Textiles and ropes
Hemp textiles and ropes have been around for 10,000 years and have played a vital role in the history of humankind. For millennia, boat sails, ropes and clothing were mostly made of hemp, a plant so indispensable that its culture was sometimes imposed by governments. Then arrived cotton and synthetic fibers, supported by important lobbies at the cost of heavy ecological and human damage. Today we are rediscovering hemp textiles and their many benefits.
THE ADVANTAGES OF HEMP FABRICS
Hemp fabrics are good for the environment, for the people and for the economy; hence they are a perfect fit for sustainable development.
- Hemp is a non-polluting culture. While cotton production is responsible for 25% of the pesticide used worldwide, hemp does not require any. Fungicides, defoliants and herbicides are not necessary either because hemp quickly takes over weeds. Hemp only needs a little fertilizer that can easily be provided in biological control with manure or compost. If cotton is so cheap, it is at the cost of an ecological disaster. Rather than harming the environment, hemp cultures improve soils in different ways.
- In addition, in many climates, hemp does not require irrigation while cotton culture consumes a lot of water. In total, the production of a cotton T-shirt requires 4,000 liters of water. It’s 10 times more than hemp.
- Hemp fiber is very strong and durable. That’s why it was chosen to make boat sails and ropes since they are constantly exposed to the worst conditions (humidity, salt and sun). It is five times stronger than cotton and blocks 95% of the UV rays.
- Since it is porous, hemp fibers allow for the creation of fabrics that regulate the temperature: the fabrics stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.
- Since hemp is naturally antibacterial and antiallergenic, it is suitable for sensitive skin.
- Local culture and transformation. Hemp grows at all latitudes, including in Canada. This is not the case for cotton that travels thousands of kilometers. In addition to limiting the transport of products, hemp local production and processing encourages local agriculture and the economy.
Used by itself or combined with other fibers (cotton, polyester, spandex, etc.), hemp can be used to create a wide range of textile products for all tastes.
Companies specializing in ecological fabrics and some major general brands (such as Patagonia or TOMS) already offer hemp-based clothing items, but they remain marginal. Thanks to technical improvement and the increasing demand from consumers, hemp-based products will be more and more available and cheap.
- Everyday clothes (casual, sporty or chic) and uniforms.
- Linens: dish towels, tablecloths, sheets, curtains, etc.
- Cloth diapers
- Shoes: Adidas, TOMS and other brands are occasionally producing models made with hemp.
- Bags and luggage
- Fabrics for sofa, etc.
WHERE ARE HEMP TEXTILES PRODUCED ?
The fibers make up the outer shell of the hemp stalk. One hectare of crop produces 2 to 3 tons (in addition to seeds and hemp, the inside of the stem).
Currently in Canada, it is mainly the seeds that are exploited because they are much more profitable and easy to extract than the fibers. However, current research is aimed at optimizing hemp cultivars and techniques for harvesting and enhancing all of its parts.
Textile products currently available are mostly made from imported fabric from China, where adequate machinery and labor are available to process this fiber at lower cost.
In 2017, two Quebec companies (Logistik Unicorp and Régitex) unveiled their first military uniforms made entirely from local hemp. It was a project financially supported by the Canadian government to encourage this promising new ecological sector.