We have been looking at the most-asked questions about hemp fabrics on the internet, and we’ve tried to answer them for you below. With over 25 years of experience working with hemp fabrics, we have learned a thing or two about them along the way. Our hemp fabrics continue to be highly popular, and we are seeing more people than ever interested in trying these sustainable ethical fabrics for themselves. From hobbyists to businesses, we see a wide range of customers that are interested in hemp fabrics for their amazing natural properties and the fact that they are good for our planet. Without further ado, read on below to find answers to the most asked questions about hemp fabrics.
Jump straight to a specific question:
- Where can I buy hemp fabric?
- Can you print on hemp fabric?
- How do you source hemp fabric?
- How long does hemp fabric last?
- What is organic hemp fabric?
- What colour is hemp fabric?
- Can you sublimate on hemp?
- Is hemp fabric sustainable?
- Does hemp dry quickly?
- What does hemp clothing feel like?
- Is hemp better than cotton?
- Does hemp shrink like cotton?
- Why is hemp fabric so expensive?
- Is hemp fabric water resistant?
- Does Hemp grow faster than bamboo?
- Is hemp more sustainable than cotton?
- How can you tell if fabric is hemp?
- Is hemp a breathable fabric?
- Is hemp fabric plastic free?
- Does hemp add microplastics to the sea?
- Does Hemp dye well?
- Does Hemp wrinkle like linen?
- What is hemp used for in clothing?
Where can I buy hemp fabric?
You can buy hemp fabric from a range of reputable sources online, but of course we recommend buying it from us here at The Hemp Shop! If you’re looking at buying sustainable fabrics in the UK or anywhere in the world, then our web store is the first place you should look.
We send fabrics all over the world, to a huge range of different buyers. From hobbyists sewing in their bedrooms, to fashion labels, upholstery companies, hotels, restaurants and even for industrial uses, there are a huge variety of people buying hemp fabrics from us. We truly appreciate every one of our customers, and since we’re a small family-run business, you know that you are getting a personalised service from us every time.
Can you print on hemp fabric?
If you’re wondering if you can print on hemp fabric, the answer is yes! Of course it depends on the printing techniques that you are using. A general rule of thumb is if you can print it on cotton, you can print it on hemp. Whether you’re screen printing, stamp printing, transfer printing, using dye sublimation, pigment printing or reactive printing, hemp fabrics are up to the job!
With a huge range of hemp fabric blends available, you may want to experiment with different ones before settling on an organic fabric that is best suited to your fabric printing project. The good news is you can pick up a load of different A5 fabric swatches for just £1 over on our website.
How do you source hemp fabric?
You can source hemp fabrics wholesale through a supplier such as Hempiness (our preferred supplier) who source their fabrics from Romania and China, ensuring that the entire process is sustainable and ethical every step of the way. They’ve done all of the hard work in checking the supply chains and testing the quality of the fabrics to ensure that they’re supplying only the best hemp fabrics money can buy.
The process of sourcing hemp fabric in an ethical and sustainable way is far from straightforward. First Hempiness had to find reputable mills with the ability to provide the best quality fabrics at reasonable prices. Most hemp fabric mills are found in China, where they have been processing hemp into fabrics continuously for thousands of years, unlike other countries where bans on hemp production in (fairly) recent history have meant that skills of farming hemp and processing it into fibres suitable for fabric production have been somewhat lost over time. In China, they never stopped producing hemp fabrics, and so they are still way ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to hemp fabric production.
The process of contacting and interviewing all of the different mills is not quick or easy, and the huge checklist of ethical and environmental standards to meet is not completed quickly either. As well as ensuring that the mill itself is reputable, Hempiness also had to make sure that the farms were using only organic farming methods, plus treating workers fairly and ethically. Again, another tricky thing to do from the other side of the world, but they achieved it by liaising closely with all parts of the production and supply chain, asking all the right questions and demanding the highest standards be met.
How long does hemp fabric last?
Hemp fabric lasts longer than cotton, or any other natural fibre fabric. Hemp fibres are the strongest in the natural world, with ~5x the tensile strength of cotton and ~3x the durability. Hemp fabrics have been found from ancient Mesopotamia (modern day Iran and Iraq) from 8,000 BC. So the real answer to the question “how long does hemp fabrics last?” is; around 10,000 years…so far.
