Hemp comes up in spring, when nature wakes up from winter torpor and primroses scatter meadows and roadsides.
THE HEMP PLANT
A BRIEF HISTORY OF HEMP
Hemp has accompanied men’s life for thousands of years, probably because it grows very quickly and it is extremely versatile. In fact, it can be refined into a variety of commercial items including paper, fabrics, oil, flour, cosmetics and drugs. The first Bible of Gutenberg and the U.S. Declaration of Independence were respectively printed and written on hemp paper. Christopher Columbus’s caravel sails were made up of hemp textile and well-known artists like Leonardo and Picasso painted their masterpieces on hemp canvas. Nowadays, sectors like furniture, design and green architecture employ hemp because of its several qualities.
HEMP IN BOTANY
Hemp Sativa, from which textile fibers come from, belongs to the Cannabaceae family. It is an annual plant that easily adapts to different climates. Depending on the environment, the stem heights can vary reaching up to 7 meters. After three months after sowing, it is time for harvesting. Once the plants are dried, fiber is extracted from the stem. It is possible to cultivate hemp on the same soil repeatedly. In fact, hemp does not deplete the soil, rather it it contributes to its recovery and softening.
FROM SEEDS TO FABRICS
The farming process usually begins in November and ends in September.
Hemp processing for fabric production is only the last step of a long series that start from sowing and it is followed by harvesting, whisking, maceration, fiber extraction and drying, until spinning and weaving. In the past, harvesting started in August to take advantage of the summer heat. In fact, the high temperatures enable the drying process of the plant that are collected in bundles to facilitate leaves to fall. Then, there is maceration that lasts for about one week and it is followed by fiber extraction. The extraction process has moved from handmade systems to mechanical ones that have fastened the procedure. Afterwards, the fiber undergoes additional drying, combing and spinning processes. In the past, these activities involved a prominent work force composed by highly specialized and skilled artisans. Despite the technological progress of the textile sector, hemp fabric production still requires a conspicuous number of human resources.
HEMP AND ITALY
Hemp history has its roots in Italy, especially in Carmagnola fields in Piemonte, in Polesine’s plains in Veneto, in the territory around Bologna, Ferrara, Modena, Caserta and Naples. Not by chance, hemp has been defined as The White Gold Of Italy during the XX Century. Due to its high resistance, hemp textile has a long lasting tradition in Italy. The Maritime Republics fleets used hemp fabric to produce their hawsers and sails. The domestic use of hemp fabric was spread since ancient times as well. For instance, table linen made up of hemp produced in Romagna – an Italian region – and decorated with copper mold were largely appreciated in the past like today. Nowadays, several Italian farmers cultivate hemp by using traditional systems. There are more than 3.000 hectares of hemp in the country and the majority of these crops are located in Puglia, followed by Piemonte, Veneto and Basilicata. The activity of the transformation of hemp bast into yarns and textiles has a long tradition in Italy as well. In fact, the Linificio e Canapificio Nazionale was specialized in this activity and the company has been listed in the stock exchange since 1876.
AN ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY FIBER
Practical, resistant and versatile, hemp has many qualities. Its robust roots prevent from soil erosion. Besides, hemp crops can be used in crops rotations to favor the restoration of polluted soil. Hemp cultivation does not require the use of pesticides and herbicides because of it is stinging; it needs little water – almost half of the quantity used for cotton – and it decomposes naturally and spontaneously. Thanks to its quick and vigorous growth, it reduces weeds development considerably without additional treatments. It requires little fertilization, preferably with organic and locally sourced material. For these reasons, hemp is an almost energy-neutral culture, suitable for organic farming. Hemp has a beneficial effect on crop rotations, as it improves yields of other crops thanks to a deep root system that fosters the storage of high levels of carbon in the soil. Last but not least, it is one of the most efficient plants able to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen.
Hemp textiles have several benefits, not only for the environment, but also for human beings. In addition to its resistant quality, hemp can absorb a great quantity of humidity thanks to its large internal cavities. It has good heat dispersion properties, so it keeps cool in summer and warm in winter. It hardly absorbs odors – nor external and of the body – and, unlike other materials, it protects skin from UV rays and it has an electric charge that stimulates blood flow. Being extremely porous, hemp textiles have sound insulating and permeability properties. Moreover, dust mites, molds, fungi and moths rarely affect it; therefore, it is a hypoallergenic material. Unlike linen, hemp textile folds are milder so its wearability is longer. Due to these qualities, hemp textiles have a versatile application: from interior design and textile furnishing to curtains and high-quality household linen like table and bed linen. Hemp textiles will give your house a natural and environmentally friendly setup.
GOOD TASTE AND PRACTICALITY
Hemp is an Italian widely used fiber, suitable for home usage: pillowcases, bed sheets and blankest. The more you wash hemp textiles, the more they increase in beauty. It provides your home a fresh and cozy atmosphere. Choosing hemp textiles for you home, reveals good taste and practicality. In fact, this kind of fabric has sound insulation properties as well as wear and tear resistance. Its pleasant perfume similar to mint, recalls nice memories. Hemp bath linens result fresh and resistant and have excellent effects on skin because the natural fiber absorbs water, leaving a dried and compact skin and stimulating the microcirculation that will provide a shining color to it.
HEMP AND REST
Sleeping well means sleeping long and sleeping comfortable. Hemp bed sheets favor relaxing because of their freshness, softness and perfume. Good smell and peace feelings. The body will rest covered with a natural, fresh and ancient fiber like the fields where it was cultivated. Bed linen made up of hemp creates the ideal sleeping condition offering benefits while sleeping.