Hemp is one of the oldest known cultivated fabrics. But once mechanical farming became the mainstream, cotton took over as the preferred fabric globally, and then cheap synthetic fabrics got their market from the 1950s onwards. Hemp fabric was then pushed out and stained with its association to marijuana. In recent years, the tables have started to turn against synthetic fabric; people became conscious about the environment and hence hemp fabric is becoming a new trend because of its incredible properties. It’s currently legal to own hemp products such as clothing, but only legal to grow in some countries and specific states. For over 5000 years, some of the world’s most advanced civilizations such as the Romans and the Ancient Chinese have been using hemp to make extremely strong fibers and wonderful herbal remedies. Unfortunately, in the 21st-century hemp has been superseded by artificial fibers that are far less sustainable, such as cotton and wool. Hemp is now very misunderstood because of this and often gets put in the same bracket as its genetic cousin, marijuana.
In fact, hemp has a low (0.3%) concentration of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive drug present in marijuana, that it is at least 42 times weaker than some of the weakest recreational marijuana. Although both plants derive from the cannabis Sativa, the differences could not be any more different. Hemp is present in many different products and demand only continues to grow as conscientious consumers look for sustainable alternatives to many goods and, as legislation continues to trickle in and allow CBD oils to become more readily available. The Himalayan hemp that we use is one of the purest forms available for industrial use. Originally, cannabis Sativa only grew in mountainous regions in the eastern hemisphere, particularly Asia. This means that the hemp we are using comes from the very place the plant itself originates from.
Is Hemp Fabric Eco-Friendly?
Hemp is one of the most environmentally friendly fabrics currently available. The plant is very naturally resistant to pests and growth requires little water. It is known for aging well; the more you wear it, the softer it becomes. Hemp farming uses very little water (half as much as cotton), does not require the use of chemical pesticides or fertilizers, and is a readily renewable resource. Furthermore, nothing is wasted in the hemp production process: seeds are used to make oil and food supplements, while the stalks are used for fiber.
Hemp also produces more fiber per acre than trees and can be renewed two to three times per year. Not only that: industrial hemp plants absorb more carbon dioxide than trees. Let’s clear up one thing right from the start: hemp and marijuana are not the same things. True, they are both the same species of plant, but that does not mean that they have the same uses or possess the same qualities. Nevertheless, this familial connection has given hemp an heir of controversy that is just not reasonable. While hemp fabric is harvested and processed similarly to other fabrics, its main advantage is through the hemp plant itself. Hemp uses about 5% of the amount of water it takes to grow cotton and can often be rain-fed. Hemp can grow in almost all soil conditions, and unlike cotton (which depletes the soil of nutrients) hemp’s deep-reaching roots preserve the topsoil and subsoil. Hemp grows densely as well, leaving no room for weeds and competing plants, and is less vulnerable to insects, which means little to no use of pesticides. Lastly, hemp grows extremely fast, only needing 120-days to be ready for harvest. We’ve compared hemp and cotton before, and while not everyone agrees, we think hemp is the winner.
How is hemp fabric used?
It’s easily the size of the Bible when we talk about hemp fabrics uses. This wonder fiber comes with a raft of applications featuring knitted, handloom, blended, woven, and non-woven materials:
Knitting: Knitted materials used specifically for soft and stretchy fabrics such as wardrobe, home decor, bed /furniture sheets, etc.
Handlooms: Produced by textile craftsmen, fabrics are made with different shapes and sizes. Handloom products range from wearable to home decor.
Woven & Non-woven: The textile materials are woven to prepare clothing, bags, home mats, and apparel with soft fabrics whereas rough fibers are used for making canvas, ropes, and heavy-duty industrial purpose cases.
Blending: Hemp fiber perfectly suits with Cotton, Silk, Linen, Wool, Bamboo fiber, and even artificial fabrics such as Polyester or any other synthetic fibers. When formulated with gentle proportions, material strength and quality are only going to be more valuable.