Of course, the lifespan of any hemp fabric depends on which type of fabric you are using (canvas, denim, cloth, linen, etc), how you treat it and what you use it for. Some heavy uses will see hemp wear out more quickly, whereas in the right conditions it can last for thousands of years. In general, it’s a highly durable fabric to work with, and with the right care and attention, it will serve you for a lifetime.
What is organic hemp fabric?
Organic hemp fabric is any natural fabric made from the hemp plant, grown using organic farming techniques and processed using only natural methods. This means that no chemicals were used in the growing of the hemp plants, and in the processes of turning them into fibre for fabrics.
Organic hemp fabric is made by first growing and harvesting hemp plants using no chemical fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides or fungicides. The soil that the hemp plants are grown in must be free from any chemicals. Once harvested, the hemp stalks are stacked in the fields and go through a process known as “retting”. This is the natural process that helps to separate the plant fibres by exposing them to the weather and elements for 14-28 days. Once the hemp plants have been retted, they are ready to be stripped for their fibres, and then have those fibres spun into yarn for fabric production. The entire process uses no artificial chemicals.
What colour is hemp fabric?
The natural colour of hemp fabric is an off-white, beige, cream sort of colour. Every hemp fabric is different, and even different batches of the same type of fabric will have slight colour variations in them. You may find that hemp fabrics have slight differences in colour within a single yarn, and this is due to the nature of producing organic hemp fabrics. You see, every hemp plant has differences in colour, and even within each plant fibre there will be a wide array of colour tones. We believe that this makes each piece of hemp fabric special and unique, like snowflakes.
Modern hemp fabric mills are pushing to make hemp fabrics whiter all the time, and over the years we have seen this to be true in the fabrics that we receive from suppliers. This race to pure white is due to the demands of the large-scale fashion industry, who want pure white fabrics every time so that they know 100% what colour the fabric will be after they dye it. Imagine you are a fashion house, who are looking at doing a run of 10,000 garments. You’ve selected a colour from your colour-chart and you want your garments to exactly match this colour after they have been dyed. Well, the dyes on your colour chart are calculated with pure white as a starting base colour, and if you use an off-white colour to start with you will end up with a different colour tone in the end.
We love the natural colours of hemp fabrics, and any slight imperfections in the colour tones are just added interest to us. We’re not alone in this love of all things natural, that and the environmental benefits are why we demand that none of our hemp fabrics are bleached using harmful chemicals. You will find a huge range of different tones of natural hemp fabrics on our website, take a look at them all here.
Can you sublimate on hemp?
You cannot sublimate on hemp fabric. Sublimation dye is a synthetic dye that is used for synthetic clothing materials such as polyester. You can try sublimation dye on hemp fabric, but it is likely that you will get a dull print, and it will wash out quickly. It is best to go for other printing methods such as silk screen printing, direct-to-garment (DTG), or transfer printing.
Is hemp fabric sustainable?
Hemp fabric is the most sustainable of all fabrics on the planet! Hemp is the greatest carbon sink in the plant world, meaning that it absorbs more CO2 than any other crop or forest. It even continues absorbing CO2 when it is harvested and processed. This sets hemp off to a great start in terms of its carbon footprint.
Hemp not only cleans the air, but the soil as well. It actively pulls toxins out of the soil, and aerates the soil at the same time. The large tap root system helps to prevent soil compaction, while also binding soil together to prevent soil erosion. Hemp returns valuable nutrients like nitrogen to the soil when leaves and organic matter fall to the ground. All of this makes hemp a great crop for rotation farming, as it leaves the soil in a better condition than before it was planted, making way for other crops to have an easier time of it when they are rotated into the areas where hemp was previously planted. Simply put, most crops grow better, bigger and stronger in soil where hemp was previously grown.
Hemp requires no pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilisers to grow large and strong. It will grow almost anywhere on the planet and in conditions where other plants might struggle, hemp thrives.
