Thursday, 3 June 2010
IS HEMP REALLY GREEN?
hemp and linen clothing
Hemp peasant shirt with linen collar
Yes, it is one of the most environmentally 'green' fibres. It grows like a weed, enhances the soil where it is grown and does not need any of the 8000 chemicals used to grow and process conventional cotton which hugely damage the environment. Linen is similarly almost pollution free and both need little water to grow, again quite unlike cotton (even the organic type) and in addition to making fibre for textiles, supply seeds, oil and pulp used for bank notes, building material, and other industrial processes, not to mention cosmetic creams , soap and cooking oils
You could also say that most linen and hemp cloths are re-used, second-hand, in vast quantities, making a huge saving. Most old household linens are passed on to new users until they literally fall to pieces, and the French were particularly good at this. They patched and darned the holes made by the cruel loose iron springs on the beds, the rips and tears from the hedges and bushes used to dry the wash, and sometimes you come across a darn that is a real work of art (probably as taught by the nuns who trained little girls to do it)and the end result is a circle formed by weaving in and out of the spokes sewn across each hole in a spider web pattern. I once had a textile student customer who collected all forms of mending, patching and darning for her thesis, which taught me that everything has a value to someone and nothing should be thrown away! Today I had a customer from Japan who makes very fashion-conscious bags and she specifically chose damaged hemp feed sacks, darned and patched oddments together with every tiny scrap of indigo dyed and printed material I had in my rag-bag. She sells these things in a remote, rural island in Japan and sews them all by hand with some old tape and linen thread I was able to find for her. Her grateful smiles were reward enough and she left happy with lots of new ideas for sewing, while she travelled round the South West. A lovely enterprising girl!