeping Mats to Place Mats) [...]

  4. Comment by pina4 — May 29, 2012 @ 3:35 am

    How much for the sleeping mats?

  5. Comment by Market Admin — May 29, 2012 @ 10:08 am

    Thank you for your inquiry. At this time, we do not sell sleeping mats, but we are considering it, as we have received requests to carry “banig”.

  6. Comment by grace — August 13, 2012 @ 6:18 am

    hi, are you providing native bags and crafts training in provinces?

  7. Comment by Market Admin — August 13, 2012 @ 10:25 am

    Hi Grace,

    Where are you located? You should contact your local DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) office in the Philippines to find out how to set up a training program based on your local available materials and traditions. Let me know how the types of products you will create.

    Thank you for visiting our blog pages.

    Jane

  8. Comment by Nancy Metzger — October 19, 2012 @ 10:12 pm

    Can pandanas mats be imported into California from Australia?

  9. Comment by Market Admin — November 2, 2012 @ 11:54 am

    Hi Nancy,

    Thank you for visiting our website.

    We import romblon (pandan) products from the Philippines to the U.Ss — each country has different rules and regulations on export / import. I would recommend you contact a local customs broker, or your customs department near you in Australia, and find out if there are any restrictions on exporting pandanus based products/mats from the U.S. to Australia (with the original source from the Philippines).

  10. Comment by bernadette lacson cowley — February 15, 2013 @ 1:21 am

    I have a wonderful Banig Tikog made in the early 1920s, my grandmother wedding present and she gave it to me for keepsake and the workmanship is so good.I will try to post a photo of the mat.

  11. Comment by Lisa Tokomaata — March 23, 2013 @ 7:07 pm

    Please let me know where I can purchase the Philippine Banig (sleeping mats).

    Very interested in looking at variety of colors and also natural colors.

    Thank you,

    Lisa

  12. Comment by Karen Carder — September 21, 2013 @ 9:12 am

    Where can I get these here in Manila?

  13. Comment by Market Admin — September 21, 2013 @ 7:33 pm

    Hi Karen, I am not sure where to buy in Manila…most of the banig mats with intricate designs come out of the island of Samar in the Visayas region.

    You should be able to ask the local office of the Department of Trade and Industry for sources or producers closest to Manila, or perhaps an upcoming trade fair with exhibitors of banig and related products.

    If you find a good source in Manila and for future visitors, please let us know. Thanks!

  14. Comment by monette — November 19, 2013 @ 6:42 am

    Lito Perez sells beautiful banigs made by certain indigenous tribes in Bukidnon at the Legaspi Village Sunday market.

  15. Comment by Market Admin — November 20, 2013 @ 6:09 pm

    Thank you Monette for the tip — I’m sure it is much appreciated by those looking for banigs in that area.

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