Cotton and linen material is a sustainable alternative to Virgin Cotton in denim

Update: 08-11-2019
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Even if the government comes up wool yarn suppliers wit […]

Even if the government comes up wool yarn suppliers with a regulatory framework, states have to adopt it,” said Mike Lewis, director of Thirds Wave Farms in Kentucky and one of the first private citizens to legally farm hemp through a partnership with Patagonia in since its prohibition in the . We have a long ways to go and a lot of legislating that needs to be drafted. But we’re heading in the right direction. I think it’ll be two or three years before it’s extremely common.There are plenty of reasons environmentalists go gaga for hemp. It uses about half as much water per season as cotton, requires no pesticides or herbicides and has uses that span an incredible gamut: paper, textiles, medicine, skin care and even construction materials and fuel. Taking to just about any soil, it grows fast—very fast. Hemp grows from seed to harvest in 90 to 100 days, compared with 150 to 180 days for cotton.As a textile, hemp plays well with other fibers, generously sharing its innate strength and durability. “Cotton is hemp’s best friend forever,” said Guy Carpenter, president of Bear Fiber, a North Carolina-based supply chain management firm that specializes in hemp.

Just an addition of 15 percent to 20 percent of hemp fiber into a yarn can make a fabric significantly stronger and more abrasion-resistant.” In denim, hemp absorbs indigo in a “more concentrated way,” he added.More anecdotally, the fiber boasts increased wicking properties and superior temperature management, staying cool in summer and warm in winter. It may even have antimicrobial properties, though that has yet to be conclusively proven. “There’s a lot of claims but there’s not a lot of tests to back it up,” quipped Eric Henry, president of TS Designs, an eco-friendly T-shirt screen-printer from North Carolina that promotes local and transparent “seed to shirt” manufacturing. “There needs to be a lot more research done independently and not by the people that are ultimately selling the product.

Industrial hemp and marijuana are both derivatives of Cannabis sativa, a slender weedy annual that was native to eastern Asia but now has a global distribution. “If you were to stand next to a hemp plant and a marijuana plant, it’s really hard to tell the difference,” said Roian Atwood, director of sustainability at recently spun-off jeanswear division, Kontoor, which includes the Lee and Wrangler brands. “They look the same, they smell the same; they are inherently, from all appearances, the same plant.The essential  and regulatory distinction between the two is their concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol,  the psychoactive compound that generates the buzz stoners crave. Per federal law, any breed of hemp with less than  of 1 percent concentration of THC is classified as industrial hemp. “Fundamentally at the chemical level, industrial hemp is absent of THC,Atwood said.Farmers can cultivate varietals that are bred specifically for fiber, but more often than not, they will grow a so-called “dual purpose” strain that sprouts grain and flowerheads used in the production of  and supply fiber as a secondary function.

Even with the fiber varieties, the varieties of hemp that are most suited for our use, are not well bred,” Atwood said. “There’s not a lot of people pursuing that seed, knowing that the market is in CBD.Save for an isolated plot in Minnesota, virtually no dedicated fiber breed is being seeded right now, according to John Lupien, founder and president of Bastcore, a Nebraska-based decortication company that created a streamlined method of decortication to make quicker work of separating the bast-fiber bundles from woody hemp stalks.Still, the dual-purpose varietals produce a “good quality fiber,” Lupien said. The key difference? They don’t produce as much fiber per acreroughly between 18 percent and 22 percent of fiber per ton of harvested hemp versus upward of 25 percent to 30 percent for a dedicated fiber strain.Hemp, blended in denim or otherwise, remains a niche product, in part because of the dearth of its availability in relation to cotton or even linen, which makes it far from cost-effective for brands on any kind of serious scale. Again, this may change with the 2018 Farm Bill.) Compared with cotton, hemp requires extra steps for processing, which adds to its price tag. There’s the aforementioned decortication, which happens mechanically, then a wet-processing phase that uses an alkaline solution like sodium hydroxide to dissolve the lignin—a type of cell-wall “glue”—to release the bast fibers from their bundles. Finally, the fibers are carded and combed in preparation for spinning.

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