Spinning hemp

The amount of processed hemp fibre I processed from the stalks. I wanted to spin this into yarn for the experience.

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.

Using the notched spindle to spin hemp fibre into yarn

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).

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

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.

Handspun hemp yarn on a drop spindle

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.)

Three stages of the hemp fibre. Unspun, single ply, and two ply yarn - after being spun on a drop spindle.

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

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