Think about any primitive society and you’ll probably recall examples of beautifully crafted decorative and utilitarian items made with vegetation, flowers and trees. Natural banana leaves make perfect raw materials for crafting because they can be dried, woven and used for myriad art projects while making terrific ecological statements about putting every bit of post-harvest banana tree material to good use.
Make Banana Leaf Greeting Cards
Peel or cut wet banana leaves into strips. Hang them on a clothesline or place them on the ground atop a sheet or tarp. Allow them to dry in the sun. Meanwhile, trim and fold card stock to size (buy envelopes first to set your card dimensions). Sketch out holiday shapes on the cover stock with a pen--Christmas trees, Easter eggs, autumn leaves, etc. Cut dried banana leaf sections into the shapes on your cards, gluing them in place. Use markers to add color. Try some whimsy when you make cards: Cut banana shapes from the leaf material and add, for example, a message that reads, “Happy Birthday to my Favorite Top Banana.”
Create Banana Leaf Christmas Ornaments
Grab a scissors and cut out familiar shapes from card stock, like wreathes, Santa Clauses and candles. Trim sections of dried banana leaf into shapes--holly leaves, a Santa suit or a flame for a candle—and glue them to your ornament shapes before painting them and adding trim. Alternately, wrap wet sections of banana leaf strips around Styrofoam balls and squares to fashion textured ornaments like gift boxes and snowflakes. Fasten the ends of strips into place with pins or glue. Allow the ornaments to dry before painting them and adding embellishments like ribbon, faux jewels and trim. Seal each with glitter crafting spray.
Weave a Banana Leaf Basket
Soak banana leaf materials in water for about an hour. Choose a form—an inverted stainless steel bowl, box or vessel—on which you’ll fashion your basket. Coat the surface with Pam, petroleum jelly or clear wrap for easy removal once the basket is done. Tear wet banana leaf materials into strips and create a flat basket weave that’s at least an inch larger on all sides than the form you’ll use to shape the basket. Place the leaf weave over the form and shape the sides by tying a length of raffia, yarn or decorative cord around the sides. Fold down and glue the raw ends to create a smooth basket lip. Use macramé sealant, craft glue or spray lacquer to coat the basket. Remove the interior form and seal the basket interior with the same medium.
Make a Banana Leaf Mat
Take a page from your scouting days when your leader taught you to make a woven “sit-upon” of newspaper strips so you wouldn’t have to sit on the ground during campfire. Weave uniform strips of banana leaves into a waffle pattern (over, under, over, under), wrapping the ends into the mat as you finish each row. Paint the mat with craft glue. Make miniature versions of this banana leaf sit-upon to fashion all-natural place mats for meals around your grownup campfire.
Based in Chicago, Gail Cohen has been a professional writer for more than 30 years. She has authored and co-authored 14 books and penned hundreds of articles in consumer and trade publications, including the Illinois-based "Daily Herald" newspaper. Her newest book, "The Christmas Quilt," was published in December 2011.