April 2004

How to choose fiber
Part IV - Linen & Hemp

On the topic of natural fibers, so far we have talked about wool, silk, and cotton. This month we talk about Linen and Hemp.

Linen is one of the strongest among all plant base fibers. It is 2 to 3 times stronger than cotton. Linen is soft and has a lustrous shine, thus produces a lint free fabric. Linen fiber is derived from the stalk of Flax. Its beautiful luster comes from the natural wax content of the plant. Linen takes dyes beautifully and colors never fade, even after washing several times. Linen is machine washable. You can place a linen garment in the dryer for about 10 to 15 minutes to get rid of excess water, then let it dry flat. In fact washing linen improves its quality. It feels softer after several washes. Linen is highly absorbent and is a good choice for summer wear.

Hemp is a wonderful fiber for fabric, yarn, and paper. Because of physical similarities, many have the wrong impression of Hemp as the psychedelic drug, Marijuana. Although both are from the same plant family of Cannabis, Hemp has almost no THC (Cannabinoids, the psychoactive ingredient that is the main property of Marijuana). It can be successfully planted without the use of herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers; thus very environmental friendly. Hemp is extremely absorbent and can replace Linen. It has a high luster and is extraordinarily resistant to bacteria and molds. Hemp fibers are naturally white, and because of high absorbency take dyes very nicely. It is said that 100% Mercerized Hemp-yarn is very soft and can be used for babies and adults alike. Blending hemp with other fibers such as cotton, linen, and wool improves their strength and absorbency. Hemp should be gently washed and dried flat. It is noteworthy that both Presidents Washington and Jefferson grew hemp on their farms. In addition, the Declaration of Independence was drafted on hemp paper.

Coming up next month, we will talk about manmade fibers such as Soy Silk, Acrylic, Nylon, Polyester, and Rayon.

Nazanin S. Fard

Needlecraft University

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