Hemp is another plant-based fiber made from – surprise – the hemp plant. It’s very similar to linen in texture and application. In fact, if you want to learn about hemp fiber, a good place to start is the entry for linen.
Hemp yarns can be used in plain-woven fabrics, stretch jersey and even fleece. It’s growing in popularity because it has a smaller carbon footprint than cotton, and because some optimists are hoping that increased cultivation of hemp will help their legalize cannabis campaign*.
A notable advantage of hemp is that it’s (relatively) environmentally friendly to produce. The plant requires no pesticides and it grows fast enough to strangle weeds in the fields. It also produces more usable fiber per acre than flax and cotton. It can even help purify the soil in which it grows, by reducing mercury and zinc contamination.
Hemp fibers can be very strong and durable, which made it a very popular choice for rope and sail canvas back when it was more widely cultivated. It’s proven so difficult to replace with other fibers that rope manufacture is a major argument put forth by those arguing for cultivation of hemp within the US. It’s also used to manufacture paper and animal bedding.
*don’t tell them that only the male hemp plants are used for fiber, so there’s no buds to smoke – it’ll break the hearts of the pro-weed crowd.