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.
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.
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