Hemp fiber has been used for some 10,000 years for items such as clothing, rope, paper, sailcloth, and everything in between.
Hemp belongs to the bast fiber family which means it gets softer with time. With hemp yarn, you can create almost any piece of fabric you wish and much more.
Learn the basics of how to make hemp yarn in this article. But first, let’s clarify the definition a bit more.
What is Hemp Yarn?
There are two reasons hemp yarn is so great: its length and its strength. The fiber diameter ranges from 16 to 50 microns, which means it is thicker than wool. You can knit, crochet, weave, and yes, even spin with it.
Hemp yarn is ideal to create bags, delicate lace, summer clothing, and items for the home. This yarn makes a good warp yarn.
Hemp weaves in a manner that is similar to linen, but yarn is much softer. Hemp yarn washes and polishes beautifully with ironing, and it also doesn’t fuzz while you are weaving with it.
Pre-Spinning Stage: Growing!
It’s worthy to note at this stage that the method of cultivating hemp for fiber use is different from the method of hemp farming for the use of its seeds, or its flowers and leaves.
Hemp seeds that are used to make yarn are densely planted so that the plants grow tall and slender with minimal branching. The plants are then ideally harvested when they start flowering, but before the seeds appear.
As an aspiring hemp yarn maker and hemp grower, you might do well in investing in a hemp harvester. This is a machine that separates the stalks from the top part of the plant without damaging the stems in any way.
Once the leafy part has been separated, the stalks are left in the field for soaking.
- Leaving the stalks in the field gets dew, natural bacteria, and fungi to do the job in about five weeks. Some farmers soak the stalks in water while others use chemicals such as enzymes. In both dew and water soaking, the stalks need to be turned from time to time to ensure uniform soaking. This method is much faster at about ten days.
- Step two entails breaking the hemp fibers by passing them through a breaker or fluted rolls. A machine known as the decorticator is ideal for this purpose. The broken stems are supposed to be beaten to separate the fibers from the hurd.
- A stage of combing for further cleaning of the fibers of any hurd remnants follows. This is known as hackling.
- Finally, comes the stage of roving which entails twisting the fibers to improve their strength. Only then are they ready to be spun into yarns! The shorter fibers known as tow fibers, are also to be separated from the long fibers known as line fibers. All of these things can be done manually, but for large commercial crops – mechanical processes are more common.
The Spinning Process
Wet and Dry Spinning
This is the part where the yarning really starts! What is spinning? It’s the process of twisting and drawing out fibers to create a smooth and continuous yarn.
For hemp yarn, spinning can either be done in a dry or wet state. Where dry spinning produces coarser yarns, wet spinning leads to finer yarns. Don’t spin the hemp fibers like you would wring wet clothes.
For manual spinning, a piece of simple and traditional equipment known as the spindle is necessary. A spindle is a reedy, rounded rod with elongated ends and a weight on it. It comes in wood, metal or plastic.
With that said, wet spinning is preferred as Hemp gives you bast fibers. Typically, the line fibers are wet spun while the tow fibers are dry spun for creations like ropes and twines. Wet or dry, twisting is essential to producing hemp yarn.
In some cases, hemp is spun together with other fine quality fibers such as silk, cotton, and flax.
To provide a softer feel, some companies even use hemp fabrics that are blended with Tencel, a sustainably manufactured fiber that adds sheen, comfort, and drape of conventional rayon, without the environmental harm caused by it.
Spindles come in different weights. For manually spinning hemp fibers into yarns, you will need a spindle about a quarter of a pound in weight.
Now, even though manual spinning is hardly practiced these days because it’s such hard work, this section will teach you how to do it in any case. Here’s your step-by-step framework for how to make hemp yarn by manual spinning:
- Pinch some length of the fiber and turn the spindle – as that will add the twist to your fibers so to create a continuous strand of fine yarns.
- Continue the process till you’ve reached the end of your fibers. A gap of about two inches per pinch is good for a really fine spin.
- Check that your yarn is tough enough not to be pulled apart easily. Otherwise, you need to add more twist. Also, make sure that the spindle does not roll backward.
- Keep joining fibers by rolling the ends together with your fingers to get longer yarns.
- The final step in manual spinning is blocking. You need to take the yarns out of the spindle and loop them using the thumb and elbow of your less active hand as the two points.
- Soak the loops gently into lukewarm water and squeeze out excess water. Stretch them out or hang them to dry.
- Once dry, your hemp yarns are ready to be woven into fine hemp clothing!