Just a few lines from my hotel room in Porto to sing the praises of hemp fabric. I have travel-tested it for the last two weeks, either in my suitcase or wearing it, and it is fantastic.
No, you won’t get high when wearing hemp and its association with cannabis has been a misfortune for this fabulous fibre. Australia banned cannabis in the 1922 and other nations did the same in the early and later 20th century. Hemp fibre had been very popular for centuries for all sorts of applications, until nylon hit the market around 1940, ushering in a whole new era of synthetics. Between the new competition and the war on drugs, hemp production was pretty much finished.
But recently hemp has been making a comeback, mostly due to its eco friendly properties. Hemp crops need only a fraction of the water of cotton, don’t need weed killing chemicals and have a short growth cycle from seeding to harvest. A dream crop, one would think.
Nevertheless, hemp fabric is still rare because of the unfortunate link to cannabis, and it is therefore very expensive. There is a cult following prepared to pay the high prices and I know of one shop in my area that sells exclusively hemp textiles. If you are thinking rough fibre ropes or sacks, that is not what devotees are prepared to shell out $$$ for. Hemp fabric is hard to tell apart from linen, except it doesn’t wrinkle nearly as much and becomes soft with wear very quickly, making it beautifully drapey despite its relative thickness, reminiscent of bottom weight tencel.
I was lucky enough to buy some hemp sheets at Aldi, on sale at a good price, with the intentions of using the fabric for garments. This outfit is the StyleArc Bob pants and my TNT (Tried and True) pattern for a summer top, the Tessuti Mandy with cuffs instead of sleeves.
Hemp sews up easily and takes my dye nicely for painting. It is a good alternative to linen, and also very strong and durable, so basic items like white pants will probably be part of my wardrobe for a long time. Anything more trendy like the top has naturally a shorter lifespan, but I can imagine cutting off the sleeves and turning it into a couple of tea towels when the style is no longer current.
This outfit has been in a suitcase for two weeks and then been worn for a couple of days on my trip in Portugal and still looks pretty good.
I have some notes on what not to do when making white pants which are on PatternReview.
And below is a quick video. I am moving my legs a bit to show the drapiness of the hemp fabric. Hope this gives you an idea and doesn’t just look very silly. 🙂
Linked to MMM.