The Cultivation of the Wauti Plant…

The wauti plant, of which the greater part of the cloth on this side of the island is made, is cultivated with much care in their gardens of sugar-cane, plantain, and whole plantations are sometimes devoted exclusively to its growth. Slips about a foot long are planted nearly two feet apart, in long rows, four or six feet asunder. Two or three shoots rise from most of the slips, and grow till they are six or twelve feet high, according to the richness of the soil, or the kind of cloth for which they are intended. Any small branches that may sprout out from the side of the long shoot, are carefully plucked off, and sometimes the bud at the top of the plant is pulled out, to cause an increase in its size. Occasionally they are two years growing, and seldom reach the size at which they are fit for use, in less than twelve or even eighteen months, when they are cut off near the ground, the old roots being left, to produce shoots another year. The bark, when stripped off and rolled up, as described above, is left several days; when, on being unrolled, it appears quite flat. The outer bark is then taken off, generally by scraping it with a large shell, and the inner bark, of which the cloth is made, is occasionally laid in water, to extract the resinous substances it may contain. Each piece of bark is then taken singly, and laid across a piece of wood, twelve or eighteen feet long, six inches square, smooth on the top, but having a groove on the underside, and is beaten with a square mallet of hard heavy wood, about a foot in length, and two inches wide; three sides are carved in grooves or ribs, the other into squares, in order that one mallet may answer for the different kinds of cloth they are accustomed to make. When they have beaten the bark till it is spread out nine inches or a foot wide, it is either dried and reserved for future use, or wrapped up in leaves, laid by for a day or two, and then beaten out afresh till the required extent and texture are produced. (Ellis)

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 (These are excerpts from a book by William Ellis that has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired.)

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