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Hemp Fiber- Processing, Properties and Use

Hemp Fiber- Processing, Properties and Use

Hemp Fiber

Hemp fiber is becoming more and more popular these days. Industrial hemp fiber, one of nature’s wonders, used to be one of the world’s most popular crops. This was until the robust cotton industry lobbied for its ban. Afterward, it started to be shadowed by cotton. The main factor that prevents it from expanding, even more, is its negative association with marihuana.

This cannabis plant has tens of thousands of uses literally and has been unfairly targeted. People could turn the plant into an array of products. The fantastic benefits stemming from this plant shouldn´t be wasted. From clothing and textiles to ropes and cordage, hemp fiber has multitudes of applications. So, read on to learn more about this underrated material.

Hemp Processing in Textiles

Do you know how farmers process Hemp in textiles? Here are the steps:

  • Retting: Farmers use a harvester machine to gather in the crops. After cutting them, they leave the plants exposed in the field for an estimated ten to twenty days to ‘ret.’ In this process, “whereby bacteria and fungi break down the pectins that bind the fibers to the stem allowing the fiber to be released.”2

There are two types of retting. Water retting involves putting the stems in tanks of water for around ten days. The water should be bacteria-laden, so the results are more effective. At the same time, dew retting is a natural process. It requires leaving the crops exposed to dew for a certain amount of time. After cutting them, they lay the stems dew retting in rows.

  • Decortication: Once the above process is complete, they send the stalks to the processing machine. This process involves three actions: squeezing, breaking, and scutching. First, they dry the stems and pass them through a machine that “breaks” them. Then, they separate the fiber from the core. This can be done through two methods. One of them involves using a beech stick and the other rotary blades.
  • Softening: Farmers use a machine called “Hemp softener.” in this part of the process. The end goal is to make the fibers softer and more robust.
  • Combing: With a particular cutting machine, they shorten the initial fibers down to 650mm. Then, they smooth the tangled fibers using a combing machine. Combing is used to clean off woody particles left in the Hemp. Furthermore, they arrange the fibers into a continuous “sliver” for spinning.
  • Spinning: Now, the manufactured slivers are pre-spun roving yarns. Afterward, depending on the quality and the desired yarn, there are two options: using a dry or wet process to achieve it.

Properties of Hemp Fiber

Hemp fiber has many defining properties. For starters, its call scheme involves brownish tan or dark colors. Do you want to bleach it? Worry not; though difficult, it can be dyed. Hemp turned to dark and bright colors. Its nature makes it more absorbent to reactive dyes, vat dyes, and sulfur dyes.

Moreover, it is a lustrous fiber. It shares some common characteristics with linen, such as its nodes and joints. In turn, because of this, Hemp is soft to touch. The difference with linen is that the central canal is wider.

The stem comprises the outer hemp fiber bast, and the inner material is called “hard.” The outer ones are longer and suitable for textiles. On the other hand, the inner fibers are shorter and are used for industrial applications. Its ability to elongate is low.

The Blending of Hemp Fiber

We can make a variety of fabrics with Hemp. If we blend it with other materials, such as cotton, linen, or silk, the result is a much longer-lasting product. The idea is to mix Hemp’s softness and natural strength with the desirable qualities of other materials. For example, Hemp could be combined with the soft elasticity of cotton or the smooth texture of silk.

Hemp Fiber

Modern Uses of Hemp Fiber

Since the 20th century, the popularity of many new synthetic materials has been on the rise. Moreover, in the last few decades, environmental sustainability has become incredibly important in the clothing industry. Sadly, commonly used fabric, like cotton or synthetics, has serious environmental problems associated with them. Hemp, on the other hand, is nature-friendly.

Hemp textiles are less ecologically damaging than other fabrics; they are the perfect choice for the production of clothes. Besides, hemp fibers are strong, but they are also highly absorbent and ideal for sensitive skin. These qualities also make it perfect for shoes. “Nike and Adidas have both produced training shoes in hemp.”1

Recent research indicates that hemp fabric also destroys bacteria on its surface. In short, it can prevent the spread of diseases such as staph and pneumonia. These anti-bacterial properties come in handy in hospitals. By adopting the use of Hemp and hemp-blended fabrics, many lives could be saved.

Hemp Fiber Advantages and Benefits

Compared to cotton, hemp fiber is longer, stronger, more absorbent, and insulative. As a fabric, Hemp is also better than cotton. Why? As the Hemp is lighter, it will be fresher, especially so in summer times. It can also be used in winter as it is warmer than cotton, for example. Hemp fiber´s breathability makes it a soft natural textile with superior durability. Besides, water won´t rot hemp fiber, which makes it perfect for ship cordage.

Moreover, “hemp’s potential widespread adoption as food for humans is also very promising.” 3 The production of dietary hemp fiber is increasing more and more. Hemp seeds have high protein levels, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, essential fatty acids, and trace elements.

Here is a list of the many uses of hemp fiber:

  • Stock Fodder;
  • Animal Bedding;
  • Garden Mulch;
  • Ropes and Cordage;
  • Fibreboard;
  • Insulation;
  • Plastics;
  • A Form of Concrete (hempcrete);
  • Clothing and Textiles;
  • Paper;
  • Restoring Fields Depleted of Nutrients;
  • Cleaning up Toxins in Contaminated Soils;
  • Food for Human Consumption;
  • Cooking Oil;
  • Biofuel;
  • Medicines – Particularly CBD;
  • Cosmetics and Skincare;
  • Water Filters.

The Bottom Line

Outdated legislation is constantly changing. Therefore, industrial Hemp used to be ban in many countries where now it is an important crop. Farmers and Hemp supporters believe Hemp could become highly profitable. Industries could use Hemp to replace other fibers and cut costs while at it. Not only could this industry generate jobs, but it could also create a more environmentally friendly agricultural sector. Hemp is way less damaging than many other popular crops, such as soy.


  • Industrial hemp fiber
  • Extraction, processing, properties, and use of hemp fiber
  • What Is Industrial Hemp? Description And Uses
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