Clothing? Made from cannabis? That’s right, and it’s nothing new. In fact, it’s one of the oldest fabrics known to man.
In modern days, hemp is starting to regain popularity around the world for its medicinal, industrial, and nutritional applications. One of the most notable uses of this plant is the ability to make natural fabrics that can be used to manufacture clothing. Making clothing out of cannabis might sound odd, so let’s all take a look at the benefits of hemp clothing and how the production takes place.
Our body produces sweat among many other metabolic byproducts- which are all excreted from the skin. This gives our clothes a funky smell if care is not taken. However, hemp clothing has properties that can assist the fabric in maintaining integrity through all this. Naturally, hemp fibres act against microbes to keep the cloth clean for an extended period. This prevents our clothes from developing odour-causing bacteria. Because of its antimicrobial functions, hemp clothing tends to be more durable and stronger than any other natural fabric. Garments made from regular fabrics (like cotton) happen to get distorted with constant use, but hemp clothing keeps its shape and lasts longer.
Hemp clothing materials are one of the few natural materials that are resistant to mould. The method with which the fibre is spun ensures that they stay clean, fresh, and vibrant for an extended time. This results in long-lasting use because the clothing has a greater resistance to mould and mildew.
Getting our clothes to dry can be a bit difficult in some weather conditions … and the wrong choice of material can make it all the trickier. And although hemp clothing happens to be one of the most absorbent in the market, it also dissipates that moisture rapidly. This absorbency also assists in retaining colour dyes, which shows in the durability of the print on hemp clothing.
Hemp fabrics are one of the strongest money can buy. The resulting materials are up to four times stronger than their alternatives, which are cotton and wool. This means that fashion products designed with hemp can withstand a greater amount of weight before breaking. In fact, some studies have shown hemp to be stronger than steel. They can also go through more rigorous processes without being damaged than other materials can. As such, hemp textiles are ideal for adventurers, travellers, and any type of work – from the office to the construction site.
Hemp is an extremely high-yielder. When it comes to fibre, it can produce over 2x the amount per acre than its most common competitor: cotton. It is naturally pest resistant and outgrows any competing weeds, which means that it can be grown without chemicals like pesticides and herbicides. In fact, hemp can be grown with the use of very minimal resources – in some cases, nothing more than organic fertilizer and rainwater. Once grown, hemp clothing can be manufactured with entirely mechanical processes. This produces the result of a chemical-free, eco-friendly garment that can stand the test of time.
The best part? Once you’re done with it, you can discard it without worrying about it harming the environment. It’s fully biodegradable!
Hemp has a unique structure of cellulose fibres that combines the effect of breathability and insulation at the same time. As a result, garments made from this plant will have the natural tendency to keep you warmer in winter, and cooler in summer. These characteristics also help maintain a consistent body temperature throughout the day. Due to this, manufacturers of duvets and blankets can also see remarkable outcomes from products made out of hemp.
Hemp can survive in the majority of climates on earth, depending on genetics. Different genetic lineages may be more resistant to risks that can come from certain environmental factors based on the geographical origin of the particular breed. For example, some may be more tolerant of mould, but less tolerant of frost – and vice versa. The best conditions for hemp is in well-drained organic soil and warm weather conditions. You should avoid planting in areas with a high degree of rainfall and saturated soil. Ensure the ground is fertile and has a low weed pressure. It is advised that the soil is tested before venturing into cultivation and planting.
It is important that you till the soil before planting. This is to loosen the soil for effective root growth of the hemp plant. Ensure that the seedbed is shallow and the depth of planting is consistent across the crop. Seeds should be planted relatively close to each other. Make sure that the bed is properly irrigated – especially for the first six weeks. It can take as little as 108 days for hemp to fully mature if the growing conditions are favourable.
When it gets to the harvesting season, check for plants whose seeds have begun to develop and harvest the fibres. You can make use of a sickle to cut the stalk and ensure that the cutting is done from the base. If you are farming on a large scale, employ the use of a mower attached with a sickle bar to make uniform cuts.
Retting involves the degradation of the pectineus elements that bind the fibres together. This process is executed by the microorganisms who do all the work here – all the farmer needs to do is to oversee and manage the process properly. Retting is done by leaving the harvested hemp stalks on the ground in the field for a few weeks. The actual time Farmers have been known to manually turn over the stems to assist in the process of retting.
During this process, a decorticator is employed. This can be as simple as employing a two gear roller-like machine that assists in breaking dried pieces of hemp off the stalk. All you need to do is to pass the dried stalks through the rollers, and it will break the stem apart. It then collects the fibre on one side. New decorticating technology is coming out every year that continues to make this process easier and more consistent.
Hemp can be spun with the same materials or tools used for flax. Although the fabric can be coarser than flax, the machines do not encounter any problems with the spinning. In spinning hemp fibre, your hemp fibre strands have a length of between 6 to 10 feet. Depending on the method of preparation, the thread may have a waxy feeling after it has been spun. Spinning is simply adding twists in the fibre strands.
This is the last step involved. After spinning, remove the yarn from the spindle and wash it. Wind the yarn into a series of loops around your thumb and elbow. Submerge in lukewarm water, squeeze out excess water, and dry. The threads can then be woven on a loom to produce the hemp fabric that we’ve all grown to love.
Once you have your fabric, it can be used to make any type of clothing you can imagine. T-shirts, button-ups, jeans, skirts, dresses, socks, underwear… the list goes on. In fact, we’ve got a whole range of male and female hemp and hemp/organic cotton clothing available here if you’re curious to check it out!
Now that you know about the benefits of hemp clothing, and how simple it is to make it, do you think you’ll go out of your way to fill your wardrobe with garments made from this incredible plant? Are there any clothing styles that you’d like to see in hemp? Leave a comment or send us an email to let us know!