Hemp is an incredible plant that can be used in many different ways. Even just the fibre that comes from hemp has a wide variety of uses in regards to textiles. Textiles are flexible materials made by creating an interlocking network of yarns or threads processed by spinning raw fibres into long and twisted lengths. In short, a textile is a type of cloth or woven fabric that’s viable for commercial use.
According to some sources, you can produce 250% more fibre with hemp than cotton and 600% more fibre than flax – with the same amount of land. It’s also much less resource-hungry and doesn’t require the use of chemicals to grow. No other natural fibres meet that same standard, which is another thing that makes Hemp such a unique crop.
Once turned into a textile, Hemp contains remarkable properties that are highly beneficial in almost any use case. In this blog, we will cover how Hemp textiles are made, the benefits of Hemp textiles, and a few major ways they’re often used in different products and industries.
Growing Hemp for textiles is one of the quicker activities that farmers can undertake. Generally speaking, Hemp is only grown for 70-90 days before being ready for harvest. The varieties used for fibre usually end up being about 6-7 feet tall by the time harvest begins. The reason tall varieties are ideal for fibre is that the stalks are what’s being harvested. The more bast in the crop, the more fibre is yielded. Needless to say, it’s an extremely fast-growing plant.
Once fully grown, a combine is used to cut the Hemp stalks, much like with any other crop.
All hemp should be harvested approximately 10 cm above the ground to prevent cutting through hard woody portions and ensure that your cutting has as much of the fibrous stems as possible. Once the stalk is cut, the processing phase can begin.
Hemp fabric is made from the long strands of fibre that make up the stalk of the plant. These fibres are separated from the bark through a process called “retting”, which is decaying pectin that binds the hemp fibres to the core of the stem. You’ll also want to facilitate drying to reduce the potential for mould. It’s said that the retting process produces the highest quality fibre for textiles. Once the fibres are separated, they can be put through a decortication machine and turned into long, continuous strands with minimal amounts of harsh fibre. The spinning of Hemp yarn takes place by twisting fibrous strands together to make a cohesive thread. Manufacturers can then use this thread in the same way that flax, cotton, or other fibres can.
Once the harsher fibres have been removed, producers can use any traditional spinning equipment to turn the fibre into yarn. This is the final phase in processing before the fibre can be used to create Hemp textiles.
As we touched on earlier, Hemp textiles have a diverse range of applications and a wide array of benefits that shine through in the finished product.
Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of Hemp textiles!
The benefits of Hemp textiles are incomparable to that of what nearly any other fibre has to offer. The fibre properties are highly desirable, to the point that it’s astounding to know it has been so overlooked for so long! Of course, we have prohibition to thank for this. But banning Hemp still didn’t take away from what it brings to the table, and we’re now learning more and more every year that bans are lifting.
Studies into Hemp textiles have shown that they possess great antibacterial properties. This makes them ideal for day-to-day use in the production of common textile-based products – which we’ll go into a bit later! The fibrous components of Hemp are especially well-performing against common bacteria like E. Coli and Staph.
Hemp is a highly durable material due to the high strength-to-weight ratio. Some studies have suggested that it may even be more robust than steel in some settings. Furthermore, it’s shown that Hemp fabric can be up to 8x stronger than any other natural fibres – and even a bit stronger than the known and loved linen.
Hemp textiles are naturally UV-Resistant, which means they possess the ability to block some of the sun’s rays. This particularly stands out when it comes to clothing made from Hemp textiles, as the wearer will not be as exposed to harmful UV light. This changes based on the dye and dye techniques used, as certain colours reflect light better than others. Though it is recognised that Hemp is not a perfect protector, it’s still somewhat effective with most dyeing methods.
Due to various factors, including the fact that Hemp can be grown without pesticides and other harmful chemicals, the textiles made from hemp are hypoallergenic. This means that people with sensitive skin types can be confident using Hemp because there are no allergens found in properly grown Hemp fibre. Again, certain dyes may affect this, so it’s recommended to use natural dyes and natural dyeing methods.
Now that we’ve covered the major benefits of Hemp textiles let’s look at the different types of commercial products that can be made from the ready fabric.
Hemp can make anything that cotton, flax, jute, or linen can – and at a much higher quality when it comes to garments. Some examples of the Hemp fashion products made nowadays – and even throughout history are as follows;
Hemp textiles can also be used for standard fibre-based industrial products like Rope and Canvas. Pre-1900’s, the entire British naval fleet was equipped with Hemp canvas sails & rope due to the impressive strength, resilience, and ease of growth. Some research suggests that Australia was initially colonised to grow more Hemp to supply the rapidly expanding empire that relied on it.
Being a highly versatile textile also means that Hemp can be used for industrial purposes like the manufacturing of interior furnishings for cars, covers for upholstery in houses (couches & chairs, for example), and even bedding.
The application of modern farming techniques is relatively new in Western countries due to restrictions that have been in place since around the 1930s. With these restrictions easing across the world, we’ve started to see an increase in industry developments and more research into the best farming, harvesting, and processing developments.
Month after month & year after year we’re seeing new Hemp textile-based products come to market. As we continue to have more light shed on the potential for Hemp textiles, we expect to see more and more commercial products include Hemp in their line-up.