Hemp Textile / Hemp fabric was one of the first plants domesticated by man for its multiple virtues: its solid fibres for textile, its nutritious oleaginous seeds, and the medicinal and therapeutic properties of its resin.
hemp textiles have also been used to make paper and cosmetics.
In this article, we will focus on the use of Hemp in textiles but if you are interested in all the other uses and their history, know that there are many articles on the multiple uses of this plant.
A short history of hemp textile
The oldest hemp thread dates back to about 2300 BC, but hemp was already used years before that. In fact, the oldest archaeological evidence of its use found in China dates back to 8000 BC.
In 600 BC, hemp fibres were used in China to make clothes. In Europe, its textile use was attested in the Middle Ages and its fibers were used to make western royal clothes.
It was also during this period that Emperor Charlemagne encouraged Hemp cultivation because he quickly realized that hemp was a rich and prosperous commodity because of its many uses.
Hemp fibres were also used to make sails, ropes, and ladders for boats. Indeed, its fibre is so strong that it has allowed many explorers to sail the oceans. Christophe Colomb himself would have taken hemp with him in 1492!
The manufacturing process of hemp textiles
There are eight steps in the manufacture of textile hemp:
- Hemp Cultivation: This includes planting, maintaining, and improving the crop
- Retting: This involves macerating the hemp stalks in water so that the pectin (a gel present in the cells) releases the hemp fibres.
- Hulling to obtain the fibres. This step can be very slow if done by hand as before. There are now machines that can speed up this step.
- Scutching: this step allows the impurities from the material in order to make it softer
- Carding: the aim is to untangle the fibres and mix them together to have a homogeneous result.
- Spinning: the processed hemp fibres are spun into yarn or thread, which can be used to create various hemp-based products
- Weaving the fabric: Weaving intricate patterns into fabric requires skilled craftsmanship and precision.
In the past, the manufacturing process of hemp textiles was very traditional and all these steps were followed.
These methods have been replaced by more modern production methods, especially since the 1980s. New processes have been developed to make hemp processing easier and faster. A fungus is now applied to extract the lignin and thus clean the fibres thoroughly. Thanks to this fungus, the fibre is softer and more supple which makes the final fabric very pleasant to wear.
The very low environmental impact of hemp textile
Hemp is a particularly ecological textile since it grows without insecticides, pesticides, or fungicides. Moreover, the whole plant can be used, which leaves no waste.
At a time when it is important to consume sustainably and responsibly, hemp appears as a very interesting material for textile production.
Here are 4 reasons that make hemp a very interesting textile fibre at the ecological level:
- Its culture requires a very small quantity of water
- Its cultivation does not require any pesticide or insecticide
- Hemp is a plant that stores CO2 in the soil, which allows it to regenerate very quickly
- Clothes and accessories made from hemp are durable, resistant, and above all biodegradable (provided that only natural processes and materials are used for dyeing and making), they avoid the accumulation of waste. Indeed, it is possible to keep clothes made of hemp for a very long time.
Properties and characteristics of hemp textile
- Strength – once used in the navy, hemp is a very strong fibre that can be used to make durable clothing. Today, this enduring strength remains a cornerstone of hemp textiles. Crafting durable clothing that stands the test of time, hemp fabrics are revered for their resilience, making them a sustainable choice for the modern eco-conscious consumer.
- Softness – Hemp textiles today are very soft. This is partly due to the fungus that extracts the lignin. And know that if you wear hemp clothing, the softness will increase with each wash. A fascinating element contributing to this newfound softness is the intricate fungal process that extracts lignin from the fibres. As you embrace hemp clothing, you’ll experience a delightful transformation as its softness continues to enhance with each wash, inviting you into a world of comfort and style.
- Absorbent fibres – Although hemp textiles allow you to sweat less, Hemp absorbs up to 7 times their weight in water. These textiles have the astonishing capacity to absorb up to seven times their weight in water. While wearing hemp, you’ll not only enjoy its natural breathability, but you’ll also appreciate how it helps you stay comfortable by wicking away excess moisture.
- Anti-bacterial – Hemp has the particular ability to delay or stop the growth of certain bacteria and fungi. Its anti-bacterial properties are striking, as they exhibit the unique ability to deter the growth of specific bacteria and fungi. This natural defence mechanism woven into hemp textiles ensures that your garments stay fresher for longer, aligning seamlessly with a lifestyle that values both health and sustainability.
- Natural UV protection – Hemp fibres are very dense and provide good UV protection (up to 90% for 100% thick hemp fabrics) and other radiation. With its inherent ability to provide substantial UV protection (up to 90% for densely woven hemp fabrics), hemp clothing becomes your reliable companion in sun-soaked adventures, safeguarding your skin from harmful rays while you explore the great outdoors.
- Thermoregulation – Like silk or wool, hemp is a good insulator. Hemp clothing absorbs moisture and keeps you warm in winter and cool in summer. Whether it’s the cold embrace of winter or the sweltering heat of summer, hemp clothing acts as an efficient insulator. By absorbing moisture from your body, it aids in maintaining warmth during colder months and ensures a cooling effect in hotter temperatures, offering a personalized climate control experience that aligns harmoniously with the rhythms of nature.
We hope this article has convinced you about the benefits and advantages of this 100% natural material.
Find 2 references of this material on the Eshop: Hemp Argentina & Hemp Vancouver.