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Hemp Textiles

Posted on January 1, 1998

Friend to man & the environment

“It is evident that hemp is a superior fabric with great environmental benefits.”

Introducing Hemp

As the first vegetable fiber ever harvested for the purpose of making fabrics, hemp has always been valued for its durability. Materials made from hemp fiber have been discovered in tombs dating back to the 8th millennium (8,000-7,000 B.C.). Hemp has long been an industrial fiber because of its steady availability, strength and versatility. In fact, its combination of ruggedness and comfort were utilized by Levi Strauss as a lightweight duck canvas for the very first pair of jeans made in California.

Land usage

Reducing the amount of land needed to grow fiber crops has two benefits. The first and most obvious is the land itself. Fewer acres of land devoted to farming allows for greater amounts of land to remain in its virgin state, conserving natural flora and fauna. The second benefit is the reduction in the amount of water, fertilizer, and pesticides needed to grow the crop. The amount of land needed for obtaining equal yields of fiber place hemp at an advantage to other fibers. Generally, the production of fiber is measured in Kg/HA or pounds/acre. A fiber that has a higher production value can produce the same total amount of fiber on fewer acres of land. Contemporary values of hemp production show an average yield of 2000 kg/HA, while flax and cotton have yields of 328 kg/HA and 807 kg/HA respectively. Given this information it can be calculated that hemp can produce 250% more fiber than cotton and 600% more fiber than flax using the same amount of land.

Topsoil Erosion

Current annual topsoil loss on agricultural land inthe United States is over five billion tons. Overall, hemp is the ideal farm crop to counter this loss. It grows best in warm tropical zones or moderately cool, temperate climates, such as the United States. Hemp seedlings endure cold, or even some frost, as well as seedling oats or other spring crops. Hemp leaves the soil in excellent condition for any succeeding crop, especially when weeds may otherwise be troublesome. Where the ground permits, hemp’s fine roots go down for three feet or more. The tap root penetrates more than twice that distance. In fields long tilled, a hard pan tends to form at the depth of ordinary plowing. Hemp anchors and protects soil from runoff. It builds and preserves topsoil and subsoil structures similar to those of forests. In newly cleared ground, where the topsoil was loosened deep down by tree roots, hemp tap-roots go down indefinitely, having been followed downward for seven feet. During reforestation, tree roots will follow the path loosened by hemp roots, and thus grow more quickly and naturally. Moreover, hemp does not wear out the soil. Hemp plants sheds their leaves all through the growing season, adding rich organic matter to the topsoil and helping it retain moisture. Farmers have reported excellent hemp growth on land that had been cultivated steadily for nearly 100 years, although this is not recomended.

Strength

Hemp fiber is one of the strongest and most durable natural textile fibers. Not only is it strong, but it also holds its shape having one of the lowest percent elongation of any natural fiber. Furthermore hemp has the best ratio of heat capacity of all fibers giving it superior insulation properties. Strength and low elasticity create a fabric that is strong, durable without stretching out of its shape. Apparel made from these fabrics will most likely last longer and survive harsher conditions; perfect for the rugged outdoor wear. Furthermore the superior insulation properties of hemp help retain heat within the clothing under extreme conditions such as skiing.

Hemp Today

As a fabric, hemp provides all the warmth and softness of other natural textiles but with a superior durability seldom found in other materials. Natural organic hemp fiber “breathes” and is biodegradable. Hemp blended with other fibers easily incorporate the desirable qualities of both textiles. The soft elasticity of cotton or the smooth texture of silk combined with the natural strength of hemp create a whole new genre of fashion design.