Fabrics made from organic hemp are entirely sustainable. So much is said about reducing harm to the environment, but not only does hemp reduce harm, it actually makes a positive impact on soil, air, human health and the general wellbeing of our planet! That’s why we have been promoting the use of hemp fabrics for decades!
Does hemp dry quickly?
Despite being super absorbent, hemp fabric dries quickly thanks to the hollow fibres and moisture-wicking properties. Of course it depends on the thickness and weight of the fabric. A hemp t-shirt dries much faster than a cotton t-shirt. Hemp’s moisture-wicking abilities mean that when used for clothing it wicks sweat and dampness away from the body, where it can evaporate more easily through the warmth of the sun and the heat of the human body. In comparison, cotton is known as the “anti-moisture-wicking” fabric, it holds water and will remain saturated for far longer than hemp fabric.
What does hemp clothing feel like?
Hemp clothing and fabrics can feel very different depending on the processes used to create them. Modern day techniques are getting better all the time, making some hemp fabrics just as soft and comfortable as cotton. Gone are the days of the scratchy sack-cloth hippy clothes of decades past! Modern hemp jersey fabrics are great for making t-shirts and tops, hemp linen is a great material for making shirts, skirts or shorts, hemp denim is perfect for jackets and jeans. The possibilities are endless!
The old saying is that “Cotton wears out, hemp wears in”, meaning that with each wash hemp clothing becomes softer and even more comfortable than before. Hemp is also incredibly durable so when you’re throwing away your cotton clothing, your hemp clothing will still be going strong, and in fact it will be softer than ever!
Is hemp better than cotton?
Yes, hemp fabric is better than cotton in so many ways! There are two areas to consider when answering this question; fabric performance and environmental impact.
When it comes to fabric performance, hemp wins the day. Hemp fabric is naturally antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial. It is thermodynamic, meaning that when used for clothing it helps to regulate your temperature keeping you warm when it’s cool, and cool when it’s hot. Hemp has hollow fibres, making it breathable and also a fantastic insulator. It is highly absorbent and has natural moisture-wicking abilities, making it great for removing sweat from the surface of the body. It is an extremely durable, hard wearing fabric with 5x the tensile strength of cotton and 3x more durability. It also gets softer with age.
You may think that all sounds great, but wait until you hear this next part! The environmental impact of the cotton industry is a serious problem in the world today. Cotton is a very intensive plant to grow, and 25% off ALL agricultural chemicals worldwide are used for growing cotton. Nasty pesticides, herbicides, defoliants and chemical fertilisers are used. Huge amounts of water are required (3000 litres for a single t-shirt). The coupling of large amounts of chemicals and water means that the chemicals are often carried into the surrounding ecosystems, permeating the soil and making their way into waterways, causing untold damage to nature and to the workers tending the fields.
On the other hand, hemp is one of the most eco-friendly plants out there! It requires NO chemicals at all. It requires less than a quarter of the water than cotton requires to grow and it actively improves the environment. Hemp improves soil quality through removing toxins from the ground and preventing soil compaction thanks to it’s large tap root system, it also binds soil together to prevent soil erosion, keeping soil in good condition for whatever crops come after it. The plants are known for being the single greatest plant at absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere, in their lifetime they absorb more CO2 than any other crop or forest. Hemp can grow organically in almost any environment on the planet, and it does!
Does hemp shrink like cotton?
Hemp fabric can shrink a little when washed in a similar fashion to cotton or any natural fibre, unless it is “pre-shrunk”. The majority of our hemp fabrics here at The Hemp Shop are pre-shrunk for your convenience. You will want to look out for “pre-shrunk” fabrics and clothing to ensure that they will not shrink further after washing or drying processes. In particular, high-heat washing and drying in machines is the most likely way to cause shrinkage. Any natural fibre will shrink under certain circumstances, so we always recommend washing hemp fabric before you work with it, just in case.
Why is hemp fabric so expensive?
Organic hemp fabric can be a bit more expensive than other alternatives. The main reason that you will see some other fabrics at such cheap prices is because they do not take into account the environmental and human impact of the processes that go into the creation of that fabric. In short, these fabrics don’t have a high monetary cost, but they do have a high cost for our planet and for the health of the workers involved in the production. You may not be paying a premium for it now, but someone somewhere down the line is paying a price for you to have that cheap fabric. Be it exploitation of cheap labour, or careless destruction of the environment, there is a price being paid.
