About Bilum Bags
What are bilum bags? Bilum or bilum bags are hand knitted string bags usually made by the women in Papua New Guinea. These bags are handmade by a process know as knotless netting or looping. Traditionally, the strings obtained for these bags were from plant extract; however, more recently people prefer to make the Papua New Guinea bilum bags from modern yarn and string.
You may not know it by the name but these bags are a common household item used for shopping and other purposes. The bags come in several different sizes and color allowing women to carry it as a purse. Mothers also use bilum to carry their babies in them.
Over the past decade, these bags have become a hit in the American, European, and the Australian market. You do not have to travel to Papua New Guinea to find these bags anymore. There is a good chance that your local supermarket might have a stock of these beautiful colorful bags.
The Process of Making a Bilum Bag
The first thing you notice when you arrive at Papua New Guinea is people carrying a similar type of bag but with a variety of color, shape, and size. These are bilum bags; they are made all over the country. Off late these bags have become more than a household necessity in Papua New Guinea. With the growing popularity of these bags, the poor old women in the country have found a source of income exporting the bags to the West.
The first process in the making of a bilum bag in the traditional method consists of cutting the steam off a Sisal plant and trimming the spikes of the stem from both the sites. The weaver then cuts of the spiky at the top of the stem and splits it into two equal proportions.
The stems are then sent to the hammering process, where it is beaten by a traditional stone until all the unnecessary part are removed and the white fibers are visible. By using a knife, the worker scrapes off the remaining waste and the now visible strings are bundled with a string, dipped into water, and washed.
After drying, the worker again soaks the string into the water to make it flexible for the twisting process. The worker the pulls out the string one by one and twists one string with the other until all the string are combined to form a single long string. The string is then rolled into a ball and the material to build the traditional PNG bilum bags is ready.
The ball is passed to the weaver who skillfully makes it into a cloth, which can be used to make the PNG bilum bags.
These days bilum bag are available everywhere, you can find them for prices as low as $100. However, as the industry is growing, there is a growing concern of fake copies of the bag emerging. You should be careful while selecting a bag and should ensure that it is authentic.