Hemp Fabric Could Prove Crucial to Creating a More Comfortable and Sustainable World

Hemp is a super material: it’s soft, naturally bacteria resistant, UV resistant, long lasting and gets softer with use.  Select companies, such as Patagonia, have a few hemp clothing products on the market but the cost is significantly higher than their cotton and wool counterparts. Currently, most hemp products in the U.S., especially outside of CBD product industry, are made from imported hemp.  The global transportation increases both the carbon footprint of the end products, in addition to, the final cost to the consumer.   Hemp fabric is made from the stalk of the hemp plant, allowing the stems, leaves, and flowers to be used for other hemp-derived products.

The manufacturing of hemp fabric is a labor intensive process.  According to Recreator, a hemp clothing company based in California, hemp goes through the following eight steps to become usable hemp fabric:

1.   Cultivation
2.   Harvesting
3.   Retting (the process whereby naturally-occurring bacteria and fungi, or chemicals, break down the pectins that bind the hemp fibers to be released. Common techniques consist of soaking in water or laying on the ground, allowing dew to do the retting.)
4.   Breaking
5.   Scutching (beating stems, which separates the desired fibers from the hemp’s woody core.)
6.   Hackling (combing of the stems to remove unwanted particles.)
7.   Roving (improves strength.)
8.   Spinning (can be wet and dry spun.)

The greatest advantage to growing hemp, over other natural materials, is that it can be grown quickly (120 days to harvest) in almost any soil.  Hemp grows densely, leaving no room for weeds to grow and its roots reach deep into the soil leaving natural nutrients in the top-soil and sub-soil.  Hemp is also a drought-resistant plant, requiring only 5% of what cotton needs through harvest.

Hemp is truly a super fabric.  We can only hope that in the coming years the mainstream clothing industry will embrace the use of locally-sourced hemp as a prime fabric source.