Hemp Fabric Properties
3x stronger tensile strength than cotton
Resistance to fading by heat/sunlight
Dyed colors are vibrant and long-lasting
Can be blended with all-natural or synthetic fibers
Insect or mold repellent fabric, no chemicals required
Softens with a wash, no fiber degradation
Longer lifespan than other natural fabrics
Breathable, ease of cleaning and drying
Highly resistant to UV rays
Low elasticity and resiliency
Biodegradable and recyclable fabric
In the showdown between hemp versus cotton fabrics, hemp is the clear champion! Hemp fabric decomposes better and doesn’t pollute or block the soil ventilation. Burning hemp fabric is simply like burning dried pasture. It doesn’t leave any injurious chemicals in the air. Hemp utilizes thrice less water, land, insecticides, pesticides, and overall budget than cotton. During the harvest and retting process, the plant leaves and shredded parts act as manure only to improve the soil quality. Deep roots of hemp act as natural soil aerators. The deeper penetrations of roots improve soil compaction which prevents soil erosion, for instance, in sloppy lands. Clearly, producing hemp fabric is an environmentally conscious approach.
What makes it better compared to other natural fabrics?
Cotton or linen clothes get holes over time; to avoid that one can switch to hemp fabrics. Famous for superior tensile strength, hemp fabrics don’t wear, tear or stretch easily. The sturdiness of hemp fiber is determined by its journey from farm to fabric. The hemp plant grows very dense and can withstand varying climates and soil conditions with minimal care. In an ideal climate, hemp fibers can be grown and harvested four times a year, whereas cotton fiber takes almost eight months to mature. In contrast to cotton, hemp requires 3 times less water, landmass, pesticides, and farming budget. Hemp plant produces 250% more fiber than cotton, and 600% more fiber than flax per acre of land.
How long does hemp fabric last?
Clothing made of hemp fiber is lightweight and absorbent, with three times the tensile strength of cotton. People have long valued this strong and long-lasting plant: the first hemp plants were spun into fiber than 10,000 years ago. Hemp fibers easily incorporate the properties of other fabrics when blended together delivering longer durability along with comfort and style. In short, it’s fair to say that it could last 3-5 times than other natural or synthetic fibers. We feel disappointed when our beloved t-shirt starts to lose its fabric quality over time. Don’t we?! Generally, our holiday purchases end up looking old and worn, even before the summer fades away. But thanks to the incredible plant that created a new genre of fabrics, we don’t have to worry any longer. The natural tensile strength of hemp fibers keeps the fabrics intact and avoids stretching. This property also helps the fabric to get softer with each wash and retain the same quality after years.
Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp on their plantations; in fact, the colonial government mandated that people grow hemp.
The original Levi Strauss jeans were made from hemp.
July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper.
Hemp fabrics possess naturally antibacterial qualities and are resistant to moths.
Hemp’s roots are very long and exceptionally strong. They protect the soil against erosion contributing towards a healthy environment.
What are the advantages of hemp fabric?
Hemp is one of the strongest and most durable organic fibers available today, which makes it an excellent choice for outerwear.
Hemp clothing is even said to have triple the tensile strength of cotton.
It blends easily with other fibers to produce a hemp-hybrid material, and this technique retains the strength of the hemp fibers while adding the comfort of softer, more refined fabrics.
Hemp has been farmed since the beginning of agriculture, and that added longevity makes it an excellent choice for those looking for reliable garments.
The cultivation of hemp for the purposes of creating fabric has a fairly low environmental impact.
This makes it ideal for those who are interested in green living.
Hemp also possesses a natural resistance to many insect species and requires very little water.
It grows fast and can be harvested up to three times per year. This makes it cheap and fast to cultivate and easy to care for.
Hemp is durable: the fabric can last a long time and hemp will get softer over time, the fibers won’t degrade.
Hemp is not heavy, it is lightweight and breathable: In fact, it’s one of the lightest fibers in the market. Hemp weighs up to one-third less than wool or cotton.
Hemp has a naturally high UPF (ultraviolet protection factor): Based on SGS testing by WAMA Underwear, it was found that hemp fabric was 99.9% effective in blocking UV-A and UV-B rays, meaning it qualifies as a top tier UPF 50+ fabric. Hemp is perfect for summer clothing.
It’s naturally antimicrobial: Hemp is resistant to harmful microbes and mildew, which means hemp garments won’t smell bad after use (less washing means less wastage of water in washing resulting in sustainability). This also means it’s great for those of us with sensitive skin.
Hemp is partially hydrophobic: While hemp is not waterproof by any means, it stands up to a light drizzle.
Hemp doesn’t shrink: One of the biggest advantages of hemp fabric is that it retains its shape. Compared to a cotton shirt, hemp will retain its shape and integrity after hundreds, if not thousands, of washes.