At the mention of hemp, you might immediately think marijuana, but not so fast! Hemp and marijuana are two different forms of the cannabis plant. Hemp is one of the oldest used fibers in history, namely for its durability and versatility. Humans have used hemp as long (if not longer) than flax. In the 20th century in the United States, it was lumped in with its psychoactive cousin and essentially shunned from society. The reality now is that hemp is making a comeback as its extremely environmentally friendly compared to other bast fibers while still boasting numerous uses and positive qualities.
What makes hemp so great as yarn and in textiles? For one: its strength is second only to linen, but hemp fabric is also resistant to mold, mildew and UV rays! It’s absorbent, so it dyes well and makes for great canvases. Similar to linen, it has great thermo-regulating qualities to keep cool in warmer weather and warm in cooler temps.
Let’s get into even more reasons to love and use hemp yarn:
We mentioned how strong hemp is compared to other cellulose fibers, but its durability is unmatched. It doesn’t shrink much, holds its shape, and doesn’t pill. Like linen, it softens over time and has a nice drape quality to it.
One of our favorite advantages of hemp is that it can be machine washed and dried, and requires far less ironing than linen.
Compared to cotton, hemp uses about half the acreage to yield the same amount. It also grows very quickly, so quickly that it chokes out weeds around it. Hemp also doesn’t require as much water to grow as other plant fibers, making it a very low maintenance crop.
Like with any material, there are some things to be aware of. These aren’t necessarily disadvantages, but things you’ll need to consider when planning to use hemp yarn. The first is that it can be very coarse and stiff to work with at first, but it does soften after washing. Another characteristic to remember is that hemp does not handle acids or bleach well. These will damage the integrity of the fiber, so be careful with any towels, or garments that may get stained by acidic foods like tomatoes.
Fun facts about hemp
- Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag using hemp
- In the 1800s, the state of Kentucky was responsible for half of the nation’s entire supply of hemp. The first crop was planted in the Bluegrass State in 1775
- Hemp seeds are technically nuts
- In 1533, King Henry VIII made hemp cultivation compulsory by law
- Hemp can grow to be 10 -15 feet high
Hemp yarns at The Woolery
Here at The Woolery we carry a few different hemp yarns. If you’re looking for something colorful and weaving friendly our Bluegrass Mills hemp yarn comes in 11 colors and Elsebeth Lavold Hempathy (a cotton/hemp/bamboo blend) comes in 34 different colors and is great for those knitting or crochet projects!
If you’d prefer raw hemp to spin, we also have 100% hemp tow!
Will you be branching out to new materials this year? Take the challenge and try it!