Mankind has always been dependent on crop cultivation and evolved through the process of it. when we take a look at the history of most significant crops until the 20th century, hemp was in its rightful place at the top tier, it has been astonishing to witness the manner in which the use of hemp has declined over such a short passage of time. Hemp is probably the lone-wolf that can support all of human kind with its diverse usage and production ability. It can provide clothing, shelter as well as support the health of both the planet and its inhabitants.
Hemp plays a crucial role in the era of sustainable living through the use of natural fabrics. The recent hype in its resurgence has captured the keen interest of the textile industry for its persistent use as a textile fibre. The history of hemp reminds us that, hemp was among one of the earliest natural fibres derived for the production of textile-based products. The use of hemp as a natural fibre for textiles can be traced back to 4,000 BC in China and Turkestan, making its origin of the use in textiles approximately date back to a 1,000 years earlier than that of cotton. Forget 1000 years, but if you look at a more recent history of hemp textile you may find it interesting to know that the first pair of Levis was actually made out of hemp fibre and even now Levis advocates to the continuous use of hemp fibres as a natural fabric for its products.
To further perceive an outlook in the use of hemp fibres to produce natural fabrics, we must have an understanding of the way these fibres are produced.
The process of producing hemp fibres from the hemp plant involves three stages:
- Harvesting- the first and foremost step in production of hemp fibres is the harvesting of the hemp crop. Depending on the purpose of its production, hemp plant can be harvested in two ways, primarily for textile production or for producing both seeds and textile. The hemp crop is harvested in between the early or mid-peak of its flowering stage, the plants are then cut at 2 to 3 cm above the soil level and soon after allowed to dry for a few days.
- Retting- The second step in the process of production of hemp fibres is known as retting. At this stage, microbes and moisture are incorporated into the hemp stalk. The moisture and microbes assist in breaking down the chemical bonds that keep the stem bonded together. This breakage of chemical bonds enables the easy and convenient separation of the bast from the wooden core. As soon as the retting process is done, the stalks are soon after dried in order to maintain a moisture content of less than 15% to ensure easy bailing.
- Breaking and scutching- the last but not the least, at this stage the stalks are passed through rollers in order to crush and break the stalk into small bits while also separating some of the fibres at the same time. The bast that is created with the help of the rollers is then further simplified with the help of a decorticator, this process ensures the breakage of the leaves that are left on the stalks and are finally sorted after its completion.
The product is then scutched and the fibre bundles are separated and spun together in order to produce long and continuous yarn.
Now that we have an understanding of how hemp fibres are produced, it can be established that hemp fibres are the necessary change that we need to incorporate in the textile industry in order to establish a new and developing substitute in the era of natural fabrics.