What is Hemp Fabric | Is Hemp Fabric Eco-Friendly?

Hemp Fabric

About Hemp 

 Hemp is the new, exciting and happening thing to be seen in the world of Indian Hemp fabric. Yet to gain momentum, it promises tremendous potential in the coming years. For a fabric that in many ways is as good as linen and seen as one of the best in natural fibres, it could usher in a new wave of smooth flowing clothing and apparel.

What is hemp Fabric?

Hemp is a fabric produced from the cannabis sativa fiber or industrial hemp. It has been in existence since 8000 BC. Used by various civilizations in Asia, Middle East & China, it had been used for making paper, ropes, ships’ rigs, canvas, sailcloth, sacks etc.

Obtaining the fiber

The Hemp fibre or industrial hemp is obtained from the outer layer or the bast of the Cannabis sativa plant, more popularly known as that meant for producing marijuana or hashish. The narcotic content is because of tetra-hydro-cannabinol content (THC) that is much as 20 % and causes the high when smoked. Industrial hemp contains 1 per cent THC only.

This fibre has some very incredible properties. It conducts heat, dyes well, resists mildew, blocks ultraviolet light and has natural anti-bacterial properties. It is used in many industries including paper, biodegradable plastic, construction, health food, chemical clean-ups and fuel. Automobile companies like BMW use hemp fibre to reinforce their door panels for better safety standards.

The Uttarakhand experiment

Uttarakhand is the first state in the country to legalize cannabis cultivation. The prospects for growing industrial hemp — a variety of the Cannabis Sativa strain, which has lower psychoactive properties than marijuana — are massive, attracting attention and investment.

The State government, in July 2018, granted licence to the Indian Industrial Hemp Association (IIHA), a non-profit organisation that promotes industrial application of hemp, to grow the fibre over 1,000 hectares, on a pilot basis. The cultivation is to be in villages in the Pauri Garhwal region of the state, said the founder President of IIHA, Mr.Rohit Sharma.   

Even though the policy to allow cultivation of non-narcotic cannabis was formulated in 1985 along with opium, hemp cultivation failed to take off in the country as proper procedures were not laid down for its cultivation, procurement and use, unlike that in the case of legal opium”, he said.

“About five years ago, when we started working on industrial hemp, we tried to figure out why India is not tapping on this $1-trillion industry unlike advanced economies in Europe and North America and even China. We then realised that though the authorities are interested, they had little idea how to proceed on this,” Sharma told the media.

IIHA subsequently was able to convince the then government in Uttarakhand to come out with a policy for hemp cultivation, which was adopted by the subsequent government with some changes.

Hemp, a high-value crop, is ideal for a State like Uttarakhand where topology and acute water scarcity come in the way of growing conventional crops. Hemp, which can be harvested in three months, requires very little water and in places where water is abundant two crops can be grown, he said.

Both hemp seed oil and hemp protein powder, made from the leftover cake which is rich in digestible proteins, are popular world over, Sharma said.

The World & Hemp

When Hemp came on the horizon, many countries saw a plant that was thought to be useful for producing narcotic substances like marijuana and cannabis alone. Later with research came Industrial hemp and so hemp fibre became a reality.

Countries across the world have realized the uses of the wonder fiber called Hemp. Egypt, Canada, Chile, Australia China, South Korea, Thailand etc. are some of the prominent names that figure in the list of countries producing Hemp for commercial purposes. Three countries have taken to Hemp in a big way. They are piloting and researching Hemp. China is the largest exporter of hemp paper and textiles. Most hemp apparel brands get their hemp supplies from farmers and factories in China. Canada is now the biggest producer and exporter of hemp seed products, including hulled hemp seeds, hemp oil, and hemp protein powder. Europe’s hemp industry has been focused around industrial uses, such as material for automobiles and construction.

How is the hemp fabric made?

There are eight stages:

  1. Cultivation (the planting, tending, improving of crops or plants)
  2. Harvesting (The act or process of gathering a crop)
  3. Retting (To moisten or soak in order to soften and separate the fibers by partial rotting)
  4. Breaking
  5. Scutching (a step in the processing or dressing that separates the impurities from the raw material of a fibre in preparation for spinning)
  6. Hackling (Passing a comb through fibers to clean and straighten the fibers)
  7. Roving (Natural fiber yarns that have been drawn out and slightly twisted in preparation for spinning)
  8. Spinning

What are the advantages of the Hemp Fabric?

  • To start with it is an eco-friendly fabric that makes no use of pesticides, crowds out troublesome weeds and also controls topsoil erosion and produces oxygen. Apart from being renewable i.e. being available again within 100 days, it also has versatile qualities that make it enviable.
  • This fibre has a tensile strength eight times that of cotton. That is why it is used in sails and ropes for rugged use and is exceptionally durable.
  • Hypo-allergenic- Hemp fabrics are hypo-allergenic (not likely to cause an allergic reaction) and skin-friendly. Hemp is able to kill staph and other bacteria that come in contact with its surface.
  • Feel of Fabric- Hemp like linen also has the soft feel that is most desirable in comfort wear. Hemp softens with age and with each washing.
  • Great for hot weather- As with linen and cotton hemp is a great choice for hot weather conditions. A breathable fabric, it resists mildew and absorbs moisture.
  • UV Resistant – This eco fabric protects the wearer from the sun with its UV resistant qualities.

And what are the likely disadvantages?

  • Like linen, hemp wrinkles easily. But some blends with hemp could give it a better look, but one should mind that the blend is soft.
  • Hemp is not very fast when it comes to color, so the outcomes are not very rich.

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