Raffia lampshades – a material-lover's guide

Pooky recently discovered the joys of raffia, which, like jute, happens to be a fabulous material for making lampshades. In fact, it’s so great we’ve put together a lovely new range of raffia shades. Here’s the lowdown on everything you need to know about raffia, and why it’s perfect for making beautiful lampshades...

Raffia may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of lampshades, but it’s actually an extremely versatile material which is used for a whole heap of different products, from roofing and rope, to baskets, mats, hats and shoes - and now, gorgeous shades!

How raffia is made

Raffia fibre is used around the world to make a wide variety of different products, and is particularly popular in the construction and textile industries. Raffia comes from the raphia palm tree, which is native to tropical areas of Africa, and especially Madagascar. The raphia palm is known for having huge, feather-like leaves or fronds - a raphia leaf can grow to an impressive 20 metres in length! Raffia fibre is produced by harvesting the fibrous layer underneath the fronds. First the material is stripped from the leaflets, to produce a long, thin pale green strand. Once harvested, the fibres are then left to dry in the sun, during which time the colour changes to its characteristic natural yellow-beige. After drying, the fibres are taken to a warehouse and sorted according to their length, width, colour tone and texture and put into hanks, balls or spools. The fibres can then be used for a range of different purposes, with some being dyed and woven into textiles.


‘The green fibre’

As well as being green in colour, raffia fibre is also very green in ecological terms, being a naturally fast-growing, biodegradable and sustainable material. The production of raffia is also very eco-friendly, as the harvesting, sorting and packing of raffia is carried out manually by local people, and harvesting is strictly limited to the period from June to October each year. Raffia also has a key role in agriculture, horticulture and gardening, where it’s used as a natural rope or string for supporting and tying trees, vines, vegetables and flowers. It’s also very popular in the crafting world, as raffia is ideal for making traditional crafts as well as adding some natural decoration to homemade bottles and jars, or as lovely packaging for gift boxes.


Why raffia makes lovely lampshades

Raffia is durable and hard-wearing, but it’s also a very pliable material and it dyes extremely well - making it a great material for weaving into beautiful and unique lampshades and sconces. The raffia lets a little light peek out through the strands and also bathes the wall with a lovely, gentle wash of light.

Rafferty rounded wall light in coral
Rafferty rounded wall light in coral (lit)

Take our Rafferty rounded wall light. We think the soft, curved shape really sets off the beautiful texture of the natural raffia. Or for a more modern twist on a traditional material, our Rafferty square wall light offers clean lines and a dramatic effect when lit.

Rafferty square wall light in natural
Rafferty square wall light in natural (lit)

Meanwhile, with their classic shapes the Rafferty drum shade (below) and pendant (top) make a fine statement and create a warm glow as the light shines through the raffia. All of our raffia shades are available in natural raffia - or you can try our coral raffia, which casts a gorgeous pinkish light.

At Pooky we make affordable designer lighting for beautiful interiors. You can browse our new range of raffia lampshades here.