Coconut - crafts

Coconut palms provide materials such as fibres and woods that are used in all kinds of South Asian crafts. From ropes and rugs to brushes and bowls, some of these are traditional and used in everyday life in South Asia. Others are popular among tourists or are exported overseas.


India is the world's largest producer of coir which is fibre from the outer husk of coconuts. About 90% of India's coir comes from Kerala. The husk is soaked in water before the fibres are teased apart. It can then be twisted into yarn, called coir.
Watercolour painting showing a man and a woman beneath a coconut palm preparing and twisting coconut husk fibres into coir.
Image: Coconut husk fibres being bashed to separate them, and then twisted to make tough coir.

Coir fibre is traditionally used to make fishnets and bind together frames for houses. Coir swells slightly when put in water, so it used to be used for binding and plugging the spaces between planks on hulls of boats. Marco Polo used coir to sew planks together for ship building. The best coir is used to make matting, rugs and carpets. Lower grade coir is used to make ropes, brushes and even household doormats that most people in the UK use every day to wipe their feet.

Leaves, stems and fruit

Leaves of coconut palms are traditionally woven together to make baskets, fans, hats and mats. The leaves have been used to thatch buildings and make brooms. The trunk of the palm can be used like wood to make furniture, household utensils and for building. The hard coconut shell is perfectly shaped to make drinking bowls, spoons, ladles, hookah pipes, salad servers and rubber latex collecting cups. They are also carved to make decorative objects such as picture frames.

Coconut pearls

Early travellers told legends of pearls forming very rarely in coconuts, just as pearls are normally made by molluscs. This myth has persisted by forgeries of pearls said to have been discovered inside coconuts. In reality, it seems likely that coconut pearls do not really exist and that all the coconut pearls are really true pearls from molluscs. In fact there has been no reliable report of a pearl ever being found in a new coconut and there is no scientific explanation as to how a coconut could produce a pearl.

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