Isn't Hemp an industrial material?
Hemp has been used for thousands of years as sail cloths, ropes, for durable textiles, and is also known as Industrial Hemp. It was then used as a clothing fibre, prominently for fishermen's trousers and sack-like dresses. As sustainability is being brought back to the forefront, Hemp is now being further embraced as a clothing textile as it offers significant environmental benefits over other natural fibres.
Is Hemp Cannabis?
Hemp and Marijuana are both varieties of a plant called Cannabis Sativa. Stems and fibres of the Hemp plants contain trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) therefore are non-pyshoactive. It is the high levels of THC found in Marijuana which is the compound that makes people high. So even though they are both Cannabis, they are actually different plants.
A sustainable natural fibre
Fibres are extracted from the stalks of industrial hemp. Being a natural fibre, Hemp is biodegradeable, compostable and recyclable. Growing hemp requires a third less water compared to cotton, and will produce up to 260% more fibre than cotton.[1.] Though Hemp is grown and processed in similar ways to linen, the Hemp plant yields twice as much fibre than flax.[2.] Hemp has a short growing period and therefore only requires a small amount of land to cultivate.
The plant has strong root structures which binds soil together protecting against erosion. Grown densely, they will not give any competing plants a chance! The cultivation process naturally reduces pests which means no pesticides or fertilisers are needed for the farming of Hemp. It also returns valuable nutrients back into the soil.
Hemp is a carbon negative crop as it absorbs more carbon dioxide than it produces.
But is Hemp stiff and scratchy?
Though it may be used for sail cloths and ropes, the production of Hemp can vary and its fibres can be mixed to offer various textures and different properties. Hemp is soft to the touch, naturally breathable, but has a strong structure so holds its shape well - it becomes softer and more breathable with every wash.
A durable fibre, it is 5 times the tensile strength of cotton, and 3 times the durability[3a.], making it one of the strongest fibres, meaning your clothes will last much longer than those made of different fibres.
Will the fabric absorb water?
Hemp is actually highly absorbent which means it retains the colour and quality when dyed, and so only low impact dyes are required.
Bleaching is also less harmful than for cotton as the process for hemp doesn't require such toxic chemicals.
Good for skin
Anti-bacterial, it is naturally resistant to bacteria, mould, parasites, anti-fungal, and is anti-allergens.
It is thermoregulating meaning it keeps you warm when cool, and cool when hot, whilst also being the world's only naturally UV resistant fabric![4.]
If Hemp is so good, why isn't it more widely used?
Producing Hemp fabrics are currently more expensive than with other fibres as there aren't many of the large-scale infrastructures around. "Hemp requires different machinery with different calibrations to harvest, and turn it into yarn suitable for creating fabrics. The machinery and the processes all require industry investment to develop further but since hemp is not such a widely used material, the investment is less than that of, say, the cotton industry. This means that hemp fabrics are a specialist product, requiring specialist skills and equipment."[3b.]
As sustainability becomes mainstream, let's hope there's a bigger demand for Hemp fabrics and there will be more varieties of this sustainable fibre around.
Check out our Hemp fabrics available here at A KIND CLOTH.
2. Merchant and Mills