What is Hemp Fabric? The Organic Textile

Hemp fabric or hemp textile is made from cannabis sativa fiber or industrial hemp. The usage of hemp fiber or cannabis sativa fiber as materials for clothing is not something new. Hemp fiber has been used thousands of years and in fact materials made from hemp were discovered in tombs dating back to 8,000 BC.

Marijuana is the most misunderstood types of vegetable plants. Most people always have a negative opinion about the plant because lack of knowledge. There is one article written by David P. West with title “Hemp and Marijuana”. This is a very good article explaining the differences between marijuana and the industrial hemp.

Hemp was used in varieties of applications in early civilizations in Asia, Middle East and China. For instance hemp was used in making paper in China, rope, ships rigged, canvas, sailcloth, sacks and many more in Asia and Middle East.

Hemp and Environment

Hemp plant is a very fast growing crop, producing high fiber yield per acre. According to few sources hemp can produce 250% more fiber than cotton and 600% more fiber than flax with the same amount of land.

The best climates for growing hemp are warm tropical zones or moderately cool and temperate climates. Hemp also leaves the soil in excellent condition for any succeeding crop. Hemp’s strong roots could penetrate for three feet or more underground. The roots anchor and protect the soil from runoff. They build and preserve topsoil and subsoil structures similar to those of forests.

Hemp also does not exhaust the soil. Hemp plants add rich organic matter to the topsoil and helping it retain moisture.

Hemp’s Textile Properties

One of the most attractive properties of hemp is its strength and durability. However, the coarseness of the hemp’s fiber had restricted hemp from apparel and home uses. Hemp needed to be softened for making clothing.

There were traditional methods to soften hemp by using acids to remove lignin; however those methods damaged the hemp fibers. After the process it left them too unstable for use and has no strength. The methods work well with cotton and flax but not with hemp.

The limitation of hemp usage changed in the mid 1980’s, when researches developed an enzymatic process that successfully removes lignin from the hemp fiber without compromising its strength. This new hemp fiber is called degummed hemp fiber.  Degummed fiber could be spun alone or with other fibers to produce textiles for apparel.

In the mid 1980′s, researchers developed an enzymatic process to successfully remove lignin from the hemp fiber without compromising its strength. For the first time in history, de-gummed hemp fiber could be spun alone or with other fibers to produce textiles for apparel. This technological breakthrough has catapulted hemp to the forefront of modern textile design and fashion. Given hemp’s superiority to other fibers, the benefits of this breakthrough are enormous.

How you feel wearing the Hemp Fabric?

Textiles or fabrics made from hemp today are either 100% or blended with other materials such as cotton or silk. Hemp fabric is used in many products such as apparel, accessories, shoes, furniture, and home furnishings. Hemp is very strong and the most durable of all natural textile fibers.

Hemp fabric holds its shape, stretching less than any other natural fiber. Hemp fabric is soft, comfort and doesn’t wear out. Hemp is also naturally resistant to mold and ultraviolet light. Apparel made from hemp will likely last longer and withstand harsh conditions.

Hemp has many similarities to bamboo fabrics.  For instance it is highly water absorbance and will dye and retain color better than cotton. Hemp fabric is breathable because the cross-section of the hemp fiber is filled with various micro-gaps and micro-holes. Thus it is cool to wear it in warm weather. Furthermore, air which is trapped in the fibers is warmed by the body, making hemp garments naturally warm in cooler weather.

How to Care for Hemp Fabric

Hemp fabric is a strong and long lasting fabric which could be clean easily. It handles extreme water temperatures and hemp is flexible where you could use hand wash, machine wash or even industrial cleaning process. You could use any soap powders or liquid detergents to clean hemp. Every time hemp is washed it constantly reveals new surfaces, usually becoming softer. Hemp dries easily and quickly due to its fiber porous structure.

Similar to other textiles, you have to always test for color fastness.  The detergents containing Optical Brightening Agents or OBA may cause colors to alter slightly. In addition, bleach is advisable not to be used as it can considerably degrade and weaken the natural fibers.


Generally the advisable temperatures for washing hemp are as follows.

  • Hemp without special finishes – unlimited to include boiling temperatures (50°C is generally sufficient)
  • Hemp without special finishes, however colors are fast – maximum 65°C (50°C is generally sufficient)
  • Fine hand-embroidered hemp should be hand washed at 40°C.

Hemp normally will get softer with use and after each wash. However, if you need to accelerate the process, you can use a commercial softener. Another method to soften hemp is to do a hot water wash followed by a tumble dry and repeat these two steps two or three times.


Always iron hemp garments when damp, using the linen setting on a warm iron. First iron the inside of the garment to eliminate creases and then iron the outside to enhance the fabric’s natural sheen. Thanks for reading.

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