07 Nov Taking Care of Hemp Clothing
PRODUCTION OF HEMP CLOTHING
It’s amazing to think that the weaving of hemp fiber began over 10,000 years ago! Cultivated in China as early as 4000 BC, hemp was used for hemp clothing, rope, and of course, medicine.
Fast forward to Colonial America, where hemp was so prevalent that it was used as a legal tender for over 200 years in the 17th and 18th century. There were thousands of hemp plantations across the U.S. until the 1930’s. In fact, in some states, it was against the law to NOT grow hemp as a crop.
Unfortunately, hemp production basically ceased to exist in the U.S. after Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937. This took place for a few different reasons, mostly because competing industries created fake controversy over “marijuana” and hemp, guilty by association, stopped being grown and utilized.
Thankfully, 38 states now allow cultivation of hemp for commercial use, research, and pilot programs (NCSL). According to NCSL, the hemp plant is used in more than 25,000 products ranging from many different industries such as:
- Textile (Clothing)
THE HEMP PRODUCTION PROCESS
While technology has obviously improved and streamlined much of the process, hemp is still basically harvested and processed in the same way. Machines may do the heavy lifting, but basic the step-by-step remains the same.
EXTREME RETTING OF HEMP FIBER
Once the plants have been cut down, the stems are typically laid out for several weeks so that retting can occur. This can also be done in water troughs, tanks, streams, or other shallow bodies of water. This simply speeds up decay and eliminates pectin, a glue-like substance found in plant walls. This exposure to light and air helps expose the bast fibers, AKA, the bark. Certain chemicals and enzymes can also be added to speed up the process.
DECORTICATING HEMP FIBER
Removing the woody core from the stem is called decortication. This step is normally performed immediately after retting, while the stems are still wet. The soaked, damp fibers are peeled off to the core and then dried.
Modern decorticators have eliminated the need for long retting by producing ready-to-bale fiber within minutes of cutting the plant. For example, an industrial hemp processing plant is made up of automated equipment and machinery that is designed to separate the fiber from the core. This modern form of decortication automatically separates the fiber and core from the plant and processes it into material that can be made into other products.
HEMP FIBER TREATMENT
After separation, the fibers are formed into bales and processed into yarn. Often, the fiber is spun without further processing; however, some producers have developed chemical or mechanical processes that increase the softness or elasticity of the fibers.
REMOVING LIGNIN FROM HEMP FIBER
Lignin is a hard, woody cellulose growth and is responsible for the rough, scratchy feel of traditional hemp fiber. If the lignin is removed, the resulting fiber is much smoother and softer.
In the 1980s, researchers developed a new technique to remove the lignin by applying enzymes and microbes. The fibers produced with this technique were far more versatile, and hemp began to be used in garment-making once more.
ARE HEMP AND MARIJUANA THE SAME?
This is one of those “yes” and “no” answers. Hemp comes from the cannabis plant, as does marijuana. Marijuana contains THC, hemp does not. Even though hemp and marijuana both come from the cannabis plant, they are grown for distinctly different uses and growing conditions. The differences of how they are grown determine how they’re used. Marijuana is distinguished as a female flowering plant, while hemp is a tall fast growing plant which is primarily male without flowering buds.
THE MIRACLE FIBER
The use of hemp for clothing creates the perfect fabric, known as the “miracle fiber.” Strong and durable, hemp is three times the tensile strength of cotton! That doesn’t mean that it’s heavy and unbreathable; quite the contrary. Hemp is lightweight and absorbent, which is why it’s perfect for outdoor wear. Another advantage for using hemp in clothing is the fact that it’s hypoallergenic. This is important for those that have allergies to other fabrics, as they can chose to wear clothing made from 100% hemp.
There are many types of hemp clothing products to choose from. Just like any other fabric, hemp clothing includes styles for women, men, and children. Hemp can be woven with other fabrics with a variety of textures that can feel soft and silky, to strong and thick. With the many different varieties to choose from, let’s take a look at the blends of fabrics and types of clothing produced.
TYPES OF HEMP CLOTHING AND ACCESSORIES
- Hemp Shoes: Since hemp has amazing anti-microbial properties, this is a great fabric to make shoes! Imagine the long-lasting, breathable fabric you can wear for an extended time, compared to other fabrics.
- Hemp Jeans: It really is a thing! Hemp jeans can be dyed just the same as cotton. They are comfortable and durable, outlasting other denim material.
- Hemp Backpack: Imagine a backpack that can last over 10 years! Made with a fabric like hemp, that’s exactly what you’ll enjoy.
- Sunglasses: Yes, hemp sunglasses! Strong, long-lasting material to add as an eco-friendly accessory with your hemp clothing and backpack.
- Yoga Pants: Hemp yoga pants are a comfortable and soft choice when you’re wanting to meditate, exercise, go to the store, or use as pajamas.
- Hemp Wallets: As something that you’ll use daily, it’s strong enough to last forever.
BLENDS WITH HEMP FABRIC
- 100% Hemp
- Hemp / Cotton / Muslin
- Hemp / Cotton / Jersey
- Hemp / Rayon
- Hemp / Silk Blend
- Hemp / Silk / Charmeuse
- Hemp Canvas
BENEFITS OF WEARING HEMP CLOTHING
Have you ever bought clothes only to find that they didn’t last through one wash cycle or dryer tumble? That’s a common complaint with clothes made from other fabrics. With hemp clothing, you get what you pay for. The cost isn’t any more expensive than average but the benefits are what’s golden. Hemp fibers are long lasting, which creates an incredibly strong fabric.
TAKING CARE OF HEMP CLOTHING
Taking proper care of your hemp clothing will help it last a lifetime. There are certain considerations to take to ensure that the quality of your hemp clothing continues to wear just like the day you bought it. Here are some helpful tips you can use to give your hemp clothing the best care possible:
- Washing: While you may put off washing some of your clothes because you’re worried about the damage it could cause, hemp clothing is strong and can be regularly washed in a washing machine or by hand. Hemp clothing can withstand any temperature, but it’s easier on the fabric if you use cold to warm water. You can add any soap powder or liquid of your choice. Just remember that every time you wash it, the fabric becomes softer.
- Drying: Hemp is naturally porous (which means, it has a lot of tiny holes), this allows the fabric to dry much quicker. A great way to save energy is to hang dry your hemp clothes. If you decide to use a dryer, turn the tumble dry setting on low for a short period of time. Much like other fabrics, drying hemp clothes in high heat can cause them to shrink. Because hemp gets softer with each wash, you won’t need to add a fabric softener or dryer sheet to the dryer unless you’re looking for that extra fresh smell.
- Ironing: If you choose to iron a particular piece of hemp clothing it’s best to do so while it’s still damp. Turn the article of clothing inside out and iron from the inside, only iron from the outside if completely necessary. This will help the texture of the fabric to last longer.
- Stain Treatment: Avoid using bleach products of any kind to treat your hemp clothes. It will immediately stain the fabric. If you have a stain that needs extra attention, spot treat it with soap and water. You can also set the piece of clothing out in the sun, which will help lighten the stained area.
Hemp clothing is durable, strong, breathable and get softer with wear. You couldn’t ask for a more perfect fabric!
As a renewable resource that’s able to be cultivated in sometimes as little as 100 days, this makes it the most eco-friendly fabric in the world. With proper care, your hemp clothing can last you a lifetime.