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Go gren by wearing hemp jewelry


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Go gren by wearing hemp jewelry

  1. 1. ==== ====Go green by wearing hemp ====Hemp fiber has been used by mankind to make eco clothes since before recorded history. It iscurrently thought that hemp is the oldest cultivated plant in the world with uses dating back to thestone age. Bits of hemp fabric have been found dating back to about 8,000 B.C. revealing theoldest example of human industry. Fiber imprints have been found in pottery shards in both Chinaand Taiwan dating back an estimated 10,000 years. Archeologists believe that, in addition to flax,hemp has been weaved since the Neolithic period right through to the middle ages. Hemp has amore recent history as well in a variety of applications (including an important role in earlyAmerica) and has been a very valuable crop leading up to the modern era.While the fiber is one of the most valuable parts of the hemp plant (commonly referred to as Bast)used in the creation of textiles, industrial hemp has a wide range of uses including but not limitedto paper, cordage, bio-fuel, health food and biodegradable plastics. While truly a remarkable plant,the purpose of this article is to examine the use of hemp fiber in the manufacturing of textiles andultimately clothing. We will also look at the sustainability of hemp as a crop but highly encourageyou to research and explore some of the other roles this important plant plays. You willundoubtedly be led into an eye-opening and wondrous path regarding hemps many uses andcolorful history.Crop Sustainability:Unlike cotton, which accounts for approximately 50% of all chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, etc.)used in American agriculture today, hemp requires virtually none. Hemp is naturally resistant tomost pests and grows very densely. As a result, it does not need chemicals having practically noweed or insect enemies. It has been noted that when grown in rotation, pests in future crops areactually reduced. In addition, the plant is an excellent source of oxygen production. With eachgrowth cycle the soil is renewed returning from 60-70% of the nutrients it takes. Its long rootsaerate soil for the benefit of future crops, remove toxins and prevent soil erosion as well. As acrop, hemp requires little to no fertilizer and grows quickly and effortlessly in moderate climates.From a cost perspective, hemp is less expensive to farm because of its minimal growthrequirements. Canadian hemp farmers are earning 10X the revenue per acre than American grainfarmers making hemp a viable alternative to crops experiencing reduced demand. Perhapstobacco farmers should take notice!Compared to cotton or flax, hemp is considered a high-yield crop producing significantly more fiberper square foot and with less water requirements. When grown on the same land, hemp willproduce twice the amount of fiber as cotton and six times that of flax. It would take four acres oftrees to yield the same amount of fiber as a mere one acre of hemp. In other words, hemp canyield 4X the amount of fiber of an average size forest. What an extremely productive natural fiber!Trees on the other hand require 50 to 500 years to grow were as hemp can yield three to four
  2. 2. times annually (approx. 100 day life cycle). Hemp cultivation could significantly decrease if notcompletely stop the destruction of our forests!Hemp Fiber:Up until the 1920s, approx. 80% of all garments were made from hemp textiles. Even the nowfamous Levi Strauss used a light weight hemp canvas for its original pair of jeans. Since that time,hemp has been used to make many types of garments and accessories. Big names such asPatagonia, Adidas, Calvin Klein, Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren have recently marketedproducts made from hemp.The valuable bast fibers, which give the plant its strength, are contained within the hollow wood-like core of the plants stalk under the outer most bark. Grown densely packed (up to 150 plantsper square meter), tall plants suitable for the production of the long primary bast fibers are theresult. The hemp fibers run the length of the plant anywhere from 3 to 15 ft long.The primary fibersaverage 8" in length and can be spun or woven into a fine linen-like type fabric. These fibers arenow commonly blended with other fibers such as flax, cotton, wool, linen or silk.A variety of tactileexperiences can be created by weaving hemp as intricately as lace, smooth as silk or as coarseas burlap. Modern hemp blends created today for the garment industry are cool to touch andcomfortable to wear. While hemp garments are often comparatively more expensive than thosemade from cotton due to higher processing costs and limited quantities, its superiority is clear.One of the most commonly known attributes about hemp fiber is its exceptional tensile strengthwhich is 3X that of cotton. In addition, the fiber is naturally antimicrobial and resistant to ultravioletlight as well as mold, mildew, heat and insects which makes it excellent for outdoor wear. The fiberis not only many times more durable than cotton but warmer, softer and more water absorbent.This also makes hemp more absorbent to dyes and thus less prone to fading. Because of hempssuperior insulating properties, it keeps you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Hempfibers actually soften with each washing without fiber degradation. Hemp production usessignificantly less chemicals than cotton which makes it more sustainable and naturally moresuitable for people with chemical sensitivities. The fiber is completely biodegradable, holds itsshape as good as polyester but also has breathability. The fibers, which are naturally light in color,require little or no bleach.Fiber to fabric:While it is legal in the US to own hemp products such as clothing and foods derived from the plant,it is illegal to cultivate it here. This makes the US the only industrialized nation on earth that doesnot allow its production based on a law that does not make the distinction between industrial hempfrom marijuana. All hemp fabric is therefore imported. The primary countries supplying hemp to theUS include China, Hungary, Thailand, Romania and Chile with production coming from othernations including Australia, England, Canada and New Zealand as well.The basic process of creating hemp fabric for garments is four fold:-Separation of the fiber-Spinning/Weaving the fiber into Yarn-Cleaning/Softening
