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spinning hemp

Tips for Spinning Hemp

Bast hemp fibers, picture in public domain

Hemp is a bast fiber and has been spun since antiquity. Mainly thought of as useful for making heavy ropes and canvas, today’s hemp sliver is far from being tough. With the advent of an enzymatic removal of lignin from the fiber, de-gummed hemp is now as strong as ever but with a new soft touch. Hemp is water absorbent, resists mold and UV light, breathes well, and takes dye easily due to its porous qualities.

Beautiful hemp fibers, waiting to be spun.

Sounds like a great fiber but how do you spin it? Hemp is easy to spin. If you would like to try spinning hemp on a drop spindle, a light weight top whorl or support spindle may be your best choice. Good quality hemp is very fine and slides easily like silk. If you would like to spin hemp on a spinning wheel, set your tension low to and increase it gradually as you get the hang of it. Whether spinning on a spindle or wheel, try spinning the singles clockwise. Do some sampling to see the wide range of possible yarns you can make with hemp. For a more woolen type yarn, try spinning from the fold or carding with silk. I like a 60/40 hemp/silk mix. You will want to use fine carders or cotton carders for blending. For a worsted yarn, you can use a forward short draw. For an even smoother yarn, try spinning wet like you would for flax. There should not be many fly away fibers but spinning wet will ensure that the yarn is perfectly smooth. Just put a small bowl of water near you and dip the fingers of your forward facing hand in the water and smooth it on as you spin.

When plying, spin the yarn in the opposite direction. There is no need to boil your finished yarns. My suggestion is that you set the twist by holding your skein with two hands over a steaming pot of water or tea kettle.

Hemp is a bast fiber and has been spun since antiquity. Mainly thought of as useful for making heavy ropes and canvas, today’s hemp sliver is far from being tough. With the advent of an enzymatic removal of lignin from the fiber, de-gummed hemp is now as strong as ever but with a new soft…

Dawn’s Dress Diary

” data-medium-file=”https://dawnsdressdiary.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/hempspinning1.jpg?w=225″ data-large-file=”https://dawnsdressdiary.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/hempspinning1.jpg?w=450″ src=”https://dawnsdressdiary.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/hempspinning1.jpg?w=225&h=300″ alt=”The amount of processed hemp fibre I processed from the stalks. I wanted to spin this into yarn for the experience.” width=”225″ height=”300″ srcset=”https://dawnsdressdiary.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/hempspinning1.jpg?w=225&h=300 225w, https://dawnsdressdiary.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/hempspinning1.jpg?w=113&h=150 113w, https://dawnsdressdiary.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/hempspinning1.jpg 450w” sizes=”(max-width: 225px) 100vw, 225px” />

The amount of processed hemp fibre I had to be able to spin.

In mid-September I posted about learning how to process hemp for fibre in a SCA TUA class. This is a similar process to processing flax for linen, and I found it very interesting! Once I had the fibre though, I really wanted to see about spinning it as well. I didn’t have very much fibre from the large bundle of hemp stalks so I didn’t anticipate the opportunity to MAKE anything with the hemp yarn, but I still wanted to give it a whirl (har har) since I had the material.

Since I had the drop spindle and distaff available from the other class I took at the same event, I put the hemp fibre onto the distaff and spun it with a supported/drop spindle technique, with a small cloth and bowl of water to moisten my fingertips.

” data-medium-file=”https://dawnsdressdiary.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/hempspinning3.jpg?w=225″ data-large-file=”https://dawnsdressdiary.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/hempspinning3.jpg?w=450″ src=”https://dawnsdressdiary.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/hempspinning3.jpg?w=640″ alt=”Using the notched spindle to spin hemp fibre into yarn” srcset=”https://dawnsdressdiary.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/hempspinning3.jpg 450w, https://dawnsdressdiary.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/hempspinning3.jpg?w=113 113w, https://dawnsdressdiary.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/hempspinning3.jpg?w=225 225w” sizes=”(max-width: 450px) 100vw, 450px” />

Using the notched spindle to spin hemp fibre into yarn

I had anticipated that hemp would spin similar to the flax I had worked with earlier… but it didn’t. The hemp didn’t “glue” together as well as the flax had with the moisture, and the resulting fibre is much more course and fuzzy. I suspect more heckling would have created a smoother yarn, but I didn’t have any hackles or suitable substitutes at home…. (and honestly, I just wanted to spin and see how it would work – I wasn’t super concerned with the result as much as the process).

