If there’s one area of the hemp industry that holds much promise in the future, it’s textiles.
Hemp has been used as a source of high-quality fabric for thousands of years, producing everything from clothing to the durable rope used on ships. In fact, the English word “canvas” is derived from cannabis, meaning “made from hemp.”
What makes hemp textiles special? How were they used throughout history? And what is their future? Read on for a quick look at the next big use of hemp.
The stalk of the hemp plant is composed of two main layers: an inner woody pith layer and an outer bast fiber layer. Whereas the woody part is used for animal bedding, fuel, and building materials, hemp textiles are produced exclusively from the bast fibers.
These fibers are long and exceptionally durable, making them excellent choices for sturdy textile products. It’s estimated that hemp fabric is about three times stronger than cotton, so a shirt made from hemp would last far longer than one made from cotton.
Textiles made from hemp have many other attractive features: they’re soft, lightweight, and resistant to shrinkage and pilling.
Hemp is an incredibly versatile plant. It was also one of the first plants utilized by humans, so it’s not surprising that it was a major source of fabric. Archaeological finds from the Middle East suggest that hemp cloth was used as early as 8,000 BC, and it later made its way into Europe.
Indeed, it’s quite likely that the first clothes ever made were woven out of hemp. Due to its coarseness and cheap cost, hemp clothing was typically worn by members of the lower class. There’s evidence that it was used by peasants in Europe and as far away as Japan and China.
Aside from clothes, hemp textiles were also used to make rope, sails, canvas, sacks, and building material. There’s even research evidence that the Vikings used hemp for ship rope and sailcloth.
You may be surprised to learn that back in 1938, hemp was hailed as the “billion-dollar crop” with thousands of potential uses. Unfortunately, marijuana prohibition happened, and by extent, hemp was made illegal to grow in the U.S.
Today, much like the case with hemp paper, the issue with hemp textiles is that the industry has withered away after nearly a century of prohibition.
In that sense, even though hemp fabric is incredibly efficient and environmentally sustainable, the infrastructure needed to produce it in the U.S. simply isn’t there.
However, the hemp textiles industry is growing. The global market for hemp fiber is expected to go from about $190 million in 2017 to $260 million in 2023.
More importantly, hemp textiles hold a lot of potential for farmers. According to estimates, one acre of hemp grown for fiber makes about $480 of profit.
Although this doesn’t seem like a lot, we have to remember that CBD hemp biomass prices are falling. More importantly, growing hemp for CBD requires a lot of work. As a result, growing hemp for fabric is becoming an increasingly viable option.