It’s no secret that hemp has the potential to serve as a substitute for a variety of products. Everything from paper to building materials, animal feed to fabrics, are all on the table. Some are more revolutionary, like using hemp as fuel, but other uses for hemp have been in the rotation for a long time, like when it comes to fiber.
Interestingly enough, hemp was most likely the first plant cultivated for textile fiber, somewhere around 8,000 B.C.E. Remnants of hemp cloth date back as far as ancient Mesopotamia, China, Europe, and even Chile all before making its way to North America.
Hemp fiber has been around a long time, going out of vogue during a brief period where the plant was illegal. But, now it’s back, and the only question that remains is, What to use it for?
Where to find hemp fiber
Hemp fiber sits in the plant’s stalks. They’re rich in bast fibers, which help keep the stalks strong while the plant grows. After harvest, the stalks can then become cordage, matting, and a variety of fabrics, ones that you may wear everyday.
What’s great about the positioning of hemp fiber is that it’s already in a part of that plant that typically goes to waste. Most manufacturers want the flower, where cannabinoids like CBD and CBG sit in wait. These are usually extracted and made into products you’d find on store shelves. Items like tinctures, capsules, and edibles of every kind.
However, for those farmers interested in using the whole plant, transforming stalks into fiber-based products adds another layer of revenue this amazing plant can bring to the table.
Hemp vs cotton
It’s most likely true that cotton will always be king in the textile industry. It’s hard to beat when it comes to the sheer quantity of clothing items made from it. But, just because it has taken the lead, doesn’t mean other options don’t have advantages to recommend them as a substitution.
Hemp is actually four-times stronger than cotton. This is important when you think about how long an article of clothing lasts with normal wear and tear. Hemp cloth will outlast cotton, no matter how many times you wash it.
From an environmental perspective, hemp is also better for the soil than cotton. Cotton quickly depletes the soil of nutrients, but it takes hemp over 20 years to come close to mimicking this damage. Hemp also uses about 1/20th the amount of water to grow and process into fiber as cotton.
It’s also easier to dye hemp, and it retains color better than cotton. Dyed cotton clothing can fade over time, but dyed hemp holds on to its hue.
Hemp vs wool
Wool is a diverse fabric used in a lot more than clothing. You’ll find it in a variety of textile products around your home. Coarse wool has woven and non-woven applications, which is why it’s so versatile.
When compared to hemp though, the most obvious difference is texture. We can all relate to the itchiness of a new wool sweater, but hemp is soft on the skin and gets softer with each wash.
Wool is also only a cold-weather-only fabric. It definitely keeps you warm. Hemp, however, works all year round to help regulate body temperature. It’s breathable, but with great insulation properties, and works in warm and cool weather equally well.
Additionally, wool wears out a little more each time it gets wet, which means the added hassle, and cost, of getting it to the dry cleaners. Hemp clothing is machine washable, although it’s best to clean it using the delicate cycle and a low-temperature setting on the dryer.
Looking to the environment again, raising sheep for wool requires a lot more resources than growing a single crop of hemp. We’re talking food, water, a clean and well-maintained space, and medical treatments all for those sheep. What’s more, hemp helps the environment by being a great carbon dioxide trapper, while sheep release serious amounts of methane waste each day.
The future of hemp fabric is still a little cloudy. While it outshines other fabrics in some ways, the ultimate answer may end up being a hybrid fabric of one kind or another. Either way, hemp’s potential in this space is worth noting, and Arbor Vita8 can’t wait to see where this versatile plant goes next. That’s because hemp is our passion.
To stay on top of the demands of our manufacturers, Arbor Vita8 not only keeps up on the latest hemp news, but also offers an array of wholesale hemp products for purchase. Contact us today to learn more.