Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dudleyspinner Tie Dye Rovings, Spinning Hemp, a Tutorial to Get You Started

Hemp fiber has been around and used for centuries. It is one of the first plants used for fiber. Hemp for Victory is a video produced by the USDA to promote growing of hemp during WWII.  I have enjoyed spinning hemp fiber for a number of years. It is a bast or plant based fiber that spins a little differently than wool. It does not have any stretch or memory, which makes the fabric made from hemp much like linen, which is spun flax fiber.  The hemp fabric does have exceptional drape, which makes it very useful when it is  blended with wool. Hemp is antimicrobial, it resists rotting. It is stronger when wet. This means that when you wash this fiber it is at it's strongest, so clothing made with hemp lasts a very long time.  Something that clothing manufactures do not like about hemp cloth, but you as a consumer would find useful and money saving. Hemp wears in, getting better with age, rather than wearing out, needing to be replaced.

Everyday items like dish cloths and towels do not get sour smelling and disgusting nearly as quickly. The antimicrobial properties help to keep things in the kitchen clean and fresh. My favorite dish cloths are hand spun hemp. They are holding up very well with constant use. I suggest a dish cloth for your first spinning project. It is small and very useful. Any misgivings about how well your spinning  should be of no concern, and you can observe how well this fiber holds up to daily use, and machine washings.

A distaff would be useful for spinning hemp. The fiber is attached to the distaff and tied with a ribbon so it is held together, but fibers can still be drawn off the bundle. I don't have a spinning wheel with a distaff, and you may not have one either. That does not mean that we can't enjoy spinning this useful hemp fiber.

To get started I pull a segment of the hemp roving about 6-8 inches long off of the bundle.  I then place this on a towel. I use a towel to contain the fibers on my lap. If I don't do this the fibers shed onto my clothing and make a mess, and I waste a lot of fiber.

Do I need to spin hemp wet?  No, you do not have to spin this hemp fiber wet. I have spun kilos of  hemp dry. I didn't add much moisture to it at all, occasionally licking my finger when making a join. It does make a hairier yarn. It is still strong, and useful. I just did a test run of spinning and I do wet my fingers when making a join, it just makes things easier.

What does spinning the hemp wet do? Spinning wet sounds like you soak the fiber, this is not the thing to do.
Wet spinning should be called damp finger spinning. I use a small dish of water with a drop or two of olive oil in the water. I dip my fingers in the water and then pick up the fiber to be spun. My fingers are not constantly wet, but do stay somewhat moist. The olive oil helps to keep my fingers from drying out. I have not found the oil to be a problem with the finished yarn. Spinning with moisture does help the yarn become more smooth and stronger because more fibers are tightly spun into the yarn.
Hand spun Hand Knit Hemp Bedspread

If I am spinning hemp dry and having problems making a join what should I do?  I do what spinners have done for as long as there have been spinners, I lick my finger and apply to the fiber, helping the fibers to stick together. My very favorite way of keeping my fingers moist is to have an iced beverage nearby, the sweat on the glass can be easily used as your moistening station. Orange juice with Bushmills Irish Whiskey seems to work the best.

This is so scratchy! Does it get softer?  YES!  Hemp is a very strong fiber and when it is first spun and knit up it feels terrible. It gets better each time it is washed, this blanket has been washed about 3 times and it feels like cotton, with drape.  Hemp wears in, not out. I expect that this hemp bedspread will last a very long time.  I like to use it knowing that it may be handed down to the next generation and still be strong and soft and comfortable for many years.

How can I find this fiber for sale?  Hemp fiber for Sale in my Etsy store

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At 5:21 PM, Anonymous Denyse Milliken said...

Love your great description of the process of spinning hemp. I like to card mine in with wool, spin it up and use it for the foot part of my socks, it never needs darning.

I'm also the type who will use the sweat on a beverage glass to join the fiber; a beer bottle on a hot day when spinning outside works quite well too ;-)

At 6:04 PM, Blogger Deb Brandt said...

Denyse, I have been doing some testing to find what percentage of hemp with wool will make it machine washable. I think a sweater that you can throw into the washer and dryer would be fantastic. I could give things to people that don't want to fuss with hand washing.


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