HEMP is a natural plant fiber that is derived from the Cannabis Sativa plant. It is a bero fiber, which means that it comes from the stem of a plant (such as linen, which is often compared to hemp, in addition to ramie, jute, linen and bamboo). Hemp fibers are known for their durability and robustness, and have been used for centuries in the textile industry. In terms of sustainability, hemp is often considered to be a preferred fiber with a less harmful environmental impact.
In the raw state, hemp fibers are yellowish gray to dark brown in color. Before the ingenious use of hemp by Levis Strauss to create his first jeans, hemp was mainly used as an industrial fiber, but it soon became popular in the textile world after its use in this first pair of jeans. Materials made from hemp have been discovered in tombs dating back to 8,000 BC. Hemp was mainly used in the manufacture of sails and ropes for ships.
In fact, the ships on which Christopher Columbus sailed to America in the 15th century were equipped with hemp. It is now widely recognized as a sustainable fabric that is exceptionally strong. As a crop, hemp grows extremely fast and produces more fiber than cotton or linen. It is a robust plant that does not require pesticides or toxic fertilizers. Hemp controls the erosion of the top layer of soil and even makes the soil fertile for subsequent crops.
Hemp reaches maturity quickly and the plants reach a height of two to four meters in 80 to 120 days. It can be densely packed in fields with up to 150 plants per square meter of soil. Since it is naturally resistant to pests, it can be grown organically without the aid of chemicals. At this point, the long, continuous yarns can be twisted in hundreds of different ways and woven or knitted to create a fabric. The fibers can also be mixed with other fibers such as cotton and silk, for example, to create a fabric with different properties.
Usually, the fabric is washed and shrunk, so that the fabric can be tightened. A fabric made entirely of hemp can usually be quite stiff and heavy. It can be abrasive on the skin and, therefore, it is necessary to soften it before using it on garments. Chemical softening methods include processing with caustic soda or acid rinses. The organic method employs refined styling technologies and also biodegradable softening solutions.
If the yarns have not been previously dyed, the fabric is dyed and stabilized by treating it so that it does not shrink. This also creates a finished look. Hemp, like linen, gets softer with use. It is porous and therefore water absorbent. Hemp is a breathable fabric that can keep us warm in winter and cool in summer.
It's particularly good in hot climates because it resists heat degradation and is less likely to discolor. A particularly unique advantage of this fiber is that it effectively blocks UV rays - UV rays are a major cause of cancer, so anything that helps combat this seems great to me. It is hypoallergenic and therefore suitable for people with sensitive skin. Hemp absorbs dyes well and also has a high natural sheen: it is possible to make hemp fabrics that really shine, like this hemp silk charmeuse (image below). Finally, when it comes to discarding the fabric, the fiber is completely biodegradable. A characteristic feature of hemp is its abrasive nature.
Because of this, it doesn't feel soft against the skin. However, it can be mixed with other fibers to give it a soft touch. Garments made entirely of hemp tend to wrinkle easily, since, like linen, their elastic recovery is very poor. Another thing to keep in mind is that, while it resists heat degradation, hemp fibers can be attacked by fungi and bacteria in hot and humid conditions - mold rots and weakens the material. This can be avoided by impregnating the fabric with chemicals such as copper nepthenate.
The minimum benefit of a hemp crop is in its use as a rotation crop - because hemp stabilizes and enriches the soil in which farmers cultivate and provides them with weed-free fields free of herbicides - it has value even if no part of the plant is harvested or used. Any industrial or monetary benefit that exceeds this value is a bonus - rotating hemp with soy reduces the parasites that decimate soy without any chemical input - this only scratches the surface of the environmental benefits of hemp. Based on its various properties - organic cultivation; cheap; environmentally friendly; breathable; water absorbent; blocks UV rays; hypoallergenic; absorbs dyes well; high natural sheen; biodegradable - we can easily conclude that hemp fiber has excellent sustainability possibilities. However, one thing to keep in mind is that chemical processing techniques may be used during softening, cleaning and finishing stages - synthetic dyes containing heavy metals may be used for dyeing; chlorine may be used for cleaning; caustic soda or acid rinses may be used for softening. At Offset Warehouse we are incredibly diligent when it comes to purchasing all our fabrics - when it comes to our hemp fabrics bleaching is done with peroxide bleach and softening with cationic which is soluble.