  3. 3. -Dyeing/FinishingCenturies old traditional eco-friendly methods of mechanical hemp processing are still used incountries such as Romania and Hungary. Modern methods include chemical rather thanmechanical processes which are faster, less labor intensive and ultimately less expensive.Unfortunately, there are manufacturers out there who are more interested in profits and as a resultopt for the chemical methods as opposed to protecting the health of the consumer and ourenvironment.The process of separating the bast fibers from the stalk is called "retting". The organic methods ofseparation are both natural and mechanical. The retting process breaks down pectin and lignin,the substances that glue the fibers to the stem core. Two natural retting techniques are dew andwater retting. Both methods use a bacterial action to break down the glue, the former aided bydew or rain where as the later takes the bundled hemp and floats it in water to loosen the fiberfrom the stem.In dew retting, stalks are first cut in to 12-18" lengths and are then left in the moistfields. In order for the stalks to dry, they are then racked together every few days followed bybailing when drying and retting is complete. The dew retting process takes approx. 2-3 weeks tofinish based on weather conditions. In water retting, the stalks are soaked for approx. 20 days toloosen the fiber. This method produces a higher quality fiber but is costly and if the water is notdisposed of properly can pollute the body of water used in the process. In both methods, thestems must also be monitored to avoid excessive degradation.A seemingly primitive labor intensive mechanical process is called scutching Once the stems areremoved and washed, they are beaten to remove the soft tissue. This is followed by drying so thatonly the fibers remain. More modern mechanical methods use steam and specially designedmachinery on site to separate the fiber from the hurd (the pulp by-product after fiber is removed).In eastern Europe the primary means of processing rely on traditional organic methods includingnew cleaner biologically-based enzyme technology. In contrast, China, the worlds leadingproducer of hemp fabric uses chemical methods of processing.Spinning hemp fiber in to yarn which is then weaved or knitted into garments is essentially thesame for hemp processed by chemical or organic means. The only real difference between thetwo is the fiber length. Organic fibers are generally longer whereas chemically processed hempbecomes "cottonized" and tends to have short fiber. The spinning equipment may vary as a resultbut the process remains same.Organic cleaning and softening methods and machinery are currently being researched anddeveloped by ecologically-minded hemp textile manufacturers. This enables the fabric to remainorganic and chemical free as well as retain its softness and durability, a characteristic that is oftendiminished using chemical means. The natural light color of hemp fiber prevents the need to usetoxic chlorine bleach. If lightening is absolutely necessary, an eco-friendly non-toxic alternative ishydrogen peroxide.The environmental friendliness involving the dyeing and finishing of hemp textile varies greatlyaround the world. In the US, there are laws in place which regulate the types of dyes and dyeingmethods being used, especially in CA where many dye houses exist. The dye itself is anotherconsideration. The toxic content of the dye as well as the disposal of excess dye and chemicalsdetermine the measure of harm done to the environment. The proper disposal of the waste is of
  4. 4. the utmost importance in order to minimize any potentially detrimental environmental effects.Hemp garments can be dyed or left in a "natural" state, which means no dye at all. When left un-dyed, garments come in varying shades of beige which is the natural color of the hemp fibers afterprocessing. An obvious consideration for a sustainable garment business would be to choosedyes which are the last harmful to the environment (such as low impact and fiber-reactive dyesmade from natural components that are water soluble containing no heavy metals). In addition, itis essential to work with dye houses that use such dyes and employ strict ecological safetymeasures as well. Equally important is to eliminate or at least moderate the amount of synthesizedchemicals used in the finishing process in an effort to increase the fabrics overall sustainability.Finishing can involve anything from applying compounds to improve smoothness, stiffness andstrength to processes that change surface appearance and texture. Eco-friendly methods of bothdyeing and finishing have been developed.There are chemical processes that can be used at each stage of turning fiber into fabric and fabricinto garments. We encourage transparency at every level from the field to the factory somerchants and consumers alike can make the most educated choices possible regarding theproducts they wish to either sell or wear. The process of growing is only half the equation whencreating healthy organic and/or sustainable garments. The various stages of processing must bedone using methods that take into consideration the health of both the environment and theconsumer.Conclusion:Hemp can be considered in many ways nothing short of miraculous. This sustainable and easilyrenewable resource is used for food, clothing, energy and shelter (yes shelter, hemp is also usedin making building materials). Its no wonder why so many people and organizations have becomepassionate about spreading the message of hemp as a world saving plant! Supporting the growinghemp industry by purchasing apparel made from hemp can be considered by some a revolutionaryact. Im sure our founding fathers would agree, after all George Washington and Thomas Jeffersonsowed hemp on their plantations! Make a statement and set an example by choosing hempgarments as part of your business and/or wardrobe today!==== ====Go green by wearing hemp
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