Anne Reagan
Oct 15, 2009

No wait! Don't skip this post! When you think of the words "hemp" most of us picture hippies dressed in sloppy, burlap-looking clothing—there might be a hacky-sack involved. But using hemp as both an industrial and personal material is an exceptionally old and robust tradition and can be an excellent choice when looking for materials for your home.

Hemp fiber, usually referred to as "bast," comes from the stalk of the hemp plant. Humans have always valued this fiber for its adaptability, durability, tensile strength and rot-resistant qualities. Hemp is also a fast-growing and efficient plant, making it a good choice for those looking for an eco-conscience material.

Hemp is truly a multitalented material, having been used throughout history as duck canvas for sails and clothing, for rope as well as paper. While hemp had a strong footing in the industrial sectors its coarseness historically prevented it from being used for clothing or interior objects. Recent scientific development has helped hemp gain more popularity by creating a technology that breaks down the stiff enzymes and make it more pliable. It's strength, absorbency and the fact that it becomes softer over time makes it a great alternative to similar materials such as linen and cotton.

Hemp has also made its way onto the walls. Wallpaper companies, such as Phillip Jeffries Ltd., has a large selection of woven hemp wallcoverings in a variety of colors and patterns. The overall look is that of any other woven material such as jute or seagrass.

Taking care of hemp couldn't be easier. Hemp items that can be thrown in the washing machine such as bed and table linens and clothes can be washed generally on any cycle. Hemp fibers actually get stronger when they are wet. If you have hemp fabric with block printing, be sure to follow the manufacturers directions for cleaning.

For more information on hemp's history please visit:

Hemp Traders
Earth Easy
Hemp Basics

Top row, from left to right:

1. Hemp Pouf: $189.00 at West Elm
2. Hemp prints by Amenity: see website for details at Amenity
3. Hemp Rug: see website for details at Sundance
4. Hemp Alphabet Pillow: $48.00 from Pilosale (at Etsy)
5. Hemp Tea Towels (set of 3): $28.00 at Hemp Basics

Bottom row, from left to right:
6. Yardages of hemp fabrics in a variety of weaves: see website for details at Hemp Basics
7. Embroidered Manila Hemp Wallcovering collection: see website for details at Phillip Jeffries Ltd.
8. Dyed hemp twine, perfect for making jewelry: $4.00 per ball at Hemp Traders
9. Traditional fleur de lys pattern printed on 100% hemp: $135.00 per yard at Textile Arts

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