How Industrial Hemp Is Made

Hemp was one of the first plants to be cultivated, but understanding the process can seem complicated to those outside of the agriculture industry. Here is a simple, illustrated guide to the life of a hemp plant, from seed to textile.


In The Field

  1. Hemp is planted and raised with the highest density possible. Not only does this method use less land, hemp planted this way grows straight upward, giving it finer fiber. (source)

  2. Hemp is harvested immediately after it flowers, when it has the maximum fiber content.

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 The 1942 film "Hemp for Victory" shows how easily hemp fibers separate after the retting process.

The 1942 film "Hemp for Victory" shows how easily hemp fibers separate after the retting process.

How Hemp is Processed

  1. Retting: Cut hemp rests in a damp environment, where the fibers separate through a natural process.

  2. Scutching: The stalks are crushed between metal rollers to get ready for hackling. You can read about other stutching methods here.

  3. Hackling: The hemp fibers are combed out of the stalks, producing the thin strands that will eventually become hemp canvas. This process is sometimes called heckling, or other similar words.

  4. Decortation: Instead of stutching and hackling, a decorticator machine can be used to separate fibers from the stalks. (source)

  5. Roving: Strands are twisted together to make them durable and strong.

Ready for the Workshop

Once hemp is roved into durable strands, there are two options to create the final material:

  1. Weaving: Hemp is then woven into canvas to be made into clothing and accessories.

  2. Spinning: Hemp can alternately be woven into hemp yarn, to be used for knitting.

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