Pina or Pinya cloth is a fabric unique to the Philippines. I have seen someone advertising "Chinese Pina Cloth" on ebay which is a total nonsense, there's no such thing. I would never consider myself an expert on anything but I have put quite a bit of research into this custom page for those who may be interested.
Pina with the accent on the ‘n’ literally means pineapple in Spanish and that is precisely what Pina cloth is made from. The Pina fiber is extracted from leaves of the pineapple plant and the variety with the best fibers for this purpose is what is commonly known as the Red Spanish pineapple. The finished linen-like fabric is featherlight. At times I noticed people confuse it with Chinese rice linen, but you will find Pina cloth to be the more durable and stronger of the two. If you are not sure what you are looking at it may help to check the embroidery. I have never seen cross stitch on Pina cloth. Usually it has very intricate embroidery as you can see on the picture of the small purse, or it shows a woven design that is similar to embroidery but either in-laid into the weave of the finished cloth or inserted into the cloth during the weaving process.
The traditional process of producing the cloth is extremely laborious and downright painful. It takes about a month to produce some five years. First, the pineapple leaves are stripped of their rough, thorny edges and all the short leaves. Then the leaves are have to be scraped with broken china shards and thrashed by hand in order to produce the first rough fibers. At that stage the leaves have to be scraped again, usually with the shells of coconuts. This process ends up producing the fine fibres called “linawan”. (As a linguist I am also fascinated by the fact that this word somehow may be related to “linen”.)
After some 1000 leaves have been worked on in this way they are then washed and left on grass until they are almost dry. This is followed by another round of beating with sticks to further loosen and separate the fibers until they are ready to be hung to dry completely and combed out.
If you thought that’s it - this is where the real work begins! The fibres are now tied to poles to be knotted together and cut to even lengths by removing the ends. Finally, they are placed into clay pots with some sand to keep them apart and avoid tangling. Now they are ready to be woven into cloth and I am exhausted just writing about it! The people who do this work must possess an enormous amount of patience coupled with a high threshold of pain as pineapple leaves are not known to be soft and cozy!
I adore this cloth and admire the absolutely magnificent fine embroidery that is applied to it. I understand that antique and vintage pieces are commanding fairly high prices these days, and rightly so! I am inserting a picture of a small coin purse I have come across myself by chance but if you take the time you will probably find some further information and pictures on the web. Apparently, pina cloth has become more popular again over the past couple of decades and you can find some table linens, clothing and other items online, particularly from sellers in the Philippines. As with most things, of course, the older and the more elaborate, the more valuable they are.
I invite anyone who would like to provide further information on this wonderful fabric and embroidery art to contact me via my ebay page at Miss Dixie‘s Suitcase. I would be delighted to add it here with a reference to your contribution. And please, if you have it on any authority that the information provided by me is not right, I invite you to correct me.