78: The day we watched
all this they were experimenting to make particularly strong paper to
be used for paper currency. To do this they were adding to the mulberry
fibers an amount of ramie fibers. These fibers come from a plant that
grows plentifully where there is very wet soil in the Himalayan foothills.
It looks rather like giant mint. The actual ramie fibers are the skin
on the stalks which must be decorticated by removing it from the tough
stalk. This is done by hand with wooden hammer so it is very labor intensive
and very expensive. But the resulting fibers are the strongest known.
The paper they were making was impossible to tear and extremely good
for paper currency as a result. Later we found that they made lengths
of cloth of ramie fiber, especially in Bhutan. I bought some shirts
made of this fiber. That was 69 years ago and those shirts are still
almost as new. They only get softer and more luxurious with each laundering.