Rummaging 101: Identifying Natural Fibers (aka: Your Fiber Cyber Study)

Last week we talked about the difference between Wicker and Rattan and it got me thinking about how I am probably really butchering the names of the fibers that actually make up different materials. For example, any basket I see is basically “rattan” to me. Or any natural fiber rug is “jute”. But that’s obviously not the case.

Today I thought it would be helpful to identify the difference in all these natural fiber materials. What’s the difference between bamboo and rattan? Or what is the difference between cane and rattan? Check out the information below:


A vine that resembles a palm and is found primarily in Southeast Asia. The Philippines produce the largest amount of Rattan annually.

A Primer on Identifying Natural Fibers



Just like rattan, bamboo has a tough outer bark that can be stripped off to use as cane. However, the inside of Bamboo is hollow (where Rattan is not).

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Comes from the outer parts of rattan plant and is weaved together in this special design known as “Cane”.  Cane is considered to be stronger than Rattan. It is naturally a light amber color.




Also note, however, that just because it is in that weave or pattern we come to think of as “cane” it doesn’t mean the material necessarily is. Below is the chair you are seeing everywhere these days from Urban Outfitters. It is actually made of rattan.




Rush starts off as a green color and becomes this beautiful wheat color over the course of a year. The strands are soaked in water and then twisted together to make the rope image you are used to seeing. Rush is actually dried cattails!



There are some subtle differences between the two. Most commonly used to make rugs, you can usually feel the difference. A sisal rug will be more tough and flat to the feel. A jute rug will be a bit softer and have a more fluffed look to it than sisal. Between the two, sisal is more durable and is a better choice for your higher traffic areas.

Jute Rug ( source )

Jute Rug (source)

Sisal Rug ( source )

Sisal Rug (source)

Why do you think these natural fibers have become so popular in design in the last few years? Do you find yourself gravitating to them in your own home decor?