The only high you will get from wearing hemp clothes is knowing you are contributing to a greener planet.
Why did Hemp have a negative connotation?
Cannabis is the Latin name for the plant species Hemp. For a very long time hemp or industrial hemp were confused with the cannabis plant that serves as a source for the drug marijuana and the drug preparation hashish. This confusion stemmed from the fact that some species of cannabis have different characteristics than others. This led hemp to be banned in many states and countries for several decades.
There are three recognised species of hemp, Cannabis Indica, Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Ruderalis. In this article I am focusing of the Hemp species Cannabis Sativa, or industrial hemp.
Cannabis Sativa is a herbaceous flowering annual plant which is indigenous to Eastern Asia. For many years hemp could only be grown for medicinal purposes, under license and was subject to strick controls. Nowadays it is cultivated in many regions around the world.
The big difference between hemp and marijuana, is that marijuana contains an intoxicating substance called THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), where as hemp contains negligible amounts of THC, so you cannot get you high on hemp. The dried weight of marijuana can contain as much as 30% THC where as hemp has less than 0.3%.
Recent changes in growing hemp
The fairly recent legalization of cannabis in many states and countries, means that the hemp plant is seeing a revival and there has been a big surge in the cultivation of hemp. This is leading to a big increase in the production of hemp fiber and hemp clothes are therefore becoming more available.
Approximately a thousand years ago hemp was one of the first plants to be spun into usable fiber. Today it is grown in the main for the industrial uses of it’s by products. The fibers and stalks are used to make fabric for clothing, building insulation, construction materials, paper, animal feed and bio fuel.
The seeds and flowers are used in health foods, organic body care and other nutraceuticals. Hemp seeds are a good source of polyunsaturated and essential fatty acids. People suffering from eczema might find it beneficial to use hemp seed oil as it improves the level of essential fatty acids in the blood.
Hemp is one of the fastest growing plants and can be harvested 120 days after planting. It requires very little water, so needs less irrigation than many other crops. It uses only about 5% of the amount of water that is required to grow cotton. No GMO seeds are used and, as it is less vulnerable to insects than other crops, little or no pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides are needed.
Hemp – the variety grown for fiber production – have stalks that look a bit like bamboo and can be planted very close together making it a very high yielding crop. As it grows very densely, there is no space for weeds or other plants. It can grow in almost any soil conditions and the deep-reaching roots preserve the topsoil and the subsoil. It has bigger leaves (than that of cannabis indica or marijuana) and grows to double the height, while at the same time it is not fussy about temperature and humidity.
As the hemp plant grows in many types of arable soils, most suitable farming lands can be converted into hemp plantations.This then obviates the need for deforestation, (Clearing forests of indigenous timber to make land and space suitable for crop production). This in turn minimizes the negative effects this has on the local micro environment eg. the destruction of local animal and plant habitat, soil erosion, and possible redirection of waterways and rivers. The planting and growing of hemp instead, in already available farm land, is far more an environmental “plus” than the creation of new agricultural spaces through the use of deforestation.
(Hemp is so effective at absorbing toxic materials that it has been considered for removing radiation from Fukushima.!)
Production stages of hemp
- Cultivation – the first step is to plant the hemp seeds and grow the plants.
- Harvesting – the best time to harvest is when the lower leaves on the stalk wither and the flowers shed their pollen.
- Retting – this is the process whereby naturally occurring fungi and bacteria, or chemicals, break down the pectins that bind the fibers. Common techniques are soaking in water or laying the stems on the ground and letting dew do the retting.
- Breaking is when the hemp stalks are smashed, turning it into a long fibrous stalk which is then flexible
- Scutching – this is beating of the stems to separate the fibers from the woody core of hemp
- Hackling is the process of combing of the fibers. By combing the fibers any woody or unwanted particles are removed and it also aligns the fibers in readiness for spinning.
- Roving is where the hemp is twisted and stretched out to improve the strength
- Spinning – it can be wet spun or dry spun and it can be washed after being spun.
- The final stage is Weaving the hemp into cloth. The fabric is now ready to be converted into hemp clothes.
Alternative uses for hemp
The hemp stalks are used to produce fabrics, whereas the leaves and seeds are used for hemp oil, hemp fuel and several other products.
- Fiberboard can be made from hemp which is lighter than wood.
- Hemp paper has a better quality than tree-based paper and lasts for many hundreds of years without degrading. It can also be recycle many more times than paper from a tree origin.
- Hemp and hemp based composites can be used to produce substitutes for plastic and can then replace petroleum based plastics. It is strong, durable and eco-friendly.
- Hemp seeds are a valuable source of protein that is more nutritious and more economical to produce than soybean protein. This protein can be used to replace soybean protein in the production of products like veggie burgers, tofu, ice cream, milk etc.
- Hemp seed are not intoxicating and can be ground to make flour for bread, pasta, cookies and other baked goods.
- Hemp seed oil is not toxic and are used in paint, varnish, ink and can replace diesel fuel.
- Hemp seed oil can be converted into a clean-burning ethanol fuel. It produces more bio-mass than any other plant species so has the potential to become a major source of ethanol fuel.
The benefits of hemp clothes
- Hemp is soft on the skin and it gets softer with each wash and wear.
- No chemicals are used during the cultivation and production of hemp making it hypoallergenic.
- Hemp fiber is porous making it breathable in the summer and insulating in the winter, so clothes are comfortable in any season and can be worn all year round.
- Hemp is naturally resistant to mold and mildew and other bacteria.
- It provides natural UV protection so it protects the skin from the sun
- Hemp fabric is environmentally friendly
Caring for hemp clothes
It is easy to clean your hemp clothes as it is machine washable on a gentle cycle or hand wash in cold to warm water. Make sure the water is not too hot as it might result in shrinkage.
The best way to dry it is line drying or laying it flat. If you do tumble dry it, make sure a low setting is selected and remove it from the drier while it is still damp.
Hemp can be ironed while it is still damp and better results are often achieved if the fabric is not too dry before you iron it. Dry cleaning is not recommended for clothes, but might be necessary if the item is very large, like curtains or sofa covers.
I hope you will enjoy wearing your hemp clothes as much as I do.