” data-medium-file=”https://dawnsdressdiary.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/hempspinning2.jpg?w=225″ data-large-file=”https://dawnsdressdiary.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/hempspinning2.jpg?w=450″ src=”https://dawnsdressdiary.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/hempspinning2.jpg?w=640″ alt=”The hemp fibre coming off the distaff and going into spun yarn.” srcset=”https://dawnsdressdiary.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/hempspinning2.jpg 450w, https://dawnsdressdiary.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/hempspinning2.jpg?w=113 113w, https://dawnsdressdiary.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/hempspinning2.jpg?w=225 225w” sizes=”(max-width: 450px) 100vw, 450px” />

The hemp fibre coming off the distaff and going into spun yarn.

I opted to not spin up all of the hemp fibre, because I thought I would keep some of it as-was for reference. With the yarn I did spin up, I took it off the spindle and plied some of it into a two-ply yarn which I thought would be smoother and more stable than the single-ply.

” data-medium-file=”https://dawnsdressdiary.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/hempspinning4.jpg?w=225″ data-large-file=”https://dawnsdressdiary.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/hempspinning4.jpg?w=450″ src=”https://dawnsdressdiary.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/hempspinning4.jpg?w=640″ alt=”Handspun hemp yarn on a drop spindle” srcset=”https://dawnsdressdiary.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/hempspinning4.jpg 450w, https://dawnsdressdiary.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/hempspinning4.jpg?w=113 113w, https://dawnsdressdiary.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/hempspinning4.jpg?w=225 225w” sizes=”(max-width: 450px) 100vw, 450px” />

Handspun hemp yarn on a drop spindle

Just like keeping some of the fibre without spinning it – I also kept some of the single ply for comparison to the two-ply. It didn’t seem to be smoother, though I feel it is substantially stronger. It’s pretty incredible… this small amount of yarn is from a bundle of hemp stalks as thick as my wrist… (mind you, I didn’t spin the tow, and my process was likely no where near as efficient as someone with far more experience. Still, it’s incredible to think of how much hemp would be needed to make even a simple garment or woven item.)

” data-medium-file=”https://dawnsdressdiary.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/hempspinning5.jpg?w=300″ data-large-file=”https://dawnsdressdiary.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/hempspinning5.jpg?w=600″ src=”https://dawnsdressdiary.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/hempspinning5.jpg?w=640″ alt=”Three stages of the hemp fibre. Unspun, single ply, and two ply yarn – after being spun on a drop spindle.” srcset=”https://dawnsdressdiary.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/hempspinning5.jpg 600w, https://dawnsdressdiary.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/hempspinning5.jpg?w=150 150w, https://dawnsdressdiary.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/hempspinning5.jpg?w=300 300w” sizes=”(max-width: 600px) 100vw, 600px” />

Three stages of the hemp fibre. Unspun, single ply, and two ply yarn

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Handspun hemp yarn on a drop spindle – promo for my blog post on Dawn’s Dress Diary

” data-medium-file=”https://dawnsdressdiary.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/hempspinpromo.jpg?w=300″ data-large-file=”https://dawnsdressdiary.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/hempspinpromo.jpg?w=600″ src=”https://dawnsdressdiary.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/hempspinpromo.jpg?w=150&h=150″ alt=”Handspun hemp yarn on a drop spindle – promo for my blog post on Dawn’s Dress Diary” width=”150″ height=”150″ srcset=”https://dawnsdressdiary.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/hempspinpromo.jpg?w=150&h=150 150w, https://dawnsdressdiary.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/hempspinpromo.jpg?w=300&h=300 300w” sizes=”(max-width: 150px) 100vw, 150px” />If you would like to follow me, you can click the subscribe feature on WordPress if you are a WordPress member. If you aren’t, or would like to see my posts in your Facebook feed, please come follow me on Facebook.

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In mid-September I posted about learning how to process hemp for fibre in a SCA TUA class. This is a similar process to processing flax for linen, and I found it very interesting! Once I had the fibre though, I really wanted to see about spinning it as well. I didn't have very much fibre from…