Straw hats or as many foreigners mistakenly call them "Panama hats", have become an accessory of elegance and freshness, used by people of low, middle and high class. Many celebrities are fans of this craft, the fabric is what most impacts when purchasing one, even though it is made of toquilla straw , her tissue makes its texture is similar to silk. In 2012 it was declared as intangible cultural heritage of Ecuador, by Unesco.
Some people believe that thin toquilla straw hats are from Panama, but the reality is that these hats are made in Ecuador. Some time ago the BBC published an article about the "finest and most expensive hats in the world", causing intrigue and desire to visit Ecuador.
In Ecuador there are several towns, and cities where the tradition of knitting straw hats is kept alive, but only a town is recognized as the place where the finest straw hat in the world is woven. You know which one is?
Pile is a small commune that is 30 kilometers away from the city of Montecristi. It is also known as the place where the finest straw hats are woven. After the declaration by UNESCO, this small town was gaining fame, several journalists and tourists began to arrive in order to know where these handicrafts are made, and what is the production process. Many inhabitants of this commune say that as a result of 2012 their sales and production was increasing.
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The material or raw material that is used to make the hats is the toquilla straw plant or Carludovica Palmata that grows on the Ecuadorian coast, especially in the province of Manabí, can grow between 1.5 and 2 meters, and after 3 years it is ready to harvest its leaves.
When it grows the leaves are separated and then divided into thin fibers, and sorted by thickness and size, then put to boil or cook, the straw is introduced into a pot, which is heated with firewood, sulfur and charcoal, this process lasts 5 seconds.
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Subsequently, the straw is hung on strings, outdoors and under shade to dry it completely and ready to start weaving. When the hat is finished, let it dry for a while, then beat it and achieve a smooth finish then place it in a mold and iron it.
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