We ensure that our hemp fabrics come from organic, eco-friendly sources. We also ensure that working conditions and wages through our supply chains are fair and good. The price you are paying for your hemp fabric is helping workers on the other side of the world to lead a comfortable life on a fair wage, it’s helping to make it a viable crop for farmers to be able to maintain a decent profit, keep their families fed, and keep on doing what they love.
Another reason that hemp fabrics come at a premium is that there simply isn’t the large-scale infrastructure for producing hemp fabrics in the same way as other materials. Hemp requires different machinery with different calibrations to harvest, and turn it into yarn suitable for creating fabrics. The machinery and the processes all require industry investment to develop further but since hemp is not such a widely used material, the investment is less than that of, say, the cotton industry. This means that hemp fabrics are a specialist product, requiring specialist skills and equipment. Not just anyone can come in and start producing the kind of top-quality hemp fabrics that you see on offer here at The Hemp Shop. This puts those skills at a premium price-point.
So the answer to the question “Why is hemp fabric so expensive?” – is that your money is going to support a specialist industry, for the betterment of your planet and for the health of the people involved in the production process. We hope that with more and more people becoming switched-on to the benefits of hemp, the industry will continue to grow and with that growth, prices will come down over time. If you choose hemp fabric, we salute you!
Is hemp fabric water resistant?
In general, hemp fabric is not naturally water resistant. Some tight-woven fabrics like our heavy hemp canvas or ecru hemp canvas have a slight level of water resistance. When I say slight, I mean very slight. In a fine misty rain they would keep water off you for a short time, but water will always permeate them fairly quickly. The tight-weave can only do so much, and hemp is a highly absorbent fabric to begin with.
The good news is that you can apply treatments to hemp fabrics to make them waterproof. There are lots of ways to do this, the traditional method would be to “wax” the fabric with something like beeswax, or soy wax if you’re looking for a vegan alternative. Modern methods involve waterproofing creams or sprays like “Nikwax”. A quick bit of research in to waterproofing treatments for fabrics will turn up a huge range of options for you to choose from.
Does Hemp grow faster than bamboo?
No, hemp does not grow faster than bamboo. Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants on Earth! Some varieties of Bamboo can grow up to 2 feet per day in the right conditions. However, hemp does grow very quickly, requiring only 4 months to grow from seed to its full height (up to 4 metres!).
Hemp is also more sustainable than Bamboo. In order for raw Bamboo to be processed into fabric, it undergoes a chemical process turning it into viscose, essentially a man-made fibre that originated from a plant source. Hemp does not require any of these processes, the fibre is simply stripped from the stalk and this is what is used to spin the yarns to make the fabric.
Is hemp more sustainable than cotton?
Hemp is much more sustainable than cotton. Non-organic cotton uses 25% of all of the world’s agricultural chemicals,it requires 4x more water than hemp to grow the same amount of fabric, and all of that water erodes the precious topsoil, washing it away into waterways along with the chemical fertilisers, pesticides herbicides and defoliants used on non-organic cotton.
When compared to organic cotton, hemp still wins the day. Although organic cotton does not use any of the harmful chemicals mentioned above, it still requires huge amounts of water and land. We are talking about 4x more water and over 2x more land required compared to hemp.
How can you tell if fabric is hemp?
There are a number of ways to tell if a fabric is hemp. The best way to tell if your fabric is hemp, is by asking the manufacturer or supplier. But if that is not an option, there are a few other things you could try.
The only certain way to identify hemp fabric is by inspecting it under a powerful microscope to identify the hemp fibres, or using a chemical process to prove that it is hemp. Under a microscope, hemp fabric has a characteristic polygon shape to it, compared to other fibres such as linen which has seven peaks with sharp edges. Of course, you will really have to know what you are doing, and have a powerful microscope at your disposal to use this method.
