Where are Panama hats from, if not from Panama?
After watching the video, can you answer?
Panama Hats have and always will be made strictly in Ecuador. They got their name "Panama hats" simply because they were exported first from Panama so they got their name based off where people thought they came from.
In Ecuador there are 2 regions or places where Panama hats are made: Cuenca and Montecristi. Both produce genuine Panama hats since they are both produced in Ecuador and form the "Paja Toquilla" plant. But, major differences can be found between the two.
For more information, see Cuenca Vs Montecristi.
Panama hats are made from the "paja toquilla", or rather, the heart of the paja toquilla plant, which is split into fine strands to make the straws to weave the hats.
Paja toquilla is a Spanish phrase referring to the plant which is the source of the straw to make all Panama hats, weather they come from Cuenca or Montecristi.
Paja toquilla, or straw, is naturally multicolored overall. It is a cream coloration, but also has a lot of green coloration running throughout, which needs to be either sulfur smoked out as done in Montecristi, or harshly chemically bleached out as is done in Cuenca (because no one really likes to wear a green hat).
Paja toquilla, or straw, is harvested from the paja toquilla plant, then goes through a process which includes boiling and hanging to dry, after which the straw is split into the final weaving product by a skilled hand and fingernail. The thicknesses of the split straws will determine how finely the hat will be woven.
Master weavers are the only ones who have enough experience to be able to weave such fine hats that can have upwards of 1,000 weaves per square inch!
There are only a handful of the mater weavers left, and they are all getting very up in age, so efforts are being made to encourage younger weavers to learn the art before it is gone. Hopefully, the art will be saved and passed on to future generations.
No one can really repair broken straws of a Panama hat except the weavers who made it, since no one but them really knows the art. But, since Panama Hats Direct is located directly in Ecuador (although still an American company), we are able to offer repair, cleaning, and re-blocking services since we have access to the weavers themselves.
Finally an easy one! Sulfur powder.