If you don’t have a powerful microscope at hand (and let’s face it, who does?), then there are a few other methods for testing if your fabric is made from, or contains hemp. It is said that hemp can be distinguished from flax fibres by checking the direction that the fibres twist upon wetting. Hemp rotates anti-clockwise while flax fibres twist clockwise.
Then there is the burn test. For this you will require a flame (we suggest a candle). Take a pair of tweezers and a small sample piece of your fabric and burn it with the flame.
- Hemp fibre burns instantly with a bright flame while not leaving any beaded residue. The smell will resemble burning leaves or wood.
- Cotton takes a moment to burn, and the flame gets brighter over time. No molten beads. The smell resembles burning paper.
- Linen (flax) takes time to start burning and is easily extinguished by blowing. Leaves a wood-like smell after burning.
- Silk takes time to start burning and curls. It leaves dark molten beads and can smell like burned hair.
- Wool burns slowly and curls, leaving dark molten beads. Smells strongly of burned hair. Dark smoke.
- Artificial fibres (such as polyester) burns quickly, with a plastic-y burning smell.
Is hemp a breathable fabric?
Hemp is a highly breathable fabric thanks to its hollow fibres and moisture-wicking abilities. Breathability in fabrics is defined as “the ability of the fabric to permit water vapour to pass through it”. In clothing, hemp fibres actively remove water vapor from the skin, taking it to the outer surface of the fabric and allowing it to evaporate more easily. Hemp is more breathable than cotton, allowing for more water to pass through the fabric at a quicker rate. This contributes to the “thermo-dynamic” ability of hemp fabrics to keep us cool when it’s hot, and warm when it’s cool. If no water were able to pass through the fabric, that would mean that there was an impermeable barrier, which would very quickly result in our skin becoming hot and sweaty. Thankfully hemp fabrics are highly breathable, which is what makes it such a great temperature regulator.
Is hemp fabric plastic free?
All 100% hemp fabrics contain 0 plastics of any kind, and most hemp fabric blends also contain no plastics. For example, here at The Hemp Shop we stock a huge range of fabrics, some are 100% hemp, some are 55% hemp 45% organic cotton, other contain silk, or bamboo, these are all natural plant-based fabrics. The only hemp fabrics that contain any kind of polymer based synthetics are those that contain a percentage of lycra/spandex to add stretch such as hemp and bamboo lycra.
Does hemp add microplastics to the sea?
Hemp does not contribute to microplastic pollution in any way. Hemp is a natural resource, and as such it biodegrades back into non-harmful elements at the end of its life. Any microfibres that come from hemp fabrics are 100% non-harmful to the environment, and break down to actually be beneficial to the environment, returning carbon to the ecosystem. When you choose hemp fabrics, you can be sure that you are not contributing to microplastic pollution of our oceans, rivers or any part of the environment.
Does hemp dye well?
Since it is a highly absorbent material, hemp takes dye very well. Hemp is excellent at retaining colour from dyes, and does it much better than cotton or linen. A hemp t-shirt dyed with fibre-reactive dyes will continue looking as rich and vibrant as the day it was dyed, even after years of use.
Does hemp wrinkle like linen?
No, hemp does not wrinkle like linen. Although hemp and flax fibres are very similar, you will find that hemp fabrics wrinkle less than linen. Hemp fibres are what is known as “elastic fibres” meaning that they return to their original shape after being manipulated, in comparison flax fibres (the natural fibres in linen fabric) are a non-elastic fibre, meaning they do not try to return to their original shape. The elastic nature, coupled with the strong structure of hemp fibres results in less creasing and wrinkles when compared to linen fabrics.
What is hemp used for in clothing?
Hemp is used to make fabrics for many different types of clothing. Fibres from the stalk of the hemp plant are wound together into a yarn and then woven or knitted into fabrics. There are a huge range of hemp fabrics available from canvas to denim, linen, jersey, cloth, towelling, hessian and more! This means that hemp can be made into any type of clothing that you can imagine including coats and jackets, trousers, skirts, shorts, t-shirts, socks, underwear as well as accessories like scarves, hats, gloves, footwear and much more!
Now that you’re done learning about hemp fabrics, head over to our website to view the full range of sustainable, ethical and environmentally friendly hemp fabrics!